A Call for Clarity in the County Budget

News, Police & Government
increase non-critical state of emergency 2020 Budget

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.

Points of interest in the 2019 budget. The third line item was the point of discussion.

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.

GDOT Budget for Madola Bridge Project Approved

Community, Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

Blue Ridge, Ga – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners approved a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) for Madola Road bridge construction during the Tuesday, April 23 board meeting.

The commissioners and GDOT must agree on the proposed budget before construction or improvements can proceed. Costs for the project will be split between the state of Georgia and Fannin County with the county expected to pay 50%. The shared cost includes not only bridge work but right of way acquisitions and expenses during the construction process.

GDOT recently recalculated the initial estimate of $327,000 and lowered the proposed expenses to $150,000 total with Fannin paying $75,000 instead of $163,500.

“I like that quite a bit compared to what we had,” said Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton.

“It’s an important bridge to the community. The state’s going to be taking a majority of the cost. I think $75,000 is a very good number for Fannin County,” stated Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson.

Madola road bridge

The Madola Road bridge over Fightingtown Creek is scheduled to be replaced starting in 2022.

Construction will not begin until July 1, 2022, or later. The state still needs to approve the proposed project budget. Only once the budget receives the sign-off from the state will the county have to pay $75,000. Also, the expected amount could still change between now and the start of construction.

Madola Road Bridge built in 1956 was downgraded to a 5-ton weight limit in 2017 by GDOT. The department marked the bridge for replacement during that same inspection. Due to the limited usage, these improvements will open the road back up to motorists with larger hauls.

The Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the MOA and go forward with the project.

Next, Robert Graham, Fannin County EMA Director, announced that the county received a $26,000 federal grant to update the hazard mitigation plan.

A hazard mitigation plan is in place to help lessen the impact of disasters through identifying risks and vulnerabilities and developing long-term strategies to protect people and property. Fannin County’s current plan is updated every five years with November 2016 being the most recent plan approval.

Graham added, “These grants are only available after there has been a disaster in Georgia, then the federal government makes this hazard mitigation money available.”

The grant amount broke down as follows:
• Federal Share: $19,500
• State Share: $2,600
• Local share: $3,900

According to Graham, previously the county portion was paid via in-kind labor, and he expects the same this time, meaning the local portion will be minimal if anything at all.

If approved, Graham will have a new plan in place in 2020.

Fannin County Board of Commissioners considers budget item

News, Politics

Commissioner Chairman Stan Helton welcomed everyone at 5:15 p.m. for its bi-monthly meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

District Attorney Alison Sosabee

District Attorney of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit of Fannin County B. Alison Sosabee appeared before the Board requesting funds to employ an administrative assistant. The new assistant would help alleviate the work load being placed upon the department due to an increase of 32% in criminal case loads being experienced in Fannin County.

 

According to http://www.ajcda.org/fannin-county, “The Fannin office is staffed by two assistant district attorneys, an investigator, a circuit-wide sex crimes investigator, two legal assistants, and a victim advocate; prosecuting cases in superior, probate, and juvenile courts.”

Sosabee stated there is a need for additional funding of “$28,481 which would increase her department’s budget to $381,657. The original budget set by the Commissioners for the District Attorney’s office was $353,176.”

Her department supervises the Youthful Offender Pretrial Program. Saying of the additional responsibility in man hours and case load increase, “We need help moving forward to effectively do our jobs.”

After a lengthy discussion, Johnson and Patterson voted to approve the amended budget request while Helton opposed.

EMS Director Robert Graham

EMA/911 Director Robert Graham presented to the Board the following proposals:

  • A change in biohazard disposal companies: The current company has been charging the county $12,000 a year. He has contacted another source who will pick up biohazard materials for approximately $600-800 a year. Approved.
  • There were nine bids to help county resources in case there would be a major disaster here in Fannin County. Contracts will be sent out to Southern Disaster Recovery, LLC from Simpsonville, SC, and Phillips & Jordan, Inc., Knoxville, TN winners of the bids. They will only be dispatched if the need arises, the companies will then be placed into action.
  • Requesting EMA be placed on the waiting list for a new ambulance truck for 2020. Currently an ambulance package chassis used for “remounting/refurbishing an ambulance is not due to be available until 4th quarter 2019,” Graham said. He suggested the county makes sure it has the required ambulances needed to service the growing community.

Post Commissioners Earl Johnson stated, “We need ambulances. We can’t do without them.” and Glen Patterson added, “Public safety is our highest priority.” The positive comments from the commissioners enabled a unanimous vote for EMA to be proceed with plans on the refurbishing of an ambulance and to make Request For Proposals on a new one.

Variances were approved for:

  • Frank M. Tate & Gregory Spencer: remodel and rebuilding a home on an existing foundation.

  • Joseph M & Bonnie Hrynyk: building a garage per specifications in variance order.

  • Oak Vista, LLC: building a carport only. Variance was asked originally for a patio and carport.

  • Serene Mountain Properties, Inc.: to build a house on a private road.

During the time set aside for public commentaries, local citizen Ralph Garner spoke to the commissioners regarding a comment by a board member at last months meeting. Garner felt it was inappropriate and disregarded local medias attempt to voice legitimate concerns over lack of transparency with North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network administration and management. He also voiced concerns and asked the board to keep abreast of investigations being made in the case of David Ralston, Georgia Speaker of the House.

The commissioners were unanimous in its vote to reappoint the following persons on the Fannin County Water Authority: Chairwoman Anita Weaver, Mark Berger, and Zack Ratcliff. It also voted to help purchase a fourth 911call center console for the EMA department at a cost of $16,749.11.

The board adjourned at 7:22 p.m. Next meeting will be March 12, 2019 at the Fannin County Courthouse.

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North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network continues to provide much needed services in our area

Community, News, Non Profit

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network (NGMCN) is not often highlighted among the nonprofit charities in our community. With the sensitive nature of the services they provide, it is a fine line that the charity must walk in order to financially continue operations and still protect the anonymity of the victims who seek their help.

Fannin County, North Georgia, North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Victims, Advocacy, Services, Awareness, Shelter, Board Member, Steven Miracle, Executive Director, Julie Welch, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson

NGMCN has two thrift stores, one located in Blue Ridge and one in McCaysville. Both stores help to provide financial assistance to the charity organization.

Started in 1986, the NGMCN is entering its 33 year of service.

“There are a lot of non profit organizations in our community providing care and support to residents of Fannin County,” NGMCN Board Member Steven Miracle said explaining where the charity’s services fall, “Our mission is to provide safety and support to survivors and their children of sexual abuse and domestic violence.”

Miracle went on to explain that there are four major areas in which the organization focuses:

  • Sexual Assault. Through NGMCN victims of sexual assault are provided counseling and support services to help navigate them through a very difficult time.
  • Domestic Violence. While NGMCN offers the counseling and services to victims of domestic violence as it does to victims of sexual assault, it also offers shelter to house these victims and their children.
  • Legal Advocacy. NGMCN has a trained staff that will help victims navigate the sometimes daunting legal system.
  • Education Awareness. NGMCN helps to spread the word of domestic and sexual violence through community outreach. This includes working hand in hand with law enforcement, hospitals, and different organizations that provide services to these victims.

In 2018, NGMCN housed 129 residents at their shelter. This accounted for 3,173 bed/nights (a measure of occupancy for one person assigned to one bed for one night). Residents of the shelter were also provided with well over 10,000 units of service.

“That’s actually sitting across from a survivor and their children within the shelter to be able to make phone calls, to be able to help them with any type of individual support,” NGMCN Executive Director Julie Welch explained the term “units of service”.

Outreach clients or those who did not require a shelter stay for last year totaled 158 clients and 8,700 units of service.

So far in 2019 the charity has already provided 380 bed/nights, 87 hotline calls, and 600 units of service.

Once a victim has stayed at the NGMCN shelter, the services continue even after that person has checked out. The charity works with community services in the area that the victim chooses to move to and helps provide a network of resources.

Welch said of this work, “That way we can provide a net of services so they don’t fall through the cracks.”

Over $60,000 were provided to those who reached out to NGMCN in 2018. This financial assistance is used when a client leaving a threatening situation has no source of income initially or is needed as short-term emergency funds.

Fannin County, North Georgia, North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Victims, Advocacy, Services, Awareness, Shelter, Board Member, Steven Miracle, Executive Director, Julie Welch, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson

NGMCN will host a 5k run or 1 mile walk on April 13, 2019 in downtown Blue Ridge.

“The fact that we are part of the budget is very much appreciated,” Miracle spoke to the Fannin County Board of Commissioners about the role the county plays, “and the support that you provide in helping us provide services to survivors and victims of our community is very, very much appreciated.”

Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson shared his thoughts, “I admire what you do because quite simply, every situation you deal with is not a good situation, and you continually do it and your passion about what you do and everything that your organization does do, no one knows. I admire people who work behind the scenes. They do the things that they do. They don’t do it for any glamour or glory, they do it just for the reason you all do it because that’s what you feel like you should do.”

Welch acknowledged that it takes many volunteers, staff, and the community as a whole to provide these services: “It’s not just us. There’s a whole host of other people. It’s a team and working with law enforcement, the judicial system, hospitals…it’s completely a team and community effort.”

“I know some people that you literally saved their lives,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton thanked Miracle and Welch for the work they do. “Getting them out of situations that are horrendous. I’m not sure how many people in the county are aware of what a great thing you do. You do such a great thing for the community.”

There are currently 49 clients in their legal advocacy program and NGMCN is housing 14 people in their 12 bed shelter.

“Often times we will have moms that come in that will have small children,” Welch explained the high occupancy.

NGMCN serves both men and women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. They hope by promoting education and awareness in these areas that eventually the cycle of abuse will come to an end.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Feed Fannin celebrates 10 years of service

Community, News, Non Profit

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Feed Fannin is celebrating 10 years of serving Fannin County and throughout the years the all volunteer organization has grown and become a template for other projects across the state of Georgia.

Feed Fannin was founded in 2009 by Barbara Ferer who had a vision of bringing individuals together to “educate and encourage our community towards self-sufficiency while providing food for those in need”.

The very first garden planted in Fannin County was at Davenport Brothers Wood Yard and from there smaller gardens popped throughout the community.
“Our primary goal is to provide food or funds for the pantry,” Feed Fannin Board of Directors member Jane Kimzey said explaining the mission of the organization, and what Feed Fannin has provided to the Family Connection food pantry.

Feed Fannin, 10 Years, Family Connection, Board of Directors, Chairman, Founder, Barbara Ferer, Jane Kimzey, John Sugg, Food Pantry, Gardening, Organic, Agricultural Center, Future Farmers of America, FFA, Fannin County Board of Education, Assistant Superintendent, Robert Ensley, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Stan Helton, Proclamation, Bowls of Hope, Willow Creek Falls and Vineyard

Representatives from Feed Fannin stand with the Fannin County Board of Commissioners after having a proclamation signed recognizing 10 years of success.

Through organically gardening a variety of produce, which varies year to year, Feed Fannin was able to raise and contribute 7,415 pounds of vegetables to the community in 2018. This large amount is predominantly attributed to, beyond the vast hours of work volunteers put in regularly, the Fannin County School System leasing a tract of land on Ada Street.

According to John Sugg, Chairman of Feed Fannin, acquiring the Ada Street property allowed the organization to grow exponentially.

“We are here today and we have one purpose, to tell you all thank you. This partnership means a lot to us,” Sugg spoke recently to the Fannin County Board of Education.

The Ada Street property was first leased from the school system in 2013, with the first garden being planted on site in April of 2014. The land, which is leased for $1.00 per year, not only allowed for Feed Fannin to move forward in their mission but also opened up an ongoing mutually beneficial relationship between the organization and the local schools.

Working side by side with Fannin County’s Future Farmers of America (FFA), Feed Fannin is excited to see the school system’s new Agriculture Center completed adjacent to their gardens.

“We work closely with their new Ag Center which is a jewel in this community,” Sugg said of the relationship shared with Fannin County schools.

Assistant Superintendent Robert Ensley spoke of the school system’s appreciation for Feed Fannin, “They have been a great partner to us. Through our STEM program and different things, they have helped us financially and been a partner in the community. They do a lot of great things.”

Since their beginning in 2009 Feed Fannin has provided the local food pantry and community with 64,797 pounds of produce. Along with this produce Feed Fannin works to raise money for the Family Connection food pantry.

“We either give the money directly to the food pantry in some cases, but in some cases we use it to purchase milk and eggs,” Kimzey spoke of the use of the funds raised each year.

Since 2009 Feed Fannin has raised over $320,000 to support area projects. Besides general upkeep of gardens and equipment, all money raised goes directly into the community, as there is no paid staff and the organization runs on a volunteer basis only.

Feed Fannin, 10 Years, Family Connection, Board of Directors, Chairman, Founder, Barbara Ferer, Jane Kimzey, John Sugg, Food Pantry, Gardening, Organic, Agricultural Center, Future Farmers of America, FFA, Fannin County Board of Education, Assistant Superintendent, Robert Ensley, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Stan Helton, Proclamation, Bowls of Hope, Willow Creek Falls and Vineyard

A photo from the 2017 Bowls of Hope fundraiser showing a large crowd enjoying the annual event.

Much of the funds raised for Feed Fannin come from the annual Bowls of Hope fundraiser. 2018 saw record breaking numbers as this fundraiser alone was responsible for bringing in almost $32,000.

So what’s in store for the future of Feed Fannin? Currently more than 168 volunteers work to provide services to the county. These services include year long educational classes, working with local elementary schools on gardening programs, continuing a relationship with Fannin County’s FFA program and stocking shelves with home grown goods for the local food pantry.

Feed Fannin has recently added a research and development team to keep up with the latest methods in gardening and to look into ways to improve an already successful program. An experimental garden has also been added to the Family Connection property and is being funded by an independent organization.

There is work being done to expand Feed Fannin’s allotment garden where individuals with less than ideal conditions for gardening can make use of the community land and plant their own small gardens.

Chairman of the Fannin County Board of Commissioners Stan Helton read from a proclamation acknowledging the work done by Feed Fannin, “Where as hunger in Fannin County continues to be problem, Feed Fannin, a group of individuals have joined forces to eliminate hunger in Fannin County by helping others help themselves through community gardening, education and shared resources.”

Feed Fannin invites all citizens of Fannin County to celebrate with them as they mark 10 years of service in our area. The annual fundraiser, Bowls of Hope, will be held on April 27, 2019 at Willow Creek Falls and Vineyard.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Tourism brings big dollars to Fannin County

Community, Fannin County Chamber, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – There is no denying that our area is a hot spot for tourists and the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce gave a 2018 update letting citizens know just how much money our thriving tourist industry is bringing to our area.

Last year alone, $39 million was collected in local lodging tax by both the City of Blue Ridge and Fannin County.

“That’s just the ones who pay the tax,” Jan Hackett, President of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce spoke of the significance of these numbers, “so anyone out there who is an Airbnb or a VRBO who is not paying the tax is not in that number.”

In recent years Georgia Tech teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce to do a study on our economic impact numbers. According to Hackett the purpose of this study was to determine the amount of dollars spent in our local economy based on the lodging taxes collected.

Georgia Tech was able to produce an equation that they felt would portray an accurate number based on percentages of sales in direct comparison with lodging taxes.

“Based on their percentages the amount of money that visitors spent directly was $170.5 million dollars,” Hackett said explaining the findings for calendar year 2018 and added that this number is based on overnight visitors alone and does not account for day trippers and our area’s population of second home owners.

According to these numbers and based on SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) collections last year, overnight visitors made up roughly a third of all retail sales in the county. SPLOST reported a record breaking $555 million is sales last year for Fannin County.

Hackett broke down the numbers into a daily average. On average per day lodging brings in $100,795 and visitors spend roughly $484,375. This equates to $39,347 of taxes collected locally.

While our county can become crowded due to the visitors, there is a definite positive impact these visitors bring with them. Roughly one-third of the jobs in Fannin County (excluding governmental) are supported by the tourist industry, and all the extra revenue saves residents approximately $865 in taxation per household.

Hackett pointed out that in 2001: “At that point in time we had less in retail sales than any county in the four around us.” These counties include Fannin, Glimer, Pickens, and Union.

Fast forward to recent years and Fannin County is now leading the way in retail sales and economic growth. A comparison shows that in 2001 retail sales were approximately $150 million and in 2018 retail sales were $555,697,658.

With the lodging tax now being split 50/50 between the chamber and the county, Hackett reported that the decrease from the 70 percent that the chamber previously received has not posed any negative effect on the ability to market our area.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton explains where the extra revenue the county is now getting from the split in lodging tax is being spent, “When we adjusted this ratio between the board of commissioners and the chamber, our intent was to take half of that increase and put it into safety.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson is credited with the idea of investing the funds into public safety, and had pointed out in previous meetings that his reasoning is simply with more people visiting and more events being held in our area there becomes an increased demand for emergency services to be provided.

Up next for the Chamber of Commerce is to continue to promote growth and visitation in our area. Hackett said of moving forward, “Our mission is only to help make Fannin County a better place to live, work and play.”

The chamber has recently focused efforts into making the Copper Basin area a desirable place to visit and has teamed up with the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government Study to produce an in depth study of McCaysville, Copperhill, and Ducktown.

“The Carl Vinson Institute is doing a kind of strategic planning process for McCaysville, Copperhill, and Ducktown….the Copper Basin,” Hackett said of the partnership and added that she is expecting the study to be complete by the end of February.

The study and planning will work to make the Copper Basin area a more appealing place to work, live and visit. Its focus is to re-brand the area. Under the name the Copper Basin Renaissance, the partnership with UGA is focusing its campaign on the slogan “Copper Basin. Too Great for One State”.

Hackett said of the chamber’s focus, “As Blue Ridge has gotten more crowded, it only makes since to try to do more in McCaysville and Copper Hill and the Basin, so that when visitors are here we’ll have them spread out in the county.”

The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce debuted a new website that went live in March of last year. 617,905 users visited the site and of those users 82 percent were new.

The new design of the website landed the chamber a prestigious Silver Adrian Award from the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.

“To give you an idea of what an honor that is, the Jackson Hole Wyoming website also won a silver,” Hackett said of the accomplishment.

The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce plans to continue efforts in 2019 to once again bring in record numbers to our area and help define Fannin County as a resilient place to visit or to make home.

Featured Image: A small sample of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce new award winning website.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Fannin County EMA plans ahead for disaster relief

Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Emergency Management (EMA) team continues to move forward with preparedness for the future.

Throughout 2017 and 2018 Fannin County’s EMA made steps to secure the safety and readiness of the department due to projected growth in our area. Grants were applied for and received to better equipment our emergency personnel, and purchases were made by the county to handle residential expansion.

While disasters are rare in our area, they can happen and our EMA is preparing for an all case scenario.

Fannin County EMA Director Robert Graham approached the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) earlier this year to seek approval for obtaining bid contracts that would take effect if a situation arose that required more than the county is equipped to handle.

At the Nov. 27 BOC meeting Graham was present to open sealed bids that had been received.

The number of bids was surprising as Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss opened a total of nine packages received from disaster relief businesses across the nation.

“Did you tell these people that we have golden roof tops up here or something?” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson joked as the bids were opened.

“I wish we could have gotten this many bids on anything else we do,” Johnson added on a serious note. “In six years, I have never seen this many bids.”

Graham explained the purpose of the contracts: “This is bids for pre-contracts that would be in place in case we have a disaster. We do not pay anything at this time and unless we activate the contract we don’t ever pay anything. It’s there in case we need additional resources to help remove a lot trees, a lot more than we can handle with our own resources.”

According to Graham the debris removal goes beyond just downed trees, it could include garbage, housing material, or hazardous waste to name a few.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton added about having a contract in place, “This is really just to put us in a position for additional federal funds.”

“It’s nice to have this in place,” Graham stated verifying Helton’s comment, “It makes us eligible for an additional 2 percent of disaster match money, should there be a disaster.”

The following companies responded to Fannin County’s request for this pre-contract bid:

Cres Environmental Services (Sarasota, Fl.)
Custom Tree Care Disaster Response (Topeka, Ks.)
Disaster Debris Removal (Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.)
DRC Emergency Services (Galveston, Tx.)
Graham County Land Company (Robbinsville, Nc.)
KDF Enterprises (Alpharetta, Ga.)
Southern Disaster Recovery (Washington, Ga.)
Phillips and Jordan (Knoxville, Tn.)
TRF Enterprises (Lanier, Tx.)

No action was taken in awarding a winning bidder for this contract. Graham requested time for his team to thoroughly review each bid, stating that credentials and references would need to be confirmed: “We’re going to have to vet the companies and make sure they are qualified to provide these services and that they have resources to provide the services as they say they do.”

Graham hopes to have a decision made to present to the BOC during one of the January 2019 meetings.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Cochran concerned over maps and aerials budget line item

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran expressed concern to the Fannin County Board of Assessors over the maps and aerials line item of the assessors budget at the board’s June 7 meeting.

Currently, the line item shows an over-budget amount of $7,524.11 due to an $8,000 payment to qPublic.net, the department’s public access tax records website, and a $23,524.11 amount paid for this year’s update of the countywide aerial photography mapping. The budget appropriation this year for maps and aerials is $24,000.

The mapping update was completed earlier this year using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology, which produces high-resolution 3D imaging by using laser returns reflected from the earth’s surface back to a GPS-monitored aircraft.

Last year, prior to the approval of the mapping project, several county departments that will utilize the mapping technology as well as the municipalities of Blue Ridge, McCaysville and Morganton and utility entities all agreed to equally share the cost of the mapping and reimburse the assessors department upon completion of the project.

At Thursday’s meeting, Cochran explained while all of the county departments and outside entities have sent their reimbursement payments to the county, the reimbursement amount, which totals over $19,000.00, has yet to be credited to the assessors budget, leaving the aforementioned over-budget amount on paper. Once credited back to the assessors’ budget, an amount of approximately $12,000 would still remain in the maps and aerials line item, according to Cochran.

“I feel like we owe it to the tax payers to not be out of line, not be in the negative,” Cochran told the Board of Assessors.

She also said there would be additional expenditures throughout the rest of the year that would need to be deducted from the maps and aerials line item.

Also, Cochran stated the assessors were scheduled to be on the agenda at the next Board of Commissioners meeting June 12 to speak with the commissioners about the issue.

“I understand that there’s more (county) departments that are having kind of the same issue. It’s not just this department,” Assessor Troy Junnier said. “So it might be something that Robin (Gazaway, county finance director) is doing that – I don’t know – might makes things easier for her to track, but if that’s the case, it needs to be put to all the department heads that ‘This is what we’re doing and this is how it’s going to work.’ But then everything needs to flow correctly anyway.”

Referring to the Board of Commissioners, Cochran added, “They can make these things disappear at the end of the year at audit, but you’re at one person’s mercy that that get’s done. And so, I don’t feel comfortable with that, so I’ve kept you all a running total of what you’ve really spent versus haven’t. It’s been really time-consuming trying to keep both books, and the longer we do this, the more out-of-whack this is going to get.”

Cochran also shared with the assessors the results of the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts 2017 sales ratio study. The report studied a total of 322 samples from the county.

According to the study, the overall ratio for Fannin County stood at 38.36. This falls within the 36.00-to-44.00 range that is mandated by the Georgia Department of Revenue.

However, Cochran did note that the county’s coefficient of dispersion (COD) for residential property was high. The COD measures the uniformity within a classification or type of property.

The residential COD, according to the study, was 18.21 for 2017. Cochran explained this number should be 15.00 or less for residential property. For agricultural, commercial, and industrial, the COD was 18.17, 18.16 and 18.16, respectively, all of which fall in line with the state-mandated number of 20.00 or less.

“So, what the state will do, is they’ll send us a letter out once they get this audit, which is turned over to them. They’ll send a letter saying, ‘You need to take a look at your COD on the residential level. You have three years to look at this and go from there,’” Cochran told the assessors. “So, COD is what I was telling you all that, with rural land getting a little out of line, I knew this was probably heading that direction. There is evidence that rural land (revaluations) must be done next year.”

Despite the trouble with the residential COD, Cochran was optimistic of study. “I feel good about it … under the circumstances and the sheer number of sales that we’ve had,” Cochran said.

Cochran also presented the assessors with a consolidation value sheet for 2018, which essentially categorizes the parcel count, acreage and 40 percent value of the entire county property tax digest for the year. According to the information, the total gross taxable value for the county in 2018 stands at $1,685,565,308.

The chief appraiser told the assessors the digest increased by $42,442,741 over last year.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Commissioners conduct business before passing the 2018 budget

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Sheriff’s Office could receive a new vehicle after Chief Deputy Major Keith Bosen was involved in an accident on state Route 5.

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby addressed the Board of Commissioners (BOC) on Dec. 12 with an unforeseen item that was not on the meeting agenda. Kirby explained to the board about the county vehicle that had been involved in the accident, “We got it out at Car Crafters, and they’re thinking it’s going to cost about what the vehicle is worth to fix it, so it’s likely going to be totaled.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Dane Kirby, Fannin Coutny Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Patrick Cooke

Sheriff Dane Kirby was present to discuss the renewal of contracts for the Fannin County Jail.

Kirby added, “We don’t have that set in stone.”

The vehicle suffered damage to the back end and also sustained damage to the frame. Kirby and Bosen had searched for a used vehicle after finding out about the extent of the damage, but we’re unable to locate one.

A new vehicle, which was found at Jacky Jones Ford in Cleveland, Georgia, has a price tag of $26,700. Kirby explained that he still had funds in his current budget to purchase this vehicle but had not allocated funds in 2018 for such a purchase.

Kirby stated that an insurance settlement from the wrecked vehicle would be used to partially reimburse the expenditure of securing the new vehicle.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee questioned, “What if they don’t total the car out?”

“We have a lot of options there,” Kirby replied. “If another office needed that vehicle, we could turn it over to you all to issue out however you all saw fit.”

Board of Commissioners Chairman Stan Helton looked for additional clarification: “So even if it’s fixed, it’s not something you want out there?”

Kirby and Bosen had discussed this possibility previously, and Bosen had expressed reluctance in continued use of the vehicle. “I’m not so sure I would want it for an emergency vehicle after all that damage has been done to it,” Kirby explained.

After some discussion, the BOC voted unanimously to allow the purchase of the new vehicle for Fannin County Sheriff’s Department.

The purchase of the new vehicle was a main focus, but Sheriff Dane Kirby was also present to have the BOC renew two contracts. These annual contracts concern food and health services provided to Fannin County Jail.

The cost of the food service contract showed a 1 percent increase, and the contract concerning healthcare increased by 3 percent.

“I don’t think our food service or our health provider has asked us for a percent increase since I have been in office,” Kirby said of the price difference for the 2018 contracts. “We have not had anything but flawless performance out of both of those providers.”

The BOC collectively agreed that the increase in cost of these two contracts was not unreasonable and unanimously voted to re-enter into both of the agreements.

Deputy Director of Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Patrick Cooke was also on the agenda to discuss the purchase of a radio tower for the new 911 facility.

The county’s new 911 facility will be located at 930 Windy Ridge Road, and construction is already underway.

Cooke presented three bids to the board for the purchase of the new 911 radio tower. The lowest bid was $22,000, and the highest bid came in at $40,030. Cooke stated, “There’s no reason why we cannot go with the lowest bid on this one.”

Sosebee questioned, “Do you have it in your budget?”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Dane Kirby, Fannin Coutny Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Patrick Cooke

Gazaway presented the monthly budget update, and showed were departments stood as of Nov. 30.

Cooke explained that the purchase amount would be covered in the 2017 budget. A tower located on Bullen Gap Road had been damaged, and the majority of the cost of the new tower will come from an insurance reimbursement that the department had received.

The insurance settlement for $18,898.23 would offset the cost of the new tower to where only $3,101.77 would need to be pulled from the budget. The new tower would be able to communicate with the main repeater located on Brawley Mountain and would also act as a back up in the event that the main repeater went down.

The BOC voted unanimously for the purchase of the new radio tower, and construction of the new 911 facility is expected to move forward on schedule.

Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented a monthly update of the county’s current budget prior to the BOC discussing and passing the county’s 2018 budget.

Through Nov. 30, the county is showing that it is under budget by approximately $500,000. Gazaway explained that as of the Nov. 30 date, the county was currently 92 percent into the budget for 2017.

Sosebee questioned specifically about the Tax Assessors budget, and Gazaway replied that they were $242,270 under budget for the year.

Gazaway did clarify, “I know they have a few more expenditures in December, but as of Nov. 30, they’re under budget.”

With information presented by Gazaway concerning the county’s spending and revenue, the BOC passed the 2018 Budget at the end of the meeting.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

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Animal activists and rescuers speak at BOC meeting

Citizens Speak, Community

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Animal activists and members of local animal rescue groups were present to have their voices heard again at the Nov. 28 Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting.

Taking the opportunity to speak during the public commentary portion of the meeting, residents addressed their concerns to the board. One resident spoke of the need for the inside of the animal control facility, located at 1001 Fannin Industrial Park in Blue Ridge, to be painted and updated.

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Jan Eaton addresses the board holding a crate tray that she received from FCAC.

Tri State Pet Rescue founder Jan Eaton spoke to the board regarding equipment currently used by Fannin County Animal Control (FCAC). Holding a tray used in the bottom of an animal crate, Eaton said, “With me tonight, I brought a tray that came out of the bottom of a crate that an animal was being housed in at Fannin Animal Control.”

The tray was visibly broken in two. “It is pretty sad that this is the best our county can do for the animals at animal control,” Eaton added.

Eaton went on to point out that at all of the meetings she has attended, department heads often speak to the board asking for specific needs for their department, and that she has yet to see FCAC Department Head John Drullinger do so.

Stating that the board spends “millions here and there,” Eaton said she thinks that the needs of FCAC are often overshadowed by other projects.

Earlier this year, the Board of Commissioners approved upgrades to the animal control facility. BOC Chairman Stan Helton and Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee voted to install guillotine doors to the existing kennels; Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson abstained from voting on this issue.

The approved improvements called for fourteen outdoor runs to the facility, as well as guillotine doors to allow the dogs to access these runs from their indoor kennels.

Helton stated at the time, “Not only will this improve living conditions for the dogs but will also allow animal control staff to safely access kennels for cleaning and feeding.”

FetchYourNews asked Eaton how she felt about the improvements that had been approved by the board for the animal control facility. Eaton replied, “They’re doing that. There is just a wealth of things that need to be done.”

Ralph Garner, of Blue Ridge, also spoke during public commentary. Wanting to see changes take place at FCAC he urged Johnson and  Sosebee to take action.

“I really am asking post commissioners to take the initiative regarding any complaints about animal control,” Garner pled. “As I look back over the past eight years of the previous chairman, the most significant accomplishments that occurred were done by you two gentlemen.”

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Photo from FCAC Facbook page showing a dog temporarily housed in a FCAC crate.

Garner’s appeal did not go unnoticed. As the meeting came to an end, Sosebee spoke up about issues that were raised concerning animal control and addressed Eaton’s display of the broken crate tray.

“These trays you brought in … I’m an animal lover, I guess you could say as well,” Sosebee continued, turning to the other commissioners, “and guys I would like to find some way to buy some crates for animal control. If we could possibly do so, I don’t think it would be too much to ask.”

FCAC Department Head John Drullinger addressed the issue of the crate tray brought to the meeting by Eaton. He explained it is not uncommon for FCAC to be filled to capacity. Drullinger stated, “This is because we want to use euthanasia as only an ultimate last resort.”

When FCAC is filled beyond capacity, animals that are brought in are sometimes temporarily housed in individual crates instead of kennel runs.

In this case, Drullinger explained, “We were over capacity but had commitments from rescues to pull some of our dogs very soon. Rather than buy a new crate to house this dog for one day, we borrowed one. The crate was not county property.”

Drullinger added, “All of our (FCAC) crates are in good condition.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Dixie Carter announces bid for Fannin County Post 2 Commission seat

Election, Election 2018, News, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Another name will appear on the May Primary Election ballot in a bid for the Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner seat that will be voted on in the General Election to be held on Nov. 6, 2018.

At the Feb. 5 Democratic Party meeting, current member Dixie Carter addressed the crowd, “I am Dixie Carter and I am announcing my candidacy for the Post 2 Commissioner seat.”

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Dixie Carter announced candidacy for Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner seat at the Feb. Democratic Party meeting.

“I have decided to run to be a voice and advocate for the people of Fannin County,” Carter explained. “I want to be a public servant for the people of Fannin County. One who listens to all people.”

Carter has a history of service work both professionally and personally. Holding undergraduate degrees in psychology and social work, and a master’s degree in social work, Carter’s career has covered many areas of social welfare.

Carter served as a case manager and therapist in mental health facilities across north Georgia, worked as a child protective service investigator with the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services, and was a medical social worker in Home Healthcare and Hospice.

“I’ve volunteered a little here in the community,” Carter spoke of her charity work. “Feed Fannin, I’ve been involved with them over the years. Also, the Fannin CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) team. I’m a member of the National Association of Social Workers, also the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club.”

“I’ve always had that passion as a social worker,” Carter spoke of her desire to help people. “It’s really a natural progression to want to help the community.”

Carter brought up a couple of the key issues she would like to address if elected. One of these issues was increased public access areas on Lake Blue Ridge.

Carter sited Morganton Point as being the only public access point of that nature and stated that the summer months bring more visitors, leading to the area being overcrowded.

Another area where Carter would like to see change is in the Fannin County Public Library. Carter would like to see the library increased in size and moved out of the courthouse.

“Public libraries are a very important public space in the community,” Carter stated, explaining the need for this change, “and can be a key hub to community activity in many ways.”

Carter concluded her announcement to the Fannin County Democratic Party by saying, “I look forward to being a voice for the people of Fannin County, and I would consider it a privilege to represent the community.”

Carter currently runs unopposed for the Democratic seat in the May Primary Election.

Glenn Patterson announced his bid for the Republican seat for Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner at the January Fannin County Republican Party meeting. Incumbent Larry Joe Sosebee is expected to officially announce his intention to run for re-election later this month.

Qualification for the May Primary Election will begin March 5 at 9 a.m. and will close March 9 at noon. Those wishing to run in the May Primary Election for any open seats in the county must qualify during this time.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County EMA continues to prepare for future demand

Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) continues to grow with demand and make updates to systems to keep the residents of Fannin County safe.

The latest updates come after the recent approval by the Board of Commissioners (BOC) to purchase a GPS locating system for 911 calls coming into Fannin County’s E-911 center.

EMA Director Robert Graham was present at the Feb. 27 BOC meeting to provide the commissioners and the public with the latest information regarding his department.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Finance Director Robin Gazaway, EMA, Emergency Management Agency, Robert Graham, Larry Joe Sosebee, Copper Basin Medical Center, Fannin Regional Hospital

A new ambulance arrived to Fannin County in 2017. Graham hopes this will help with increased demand.

The main topic of discussion was the progress of the new Fannin County E-911 center and fire station on Windy Ridge Road.

Graham informed the board that the structural completion of this project is about a third of the way through. After recently speaking with the contractor in charge of this undertaking, Graham said that crews are still on time to have the building complete in May or June of this year.

Commission Chairman Stan Helton also pointed out that the contractor was currently staying on budget with the project.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee questioned Graham as to how soon the new facility would be in use once the contractor’s work is complete.

“There will be a little bit of time to coordinate the moving of the 911 equipment and phones,” Graham said, explaining the difficult nature of the situation, “to make sure we do not put anybody without 911 service.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson then questioned Graham as to what equipment would be moved and what equipment the county would need to purchase for the center.

Graham explained that all the electronic systems would be moved, citing the servers and phone system as examples, but that new furniture would need to be purchased.

Each dispatcher has five display monitors on their desk, and Graham explained that as the dispatcher’s equipment expands, so too does the need for a larger area. The new desks to be purchased would provide just that according to Graham and would allow room for extra equipment in the future.

These new desks are also equipped to be raised so that a dispatcher can stand while working. Dispatchers can work up to 12 hours a shift, and the new desks will allow them the ability to take a break from sitting without leaving their work area.

The new building will also have raised floors. Raised floors were a priority in the original design concept. The purpose of the raised floors is to allow infrastructure of the building to be easily accessible. This would save money in the future if need arises for upgrades or repairs.

New ambulances and fire trucks are also making their way into Fannin County. These new vehicles were approved in 2017.

One of the two ambulances approved in 2017 has already been located to Fannin County, and the other will arrive this month. The Fannin County Fire Department (FCFD) received one new fire truck in February and two additional fire trucks are expected to join the FCFD fleet in March of this year.

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One of three new fire engines slated to arrive in Fannin County in 2018.

Fire Station 1, the McCaysville Fire Station, and the Morganton Fire Station will each receive one of the new fire trucks. The trucks that the new engines will be replacing at these stations will be moved to other stations throughout the county.

“The reason we put the three trucks in those stations,” Graham described of the logistics of the new equipment, “those are three of our manned stations and they get quite a bit more use.”

Earl Johnson asked about the progress of finding a new location for the Mineral Bluff Fire Station, to which Graham replied that his department is looking but has yet to find a suitable area.

“The problem is if we don’t stay close to where that station is, it changes ISO (Insurance Service Office) ratings for some of the residents and that can affect their insurance considerably,” Graham told of the restrictions of finding a location for a new fire station in that area.

Johnson, understanding of the need to find land near to the existing station, would still like to see progress made in the search. He noted that the Mineral Bluff Fire Station should be next in line to be replaced once Fire Station 1 is complete.

After receiving a Homeland Security Grant in 2017 for the purchase of new equipment for command vehicles, Graham announced the EMA had once again been able to secure another grant.

“We did receive a trauma grant, or trauma equipment grant, for EMS through the Georgia Trauma Commission,” Graham told the board.

This grant will provide $7,500 to upgrade laptops in the county’s ambulances. This money was originally budgeted for the department through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds but will no longer need to be taken from that account.

At the conclusion of the update, Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson asked Graham if his department had any other needs.

Graham replied, “We’re in pretty good shape.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin assessors decide on vehicle proposals

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Assessors decided on two specific used vehicles to bring before the Board of Commissioners (BOC) for potential purchase at the next BOC meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13.

At their Jan. 23 meeting, the commissioners discussed the possibility to either transfer a vehicle from the Land Development department to the Board of Assessors as well as purchase one other used vehicle or purchase two used vehicles, if the vehicle from Land Development was deemed unsuitable for use after a thorough inspection by the county Public Works department. Though no official spending limit for the purchase of a vehicle was approved, $20,000 was a figure mentioned by BOC Chairman Stan Helton during that meeting.

In follow-up interview with Helton Monday, Feb. 5, the chairman confirmed the Land Development vehicle had been inspected since the BOC meeting, and it has been deemed unsuitable to meet the functional needs required of the assessors’ department.

Recently, two vehicles within the assessors’ six-vehicle fleet have failed and remain out of commission: a 2004 Ford Explorer with 190,252 miles and a 2003 Chevrolet 1500 four-wheel drive truck with 193,384 miles. Much of the sub-frame of the Ford Explorer is badly rusted and presents a safety issue, according to the county mechanic, and the Chevrolet truck is experiencing transmission issues causing it to be inoperable.

At the Feb. 2 assessors meeting, Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran brought several used vehicle bids before the Board of Assessors. Ultimately, the board agreed to present two 2016 Ford Escape program vehicles – one with over 35,000 miles and the other with approximately 46,000 – to the commissioners at their next meeting. The price of the 35,000-mile Escape would be $19,057.50 and the 46,000-mile Escape would be $18,357.50. Cochran further explained the original three-year or 36,000-mile warranties for the vehicles had obviously expired for one and would soon expire for the other.

Board member Troy Junnier stressed the need of having a warranty for any vehicle purchased and stated during the meeting he felt two new vehicles with full warranties could be purchased for just $2,000 more than the $20,000 figure mentioned at the BOC meeting.

“(Post 2 Commissioner) Earl (Johnson) made it clear though that he will not approve a new vehicle,” Board of Assessors Chairman Lane Bishop said, reminding the assessors of Johnson’s concern of public perception from Fannin County tax payers.

Mark Henson, current Board of Assessors member and former Fannin County Schools Superintendent, told the assessors of a similar situation during his time as superintendent when he faced public scrutiny for the purchase of a new vehicle for the schools. “I hate to say it, but I can kind of see where (the commissioners) are coming from,” Henson said.

“I don’t think we ought to fight the battle,” Bishop concurred.

Later, Cochran explained the vehicles would be purchased from Blue Ridge North Georgia Ford, but the dealership itself will have to order and buy the vehicles to resell to the county.

After further discussion, the Board of Assessors agreed for Cochran to communicate with the dealership and produce further information on the terms and prices for extended warranties on both vehicles to bring to the commissioners.

Also in the meeting, the Board of Assessors approved a $20,000 transfer from the 2017 budget line item of capital outlay equipment to operational supplies. Cochran explained that when the 2017 budget was approved, several expenditures under $5,000 were expected to be purchased from capital outlay, but after county Finance Director Robin Gazaway was hired last year, Gazaway requested for such expenditures to be purchased out of operational supplies. According to Cochran, the transfer was for audit purposes and corrected what appeared to be a $13,000 over-budget amount in the operational supplies line item.

The assessors also approved a date change for the next Board of Assessors meeting from March 2 to Thursday, March 1. The meeting will be held at 2 p.m. in the Board of Assessors office meeting room on the first floor of the Fannin County Courthouse and, as always, is open to the public.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Fannin County Library Board holds quarterly meeting

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – At the quarterly meeting of the Fannin County Public Library (FCPL) Board Thursday, Jan. 25, Branch Librarian Andrew Vickers reported total circulation is up 6 percent at the library and attendance is up 2 percent overall during the second quarter of the 2017-18 fiscal year, which spanned the months of October through December.

Specifically, Vickers stated audiobook downloads saw a 44 percent increase from last year’s second quarter while eBook downloads were up 11 percent and physical book circulation saw a 10 percent increase. Vickers did note, however, that slight decreases occurred in the categories of juvenile, easy reading, adult non-fiction and audiobook checkouts.

In his financial report, Vickers reported the library received three monetary donations during the quarter. In November, the library received a $200 donation from the Fannin’s Women Democratic Party, and in December, Fannin County resident Linda McDonough donated $500 to the library. The Friends of the Fannin County Public Library also donated $2,018 during the quarter. Vickers also stated the current funding balance for the library stood at just over $9,500 at the end of the second quarter.

Vickers also announced the recent hiring of a new part-time library staff member, Michael Lavery, and spoke highly of his performance during the last month since joining the library staff. Two new county trustees to the local library board, Kathy Tickner and Steven Miracle, were announced and introduced by Vickers during the meeting. Two other trustee seat positions from the city of Morganton remain vacant.

Vickers reported that he, along with library staff member Darcy Arnell, recently met with Sarah Welch, the literacy coach for Fannin County Schools, in an effort to collaborate with the school system on ideas to help promote early childhood literacy throughout the county.

Concerning future library events, Vickers announced the upcoming return of Reuben Haller (aka The Cat in the Hat) will take place Tuesday, March 13, at 11 a.m. in celebration of the 114th birthday of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), which is March 2.

Also during the meeting, Mountain Regional Library System (MRLS) Director Vince Stone reported the Fannin County Board of Commissioners recently approved the library’s budget, which allows for a cost-of-living raise for librarians at FCPL in the total amount of $4,500. Stone also noted the upcoming MRLS quarterly meeting will take place this quarter in Fannin County in the commissioner’s meeting room on the first floor of the courthouse Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 10 a.m.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

GPS locating soon to be available for emergency calls in Fannin County

Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) moved forward with the purchase of technology to improve services and efficiency when it comes to public safety.

Fannin County Deputy Director of EMA/E-911 Patrick Cooke addressed the Board of Commissioners (BOC) at the Jan. 23 meeting explaining the need for new technology that would allow the option of Global Positioning System (GPS) location on calls coming to the 911 center from cell phone users.

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EMA/E-911 Depurt Director Patrick Cooke gives board members bids received for new equipment for the department.

“It will allow us to send a message to any cell phone, and we will be able to get the exact GPS coordinates off that cell phone,” Cooke told the board, “and we will also be able to communicate back and forth with pictures and other data messages.”

This new feature will be an add-on to the current 911 computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system and would come with a price tag of $5,258. There would be a annual maintenance fee in the future. The price of maintenance for the second year would be $4,725.

Fannin County BOC Chairman Stan Helton asked Cooke for examples from the past where this kind of technology would have been beneficial. Cooke immediately cited that there are numerous calls from hikers who have become lost in the woods and stated that GPS location would save time in these instances.

Cooke recalled a specific incident of a hiker last year who was suffering from a stroke while hiking the Benton MacKaye Trail. Cooke felt that had this technology been in use during the time of this call, it could have saved approximately two hours in locating the individual.

The new GPS location feature works by the caller responding to a text message sent to their phone from the 911 center. Once the caller accepts the link provided in the text, dispatchers are able to use GPS location from the cell phone to pinpoint the caller’s location.

The BOC voted unanimously to allow the purchase of this program, with Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson stating, “It sounds well worth it.”

Once the purchase transaction is complete, the new GPS location program will take about a month to implement.

Cooke also presented the BOC with bids for new equipment for a mobile command unit. The Fannin County EMA had been awarded a Homeland Security Grant in 2017, and the purchase of the mobile command equipment would be reimbursed through this grant.

Fannin County EMA Director Robert Graham confirmed previously with the board that when applying for the grant, a list of equipment had been given and the grant would fully fund the list.

Cooke presented the board with three quotes. The highest bid came in at $27,602 and the lowest bid received was $20,526.

“We did receive three different quotes,” Cooke said, giving his opinion, “and we see no reason why we cannot go with the cheapest of the three. It is also the more local of the three companies.”

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee questioned the qualifications of the company with the lowest bid, and Cooke replied the EMA had worked with the company before and had been satisfied with the results.

Helton motioned for the purchase of the new equipment for the EMA, Sosebee seconded the motion, and the board approved unanimously to award the project to the lowest bidder, Mountain Communications, Inc.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Commissioners come to agreement and pass 2018 county budget

Community, News
Fannin Court House

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After a budget proposal that was met with opposition from some county departments and heavily scrutinized by the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC), agreements were finally made and the Fannin County 2018 Budget was passed on Dec. 12.

The BOC held an all-day public workshop to discuss the 2018 Budget on Sep. 20. At this workshop, most county department heads came before the board with their department’s request for next year’s budget.

During the workshop, some departments made large cuts in spending. One such cut came from Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Magistrate Court, Public Woks Director, Zack Ratcliff, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Public Hearing, Public Workshop

Magistrate Judge Brian Jones questioned the BOC as to why his salary line item had been cut at a Public Hearing for the 2018 Budget.

Ratcliff proposed approximately $300,000 in cuts to his department. These cuts came mainly from fuel purchases, tire allowances and payroll. This $300,000 decrease comes on top of an 11 percent decrease in the department’s budget last year.

Information from this workshop allowed Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway along with the Board of Commissioners to review department line items and create a proposed budget for 2018.

This proposed budget was met with opposition from certain departments. The Board of Assessors (BOA) questioned the cuts proposed by the BOC. Having requested $977,370.00, the BOC ultimately only approved $848,265 for the BOA department.

Magistrate Judge Brian Jones also questioned the board at a public hearing held on Nov. 28. Jones had requested $114,240 in salaries for his department and was surprised to see that the proposed budget was only allocating him $104,958 in this area.

At the public hearing, Jones addressed the board by saying, “I would like you all to revisit the salary part of my budget. I am the only budget that was reduced in the salary portion.”

Jones stated that he did not care about his personal salary, which is mandated by the state of Georgia, but that he was concerned with the salaries of his staff. “I hired them at a beginner’s rate, or what I call a starter’s salary, and I think I should be allowed the opportunity to advance them as they learn and move forward in their jobs,” Jones explained.

Jones went on to list numerous responsibilities that his court has taken on from other courts in an attempt to “unclog the system.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson asked Jones if he was happy with everything else in his budget. Jones replied, “I’m fine with all of that. I’m just not happy with the salary portion because I think I should be able to advance my employees as they deserve to be advanced.”

Gazaway explained how the proposed amount for salaries within the Magistrate Court was determined: “I actually added up what they’re currently making, all of them, and added 2 percent, and it made a reduction in salary.”

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton added, “His employees are not getting cut on their salary. They’re getting a 2 percent raise, which is consistent with what we are doing with every other department in the county.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Magistrate Court, Public Woks Director, Zack Ratcliff, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Public Hearing, Public Workshop

Graph presented by Finance Director Robin Gazaway depicting county budget and millage rate.

At the Fannin County BOC meeting held Dec. 12, this issue was revisited before finalizing the 2018 Budget. Before the discussion of the budget took place, Finance Director Gazaway presented a graph depicting the county’s budget from 2014 to present, along with the county’s millage rate for this same time period.

During this period Fannin County’s spending budget has grown by approximately 40 percent, while the millage rate has dropped from 5.16 in 2014 to 4.176 in 2018. Gazaway stated, “We can’t keep this up.”

“This is really important for people to understand. If you go from 2014 to this year, in three years the budget has increased right at 40 percent with no tax increase,” Helton explained, “and that is unsustainable, and that is part of the reason why we are doing our best to start putting the brakes on that this year.”

The proposed 2018 Budget contains a 1.8 percent increase from the previous year (2017) budget.

Johnson agreed with the spending being unsustainable. He remarked, “It’s a question I asked a year ago with several departments: when are we ever going to start being able to scale back?”

Johnson then added, “My experience here in five years, once anyone gets it in their budget, we never see it again. It’s very rare that we have decreases in these budgets.”

Before passing the final 2018 budget, Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee expressed his thoughts on Magistrate Judge Brian Jones’ request to review the salary line item of his department.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Magistrate Court, Public Woks Director, Zack Ratcliff, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Public Hearing, Public Workshop

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson discussing his views on voting for total budget.

Sosebee stated he had contacted Gazaway previously to discuss his views on the matter. Sosebee said to the board, “Two or three years ago, we went down the same path over an elected official, like Mr. Jones back here, and my opinion is we can’t tell them what to do with their line items. We might can suggest it, but as far as taking it away from them, I don’t feel like it’s necessary that we do that.”

Johnson, who also stated having previously spoken with Gazaway on the matter, agreed with Sosebee, “The problem I have with it is that that means our office is telling another elected official what he’s paying his people.”

Gazaway clarified that the amount Jones was requesting is an 11 percent increase in salaries.

Sosebee replied to the clarification, “When the 11 percent comes out in the paper, Mr. Jones will have to answer to his constituents that voted for him.”

BOC Chairman Stan Helton added his thoughts: “We have tried very hard to keep this salary and wages for all the county at a 2 percent level. When we approve a budget, it’s basically for the next year, but if we’re talking about approving wages and salaries, that’s not just this year, that’s going to be the year after, the year after, the year after. So that one area I do feel that we do have some oversight on.”

Helton then addressed Jones who was present at the meeting: “The overall increase, Judge Jones, for your department is an increase.”

Helton asked for a motion to approve the line item for Magistrate Court salaries as the requested amount versus the commissioners’ recommended amount.

Johnson, unhappy with this motion, commented, “So, we’re going to have to do that for everyone that changed theirs? Since we are making motions for line items and salaries.”

Sosebee agreed that a motion needed to be made to accept the entire budget, including the requested amount from Jones: “We’ll just do the total budget, cause if we start on 1 line item, we need to do them all.”

After a moment Johnson motioned to approve the 2018 budget, Sosebee seconded the motion and the budget was passed unanimously.

Later, Johnson remarked on his decision to approve the Magistrate Court’s requested salary budget: “We don’t control constitutional officers. They control their budget, and they answer to their own voters.”

Judge Jones was pleased with the decision that was made and stated, “I just want to thank the post commissioners. They did what was right.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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