BLUE RIDGE, Ga – The 2021 proposed county operating budget features a 2.8 percent increase from the 2020 budget.
The total will be $29,356,858 and a public hearing concerning the 2021 budget will take place on December 8, 2020 at 5:15 p.m. in third-floor assembly room. All interested parties are invited to attend. Following the public hearing, the board of commissioners will approve the budget during the December 8 commission meeting.
The 2020 budget was $28,564,665. The largest portion of the budget will go towards risk management, which includes health insurance. The county recently moved from self-insured to a fully insured plan.
“The challenge we have this year with the budget is the same challenge that every county, every state is having to deal with that is the [unexpected COVID-19 expenditures],” Chairman Stan Helton explained.
He cited the $2 billion of cutbacks in the state budget due to the pandemic. Helton also recognized that the hotel/motel tax and SPLOST assisted in seeing Fannin County through the difficult times.
“We really won’t know how the year is until the end of January when the new administration is here. By that time, they will have final 2020 revenue and cost numbers. My personal opinion that the times warrant being as conservative as we can with our budget, and at the same time, when the new administration is here, they’ll have a chance to look at it. If they choose to amend any department, they’ll have the option to do that.,” Helton furthered detail the reasoning behind the proposed budget.
Fannin hasn’t laid off or furloughed employees during the pandemic.
Post One Earl Johnson came out against the increase during a year when everyone is focused on saving money.
“I don’t know any of us that are spending more money…We’re not giving all our employees raising at least in my company and it’s kind of throughout all county governments,” Johnson said. “I’m going to ask everyone until this pandemic is over, we need to be very smart…I would suggest everyone be comfortable where you’re at.”
He added that he doesn’t want to leave “any future administration’s in a bind” and is against increasing any department’s budget in 2021. No one knows when the pandemic will end.
Post Two Glenn Patterson stated that some people are still hurting financially and inquired to the cost of living increases.
Helton then explained that the only increased in the 2021 budget were part of a state unfunded mandate for salary increases to reelected officials. It’s a state-level requirement for county governments to fulfill. CFO Robin Gazaway explained that one elected official will receive an estimated salary increase of $9,000 from county funds. The state doesn’t have to pay anything.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga – The Board of Commissioners approved lowering the county’s portion of the 2021 millage rate to 3.862 from 3.938 at the August 10, 2020 meeting.
If the millage rate remained at 3.938, tax revenues for Fannin would have increased by $186,000. Additionally, Fannin County would have to legally declare it a tax increase. It would also only provide a net gain of $120,000 to the budget.
To stay at a zero percent tax increase, the millage rate must drop to 3.862. With this tax revenue still increases by $62,000, but it’s not considered a tax increase by the state of Georgia.
“If I had to go through the effort of declaring a tax increase, it would have to be for a heck a lot more than $186,000 out of a $28M budget,” stated Chairman Stan Helton.
Post Two Glenn Patterson expressed how a lot of people in Fannin County are financially hurting due to COVID-19, and he didn’t favor a tax increase at this time.
“I’m not going to be remembered for raising taxes in the middle of a pandemic,” added Post One Earl Johnson. “Right now, is not the time.”
Last year, Johnson expressed that at some point taxes would go up to keep up with the growth of Fannin County. However, 2020 isn’t the year to add another financial burden to Fannin County residents.
In 2021, the hotel/motel tax will go up to six percent for the county, bringing in an additional $20,000, if tourism numbers stay the same. SPLOST and LOST numbers are also up in 2020, which will assist in covering county expenses without taxing citizens.
All three commissioners voted in favor or accepting the millage rollback. Now, the school board must decide on its millage rate. After the school approves a millage rate, commissioners must vote to finalize the 2021 millage rate.
FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – The cost of hiring detainees to keep Fannin roads clean increased unexpectedly and exponentially from the previous year.
A one-year contract for six to ten detainees from Colwell Detention Center and one detention officer rose by $10,000 from 2019 to 2020. Chairman Stan Helton discovered the increase when it became time to renew for the next year.
“The contract that is expiring is we pay for one detention officer, who supervises and oversees the work that’s being done,” explained Helton. “The payment that we have essentially pays for that employee. Last year, it was $39,000. Well the contract for this year, the sum is a big increase from $39,000 to $49,000.”
The Department of Corrections reported that the reasoning behind the increase is that the organization hadn’t updated its rates in several years. This hike in price was needed to keep up with an officer’s base salary.
“It’s kind of a hard time to get that increase during a pandemic,” stated Post Two Glenn Patterson. “They do a wonderful job. I just hate to have an increase during this time when everyone is kind of hurting.”
The new contract would go into effect in July, and the county doesn’t pay if the team can’t work.
“It’s kind of a steep increase that’s a very big increase. It should have been in an incremental deal, rather than $10,000 increase in a year, said Post One Earl Johnson. “It was a very good deal for the amount of workers we get, but when it becomes $50,000, it becomes a lot less attractive to me.”
Helton assured the board that this rate hike is occurring statewide, and several neighboring commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with the unexpected increase. According to Helton, Colwell Detention Center was unaware of the situation when he contacted them.
The chairman also broke down the costs and said the rate comes out to $2.50 an hour with the 25 percent increase.
“I still personally feel like it’s well worth it,” Helton added.
Johnson was still skeptical about rehiring the detainees because Fannin also must provide transportation, equipment, and associated expenses. He offered that maybe the county should investigate contracting the service out to have “specialized help, rather than supervised help.”
“It’s a great rate, but a lot of times that rate is cheap, but you’re not getting the best labor,” offered Johnson. “I honestly think if everyone would balk on a $10,000 increase in one year, they’d probably meet [us] halfway. That’s solely the reason why I’m not in favor of it.”
“I understand what Commissioner Johnson is saying, but until we look into further contracting that out, prices and things like that. I’d like to have them back,” conceded Patterson. “I feel like it would be a good investment at this time until we found something that would replace what they do.”
Fannin County finally had an opportunity to hire detainees last year once a team became available.
“They’ve been very helpful, very effective with trash pickup, and helping with trimming, weeding areas around the county roadways. Particularly guardrails, we’ve had some places where we had blockages of culverts. These guys have been very effective,” Helton stated.
However, the detainee crew stopped working in March because of COVID-19 pandemic and might not be back on the job until September.
“I spent the first three years trying to get a crew available to us,” Helton explained. “I have to say that I’ve been pleased with what we’ve gotten from this investment with them.”
Helton and Patterson voted in favor of approving the service for another year and Johnson voted against.
In other financial business, the commissioners also approved a bid from J&D Construction for repairs to the Mineral Bluff fire station for $6,500. The building suffered wind damage from the storms in April.
ACCG Insurance Program’s compensation fund issued a $32,958 for the county’s share a cash return for qualifying members. It’s an additional compensation from what Fannin received in the past.
FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Earl Johnson, and Post Two Glenn Patterson were in total agreement about suspending non-critical capital improvement projects for the foreseeable future.
“We know the cost potentially is going to go up potentially for what we have to deal with and most certainly revenue coming in. Our LOST and SPLOST can be impacted,” stated Helton. “For non-critical capital improvement projects, I would recommend that we suspend those until we have a better idea for the next two to three months when we start getting better information on what’s happening with our revenue and how that’s going to impact our budget.”
These projects wouldn’t be canceled just tabled until Fannin County can make an accurate estimate about costs and revenue for the future. Until COVID-19 hit the United States, the county experienced continual growth in LOST and SPLOST collections.
Gov. Kemp extended his shelter in place for medically fragile and senior citizens as well as extended Georgia’s Public Health Emergency until June 12. These actions will also affect county revenue as many individuals are still confirmed to their homes. However, short-term rentals can now book guests. The ban expired on Friday and due to Kemp’s executive order, counties can’t enact legislation to strengthen or lessen the gov’s actions.
“Yes, with all the uncertainty, we just don’t know what is going to happen in the future,” affirmed Patterson. “We do not need to put any more undue stress on the citizens and the system. I think it would be a wise move at this time.”
“I believe we do not need to spend a single dollar that is not necessary at this point,” Johnson stated. “I don’t think we need to spend any money at all that is not necessary. I think it’s a good idea, and I think it’s absolutely critical that we move in that direction right now.”
Helton added that the issues can be addressed one at a time. Before the next commission meeting on May 12, department heads are asked to inform them of any critical spending needs. If an essential project is identified, the commissioners will address it at the May 12 meeting.
“Hopefully when all this nears an end, we can get a better handle on it, but as we move forward just watch every penny that we have,” Johnson said.
As far as 2020 revenue thus far, the first quarter did continue to see overall growth.
SPLOST and LOST collections were up by 10 percent in the first quarter, but with the statewide shutdown and short-term rental ban, the second quarter most likely won’t experience a similar financial boom.
Overall, Fannin was operating four percent under budget from January to March. The total budget for 2020 is $28,563,575, and through March, departments should be 25 percent into their budgets. Some areas were over such as risk management at 27 percent. It includes health insurance, an area that continues to eat up everyone’s budgets as healthcare costs continue to rise.
The courthouse debt payment is also made during the first quarter. The budget expenditure is $1,120,000. The county paid half of the amount already. The second will be made later in the year.
“After this year, that would leave us at $1.1M on the debt of this courthouse, which has been a debt that has been out there for 16 to 17 years. It’ll be a great moment in the county when we get that long-term debt off our financials,” Helton affirmed.
A few other departments were over 25 percent. The fire department made its one-time lease payment for $61,000. EMS turned in extra overtime wages to the amount of $21,000. The detention center was over by one percent, or $14,000, because of pre-bought uniforms and wages, according to Helton. These overages should flatten out as the year progresses.
Johnson reminded department heads to be “very conservative as we possibly can at this moment to make sure that as we creep our way out of this that we can mitigate as much as we can the losses incurred throughout all taxes.”
FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – Post One Earl Johnson announced he wouldn’t seek reelection at the Feb. 25 Board of Commissioners’ meeting, citing family and negativity as reasons.
“I’ve been back and forth whether to announce reelection or not, through some recent events and changes with my family and my son, where he is going to attend college and numerous reasons. I’ve decided to announce that I will not be seeking reelection for Post One,” stated Johnson.
He remarked on the good and bad times he experienced during his seven and a half years as Post One Commissioner. However, Johnson felt that for the past three to four years, nothing good has been recognized and couldn’t see a reason to continue to serve.
“I enjoy my job; I’ve taken my job seriously. I’ve done everything I could possibly do to try and do a good job for the taxpayers,” explained Johnson. “In the current climate we have, people wanting more money, Sheriff’s Office wanting more money, Facebook ads, Facebook posts, what’s that’s going to entail, and I hate it for whoever serves on this board, what that means is higher taxes. If everybody gets what they want, it’s going to cause the county to have higher taxes.”
Additionally, Johnson noted the rarity of Tuesday’s meeting because the citizens in Fannin turned out to show support for the Second Amendment Sanctuary County Resolution.
“It felt nice for people to actually show us support for something, but this show tonight is very rare, very uncommon. We have five to ten people in this county…they haven’t found a thing that has went right in this county so far,” said Johnson. He wanted to give someone else a chance to solve county issues. It’s not as easy as other people seem to think.
Johnson called for a change in the way of thinking in Fannin County because much of the time, the commissioners receive derision from one or all sides. He mentioned shedding some light on the good things that the community pulls together to accomplish. For instance, officials tried to save flooded businesses in the county development authority building, but no one their efforts.
Instead, everyone focused on the Whitepath storage shed that flooded. According to Johnson, the shed had nothing to do with the building that was purchased in 2019.
“Somewhere along the line, we’re going to have to find a positive in Fannin County. We’re going to have to find a positive. We’re going to have to start working off a little bit of positive information because right now, no matter what side of any decision that is made, you’re wrong,” declared Johnson.
Also, the library development caused Johnson “angst and turmoil” because Speaker Ralston’s announcement caught him unaware and unprepared. The situation turned into one of the deciding factors for seeking reelection of not.
Johnson stated, “It’s all too premature, the library needs to figure out what they need on their own. They need to figure all those things out. I don’t do anything, and I hope I haven’t gentlemen or previous gentlemen, I haven’t ever made a decision that’s caused you any grief, and that’s all I do. All I expect from anyone else.”
Under constant scrutiny and negativity, he believed anyone would find it difficult to effectively lead the county. However, it might change with better people filling government positions.
“I hope Fannin County finds a better person than me because I haven’t been able to do it. I hope they find a smarter, more business savvy, more straight shooter than I am because that’s all I’ve ever been, and it hasn’t done me very well,” said Johnson.
Johnson has promised to fulfill his term and work with the board of commissioners but hopes for something to eventually “be right in Fannin County.” He thanked the citizens of Fannin County for allowing him to serve, and he looks forward to spending time with his family.
“You put your heart and soul into this county. You’ve been a part of a lot of good things that happened, and we have 10 more months to continue that. I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish in the next 10 months, and I mean that sincerely. I appreciate what you’ve done for the county,” said Chairman Stan Helton.
Post Two Glenn Patterson also affirmed his belief that Johnson has done a great job in his role in Post One for the past seven years.
Qualifying for 2020 local elections begins on Monday, March 2 at 9 a.m. and ends on Friday, March 6 at noon.
Fannin County Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson makes announcement about his political future.
Posted by Fetch Your News on Tuesday, February 25, 2020
BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Executive Director of the Development Authority Christie Gribble presented a strategy to bring the community up to broadband speed, so to speak, and commissioners approved going ahead with the process.
Gribble hoped to have Fannin broadband ready by the fourth quarter of 2020.
“I think it’s an absolute necessity that we move forward with it,” asserted Chairman Helton.
“I don’t see how we could not move forward,” confirmed Post One Earl Johnson.
The Georgia Broadband Ready program was created in 2018 to promote “deployment in areas not currently served at a minimum speed of 25 megabits per second, download, and three megabits per second, upload.”
“This program is something I want the county to apply for and I can apply through economic development, but I want to talk about why it’s important,” said Gribble.
To become eligible, the county must adopt a model ordinance and amend the 10-year regional commission comprehensive plan.
“It shows the state [that] at a local level we have taken steps to reduce obstacles to broadband infrastructure investment,” explained Gribble. “Reducing obstacles can really be addressed in the ordinance. It provides a single point of contact for anyone applying for a permit for a broadband network permit.”
Marie Woody was nominated to serve as that point of contact since she already deals with permitting.
The ordinance also provided timelines for reviewal, approval, and denial of an application for anyone who wants to expand broadband.
The commissioners unanimously approved moving forward with the creation of an ordinance for a broadband ready community. The ordinance isn’t in effect because two public hearings need to occur as well as it needs to be published in the legal organ.
“It has the potential to really help people that work out of their homes, particularly in the rural areas,” stated Helton.
When amending the 10-year plan, the program asked to identify areas that have little to no connectivity.
Gribble gave further explanation of FCC policy, “It can be harder to do than one might think. If you look at an FCC map, there are a lot of places in Fannin County that are shown to have coverage, when that isn’t the case. The way the FCC looks at that data is if one person is in a Census block that is served, that whole Census block is marked as served when 99 people aren’t served.”
Currently, Georgia has a team working to identify any underserved areas and plans to have that information available to the counties by the Summer. Gribble recommended waiting until then to amend the plan.
“We can’t apply to be a broadband ready community until the ordinance has been adopted and the amendment has been made,” said Gribble.
Once becoming a broadband ready community, Fannin County is on record that it’s looking at possible options. Possibly in the future, when Georgia has a fund for the program, the county could apply for grant funding. However, at this time, the state doesn’t have grant money set aside.
The state has four designated broadband ready communities – Woodbury, Banks, Evans, and Oglethorpe – and six applications under review.
Fannin as a county can’t expand the internet, but if a utility shows interest, the county can request grant money to help with the development.
Blue Ridge, Ga. – Will Fannin County finally have its stand alone library that so many citizens have petitioned for in the past? No, but the possibility of moving the current library to a larger more accommodating space is something that all agreed would be a vast improvement over the library’s current situation.
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners, the Fannin County Public Library Board and the Mountain Regional Library Board held a joint meeting to discuss the future of Fannin County’s Library and how to move forward to achieve a common goal.
“The purchase of the Whitepath building and moving the Administrative offices out of the courthouse fulfills a mandated referendum that was approved by the voters in Nov. 2016,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton said explaining the purpose of the called meeting.
Helton added, “During the move, moving there and design, we have an opportunity to offer the library a better space with improved parking.”
The two boards took the time to open up dialogue and lay the groundwork for the library’s possible move.
Peter Sutton with Sutton Architectural Services was also present to help work through concerns and share his thoughts on the redesign of the Whitepath building.
Sutton pointed out that the buildings structure, upon initial inspection, was in good standing and that the process would really be one of converting the building from it’s industrial function to a building of administrative function.
Among Sutton’s ideas were the possibility for the library to have its own entrance, and noted that as the building stands now there would be enough room for the library to double its square footage.
Interim Regional Library Director for Mountain Regional Library System, Claudia Gibson spoke on the current library, “From what I’ve seen. I do think the library is very inadequate for library services. It’s very small. The parking, as you all know I’m sure, is very bad. We worry about children. They have to cross the street.”
The size of the new library was a key topic of discussion among library board members. The current square footage of the Fannin County Library is approximately 6,800 square feet.
Fannin County Public Library board member Ron Bolin stated that according to state standards the new library would need at least 19,000 square feet. Bolin added, “For me it is critical that we meet state standards.”
State standards of square footage for a library is based upon projected population growth and while Fannin County would ideally like to see 19,000 square feet for the new library, it is possible that the new facility could start out with less footage and be expanded at a later date.
Bolin also brought to the forefront the issue of funding, stating that not only is the grant from the state for $1.3 million not a done deal, but also that it was his understanding that the county was running on deficit in 2020 and wondered where the county’s portion of funds would come from.
The library board members all expressed that Speaker of the Georgia House Representatives David Ralston’s announcement of the grant had taken them off guard, and pointed out that the grant is still up in the air.
Fannin County’s library funding from the state is on a list at the capitol to be voted upon but that vote has not taken place yet. Funding from the state, if voted to be given to the Fannin County project, would not be available until July 2020 at the earliest.
Regardless of the question of funding, both parties agreed to take care of due diligence in order to give the county the best possible chance of receiving state grant. Members of the Board of Commissioners and the two boards representing the library system expressed enthusiasm in moving forward with the project.
Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson conveyed what seemed to be a mutual feeling of everyone involved, “I think it’s a very good avenue for all of us combined.”
The boards will meet at a later date to go over findings with state standards and discuss design and needs.
Blue Ridge, Ga –Three-part motion named the more expensive company the primary waste management facility for Fannin County, awarded the second contract to the lower-cost company, and then placed a moratorium on industry permits.
The ongoing discussion between Advanced Disposal Services (ADS) and Cash Environmental Resources (CER) reached a quick conclusion. The three-part motion awarded both companies contracts and added a moratorium on solid waste collection and disposal permits for the next three years.
Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson stood in opposition to the motion and said that “It was confusing language and harder to understand than the Declaration of Independence.” Johnson also noted that no one discussed the three-part motion before or after it’s presentation to the Board.
No one addressed why ADS won the primary contract over CER. ADS will cost the citizens of Fannin more because it charges per ton or per pound. CER offers a pay per bag system to the general public.
The two companies bided for the responsibility of Fannin County’s waste in the May 14 Board of Commissioners meeting. The organizations presented their proposals in a workshop on May 26.
During the workshop, the commissioners and facilities addressed the idea of both operating in the county but tabled the final decision to review pricing before awarding the primary contract. The bids included a rundown of prices, as follows:
ADS quoted a host fee of $0.20 per ton for the county with the following detailed breakdown: $57.64 per ton for commercial haulers, $57.64 per ton for general public across the scales, $57.64 per ton for general public trash bag delivery at scales, $0.12 per pound for general public at convenience centers, and $12.50 for bulky items and appliances. ADS can process a total of 866 tons per month.
CER quoted $1 per ton for the county host fee with the following itemization: $52 per ton for commercial haulers, $52 per ton for general public across the scales with a $40 minimum, $1 per bag for general public trash bag delivery, $1 per bag for general public at convenience centers, $3 per bag for contractors, $0.10 per pound for CND, yard debris, $15 for bulky items, $15 for appliances, $12 per pound for tires, and free recycling. Prohibited waste includes batteries, fluorescent lightbulbs, and non-hazard liquid waste.
“It’s been an objective Fannin County Board of Commissioners to provide competitive options to the citizens and visitors to the county for waste stream collection and disposal,” stated Chairman Stan Helton when he began reading the motion.
Still, ADS won the primary responsibility of hauling and disposing of garbage in a non-exclusive, three-year contract. The company also received access to convenience centers owned by the county.
In the second part of the motion, CER obtained a similar contract, but can’t operate out of ADS’s convenience centers. CER owns one transfer station, Sugar Creek C&D.
However, CER lacks a permit to haul solid waste, and the moratorium prohibits the company from attaining a waste management collecting and disposal permit for three years.
When asked about the decision, Chairman Helton stated, “The primary goal was to open up competition on this service and provide better service and economics to the citizens of Fannin as having only one provider has not been the best situation for the county.”
Currently, ADS manages collection for the county, and the contract expires in August 2019. The company’s also going through the process of being bought out by Waste Management Incorporated. This prompted the Board of Commissioners to open the service up to bid.
Blue Ridge, Ga – Commissioners approved reroofing of the old firehouse located next to the courthouse in a two to one vote with Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson dissenting.
Chairman Stan Helton brought up the need for a new roof on the old firehouse during the last meeting. The committee tabled the issue until the July 9 meeting.
“It is leaking. It’s not in danger of falling in right now, but another hard winter over there could really take us backward a long ways,” commented Helton.
Two quotes came back for the roof, one from Steve Stacy Roofing at $30,723.16 and from J&D Construction and Excavating at $28,147.
“J&D Construction did our old jail that houses our maintenance office,” state Helton, “As far as I can tell that work has turned out fine.”
Patterson visited with the old fire station and expressed concern in the state of the entire building.
“It’s in pretty bad shape,” commented Patterson, “My concern is if that roofing is going to do the job. We might have some drainage issues as well. I know that these two quotes checked the roof out and I guess we’ll get the roof on it and see.”
Patterson wanted to add a new roof, but the drainage and potential mold issues also merited consideration. He was unsure how long offices could remain usable in the current state.
“We don’t want any danger to our employees,” said Patterson.
Post one Commissioner Earl Johnson agreed that the building needs a new roof and the county should start there as it’s the most pressing issue.
“The concern I would have with the building. We start with the roof, stop all the leaks. There’s no telling how old that roofing is and how long it’s been on there,” commented Johnson.
J&D Construction will remove the entire roof and replace with new shingles and materials. Johnson recommended using J&D for that reason and because Stacy Roofing’s bid accounted for $65 per sheet of plywood fixes. Stacy’s estimate could result in extra charges once the project begins.
“When I parked this afternoon, I noticed all the fascia boards and most of them were rotten, and [J&D]’s quote states that they’re going to replace all the fascia boards and replace with new,” said Johnson, “Not only just price but the amount of work that’s going to be done. It looks like a significant amount more with J&D.”
Helton responded to Patterson’s concerns about the long-term usability of the firehouse. The building needs to be available for office space for the county, and other entities might need it in the future. With rental rates increasing, more departments might need to move into the old fire station.
“It is a county asset; there’s value to it. If we take care of it like we should do our county assets, we should make some usable space available. If we do the roof, which I really believe we should do this year, and we can discuss at a later time what we should do next,” explained Helton.
Patterson asked to address the baseboards, flooring, and doors after installation of the new roof.
Johnson added that he wanted to clarify with J&D about the gutters and if they accounted for gutters in the initial scope of work.
Helton confirmed neither company included guttering in the initial quote. Patterson asked to include it in the project costs because it’s necessary for a new roof.
“We may have some leverage if we wait with the guttering on the drainage issue,” said Patterson.
“I don’t have a problem moving forward with the roof and negotiating the guttering,” stated Johnson.
Helton made a motion to approve the J&D bid for the new firehouse roof, which passed 2 to 1 with Patterson against the decision due to lack of guttering in the initial quote.
Road Detail Update
Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff approached the board for permission to buy a 2010 Van 13K to transport the work detail from Blairsville.
“I’ve looked high and low at our dealerships, and a passenger van is really hard to find,” stated Ratcliff, “Lucked up on one at AA Auto Rental, I went up and drove it. $13,000 is the price on it with 100,000 miles on it.”
Colwell Detention Center requires counties to have a way to transport work details back and forth from the facility to the roadside.
“We expected this when we decided to hire them,” said Johnson.
The van will be available on Monday, July 22, after it is fitted to meet all detention center requirements.
The board unanimously approved the purchase.
Blue Ridge, Ga – Rushton & Company presented 2018 audit findings and attempted to address the reasoning behind adjusting each line item at the end of the year.
The company’s representative Sam Latimer outlined 2018 audit and issued an unmodified opinion aka no areas for concern. However, left 12 comments for improvements in their report.
Overall, Fannin County Government behaved fiscally responsible according to the audit, not exceeding the operating budget. However, health insurance significantly overspent.
The operations budget took in $26,680,936M in net investment in capital assets, $6,639,299M in restricted assets, $9,304,456M in unrestricted assets, and $42,624,691 for a total net position.
Revenue over expenses for the year equaled $1,194,327, which occurred because of the increase in property and sales taxes. Property tax increased $229,000 and a total revenue increase of $740,000, most of that comes from sales tax. LOST is up $260,000, and title ad valorem increased by $186,669. Fines and forfeitures decreased by $175,000, and other revenues increased $80,000.
Expenditures increased by $1.1M, largely due to insurance claims. The health insurance claims accounted for $700,000, superior court increased around $100,000, and fire increased by $527,000, due to buying three new trucks.
The unassigned fund balance accounts for 6.7 months of operation with $10,314,184, which is considered great shape by the auditors. The state of Georgia requires counties to have at two to four months of operating expenses stored away.
Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson questioned who made the recommendation and decision behind moving each line item at the end of the year.
“You’re here to just look at what we’re doing. Why are you helping move funds from one line to another?” asked Johnson.
Latimer explained that he just advises and management makes the final decisions. Rushton and Company make recommendations.
“Why are you helping CFO move numbers around,” questioned Johnson, “The reason why I am asking is because I think it’s part of my job.”
Rushton and Company has always made the three percent adjustments, and try to advise, but not make final decisions. Latimer stated he didn’t know why the final adjustment took place so late into the year this year.
Johnson stated that he would have loved to talk to Latimer before this meeting, but he never spoke to him or anyone from Rushton and Company this year. It’s difficult to understand the budget when you can add $500,000 to roads for one large adjustment at the end of the year. It suggests that maybe some budgets don’t need to be as large.
“Nothing raised a flag on my end,” said Latimer, “If adjustments should be done earlier and throughout the year, then that might need what we get to. The year-end adjustment then hopefully would be pretty small. We would come to you for approval of each adjustment. ”
Blue Ridge, Ga – Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) presented their case for participation in the 2020 census.
DCA Specialist Khuyen Nguyen spoke to the Board of Commissioners about DCA’s initiative to record everyone in the upcoming census. She outlined three methods available to Fannin county citizens, including online form, calling in, or paper copy of the survey designed to record the United States population.
“We’re looking at one representation, but two, more importantly, we’re looking at $6,075,000,000 in federal funding that’s going to be distributed to the 50 states based on population. It’s going to be impacting, not only at the national level but at the state and local levels as well. We want to make sure that Georgia and Fannin County get their fair share,” explained Nguyen.
In March 2020, every household will receive a postcard listing the three options to complete the form, and everyone can complete the census according to their comfort level.
She also asked for the county to form a complete count committee. Christy Gribble is heading up the search for the complete count committee.
DCA is also hiring part-time local employees to assist with the process.
Board of Commissioners renewed community television company franchise agreement with ETC. It’s a 15-year agreement. The contract gives ETC permission to cross the county’s right of way to work on cables and provide continual service and currently in effect.
“They provide a big service for the community, and I think we need to let them continue,” said Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson.
Old Fire Station Remodel
Chairman Stan Helton initiated the discussion of remodeling the old fire station next to the courthouse. The old building will soon need a new roof and commissioners also addressed updating the exterior.
“Since we took the garage down, it kind of sits out there by itself and makes all the scratches and flaws on it a lot more evident than in the past,” stated Helton, “It will need a new roof in the near future, a gutter and roof, and the sidings looking pretty rough.”
The building’s currently worth more than $200,000 and houses the extension office, Red Cross, Chaplin, and coroner’s office. It’s not currently leaking but might after one more winter. Helton was unsure if the county wanted to take the chance of another winter with the current roof.
“Definitely need to keep a roof on it, but as far as the exterior, it’s been ugly for a long time, and it can stay ugly for a little while longer,” stated Johnson, “It’s a good reminder of where we come from.”
Helton said he had some rough numbers and wanted to see if the Post One and Post Two Commissioners wanted to do something with the firehouse this year or put it on the 2020 budget.
“I’d like to see a cost analysis,” said Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson.
Helton told Patterson to speak with Mr. Hawkins for the rough estimates on the project. The building offers a lot of space for the county to use.
Commissioners tabled the issue until the next meeting.
Blue Ridge, Ga – Fannin County hired a team of detainees from the Colwell Detention Center to start picking up litter on the roadsides over the next year.
After two and a half years of waiting for an opening, a detainee detail became available for roadside cleanup in Fannin.
By hiring Colwell, six to ten detainees will work for four, 10 hour days for 52 hours a week. The minimum amount of hours spent on the roads a year would be 12,000. Presently, only two part-time employees scavenge the Fannin County roads for trash. They can only work 32 weeks a year and limited to 2,560 hours a year.
“We can declare war on litter in Fannin County, and do some things along the road, keep them trimmed up, keep litter picked up,” explained Helton.
The public works budget will pay for the service at $39,500 annually, billing once a month. The agreement also offers a seven-day termination notice. The service begins on July 1, 2019, and expenses include a corrections officer to oversee the detail.
Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff will direct the corrections officer and work detail to the roads for the day or week. From there, the officer supervises the job.
“I don’t think in any world, we could hire six people for that amount a year. It’s really a no brainer,” said Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, “Our litter problem is an ongoing problem, and just the money, I feel safe in saying, I don’t know how much we’re paying, is going to offset, and the other saving we can look at some of these trees and intersections. The leaning trees can be cleaned up. We’re going to save money in overtime…I think we should feel very fortunate that this opened up.”
“We’ve been looking at this for quite a while. Some other counties around have like six teams in Union County. They’re definitely doing a good job with those guys,” said Ratcliff.
Additionally, paving bids came back for the county from: C.W. Matthews at $2,304,951.40, Colwell Construction Company at $1,774,980.74, and Colditz Trucking at $1,455,158.47. Colwell and Colditz didn’t provide a total for their bids and the amounts will be checked again before proceeding. The striping bid also came back at $92,000.
Ratcliff advised tabling the bids until he has time to review each one.
The GDOT grant covers approximately 70% of striping and paving costs.
Blue Ridge, Ga – Auditors recommended adjustment of $20,699 or three percent of the 2018 budget, which led to calls for clarity as to why some departments were showing over.
Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway presented the auditors Rushton and Company’s recommendation to adjust each line item by three percent as a result of overestimation in the initial report. Also, the adjustment spread out the amounts from departments or categories that went over in 2018. Three percent over or under is the traditional amount auditors use to justify budgets.
“It’s just for the financial statements and everything to make it look presentable for everybody, explained Gazaway, “for the general fund, I estimated that we would go into fund balance at about $556,000, and after the audit and all the adjustments, we only actually used a fund balance of $536,000.”
When reviewing the budget, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson stated, “Though we may be $20,000 under what was total budgeted, some of the different categories and department of the county, going down the list, a lot of these have gone way over budget. We’re going to have to figure out a way that when they’re close to going over budget, the board needs to know about it.”
Gazaway used the Fire Department as an example, “They were like $700,000 over budget, but that’s an accounting adjustment that I have to make because of the lease payment on the three fire trucks. Technically, the only expense that is out of that is the first lease payment, but when I have to in accounting at the end of the year, I have to put the full amount on the books, and that is what made them look way over budget.”
According to Gazaway, the capital lease revenue item washes out the majority of the expense, which still shows the Fire Department a little over budget. It’s currently around $18,000 over for the year 2018.
Health insurance went over $1.8M for the year, but Roads and Bridges was $498,000 under for the year.
The auditors adjusted the Roads and Bridges budget by $254,000, so it fell into the three percent recommendation. Since the category underspent, it took on some of health insurance’s overages from 2018.
“Their issue is over/under three percent. Even if you save a lot of money according to this, it could turn out negative,” stated Chairman Stan Helton.
Gazaway clarified that auditors want budgets to stay close to the actual number, so they can easily explain it to the state. Therefore, each line item adjusted by three percent to fall as close as possible to the actual budget number.
The initial budget featured Gazaway’s prediction for the year. The amended budget revises that number and produces another total, but trouble starts when the final amended number exceeds the initial yearly budget.
“This is one of the only things I can judge by, where people wound up at the end of the year, said Johnson, “I guess I should just get a copy of the actual amount that every one of departments stood for the year.”
Helton suggested the auditors arrive early and meet with the commissioners to answer any questions about the final budget.
Johnson also addressed the need to know when departments go over or likely to go over budget. Due to the monthly budget reports showing a month behind, the commissioners vote to spend money without current budget estimates.
Gazaway explained that she speaks to unexpected expenses in her reports, and she can send her monthly summary to the other commissioners.
Rushton and Company should present the final amended budget and answer questions on the budget adjustment at the next Board of Commissioners’ meeting on June 25.
Blue Ridge, Ga – Sheriff’s Office resolved its air conditioner (AC) problems and entered into a new maintenance agreement with Trane.
Sheriff Dane Kirby advised partnering with Trane Heating and Cooling for all future AC issues with the jail and the courthouse. The two service agreements one covers mechanical and the other maintains the computer equipment. The mechanical agreement is roughly $10,000 annually, broken into $2,500 quarterly. The computer agreement is $3,570, with quarterly payments of $896. Together, the agreements totaled $13,570 a year.
“I think maintenance would really help. I’m not even going to get into what they found. They said one of them looked like it had a dead dog in it, but we’ve got [the system] going now,” said Kirby.
Over the years, the jail and Sheriff’s Office faced constant AC issues and applied fixes deemed appropriate. Normally, the office called local contractors to fix the problems.
However, the system broke again a few weeks ago, and a Trane specialist advised setting the system back to zero. After resetting the system, Trane wanted to enter into a maintenance agreement with the county.
“We’ve reached a point that with the age of those units that if we don’t do something to maintain them, and see that the maintenance is done on an ongoing basis, we could be looking at some severe costs,” said Chairman Stan Helton.”
The life expectancy of a maintained Trane AC unit is 10 to 15 years.
The bill for the service charges totaled at $16,000, but with the proposed service agreement, Trane dropped the bill to $13,091.
“Looks like it’s very necessary to get it done,” stated Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson, “I think it would be well worth it to do so.”
With the new maintenance agreements, the county will pay $13,750 a year for the next three years.
Kirby’s 2019 budget didn’t account for the of the new service agreements but felt it would save money in the future.
Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “It’s right in line with what we’ve spent on the system every year. I know last year we spent $15,000 or $16,000. I think it’s a good idea to let the people whose unit it is to actually fix it, and it sounds even better if they are going to maintain the courthouse as well.”
Also, the Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of a new ambulance from Custom Works for a total of $143,821, included in the 2020 budget.
Custom Works was the higher bid than MEDIX, who previously supplied ambulances for the county. However, MEDIX no longer has a service representative in Georgia. Trucks would have to travel to Indiana to receive service.
Custom Works offered a Georgia location for service with no exceptions to the requirements put forth by Director of EMA Robert Graham.
Blue Ridge, Ga – Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson voiced his opinion on the changes to the county’s healthcare policy.
In the May 28 Board of Commissioner’s meeting, Johnson, who missed the called special session on healthcare, made his thoughts on the changes known.
“The reason I felt that we went to self-insured, two or three years ago, was to save money, and that hasn’t been the case. I would hope that next year that we get some different proposals, said Johnson.
He stated that he couldn’t disagree with the tobacco policy, but the spousal carve-out warranted further consideration before moving forward.
“The carve-out, I would have liked to have seen some numbers on how much that is going to save us, stated Johnson, “Some of the employees have worked here for numerous years, and now their spouses are going to have to receive healthcare from somewhere else. It could be an undue hardship.”
It’s still too early to tell how many employees will be affected by the carve-out. Employees have until the end of the month to decide what to do.
Johnson stressed looking into different options next year, “We’re paying about the same. I feel like we have to get permission from this new insurance company to get injured, so I would like to a few options for us all to look at. For myself, I am coming off it.”
He also expressed an issue with the decision being made in a called meeting. “We had a meeting that Tuesday. I wished we had presented it then,” said Johnson, “We’re taking two weeks to go over an ambulance bid, and we had one meeting to change the entire insurance for the county.”
In closing, Johnson stated, “We’re trying to do everything for the cost not to rise, and I feel like that is what the commissioner’s did even in my absence. Everyone’s trying to keep the cost from going up.”
“I’m certainly in favor of looking at anything that reduces insurance costs. The claims can be terrible, and it impacts everybody, and we tried to choose the route that impacted the fewest people, “said Chairman Stan Helton, “We’ll certainly take that under advisement.
Blue Ridge, Ga – Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson asked for revisions in the Public Roads/SPLOST department to clarify the monthly financial reports.
The Public Roads and SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) represented one line item of the budget summary report. Since financial updates began two years ago, Board of Commissioners’ Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway has presented the two items together.
Johnson stated that combining Public Works (budget and expenditures) and SPLOST makes it difficult to recognize where the money is being spent. “I don’t understand why we’re doing a report if I can’t see the numbers,” said Johnson. He also noted that other departments were separated and easier to comprehend.
Gazaway offered to break down SPLOST into four segments: Public Works, EMS, Recreation, and Administration and add a slide in the next budget meeting. She said, “It’s no problem to split [SPLOST] out and present it differently.”
She also suggested providing a detailed financial print report to the commissioners each month since she already has that information pulled for her records.
These updates will begin during the next financial update report at next month’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting.
Gazaway gives the financial update at the second board meeting of every month, and this report detailed all expenses from Jan. through March 2019. Departments were showing 1% over for the year, but Gazaway pointed out that lump sums, such as the courthouse loan debt and lease payments were due at the beginning of the year. As a result, the numbers should even out as the year goes on.