BLUE RIDGE, GA – Commissioners approved the purchase of a washer extractor machine to remove carcinogens in turnout gear using ACCG safety grant and SPLOST funds.
A washer extractor should assist in removing carcinogens from firefighters’ turnout gear. According to the International Association of Firefighters, 60 percent of firefighters have a chance of dying from cancer compared to 20 percent of the rest of the population.
“We’ve been trying to wash our gear with a regular, standard washing machine, and it does a fair job, but it doesn’t get all the carcinogens out every time,” explained EMA Director Robert Graham, “It’s hard to get the turnout gear spun out properly, and there are special chemicals that we’re supposed to use that we can’t really use in a residential type washer.”
Due to the increased amount of plastics, electronics, and flame retardant materials in homes, properly cleaning turnout gear to remove as many carcinogens as possible is imperative in maintaining the health of Fannin County firefighters.
Turnout gear protects the wearer against heat, but soot can seep into gaps around the hands, face, neck, and legs. As body temperature increases during a fire, pores open and absorb up to 400 percent more than normal which leaves firefighters vulnerable.
By using a washer extractor, the fire department can remove more carcinogens and protect its employees.
Graham presented the lowest quote of $5,441 for the machine. The ACCG grant of $3,000 and the remaining 321 SPLOST funds will cover the outstanding $2,441.
“It has to be bolted to the floor and have larger water and drain lines to supply it all,” commented Graham when addressing the cost of the machine.
The washer extractor should arrive in two to three weeks after purchase and will hold two sets of gear.
Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson asked, “How do you know that the carcinogens are still in there?”
Graham explained that no one really knows, but with all the toxic materials in burning buildings, it’s best not to take chances.
Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Robin Gazaway gave the 2019 budget report through Sept. 2019 and stated that the county’s two percent under budget.
Departments were 75 percent into the 2019 budgets, with most reporting in line except for risk management. This budget includes health and liability insurance for the county.
Also, department overages decreased at the end of September. The debt for the courthouse loan is showing as 100 percent, but the county previously paid the entire amount for the year.
The recreation department generated $189,319 through Sept.
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on June 23rd 2017.
Chairman Helton opened the meeting with a request to add new business to the agenda. The addition was a proclamation for foster care month and bids on county employee insurance. The commissioners approved adding the items and they appended it to immediately follow the consent agenda.
Following the addressing of old business public commentary was held. During this item on the agenda Mr. Glen Holland, an Epworth resident, voiced a complaint about a recent property appraisal.
He objected to the increase of his property appraisal, Stating ” My property appraisal went up by $80,000” He also cited the people in the tax assessor’s office were inconsistent in getting him an answer as to why it went up and he said they were rude to him.
Mr. Helton first stated his concern for any rudeness which Mr. Holland may have experienced, and went on to explain his department has nothing to do with property appraising, it only sets the millage rate. He then advised him there is a tax assessor’s meeting open to the public, and it takes place on June 2nd at 2:00 pm in the tax assessor’s office. In addition Helton advised Holland he could voice concerns at the meeting since there is an opportunity for public commentary. .
Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson commented on the matter, stating “ I think being treated generously and answered in a respectful manner that should come first” He then went on to explain the objections he had received that morning saying “ From the barber shop at 9:15 this morning to this evening I’ve heard a lot of the complaints.” He then reiterated that the Board of Commissioners is only responsible to set the millage rate.
The Commissioners then approved the consent agenda. The items listed on the agenda were: The Fannin County EMA six year projected plan, The Fannin County EMS six year projected plan, and the Fannin County E-911 Center SPLOST Request.
The next item to be voted on was the county employee insurance. Finance Director Robin Gazaway announced the bids received from 3 companies: MSI with 2,177,879, Kevin Panter Insurance with 1,840,954, and Benefit Support Group with 1,741,325. Based on the bid amounts Gazaway fully recommended Benefit Support Group. Helton inquired if both Post Commissioners had been given enough time to decide on the matter. Both commissioners voiced their agreement and the chairman made a motion to approve Benefit Support Group, motion carried and it passed. The Insurance is set to begin July 1st and be in force for a year.
Next on the agenda a proclamation for foster care month was recognized by the Board of Commissioners.
The commissioners moved on to new business and scheduled a workshop to discuss the fire station six year plan. They reconfirmed a special called meeting to be held on May 31st at 5:15 pm. They will discuss awarding bids for a new fire station.
The chairman then asked Marie Woody, in land development, to speak on condemnations on properties which may endanger the public. She advised she sent letters of condemnation out and presented two new letters of condemnation to the board. Woody also reported there were 12 permits for new homes.
Larry Joe Sosebee brought up garbage being tossed on the road, he asked, “What’s to prevent these trucks from half a mile down the road stopping and covering them up then going to the landfill.” Helton responded, “We just have to do it a step at a time, if the first step we take creates another problem then we’ll have another discussion to address that.”
The meeting continued and bids were awarded for the fire department vehicles. Fouts brothers was awarded the bid with no set-backs and a delivery of 180 days. The deal is worked out over six years to match the SPLOST. It will also be local financing with United Community Bank.
No executive session was needed.
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners held a special called meeting on February 7th 2017.
Personnel was part of the agenda and the Board of Commissioners emerged from executive session to announce a decision in hiring the newly vacant position of Financial Director for Fannin County.
Fannin County Commission Chair Stan Helton began, “There’s an old saying it’s not what you know its who you know and sadly that’s been a process when you hire people that’s been done too many times. But I’m glad I serve on a board with two men who don’t believe that, they believe it’s what you know that really counts, what your qualifications are.” ” There was one candidate who stood out among all the others.” “A little background on the candidate, She has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the University of Louisville, she has a Masters of Business Administration in Taxation, she is a Certified Public Accountant in good standing with the State of Georgia, she is a former auditor and has actually even audited Fannin County’s financials in the past. She has been the Chief Financial Officer for Union County, our sister county to the East for the past 12 years.
Commissioner Helton went on to do a comparison on the past audits of Fannin and Union for December of 2015, stating Fannin was found to have 13 significant or material deficiencies in the way the taxpayer funds were handled through the courthouse while Union County with the same auditing company and time frame only had one.
Helton explained during the search for the last 30 days there were several resumes from all over the state and several highly qualified people. Following the description of the candidate and the search, Chairman Helton made a motion to appoint Robin Gazaway as Fannin County’s new Financial Director and the motion carried.
FYN spoke with Ms. Gazaway following the meeting. Gazaway is a graduate of Fannin County High School who attended Louisville University for her Bachelor degree and received her Masters from Kennesaw State University. She is currently a resident of Fannin County and married to Rick Gazaway who works with the Fannin County Fire Department. She will continue working at Union County until March and is currently handling audits at both places.
Newly elected Commission Chair Stan Helton made a decision in January to dismiss Chief Financial Director Rita Kirby which left the position vacant until now. Concerns were voiced previously about more than one in the family holding a County position however Helton appeared to put significant emphasis on Robin Gazaway’s credentials, education, and experience. See full meeting video below:
BKP talks County Business and the Transition with Commission Chair Candidate Stan Helton.
Chaos in Blue Ridge?
January 12, 2016
My name is Suzanne Kahn, and I’d like to first address the question that some citizens still have about exactly when our county contract finally expires with Advance Disposal Service. The court documents are clear cut that all permitted extensions of the contract by Advance Disposal have been used and the contract finally expires on August 25th, of this year, 2016.
I feel confident that our Post I and Post II Commissioners are on top of this situation and will take whatever steps are needed to negotiate and secure a contract with whatever company they deem will best serve our county with a fair, equitable, and competitive contract. And, I feel confident that they will have a contract in place well in advance of this expiration date.
Second, I want to address the years of concern of many citizens that Fannin County has had the same county attorney, Ms. Lynn Doss, for approximately twenty years, and, without ever having a contract of any kind in place. This “ arrangement”, which is all it can be called, has been perpetuated endlessly by each Commission Chairman for the last three administrations of Richard Vollrath, Howie Bruce, and now into the eighth year of the current administration by Chairman Bill Simonds.
I compared the policy of our two neighboring counties of Union and Gilmer to get a very clear picture, and I have all the documents from these counties to back up what I’m saying here.
Union and Gilmer Counties both have had legal contracts, or a Letter of Agreement, with their attorneys at all times, and both counties require complete accountability by mandating that their attorneys submit itemized invoices for every hour worked. Neither county pays a retainer fee. In Union County, Attorney H. Boyd Pettit charges $100.00 per hour plus expenses. In Gilmer County, Attorneys Herman Clark and David Clark charge $110.00 and $100.00 per hour, respectively, plus expenses.
In Fannin County, there has never been any contract or Letter of Agreement with Lynn Doss, and a significant retainer fee of $5,708.34 per month has been paid without any itemized invoices ever required or submitted for that $61,416.78 yearly check.
As a comparison:
In 2014, Union County paid their attorney $23,874.00, and Gilmer paid $38,595.00.
In 2015, Union County paid their attorney only $8,811.00 and Gilmer paid $68,238.00.
I also have the document showing the RESOLUTION that was passed by Gilmer County Board of Commissioners on March 12th, 2015, declaring their authority to appoint their attorney who “shall serve at the pleasure of the Board.”
To say that this Fannin County “arrangement” with Lynn Doss is highly questionable is a gross understatement. The citizens of Fannin County want and deserve an explanation of why this “arrangement” has been permitted all these years. I request, Mr. Simonds, that you explain
how you have justified this through your entire 7 years as our Chairman, and now into your 8th year at the helm.
I have spoken with many Fannin County Citizens who are equally fed up with this perceived stranglehold Attorney Lynn Doss has been afforded for so many years with absolutely no accountability. It is way beyond time for a healthy change in who is welcomed to work as our county attorney.
Mr. Simonds, I sincerely had high hopes that, after last year’s events of our two Post Commissioners successfully making the first few important changes to our county government, you would finally see the wisdom of helping to ethically and morally work with them to make the many changes still necessary to make Fannin County one that is respected for it’s high standards of operation. You can still do that.
If you choose not to, I have complete confidence in Post Commissioners Sosebee and Johnson to be the leaders we need to guide Fannin County with integrity.
BKP talks with John Mullinix about the Fannin Board of Commissioners Meeting.
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on July 14th, 2015. The meeting took place just a few hours after a court decision in favor of Fannin County Post Commissioners Earl Johnson and Larry Joe Sosebee. A lawsuit filed by Commission Chair Bill Simonds against the post commissioners, seeking sole control of hiring and firing of Department Heads in the County was dismissed in a court proceeding in Fannin.
The meeting began with approval of minutes and a 1st vote on Home Rule Spending Limit Ordinance. Comments from the Commissioners appeared to show effort of trying to put the court case behind them and moving forward to do the work elected to do for Fannin County. Commission Chair Simonds response did not give a definite answer as to whether he will appeal.
Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran and Personal Property Appraiser Yvonne Middlebrook spoke to the Commissioners concerning the personal property laws as pertains to the Tax Assessor’s office. The pair sought the “agreement” if you will from the Commissioners for the Tax Assessor’s office to follow the law and send certified letters, followed by subpoenas, in circumstances where businesses failed to respond to the request for inventory information. There was not a specific name mentioned during this time however we were left with an impression it was a sizeable business that was not in compliance. The Commission Board moved and agreed to the request showing its support. While it is not necessary for a vote from the Commission Board to follow the law, the support for the proper action to take place was shown by the vote.
Additional business of the County saw the approval of the upcoming expenditures to move from $2500 to $4500 through resolution. There was comments (opposition) if you will from someone stating this was not the legal way to change this, asking if it shouldn’t be done by an ordinance change. Lynn Doss, County Attorney, replied, in essence, the amount was under a previous higher amount, therefore it shouldn’t be a problem.
There was discussion on the 10% Splost and a motion and move to begin investigation into the a new Fannin County Fire Department. Currently the Fire Department is housed downtown in a small and difficult in and out location. The property for a new facility has been purchased and it appears early planning stages will begin. There was also a motion and a move which was passed to pay for the new facility from Splost. Mr. Johnson saying, “People like to touch how the tax money is spent.”
During public commentary concerns regarding a bonus to Marie Woody was questioned. The bonus was given by the Water Authority however it was claimed the $1200 check was written out of the Splost account. Some from the crowd said they heard from rumor and asked for transparency. Lynn Doss, County Attorney, stood and replied the meeting of the Water Authority, where the decision was made to give the bonus, was public.
Ending comments from the Commissioners seemed to show a sign of relief for having the court case behind it and Earl Johnson made the point of having 3 working on decisions was a better scenario for the taxpayers of Fannin County. Johnson referred to a list of roads to be paved he had received in the mail, explaining it would make sense for the 3 to meet on these matters since he could use his expertise in paving to negotiate better pricing for the County. Hopefully the Commissioners will move forward and work together.