Unadjusted end of year budget for 2019 under by 4 percent

Board of Commissioners, News
unadjusted budget

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Robin Gazaway presented the unadjusted budget for 2019, which came in at four percent under.

“This is not final just so everyone knows. There are several adjustments that need to be made. Most everything has been under budget. Risk management was a little over. There’s going to be some more expenses, but there’s going to be some more reimbursements on that,” Gazaway said in her report opening.

Almost every department came in under budget for the year. Recreation went over due to new programs that were approved. EMA came in a little over as well because of the new fire station.

The numbers could change once the adjustments are finished.

The unadjusted budget amounts for 2019.

SPLOST and LOST were up again from past years, continuing a trend for the county. The numbers can be found at the Georgia Dept. of Revenue. For 2019, LOST was $438,348 and SPLOST was $576,079.

Gazaway told Post One Earl Johnson, “New auditors probably won’t come in until May to do the final audit. They are just trying to put us in the rotation.”

Traditionally, Gazaway has waited until the auditors have finished their work before presenting the adjusted budget to the board for a vote.

SPLOST Inconsistencies

Johnson also called attention to discrepancies in Public Works’ old SPLOST and new SPLOST numbers.

“The old SPLOST is $842,030 under on the report,” said Johnson, “so do we have any idea what we spent out of the old SPLOST, is it the $657,970 number?”

Gazaway confirmed the $657,970 was the amount spent. She also thought they had more money in that account and the auditors made an adjustment. The money didn’t disappear; it went into the new SPLOST because of the adjustment.

“Because of the two-month cut-off, I had put money in the old SPLOST when it should have been in the new SPLOST,” explained Gazaway. “So, when we did budgets, I thought we had a little more money in the old. It’s just something I overestimated and told Zack. We kind of went by my numbers.”

McCaysville man charged with aggravated assault with a firearm

News, Police & Government

McCaysville, Ga. – Darrell Allen Tritt, age 59, of McCaysville is facing charges of simple battery, reckless conduct causing harm or endangering bodily safety of another, aggravated assault with a gun and discharging a firearm while under the influence.

McCaysville Police responded to a 911 dispatch on the evening of Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020.

Officer Peter Kusek along with Officer Philip Newberry were working the nightshift when a call came in around 8:29 p.m. of a domestic in progress with shots fired.

McCaysville, Fannin County, Georgia, Police Department, Darrell Allen Tritt, Sheriff’s Office, Peter Kusek, Philip Newberry, Arrest, Battery, Firearm, Weapon

Darrell Allen Tritt, age 59, of McCaysville

Kusek was first to arrive at the scene and was met by David Hatcher in the front yard of the residence. Hatcher had been the one to call 911.

According to Hatcher, he had received a text message from his mother, Jacqueline Tritt, stating that his stepfather, Darrell Tritt, had hit her. He had come to their residence out of concern for his mother’s safety.

Hatcher admitted that he had broke the lock on the glass storm door trying to gain entry and had kicked the interior wooden door twice. It was then that Darrell Tritt had called out to Hatcher that he was a “stupid mother<explicit>” and demanded that he leave.

Shortly after Tritt demanding Hatcher leave, a shot came through the wooden door, narrowly missing Hatcher and shattering the glass storm door that Hatcher was holding open with his body. It was at this time that the 911 call was made and Hatcher stated in that call that “mom was trying to get the gun”.

During this discussion between Hatcher and Officer Kusek, suspect Darrell Tritt exited the house with empty hands in the air and yelled to the officer that he did not have a weapon.

Though visibly intoxicated, according to Kusek, Tritt was capable of understanding the situation and communicating, and allowed the officer to handcuff and search his person without incident.

Kusek described Tritt as “unsteady on his feet” with “glassy and bloodshot” eyes, and had an “odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath”.

Tritt told a different version of events claiming that he had never hit his wife Jacqueline. Tritt admitted to firing a gun but claimed it was self-defence. Tritt told Kusek that he was physically diabled and that Hatcher had come to the residence “to beat his ass”.

Hatcher was reportedly calm while his stepfather told this version of events and did not offer to interfere or attempt to argue with Tritt.

When Jacqueline was questioned about her husband’s actions that evening, she first stated that she had no idea how the glass door had been broken, and that she had been asleep during the entire event. When Kusek told Jacqueline that he heard it was from a gunshot, she replied, “I guess, I don’t know.”

Hatcher told officers a different version of his mother’s actions, claiming that after the shot had been fired, Jacqueline had exited the house and asked him not to call the police.

Eventually, Jacqueline broke down and began crying, making statements that her husband is never like this and she didn’t know what had happened.

With permission officers searched the residence and located the weapon that had been used. Officers also verified the initial text message sent from Jacqueline to her son. 

Darrell Tritt was then taken into custody.

Darrell Tritt waived his rights and spoke with officers before being charged and transferred to the Fannin County Detention Center.

Evidence Collected at Scene:

  • One Glock 23, .40 Caliber Pistol
  • One Glock 23, .40 Caliber 12-Round Magazine
  • Twelve .40 Caliber Bullets (9-Hollowpoint and 3 Flathead)
  • One Uncle Mike’s Black Nylon Pistol Holster

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Special Recognition given by Board of Education

Community, Fannin County EMA/EMS, Rebel's Corner
Fannin County School System

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education took time at their Feb. monthly meeting to give special recognition to those who have positively impacted the school system recently.

First to be recognized was West Fannin Elementary School (WFES) First Grade teacher Katy Roberson and  WFES Student Governance Team member Jocelyn Miller for their work which has brought state and national attention to the Fannin County School District.

What all began with the reading of a book, Stellaluna, to a class, has become an ongoing project that is now in its third year.

A former student of Roberson told her of a “bat house” that they have at home and from there the project evolved.

“She (Roberson) was able to take the concept of bats and integrate all of the subjects into it and the kids were basically learning math. They were reading. They were doing science, all through the lens of bats,” Miller spoke of the teacher’s work with children.

Miller, who is now going for her doctoral degree, along with Roberson wrote an article about the project titled “At Home with Bats”. This article was published in the National Science Teachers Association peer-reviewed journal “Science and Children”.

Since then the article has gone on to be published on university websites, garnering even more attention for education in our area.

Next to be recognized for their work with the school system was Fannin County’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

Through their Stop the Bleed Campaign, Fannin County EMA Director Robert Graham, Fannin County Training Officer Ryan McDavis, and EMS Child Advocate Rebecca Huffman were all recognized for the work put into training staff of the school district.

Stop the Bleed is a program set in place by the American College of Surgeons and works to train people worldwide on how to stop bleeding in a severely injured person. 

After training, the school district received several Stop the Bleed kits which have been put in place not only in the schools but also on every bus, along with a standard first aid kits.

Fannin County School System Director of Transportation Denver Foster called these kits, “a little bag with a lot of life saving power in it”.

Foster also thanked Fannin County’s EMA/EMS for their ongoing role in working with the school system to provide safety to its students on a daily basis.

 

 

Click here to read about those honored at last month’s meeting.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

New council members halt previously unchecked city spending

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – The City of McCaysville has been spending outside of their means and newly elected council members are making it a goal to bring the City’s spending back under control.

Revenue for the city for the month of  Jan. 2020 was $109,309.44 and the expenses came to  $201,502.12 

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Council member Gilita Carter spoke of the city’s financial situation. “We’re going to have to tighten our belts and look at things very very closely.”

Carter referenced that the procedure for the departments of the city is for any expense over $500 to be brought before the council for approval: “These things are put in place for a purpose and should be followed.” 

Carter had consulted with McCaysville City Attorney Cortney Staurt about the legalities of this process not being followed, and according to Stuart there are legal ramifications for city employees not following the protocol.

“Anything over $500 has to come before the council for approval,” Stuart explained, “That has not been followed in the past. The danger with that is that if it is not followed and the council does not approve it, the council member could then become personally liable for it and the city could have to sue the council member to pay that.”

Stuart added, “We are in a financial situation right now and we do need to have more oversight on it.” 

Among the departments that did not seek approval for spending was the McCaysville Police Department. After having several items questioned at the Jan. 2020 meeting, Chief of Police Michael Earley was once again questioned about his spending.

Several of the City’s officers had attended continuing education courses and while the expenses for these courses exceeded the $500 pre-approval limit, nothing pertaining to these courses were brought before council for approval.

“Let’s face it, we’re not doing very well with our expenses,” Carter said as she questioned Earley over his department’s spending.

Earley explained the state mandated the schooling process, “We have to have a minimum of 20 hours a year training or we lose our certification as a police officer. I have to have 40 hours a year as your Chief of Police training or I lose my certification.”

Earley, who is a post certified instructor, admitted that he is able to provide this training and moving forward would try to offer more in house solutions: “I know the city’s under some constraints with the budget. I’m going to do everything I can to make our budget fall down.” 

Carter did not hide her feelings as Earley made the request for the council to hire a full-time officer: “We have too many policemen in this city.”

Carter along with other council members did vote to hire the officer on full-time.

More financial woes came when Mayor Thomas Seabolt read from a prepared statement: “About the new city park, I made a mistake when we filed for the work that Holloway Trenching, LLC. completed on our new park.” 

Anna Hensley with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and Executive Director of OneGeorgia informed Seabolt that the City would not be getting reimbursed for approximately $340,000 of money already spent on park renovations. This leaves taxpayers responsible for the bill.

Seabolt did tell council that the city could file a six month extension for the $300,000 left in grant money if they would like to move forward with completing the park, and assured everyone that all outlines of the grant would be followed in the future to receive reimbursement.

Some of the work left to complete the park includes renovating the building in the center of park, building two large pavillions, and purchasing and planting an estimated 70 trees per EPD (Environmental Protection Division) recommendation.

“Well we want the park finished for certain.” Council member Sue Beaver motioned to proceed but follow all rules laid out by the OneGeorgia grant. Council unanimously approved to move forward.

It was later brought to the attention of new council members that this “move forward” is how the city ended up on the hook for the money not reimbursed through the grant. The Revitalization Committee headed by Mayor Seabolt took the vote to proceed previously as an okay from council to not bring any purchases before them for approval.

Newly elected council member Susan Kiker wanted to be sure that this process would not be repeated.

“We need to see the plans,” Kiker said of proceeding with the park and added that anything over $500 was to brought before the council for approval. “We were elected by the taxpayers.”

Carter, who began her term providing more transparency to the citizens of McCaysville in regards to finance, said, “Everything is falling through the cracks. Everyone spent money like it is going out of style and that’s why we’re trying to get a hold on everything.”

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

McCaysville Revitalization Committee fires back at Council and Attorney

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – The McCaysville Revitalization Committee had a lot to say after they felt that their work had been villainized by the City Council and the City Attorney in a previous meeting.

“It has been stated that this committee has way too much power and I am here to assure the council and the citizens that we have no governing power at all,” Chairman of the Revitalization Committee Zachary Welch spoke first on behalf of the group. “We can’t hire. We can’t fire, nor can we bind contracts or vote on anything on behalf of McCaysville.”

McCaysville, Fannin County, Georgia, City Council, Attorney, Revitalization Committee, Chairman, Zachary Welch, Ann Williams, Marilyn McNeill, Mayor, Thomas Seabolt, Susan Kiker, Cortney Stuart, Michael Earley, Spending, Finance

Council discussing the Revitalization Committee at the previous meeting.

Welch added of the committee’s members, “The make-up of the Revitalization Committee is well represented with people who have been and are invested in this community.”

Welch pointed out that the purpose of the committee was to bring new ideas on ways to improve the city and cited some of the accomplishments that this group has brought forth. Among these accomplishments Welch pointed out that the committee had acquired new park benches to tune of approximately $51,000 and all of this had come in the form of donations.

Welch also listed flower boxes and hanging baskets throughout the city, with these and other area landscape projects being undertaken and maintained through donated material and labor.

The Revitalization Committee has also taken advantage of an LMIG grant (Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant) that had been available to the city for some time with the city not utilizing it. The use of this grant provided a sidewalk from the Welcome Center to the City Park.

“Time, talent, energy and hard work,” Welch said of the committee and stressed, “all as a donation (to the city). This committee has excelled at making this happen.”

“This committee has helped raise over $600,000 in new money being received for improvements to our community in the last 2 years,” Welch explained and stated that beyond this the committee had garnered the attention of both local and state governments and was  recently awarded the Community Service Award from Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

Committee member Ann Williams was less subdued when addressing the council and McCaysville City Attorney Cortney Staurt.

“That is untrue,” Williams spoke to Stuart about whether the grant writing for the city park had been given to a person in Blairsville to complete, “It’s a lie.” 

Stuart clarified that while she had heard that Williams, who had been paid by the city to do grant writing, did hire someone from Blairsville for this reason, that she had never stated this rumor was true. Stuart did not back down when Williams confronted her over her comments of the committee having too much power: “Yes ma’am, I do believe that.”

“Getting out and begging money for flowers and benches,” Williams retorted to Staurt’s remark, “if you call that power, then I’ve got it and I’ll accept it and I am proud of everything I’ve done.” 

City Council member and Revitalization Committee member Sue Beaver came to Williams’ defense, “Ann is such a hard worker and we just have to give her all the credit because she works 8 to 12…14 hours a day, volunteer. She does not get paid.”

Beaver added that Williams had been selected because of her previous work in similar scenarios to that of McCaysville. 

The meeting had to be called to order during Williams’ address by Chief of Police Michael Earley after citizens in the audience began to go back and forth with Williams.

Committee member Marilyn MacNeill was last to address the council:  “It’s unbelievable that the Revitalization Committee is here this evening defending the work and the accomplishments that’s been made over the last two years.” 

“Let me make this perfectly clear, to be lectured or called on the carpet by an attorney is just not going to happen,” McNeill spoke of Stuart’s suggestion to have the committee present to make the boundaries of their roles clear.

McNeill ended wishing everyone well moving forward and added, “It has been my pleasure working with the McCaysville Revitalization Committee and the council, and I thank those who have been supportive and with that I’m stepping off of the Revitalization Committee.”

“None of this stuff is coming before the council.” Staurt said not only of spending by the committee but also of the grant process. “Going forward perhaps a resolution would be if a member of the Revitalization Committee, it could be the council members on there, come every month and there’s a report as to what’s going on with it (the committee’s progress).” 

Mayor Thomas Seabolt appointed new City Council member Susan Kiker to sit on the Revitalization Committee, taking the seat vacated by former council member Rodeney Patterson. The seat vacated by Marilyn McNeill remains open.

 

 

Featured Image courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Flash Flood Watch in effect for much of north Georgia

Community, Weather
Flash flood watch

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – The National Weather Service (NWS) has placed Fannin County under a Flash Flood Watch through Tuesday, Feb. 11 evening.

The watch was issued at 11:41 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 10.

…FLASH FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT THROUGH TUESDAY EVENING… The National Weather Service in Peachtree City has issued a Flash Flood Watch for much of north Georgia…generally north of a Franklin to Jonesboro to Athens line. Through Tuesday evening, the first round of heavy rain will be moving in this afternoon and continue through midday Tuesday. Two to four inches of rain is expected with local amounts approaching six inches.

With saturated soil and very high stream flow, runoff from the heavy rain will be enhanced, leading to a greater threat of flash flooding.  Flash flooding and minor to moderate flooding of larger creeks and rivers is expected. This will close some roads and could flood homes and businesses in flood-prone areas. Along larger creeks and rivers, flooding could last for several days.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding. Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation. You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should Flash Flood Warnings be issued.

This replaces the Flood Watch issued for much of north Georgia.

The following counties are included in the watch:

Dade-Walker-Catoosa-Whitfield-Murray-Fannin-Gilmer-Union-Towns- Chattooga-Gordon-Pickens-Dawson-Lumpkin-White-Floyd-Bartow- Cherokee-Forsyth-Hall-Banks-Jackson-Madison-Polk-Paulding-Cobb- North Fulton-Gwinnett-Barrow-Clarke-Oconee-Haralson-Carroll- Douglas-South Fulton-DeKalb-Rockdale-Walton-Clayton- Including the cities of Calhoun, Dahlonega, Cleveland, Rome, Cartersville, Gainesville, Marietta, Atlanta, Lawrenceville, Athens, Carrollton, Douglasville, East Point, Decatur, and Conyers.

Conditions worsen during winter storm

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Conditions are quickly worsening as a Winter Storm moves through our area. 

Snow began to fall in Fannin County early this morning and is expected to continue throughout most of the day. 

The Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) sent out a Nixle Alert at 9:03 a.m. warning drivers to stay off of roadways if at all possible.

Roads are extremely slick with ice under snow. Please stay in if at all possible.

Road crews are working to clear roads but at this time most roads are extremely slick due to snow and ice. Wet pavement under the snow has turned to ice in many areas throughout the county.

Fannin County EMA Director Robert Graham updated FYN on the conditions in our area. 

“The pavement was wet when the snow started falling, so the wet areas on our roadways have turned to ice,” Graham explained the situation.

Graham went on to say that he is in contact with Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff: “Zack has crews out now and they are working as fast as they can to try to clear the roads.”

Public Works crews are out on roads throughout the county scraping and salting, but with the ice forming underneath the snow it will be much more difficult to get roads cleared.

According to Graham there are several vehicular wrecks in our area with many of these being along Highway 5. Graham was unsure of the severity of all the accidents at this time, but did state that the majority of wrecks have been people sliding off the roadways and into ditches.

“Many of the roads have become or are becoming impassable,” Graham said, adding, “We are having to shut some of them down.”

Graham urges residents to please stay off the roadways at this time and allow crews to try to clear as much as possible.

FYN will bring your updates throughout the day as they become available.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Flooding Continues in Fannin County

News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The rains have moved into our area and aren’t expected to move out any time soon.

With the roadways flooding, Fannin County Schools released an announcement earlier today that all schools in the district would be dismissed two hours early, with student drivers being dismissed at 11:00 a.m.

Waters rising in McCaysville. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Fannin County EMA/EMS Director Robert Graham is monitoring the situation closely, and told FYN that there are already road closures in our area and many roads with standing water.

Among the road closures are Silver Fox Trail in the Dial area, Wright Mill Road, and Humprey Mill on the Salem Road end. This is not a complete list as there are many secondary roads in the county that have become impassable.

Graham stated that there is a risk for more road closures as the rain continues through the evening and night and urges drivers to use caution.

“If you are questioning if the water is too high to drive through, it would be better to not try,” Graham stated and referenced the National Weather Service slogan, “Turn around. Don’t Drown.”

With the heavy rains also comes the risk of downed trees. Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) posted a warning to Facebook stating, “This rain fall will make already saturated ground worse. In these conditions power outages can occur.”

Much like Graham, BRMEMC urges citizens to just use caution: “Please exercise caution out on the roads and stay away from any downed trees or poles.”

For updates and alerts about conditions in Fannin County, residents can sign up for Nixle.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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