October 14, 2020
Watch the October 6 Chamber Candidate Forum!
Many thanks to ETC3 TV for televising our Candidate Forum for the Board of Commissioners Post One and Fannin County School Board Seats. Also thanks to Governmental Committee members Teresa Bidez, chairperson, Manda Gwatney and Steven Miracle, moderators, CJ Green, Frankie Rigdon and Brandon Holloway. Thanks to candidates Chad Galloway, Theresa Dillard, Dixie Carter and Kathy Smyth for participating. Early voting began yesterday at the Fannin County Courthouse.
- Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, 152 A Orvin Lance Drive
- Blue Ridge United Community Methodist Church& Blue Ridge Business Association, 235 Orvin Lance Dr.
- Kevin Panter Insurance, 95 Progress Circle
- Dairy Queen, 380 Progress Circle
- Papa’s Pizza To=-Go, 140 Progress Circle
- Home Depot, 10012 Blue Ridge Dr.
- Blue Ridge Pharmacy, 6020 Appalachian Hwy.
- United Community Bank, 4000 Appalachian Hwy.
- Mountain Valley Community Bank, 11 Collins Ave.
- Town & Country Furniture, 266 Orvin Lance Dr.
- Ace Hardware, 4344 Old Hwy. 76
Fannin County EMA/EMS
Director Robert Graham
20 Station Ridge
Blue Ridge, Ga. 30513
September 8, 2019 thru September 14, 2019 Responses
Gilmer EMS: 1
Polk EMS: 2
Includes 13 out of town transfers
Total Emergency Calls: 459
Total Incoming Phone Calls (911 and Admin): 985
We’ve been talking about it all summer. I’ve covered more camps than I can count. Young athletes have been out as early as January lifting and preparing for it. Finally on Wednesday I felt it.
Football season is coming.
Wednesday morning bright and early found me on the football field of Fannin County High School covering the last day of their youth football camp. Now as I said a few sentences earlier I’ve been out all summer covering football camps, but this was the first time it really clicked with me that we are only a few weeks away. And I won’t lie, a lot of it had to do with the weather.
There was a slight breeze and I dare to say chill on Wednesday that I hadn’t felt all summer. Granted it was early in the morning and I’m so used to summer heat that even the slightest temperature drop can make me reach for my jacket. But this time, surrounded by young athletes who are the future of their program, it all started to set in.
It’s hard to imagine Friday Night Lights when it’s 90 degrees in Georgia in the middle of July. When I think of football I think of all the late Friday afternoons when I was in high school and the trees were ablaze with the bright orange and reds of fall. I think of the UGA games I’ve gone to where it’s been so cold part of the reason I was standing was not so much to cheer than to try and keep warm.
I will admit, football season has kind of snuck up on me this year. Earlier in the summer, Team FYN Sports was in baseball mode covering the local youth tournaments. I was in baseball mode keeping up with the Braves. But this is the South, and not just the South but SEC stronghold too. So of course even though baseball comes to the forefront, football stays simmering on the back burner at all times. That’s another reason why when I felt that cooler air on Wednesday, I was so easily able to slip back into football mode.
Local high schools start back as early as the week after next, with scrimmages coming the week after and then regular season the week after that. It’s crazy to think how time flies, and for teams that have been out practicing all summer, they realize that this is where the rubber meets the road.
I remember the first story I did for Team FYN Sports involving football was earlier this summer when Dawson County scrimmaged Pickens in a spring game. It took me a moment to realize when I got to the Dawson County field to realize that were weren’t in August, and this being in May we still had another three full months to go. But you couldn’t have told that to either of the two sides that night.
The Dawson County mommas circled up for pre-game prayer, and lined up to form a tunnel for their sons to run through onto the field. Both home and away stands had a decent amount of fans to fill them. Both schools even brought their marching bands, and Pickens brought their cheerleaders. This energy is what I try to convey to everyone when I say that sports, and especially football, create a community rivaled by few other events.
Each time I’ve gone to a camp, or scrimmage, or even just a practice in this community, I’ve seldom been the only one there who is not a part of the team. Parents will come by to see their sons, or even just community members will drop by to get a look at the team before they run out for the first game. There’s something else special about following a team from the ground up, a season from the beginning to end. I know I’m not the only one that feels that way, and it makes my job all the much more enjoyable.
Over the last couple of weeks BKP and I have been going around North Georgia and interviewing coaches from all of the teams we cover. While last week I focused on the coaches and all of the effort that they have been putting in, it’s no overstatement to say that these players have been putting in their fair share too.
And they all seem ready. They’ve all been lifting and getting stronger since the beginning of the year. They’ve been out running drills and working for positions since the weather was warm enough. Now they’re breaking out the pads, helmets and fine tuning plays until it’s time for that first kick-off.
Football season is coming, and from the locker room to the press box, I think we’re all ready.
Over the last week and a half BKP and I have been going from school to school interviewing head football coaches for our North Georgia Coaching Series. Now if any of y’all know BKP, you’ll know what I mean when I say that he’s been doing most of the talking and I’ve been doing most of the observing. But this doesn’t bother me, it gives me a chance to learn more about the programs I’ll be spending a lot of time with this fall.
With that being said, there’s one thing in particular I’ve been noticing in our interviews, and that’s how much these coaches truly care about their players and their programs.
Now me saying that might make some of y’all think, “Well, duh. That’s what they’re supposed to do.” Well, maybe. But I like to think I’m pretty good at picking up when someone is just putting on an act for appearances. And I can say with all sincerity that none of these coaches are doing that.
Obviously when BKP and I go into these interviews, he asks questions about what the teams have been doing during the summer and how they’re planning to prepare for the regular season. But he also asks the coaches if they can highlight a few players that have really stood out. This point in the interview, I believe, is where a coach who didn’t care would possibly just say a couple names and move on.
But these coaches not only name the players, they tell us about why they stand out. And it’s a sign of the hard work of these athletes, but there’s also a sense of pride from these coaches as they name them. A couple of coaches have mentioned that it’s hard to name just a few, because all of their players have worked hard. And it’s not that the rest of the team doesn’t matter or that they don’t care about them, but the ones that they mention they do so without hesitation because they’ve been there with them through the summer truly coaching them. There’s no so-so about the commitment these coaches make- they’re all in.
Another thing that has amazed me about these coaches, not just in the interviews but learning about them off the field, is how much they care about their community as well. A couple of them, such as Chad Cheatham at Fannin County and Chad McClure at Hayesville, are natives to their communities. It’s home to them, and they’re not going to be just halfway in their commitments to their programs.
When Coach Caleb Sorrells of the Lumpkin County Indians was first named as head coach, the school hosted a meet and greet for him. It was one of the first stories I covered in this position.
In his address to the parents, Sorrells promised to not only invest in the team as players and athletes, but as men who would one day be employees and fathers. I remember being caught off guard at first because I was expecting him to talk about plans for the future of the program, the summer schedule and what not. He did talk about these things, but I believe by telling the parents that he was going to invest in the players as men showed that it was going to be a priority.
Although I know more about the commitment that Sorrells has made because I’m positioned in Lumpkin County, he’s not the only one in the area who gets involved in the community and works to build up the athletes’ character.
Tim Cokely with the White County Warriors has an entire wall of his office decorated with signs of good character qualities to instill in the team. Chad Cheatham, who I mentioned earlier, referees basketball in the football off-season just because, and the community loves him for it. I’m sure that many of the other coaches in the area do similar things and I just don’t know about it yet.
These are commitments that we see played out by coaches in movies and don’t always think to look for in real life. And because I grew up in Gwinnett County, population one million, if there was this sort of commitment by coaches I didn’t always see it because there were so many people. I love living up here in North Georgia in a smaller community where an act of kindness, especially where sports are concerned, rarely goes unnoticed.
We think about football as a sport that instills a since of discipline, but why is that? Because there’s a coach that sets that standard and inspires the team to do the same. As a community we love football and we love our team, and we can thank a coach for that.
(The following is a Press Release from the Office of David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.)
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced that the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation has opened a North Georgia Office in Ellijay. The office is located in the Collaboration on River’s Edge (CORE) Building, a workplace innovation space and initiative of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation.
“I am proud to welcome the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation to Ellijay and look forward to the good work that will be done to further economic opportunity throughout rural Georgia,” said Speaker David Ralston. “This center is a direct result of the work of the House Rural Development Council and our continuing efforts to ensure prosperity is accessible to all Georgians – regardless of zip code.”
The center, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center, has named Janet Cochran to lead the North Georgia Office. Cochran comes to the center with more than a decade of experience as a project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
“Finding ways to not only maintain but to multiply the economic and cultural vitality present in so many of north Georgia’s small towns and rural communities relies heavily on relationships,” said Dr. David Bridges, Georgia’s Rural Center interim director, “and we know that our presence and personnel there will only improve our ability to facilitate positive outcomes. Janet brings a wealth of experience in managing economic development projects in this region of the state, and we’re excited to have her join our team in this role at the North Georgia Office.”
Headquartered at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation serves as a central information and research hub for rural best practices, including community planning, industry-specific assistance and cooperative efforts with community partners. The center was proposed by the House Rural Development Council in 2017 and was created by House Bill 951, which was enacted in 2018.
“Promoting a strong business environment that enhances the quality of our community is not just the chamber’s mission in words, it is behind everything we do. The opening of CORE and the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation is a cornerstone moment in that mission and one that we have worked tirelessly to support and create for many years. I join with our 650 members in celebrating,” remarked John Marshall, Gilmer Chamber Chairman of the Board.
“As chairman of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation it has been our goal as a private, citizen funded organization to help spur economic growth for our community and region. CORE being the home to the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation North Georgia office brings our vision to reality. We look forward to continuing to serve our communities for years to come,” said Kent Sanford, Chairman of the Board.
“Working with Speaker of the House David Ralston and the House leadership to bring the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation North Georgia office to our community will have economic impact to the entire region. We look forward to continuing to work to insure the success of the center and all of our partners within CORE,” remarked Lex Rainey, Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority Chairman of the Board.
Located in Gilmer County, Ellijay is a thriving rural community in the North Georgia mountains, offering a unique blend of southern hospitality and natural beauty. The area leads Georgia in apple production and is a center for agribusiness and agritourism.
For more information about the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, visit http://www.ruralga.org/.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – “This is the kind of project that will spread prosperity throughout our entire region. It is the kind of skin-in-the-game project that deserves support…” Georgia Speaker of the House, David Ralston praised the CORE Facility in Ellijay who hosted their official ribbon-cutting today.
Nestled just off Maddox Drive on the banks of the Coosawattee River in Ellijay, Georgia, the CORE Facility hosts business offices and incubation locations for entrepreneurs and start-ups in need of an office or workspace without the hassles of long-term investment.
However, the facility’s impact reaches so much farther than the city limits or the county’s borders. Today marked a celebration for the region and for the state. Representatives statewide joined together for this ribbon cutting including Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Gilmer Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, Pickens Commission Chairman Rob Jones, Fannin Commission Chairman Stan Helton, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, State Senator Steve Gooch, State Representative of District 11 Rick Jasperse, Ellijay City Mayor Al Hoyle, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, and many representatives from the Ellijay and East Ellijay City Councils and Gilmer Board of Education. Efforts from many organizations have led into combined organizations such as the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) and the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation.
That Foundation was the birthplace of the initiative to build CORE. According to Kent Sanford, Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer JDA and part of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation, a 14-month birth cycle has finally come to full fruition.
While the celebration was a culmination of efforts so far, it is only the beginning. It is a project that holds great impact on the future, according to Ralston who said, “It will create jobs in our area. The jobs of tomorrow will be possible because of the work that goes on in this building.”
Ralston also dedicated support to the facility as he announced, “Because of the local commitment to the CORE building the State of Georgia, through our OneGeorgia Authority, is awarding $420,000 to this project to be used for Facility purchase and improvement costs. This $420,000 grant is historic, both in terms of its dollar amount and the impact it will have on this project and community.”
Ralston continued speaking about the economic development and job creation in the county before offering the second announcement of the day regarding the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center.
Ralston stated at the ribbon-cutting, “I am proud to announce that the new North Georgia of the Georgia Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation will be housed right here in Ellijay in this facility. The office will be led by Janet Cochran.”
Ralston’s office later offered a full Press Release on the announcement stating the center serves as a central information and research hub for rural best practices, including community planning, industry-specific assistance and cooperative efforts with community partners. The center was proposed by the House Rural Development Council in 2017 and was created by House Bill 951, which was enacted in 2018.
These announcements were applauded by those present and praised by the Chairman of the Gilmer Chamber, John Marshall, who said, “Mr. Speaker, once again you have proven yourself to be the very epitome of a stalwart and faithful advocate not only to your hometown and all the other communities in these beautiful North Georgia Mountains, but to each and every corner of the state of Georgia.”
President of the Gilmer Chamber, Paige Green also praised the facility as the realization of a dream for the community that has spread to benefit not only one county but something larger that now spans the region.
Today was a celebration of completing the first steps of a larger plan for the facility. Though it is now open, it is only the first phase of that dream. Director Sanford noted last year that the hopes for the facility include two more phases.
In Phase II, the foundation will continue renovation onto the second floor to open up a larger area for education and training in a 1,200 square foot space upstairs.
In Phase III, hopes for the CORE Facility could extend into the schools for things like STEM Classes, STEM Saturdays, or other forays into education connection. Consolidating resources for these could include shared STEM kits or a shared expense for a STEM subscription service involving 3d-printing necessary components. However, specific details into PHASE III have yet to be finalized.
Ultimately, the CORE wants to continue spreading and growing this larger community where possible. Opportunities that may come have yet to be revealed, but one ribbon-cutting today, one celebration, can lead to something bigger than imagining tomorrow.
On Friday, March 22, the United Community Bank Junior Board toured the Mercedes-Benz Stadium as part of a trip rewarding their service this year. The Junior Board is a leadership and community service organization co-sponsored by UCBI and FCHS. Throughout the year they participate in school and community service events including raising money for scholarships for FCHS seniors. This year’s spring fundraiser is a BINGO night sponsored by the Kiwanis Club on April 27. Tammy Thomas is the FCHS Sponsor and Jennifer Dalrymple is the UCBI sponsor.
The junior board also visited the Gullwing Club at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Picture left to right: Hannah Ladd, Macy Galloway, Morgan Blaine, Hannah Dickey, Sydney Collins, Bailee Cobb, Hope Parris, Evelyn Doss, Walker Gregory, Ramtin Doroodchi, Cole Roberson, Chase Culpepper
Senior Math Finance students at Fannin County High School enjoyed learning more about the real world of finance on February 12. Cory Callihan, assistant Vice-President and loan officer at United Community Bank gave an enlightening talk to students about everything ranging from purchasing a vehicle or home to how credit ratings have an effect on your life.
Chloe Clemmons hosted a Grandparents’ Night on January 17th at Fannin County High School. Chloe is completing a project for the Family Career and Community Leaders of America STAR Event Competitions which will be help on February 9, 2019. Her project is called Focus on Children, and her main focus is Childhood Literacy. Chloe partnered with Sarah Welch, Fannin County Literacy Coordinator, to host the Grandparents’ Night. At the event, a variety of organizations shared about the resources that are available to custodial grandparents in our community. If you are raising a grandchild and were unable to make it to the event, please contact Lauren Owenby at Fannin County High School and the resources can be sent to you. Chloe will continue her efforts to work with individuals and organizations to provide opportunities to strengthen literacy for children in the Fannin County community.
Pictured above are the speakers from local organizations who were represented at the Grandparents’ Night.
Patsy Reed (Boys and Girls Club of America), Kathy Henson and Jeffrey Cash (Department of Child and Family Services), Donna Earl (Fannin Literacy Action Group), Chloe Clemmons (FCCLA Vice President), Sherry Morris (Family Connections), Darcy Arnall (Fannin County Library), Amanda Newton-Chastain (Main Street Pediatrics), and Sarah Welch (Fannin County Literacy Coordinator)
Blue Ridge, Ga. – Volunteers and staff welcomed visitors to the Fannin County Animal Control (FCAC) facility on Saturday Oct. 27 to showcase the positive improvements being done and of course, the wonderful dogs being housed there.
It was a crowded house as residents and visitors got to peek inside the FCAC facility and speak with the staff and volunteers about ways they can contribute to this community service.
This year the facility has seen upgrades in the likes of outdoor runs attached to the indoor kennel areas. The Fannin County Board of Commissioners approved funding for this project after speaking with FCAC Department Head John Drullinger on the impact this addition would have not only on staff safety but also for the quality of life of the animals.
“It makes such a difference for the dog’s quality of life,” Drullinger said explaining the changes he has witnessed since the outdoor runs were added. “They get more fresh air and it gives us a better ability for cleaning and sterilizing the inside part.”
Beyond improvements to the building itself, the recent movement of community volunteers taking action to help out in anyway that they can has had major impacts.
Volunteers come on a daily basis to walk dogs, clean kennels, and offer services in their areas of expertise. Some choose to take photos to help spread the word via social media about the adoptable animals at FCAC and others have even proposed using their artistic skills by offering to create a mural at the facility.
“It’s a great help. It’s huge,” Drullinger spoke of the volunteers,”We’re getting a lot of volunteers. Our group keeps growing.”
Patrice Noble Epps is one of the volunteers that loves spending her time working with the animals and crew of FCAC.
“If the animals didn’t have this place, they would be out on the streets,” Noble Epps said speaking of what motivates her to volunteer, “and ultimately they would die.”
A self-professed cleaning fanatic, Noble Epps says that while she enjoys working one on one with the dogs, she also loves to help with cleaning at the facility: “If you want something done, do it yourself and maybe people will follow.”
Noble Epps spoke of the ease in which she has been able to work with Fannin County staff to bring about changes and to focus on more improvements in the future: “I think you always have to have a good relationship with the people that you are going into their house.”
The volunteers and staff have been working together to create more changes, both Drullinger and Noble Epps spoke of the recent addition of a sponsorship program.
This program accepts monetary donations from the public and these donations are being used to vet the dogs at the shelter. Vetting includes spay/neuter, heartworm testing, rabies vaccination, and microchipping.
During the open house several residents stepped up to donate to this program and sponsor the dogs.
Noble Epps would also like to see donations provide training for the shelter dogs being adopted.
“You could adopt the dog and then you go and you have a training class where you learn how to handle a shelter dog,” Noble Epps explained how the option of a training class would work and stressed that the dogs that have been there the longest would benefit the most.
Another improvement that seems to be on the horizon for the FCAC facility is the addition of an onsite outdoor play area for the shelter dogs. This area will be modeled similar to the dog park that is currently offered by the Humane Society of Blue Ridge, but be used by FCAC dogs only.
“It’s not guaranteed, but it’s in the works,” Drullinger spoke of the possible addition, “it’s on the drawing table and that’s the first step.”
Noble Epps summed up her feelings about volunteering with FCAC: “It’s what we have. Work with it. If you want to make it better, make it better.”
And making it better she has, as well as all the other volunteers who have donated their time and talents.
There is no denying the excitement and enthusiasm that is being brought to FCAC through the volunteers and the building upgrades. It is the hopes of all involved that this positive momentum will continue to increase well into the future.
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Blue Ridge, Ga.—Fannin County Development Authority extends their two-year contract with Atlanta Gas for an additional six months for $3,000.00. Atlanta Gas is set up on Industrial Park Road behind the Development Authority building on Development Authority property. Atlanta Gas needed to extend their lease to continue providing gas for Blue Ridge residents.
Atlanta Gas Carl Pearson explains, “Natural gas doesn’t have a smell to it. We add odorant to the pipeline and we’ve had issues where the odorant fades and so we want to go back and clean the pipes to fix the smell. The flare [behind the Development Authority building] generates flow for our customers in Blue Ridge.”
Development Authority Christie Arp asks, “Are there expected to be any loud noises?”
Pearson responded, “Yes, it will make the same noise as it’s been making [since the contract initially began].”
Atlanta Gas will have someone on-site throughout the last six months of this contract. Atlanta Gas will be running the flare during the weekdays only compared to the last two years of the lease where Atlanta Gas was running the flare non-stop. There are safety measures in places like valves to shut off the gas and flow if an emergency were to occur.
Development Authority approved of the lease extension for six more months so Atlanta Gas can fix these odorant issues and allow them to continue providing service to the residents of Blue Ridge, Ga.
The 22nd annual Rodeo was hosted by Blue Ridge Kiwanis Club in Blue Ridge, GA Friday and Saturday night at the Blue Ride Fairgrounds.
Friday and Saturday night brought in a swarm of locals and tourists alike totaling at 2400+ attendees.
The Rodeo brings out the family fun for everyone as they provide booths for people to walk around and visit, donkey rides for children, mechanical bull riding for those that wish to feel like a cowboy and great rodeo food.
Tammy McFarland, Kiwanis Club host explained, “This is really all for and all about the kids. All proceeds we make go back to our children. Each booth and table that is here during the rodeo is sponsored apart from children-centered organizations like the Boy and Girls Club, 4-H club, and Girl Scouts. A lot of funds come through sponsorships and we get to put that right back into our community.”
Between each rodeo event like bareback riding, cattle roping (men), cattle roping (wom en), barrel racing and bull riding there were community-centered activities like the calf scramble.
The children in the audience were invited to play in the calf scramble by two groups between the ages of 7-12. The goal of the game was to bring the tag from the tail of the calf to the rodeo entertainer for the night, Porkchop, also known as Garrett.
There was even a calf scrambling contest for the ladies in the audience but with a more interesting challenge. The winner of women’s calf-scrambling challenge would be the person who brought flag back to Porkchop, not the woman who caught the flag off the calf.
This made for an entertaining game as a ‘flag fight’ broke out in the middle of the arena and resulted in a woman-pile as they each fought for the flag. Eventually, after much laughter from the audience, Porkchop broke up the girl-fight and the ladies walked about to their seats in the audience.
In the end, fun was had by all, as teens walked the field with their friends laughing and eating, children pulled on their parents’ hands as they stared wide-eyed at the mechanical bull begging to ride.
All the while, the proceeds from this event go right back into the Fannin community through groups like Fannin County Literacy Action Group, the 4-H Club, Fannin County High School Marching Band, and many, many others.