BLUE RIDGE, Ga – The billing rates for emergency medical services (EMS) in Fannin County will be increasing for the first time in 10 years.
The increase will still put Fannin below the average prices of surrounding counties like Gilmer and Pickens. One reason for the rise in rates is inflation. PPE products have fallen victim to inflation much like groceries, cars, and building materials. The cost of gloves went from $75 per case to $160 per case.
“The main thing that is going to increase a little bit is specialty care. The more drugs and the more critical a patient is the more we have to do,” EMS Director Becky Huffman explained. “Mostly, we’re right along now with what Medicare will allow. We’ll be a little bit above that but speaking with our billing she said most people have supplemental insurances and they will pick up the difference.”
The new rates would help offset costs with people who utilize the service but don’t pay taxes in Fannin. In some instances, the increase would be $100, and the mile cost is up by $3 to $13 per mile.
The new advanced life support specialty care rate ($800) in Fannin is less than half of what Pickens charges for the same service.
N95 masks cost the department more than $1,000 and they’re required to use N95 masks on every call. EMS workers are trying to reuse masks when possible and looking into purchasing respirator masks as a permanent option. However, Huffman wants to find one that will last before purchasing a new product.
“I think we go ahead and increase it. We’ll still be lower than other counties,” Post Two Glenn Patterson stated.
Post One Johnny Scearce echoed a similar sentiment, expressing he’s “all for it.”
The county EMS doesn’t receive reimbursement from the hospital if an ambulance transports an individual from the hospital elsewhere. Fannin owns four ambulances to service the county so it’s a strain to transport people outside of the county from the hospital.
Fannin Regional Hospital is working with Prestige to transport people from its facility, but Prestige doesn’t have a Georgia license at this point. Once the state of Georgia grants Prestige a license, it will take some stress off Fannin EMS.
The commissioners approved the purchase of two power stretchers and one stair chair for the EMS Department as well. The cost comes out of the SPLOST budget for $4,100.
Fannin Commissioners approved the purchase of a used bucket truck for the road department to assist with cutting down dead trees and limbs. The purchase comes out of SPLOST funds for $45,000.
Public Works Director Zack Ratcliffe assured the truck was in good condition and he’s talking with Tri-State EMC so the piece of equipment can receive regular testing.
Another SPLOST purchase of $50,000 was approved for striping in the county. The cost of striping roads is up because of the scarcity of product. Only one facility in Texas services most of the southeast with striping paint.
Ratcliffe added that all bridges in Fannin County are safe and GDOT inspected. All bridges must be inspected by GDOT every two years.
Phyllis Matthews was appointed to the Tax Assessor Board by Post One Johnny Scearce after Casey Eaton had to step down from the role.
Fannin County FFA Alumni Association Youth Fair:
Students must be a Pre club 4-H, FFA, or 4-H member of Fannin County.
When: Saturday, September 18, 2021
Where: Fannin County School System Ag Facility, 43 Station Ridge Blue Ridge
Weigh-in for sheep, goats and market hogs: 8:00-8:30am
Check-in for other animal species: 8:00-9:00 AM
Show starts at: 9:00 AM
Order of Classes:
1. Sheep–showmanship and weight class, grand and reserve
2. Goats–showmanship and weight class, grand and reserve
3. Pee Wee Sheep and Goat showmanship– (kids under 1st grade may borrow animal from older exhibitor, older exhibitor will walk with the younger exhibitor)
4. Market hogs–showmanship and weight class, grand and reserve
5. Horses— showmanship, mare and gelding halter, grand and reserve
6. Rabbits–purebred and crossbred bucks and does, best of show
7. Guinea pigs–purebred and crossbred male and female, best of show
8. Chickens–fancy and commercial roosters and hens, best of show
*Sheep and goats must have a current certificate of veterinary inspection, Horses must have a current negative Coggins test*
*Rabbits/Guinea Pigs/Chickens must be healthy and free from mites*
*Sheep, Goats, market hogs must be entered in the Georgia National Livestock Show in Perry in October*
*Breakfast and lunch concessions will be available*
* There are no entry fees but pre-registering animals through your ag teacher or 4-H office is preferred but not required
*Prizes will be awarded*
* Spectators are welcome*
For more information and to Register, please contact:
Emily Fellenbaum, FCHS FFA [email protected]
Seth Davis, FCMS FFA [email protected]
Rachel Wasserman or Kayla Robertson, 4-H 706-632-3061
Blue Ridge, Ga. – Discussions continue as Blue Ridge City Council Member Mike Panter asks County Commissioners to consider a feasibility study for a proposed aquatic center in Fannin County.
“I am speaking not necessarily on behalf of the City Council,” Panter opened, stating that at the time he was speaking as a resident who had done research into a project and is hoping to gain support from not only the Fannin County Board of Commissioners but also from Blue Ridge City Council and the Fannin County Board of Education.
“The closest swimming facility is in Blairsville and it’s owned by the hospital,” Panter said of the lack of a comparable facility in our area. He did point out that currently the City of Calhoun in Gordon County has an aquatic center but that it is aging.
Some students from the Fannin County School System make several trips a week to utilize the Calhoun facility for aquatic sports, which is a 2 hour round trip.
There has been recent discussion of Fannin County putting in a splash pad for residents. The splash pad at Meeks Park in Union County was brought up as a comparison for price. The Meeks Park splash pad was installed in 2016 with an approximate cost of $360,000.
Panter also noted Lincoln County’s splash pad with a price tag of $156,000, “The reason it was so cheap was because they filled in their pool. They already had a bathroom facility and sewer.”
The City of Blue Ridge had looked into a similar possibility of a splash pad, due to the costly repairs needed at the city’s current outdoor pool.
Panter pointed out that the current city pool repairs could have a price tag of over $100,000 and would only be able to be used three to four months each year.
The proposed aquatic center could incorporate a splash pad, along with a heated indoor pool and a health club.
A similar plan for an aquatic center has recently been approved in Lumpkin County.
The Lumpkin County Aquatic Center website states :
“This state-of-the art facility will not only have indoor and outdoor swimming, but will also have a lazy river and splash activities for children, outdoor rental spaces, and a therapy pool for those who desire low impact exercise or need rehabilitation after illness or surgery.”
The cost of Lumpkin County’s new endeavor is roughly $8 million, which Panter projects Fannin County to have a similar cost. Panter stated that the cost would not necessarily have to be a lump sum and that the project could be done in phases.
Using the current location of the Blue Ridge Farmer’s Market building could save at least $1 million in on site prep work according to Panter, “The city has no debt on that property whatsoever.”
“The high school themselves, they are being pushed to have an aquatics program,” Panter stated when asked if the school system was considering building its own aquatic facility but added of the general public’s ability to use a facility strictly owned by the school system, “As all of us know in the school systems, a lot of the school facilities are locked down. It’s hard to use the school facilities.”
Panter stressed that this was another reason that he felt an intergovernmental agreement between the three entities would best serve the community.
While no Commissioners seemed outright opposed to the idea of an aquatic center, concerns were expressed of the long term benefits, costs and responsibilities of such a facility.
Fannin County Commission Chairman Jamie Hensley stated that with a project of such magnitude being proposed, he wants to make sure it would be done correctly the first time and that it is truly something that would benefit the community in the long term.
Concerns were also raised of Panter’s proposed location of the City’s Farmer’s Market building, with Post 1 Commissioner Johnny Scearce directly discussing these concerns.
“That Farmer’s Market has been sitting there for 10 years unused,” Panter answered Scearce’s questions, “We’ve spent over $100,000 in tax payers money on the Farmer’s Market just to keep it there.”
Brian Higgins, a long time proponent of bringing back Blue Ridge’s Farmer’s Market to the unused facility, spoke during public comments, “We are totally in agreement on the aquatic center. It’s the location that we have a difference of opinion on.”
Higgins pointed out that the Farmer’s Market is one of the few nostalgic properties left in the city limits and feels that the Rec. Center would be a more appropriate location.
Citing that it makes more sense to build an aquatic center where the county’s main sports hub already resides, Higgins also pointed out that the Rec. Center has much more land, giving Fannin County the option of expansion as need arises in the future.
Panter is hoping that a feasibility study can help point everyone in the right direction and clarify a lot of the uncertainties surrounding the proposed project.
The cost of a feasibility study could run around $75,000.
Panter is expected to present again to all three entities once he obtains a quote. His hope is to get approval from the Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Blue Ridge City Council and the Fannin County Board of Education on splitting the cost of the study, so that everyone can get an accurate idea of what will be involved in moving forward with the project.
Featured Image: City of Blue Ridge Farmer’s Market Property
BLUE RIDGE, Ga – At the previous commission meeting in July, Chairman Jamie Hensley announced he anticipated the millage rate would remain the same as last year’s. Since the county isn’t accepting the state’s rollback rate, it’s viewed as a tax increase.
“Fannin County, a political subdivision of the State of Georgia, has tentatively adopted a millage rate which will require an increase in property taxes by 2.30 percent,” reads the public hearing announcement.
By leaving the millage rate at 3.862, it’s interpreted as an increase of 0.87 mills. In other words, the rollback rate provided by the state would be 3.775 mills.
According to the notice, “the proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $200,000 is $6.96 and the proposed tax increase for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $150,000 is approximately $5.22.”
The public hearing schedule is as follows:
- Tuesday, August 10 at 5:30 p.m.
- Tuesday, August 17 at 6:00 p.m.
- Tuesday, August 24 at 5:30 p.m.
All public hearings will be held on the third floor of the courthouse in the Jury Assembly Room.
For the past few years, Fannin has accepted the rollback rate and continuously kept taxes low in the county.
Previous Post One Earl Johnson advised in the past that at some point in time, Fannin Commissioners would have to raise taxes to keep up with local services.
“It’s nice having the cheapest millage rate in the county, but if it’s not allowing you to equal good services,” said Johnson in 2019, “At some point in time, there’s a Board of Commissioners going to have to evaluate our services versus our millage rate and evaluate accordingly.”
The 2020 board of commissioners agreed the pandemic year wasn’t a good time to raise taxes on the public. They also kept the budget flat for the year. The new board that took office in 2021 issued a budget adjustment to account for cost-of-living increases for the county’s employees.
Fannin’s not the only county dealing with property tax increases. In 2020, Union County raised the county portion of taxes by 17 percent and is currently in the process of determining the new millage rate after a countywide property reassessment.
Several north Georgia counties are experiencing trouble hiring and keeping qualified public service staff with deputy and fire services talent seeking out higher-paying jobs in neighboring counties.
The next Fannin County Commissioners meeting is on July 27 at 6 p.m. in the Jury Assembly Room.
Blue Ridge, Ga. – City Council voted to override the Mayor’s veto of new height restrictions to be placed on future construction in the Central Business District (CBD) of the City of Blue Ridge.
The most current ordinance that stood regarding building height placed the restriction at 60 feet. The new ordinance brings the height restriction down to 41 feet (35 feet with up to an additional 6 feet to act as a buffer for any mechanical components that accompany the building).
At the June 8, 2021 City Council meeting all council members voted unanimously in favor of the 35 foot height restriction in the CBD after the recommendation of 35 feet came from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Mayor Donna Whitener vetoed the council’s vote on this height restriction and released a letter to the public explaining her stance.
Among her reasons explained Whitener stated :
“Two different Zoning Administrators have proposed numerous times to reduce the height on buildings in the CBD area to 45 ft. While I am not in favor of the 60 ft height, it is my opinion that the 35 ft suggestion might not be adequate either.”
During the July 13, 2021 City Council meeting, zoning was a major topic of discussion with the proposed Town Hall Meeting on the subject being canceled last minute due to lack of adequate notice.
Whitener expressed that the height restriction could devalue current properties and felt that council and zoning should seek further training and guidance on the matter before making such a drastic change to the ordinance.
“I really feel like it needs to be looked at and evaluated and we need to come up with a good number so that we’re not battling lawsuits,” Whitner stated of her decision.
“Our Zoning Administrators have both recommended 45 feet” Whitener added, “With that I also feel like if we are going to do a reduction we need to talk about mechanicals being on top. I do think you should have a parapet wall, as we’ve discussed a little bit.”
A parapet wall is an extension of a wall at a roof line. This is often used to hide rooftop mechanics for aesthetic purposes.
Overall Whitener proposed looking into making the ordinance reduction from 60 feet to 45 feet.
Council member Mike Panter addressed Cindy Trimble, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, asking her if her recommendation of 35 feet still stood after all that she had heard during the meeting.
“I still stand where we voted, 35 feet, plus the addition for the equipment,” Trimble replied, also stating that she felt the 6 foot addition would be enough to cover any mechanics on a roof.
Council Member Rhonda Haight brought an end to discussion saying to Whitener, “You’re more concerned about the values and properties downtown, not about the aesthetics and not about what the people want.”
Haight motioned for the veto to be overridden and council voted unanimously in favor, with Council Member Harold Herndon not present to vote.
Blue Ridge, Ga. – The “look of impropriety” fueled debate over the City of Blue Ridge’s recent involvement in improvements to Highway 515.
Previously the University of North Georgia (UNG) had approached the city looking for help in obtaining funds to create an RCut in the median of Hwy. 515. This RCut would allow motorists to make a left hand turn off the highway and into the entrance of the campus.
GDOT (Georgia Department of Transportation) looked into the project and determined there was a need for the RCut due to potential traffic flow and for safety reasons.
“The developer couldn’t pull a DOT permit,” Mayor Donna Whitener stated as to the City’s initial involvement but clarified that the request for the RCut came from UNG.
Councilmember Nathan Fitts stated that he had no issue with the City being a vehicle for obtaining the permit but took issue with taxpayer dollars being spent on the project.
GDOT initially slated $150,000 towards providing the RCut this funding came through LMIG (Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant) and developer, John Kieffer put in approximately $48,000 towards surveying and engineering fees.
The low bid for the project came in at $220,978.61. UNG agreed to contribute $35,000 to the RCut project but this still left a shortfall of $35,978.61.
UNG approached both the City of Blue Ridge and the Fannin County Commissioners asking for funds to cover the shortfall but neither entity would agree to pay with local tax dollars.
“I’ve not even officially got word of that and I’m a councilmember. No one has ever given me notice,” Councilmember Rhonda Haight explained that none of the council was notified that funds to complete the project had been gathered and wanted an explanation as to where and how the funds came about.
The remaining funds came through another LMIG grant from GDOT in the amount of $35,000 and UNG made up the remainder $978.61.
Fitts conveyed his disappointment that the remaining funds came from taxpayers, even if at a state level: “This is a developer expense. It’s always been a developer expense and it is not right for the city taxpayers and in my opinion the state taxpayers to pay for a developer’s entrance.”
The developer is assumed to substantially increase the monetary value of the remaining parcels for sale by obtaining the RCut according to Fitts.
“Me and Rhonda talked to Mr. Keiffer and said that on our watch we would not approve it through the city,” Fitts said, explaining that he didn’t feel tax dollars should be spent for the financial gain of a private developer and that projects of this nature should be at the developer’s expense.
Fitts stated that in private conversation the developer had initially said he would be paying for the expenses but that the narrative changed.
“The college did need it, but the conversation that was told to us was that he (Kieffer) needed help from us because he had lost money on that property he had sold to the college,” Fitts said of the ordeal adding that taxpayers should not be on the hook for a developer’s bad business decision.
“It is a look again of impropriety that the City keeps getting itself into, that we all the sudden are paying for a personal developer to have an RCut,” Haight added.
Evidence of the boost to property value and appeal can be seen by a recent sign placed that advertises the RCut coming soon as well as the remaining tracts for sale.
“Are we going to have to pay for all the developers from here on out?” Haight questioned if the City would be setting a precedent for future transactions, and added, “As a state taxpayer I’m a little appalled that my money went to pay for this private RCut.”
The second LMIG in the amount of $35,000 came from the state when Whitener spoke with state level representatives about the issue. This was done without council knowledge according to Haight and Fitts.
“Thanks to Steve Gooch and GDOT. I really appreciate their help,” Whitener said, explaining that the state came in and saw a need for the RCut or would not have given the go ahead on the project.
Whitener also pointed out that LMIG funds could be used anywhere in the state.
“I’m glad that those state tax dollars are being allotted for our area,” Whitener stated, “It is going toward improving safety for the people driving down 515, one of our busiest roads.”
***Featured Image is sign placed by real estate agent representing the developer advertising remaining property and RCut
Murphy, NC— Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the May 18, 2021 arrest of 29-year-old Cecil Jessy Cable, of Fannin County Georgia for charges stemming for violations of the North Carolina Controlled Substances statutes.
On May 18, 2021 Detectives with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office conducted a traffic stop on vehicle occupied by Cable. During the traffic stop the detectives developed probable cause and conducted a search of the vehicle operated by Cable. During the search of the vehicle a trafficking amount of methamphetamine was seized.
Cable was arrested and is currently incarcerated in the Cherokee County Detention Center under a $215,000.00 secure bond for Trafficking in Methamphetamine, Possession with Intent to Manufacture, Sell, or Deliver Controlled substances. Cable was also arrested for two Failure To Appear charges from a previous arrest. Cable has made his initial appearance in Cherokee County District Court.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer stated “We continue our struggle in fighting the drugs that are coming into Cherokee County. Each arrest helps in that fight as well as information provided from our community.”
To report suspicious activity and suspect violations of the law please call 828-837-1344 or submit a tip at [email protected]
Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Fire Department (FCFD) along with Fannin County EMA/EMS took time to recognize the past Fire Chiefs of Fannin County.
“It is an honor to be a part of this with you guys,” Fannin County Chairman Jamie Hensley was present to give his thanks: “The hard work and dedication that you all put into even forming this and keeping it going throughout the years, you paved the way for all of us to be here.”
Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Glenn Patterson echoed Hensley’s sentiments, “You guys up there laid the foundation of what you see today. We do appreciate you all and what you built from the ground up. Your contributions are invaluable.”
Among those present to be recognized were Darrell Payne, Tony Petty, Jack Worthey, Larry Waters, Walter Taylor, and Robert Graham. Those that couldn’t be present for the event were Spencer Kitchens, Ryan McDaris and William Wright.
Current Fire Chief Larry Thomas thanked the previous fire chiefs, many of whom he had worked with, “I want to give my thanks to each and everyone of you all.”
Thomas spoke of how their work and dedication helped to bring the department to where it is today.
Each one of the former Fire Chiefs spoke and it quickly became apparent that while they were given the title to lead the department, none felt they alone could take credit for how far the department has come.
The speeches quickly gave way to stories. The camaraderie of those working in emergency services showed as it was evident to everyone in the room, whether past or present, after serving your community you are always family.
Walter Taylor, Fannin County’s first official Fire Chief shared how, with the help of others, the first fire truck in Fannin County was built. According to Taylor it was a 1957 Chevrolet 6 cylinder: “We put two 500 gallon tanks on it.”
Taylor also shared a personal experience where those presently working in public safety had been called in to aid him. He gave an emotional thank you to the ones who answered the call, crediting them with saving his life.
Larry Waters, former Fannin County Fire Chief, gave insight into being a Fire Chief before the department received funding for full-time staff, “While I was Fire Chief, I was working full time at Levis Strauss and Co. and during the daily activities Tony took over as assistant chief.”
Waters spoke of firefighters and emergency personal running concession stands, parking cars, and “whatever we could do to raise money” for equipment. He also spoke of the pride the department felt when their new used equipment would arrive.
Former Fire Chief Tony Petty gave advice to those new to the field, “To be a fireman you’ve got to want to help people” and added that everyone involved is what makes a successful department: “You can be the best Chief in the world but if you ain’t got good people under you, you ain’t got nobody. I couldn’t never done it without you (all the volunteers).”
“I come in as a paid Chief,” Jack Worthey, former Fire Chief and 40 year veteran in the field, said of his reluctance to be honored with the others, adding that it is an “honor to come in and appreciate what these men have done.”
Standing with the others and looking around the crowded room Worthy noted that it is a “privilege to be a firefighter”.
There was a noticeable sense of pride in the room as emergency personnel listened to the stories shared from the previous Fire Chiefs. A humble sense of pride not only in the work that they face day to day but also a pride to be a small part of a larger team that helped write the history of Fannin County and continues to shape the future.
Former Fire Chief Worthey came to Fannin County, after having worked with the DeKalb County Fire Department for 30 years and had this to say of Fannin County, “This is the best volunteer fire department in the state of Georgia.”