Fannin County’s New Library : Boards work together for a common goal

Community, News
Fannin County, Board of Commissioners, Fannin County Public Library Board, Mountain Regional Library Board, Chairman, Director, Board member, Post One, Post Two, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Ron Bolin, Claudia Gibson, Georgia House of Representatives, Speaker, David Ralston, grant, library, Sutton Architectural Services, Peter Sutton, Whitepath

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Will Fannin County finally have its stand alone library that so many citizens have petitioned for in the past? No, but the possibility of moving the current library to a larger more accommodating space is something that all agreed would be a vast improvement over the library’s current situation.

The Fannin County Board of Commissioners, the Fannin County Public Library Board and the Mountain Regional Library Board held a joint meeting to discuss the future of Fannin County’s Library and how to move forward to achieve a common goal.

“The purchase of the Whitepath building and moving the Administrative offices out of the courthouse fulfills a mandated referendum that was approved by the voters in Nov. 2016,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton said explaining the purpose of the called meeting. 

Fannin County, Board of Commissioners, Fannin County Public Library Board, Mountain Regional Library Board, Chairman, Director, Board member, Post One, Post Two, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Ron Bolin, Claudia Gibson, Georgia House of Representatives, Speaker, David Ralston, grant, library, Sutton Architectural Services, Peter Sutton, Whitepath

Petere Sutton discusses possible options for the Fannin County’s new library.

Helton added, “During the move, moving there and design, we have an opportunity to offer the library a better space with improved parking.”

The two boards took the time to open up dialogue and lay the groundwork for the library’s possible move. 

Peter Sutton with Sutton Architectural Services was also present to help work through concerns and share his thoughts on the redesign of the Whitepath building.

Sutton pointed out that the buildings structure, upon initial inspection, was in good standing and that the process would really be one of converting the building from it’s industrial function to a building of administrative function.

Among Sutton’s ideas were the possibility for the library to have its own entrance, and noted that as the building stands now there would be enough room for the library to double its square footage.

Interim Regional Library Director for Mountain Regional Library System, Claudia Gibson spoke on the current library, “From what I’ve seen. I do think the library is very inadequate for library services. It’s very small. The parking, as you all know I’m sure, is very bad. We worry about children. They have to cross the street.”

The size of the new library was a key topic of discussion among library board members. The current square footage of the Fannin County Library is approximately 6,800 square feet.

Fannin County Public Library board member Ron Bolin stated that according to state standards the new library would need at least 19,000 square feet. Bolin added, “For me it is critical that we meet state standards.”

State standards of square footage for a library is based upon projected population growth and while Fannin County would ideally like to see 19,000 square feet for the new library, it is possible that the new facility could start out with less footage and be expanded at a later date.

Bolin also brought to the forefront the issue of funding, stating that not only is the grant from the state for $1.3 million not a done deal, but also that it was his understanding that the county was running on deficit in 2020 and wondered where the county’s portion of funds would come from.

The library board members all expressed that Speaker of the Georgia House Representatives David Ralston’s announcement of the grant had taken them off guard, and pointed out that the grant is still up in the air.

Fannin County’s library funding from the state is on a list at the capitol to be voted upon but that vote has not taken place yet. Funding from the state, if voted to be given to the Fannin County project, would not be available until July 2020 at the earliest.

Regardless of the question of funding, both parties agreed to take care of due diligence in order to give the county the best possible chance of receiving state grant. Members of the Board of Commissioners and the two boards representing the library system expressed enthusiasm in moving forward with the project.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson conveyed what seemed to be a mutual feeling of everyone involved, “I think it’s a very good avenue for all of us combined.”

The boards will meet at a later date to go over findings with state standards and discuss design and needs.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

2 to 1 Vote Approves New Roof for Old Firehouse

News, Police & Government
2020 Budget

Blue Ridge, Ga – Commissioners approved reroofing of the old firehouse located next to the courthouse in a two to one vote with Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson dissenting.

Chairman Stan Helton brought up the need for a new roof on the old firehouse during the last meeting. The committee tabled the issue until the July 9 meeting.

“It is leaking. It’s not in danger of falling in right now, but another hard winter over there could really take us backward a long ways,” commented Helton.

Two quotes came back for the roof, one from Steve Stacy Roofing at $30,723.16 and from J&D Construction and Excavating at $28,147.

“J&D Construction did our old jail that houses our maintenance office,” state Helton, “As far as I can tell that work has turned out fine.”

Patterson visited with the old fire station and expressed concern in the state of the entire building.

“It’s in pretty bad shape,” commented Patterson, “My concern is if that roofing is going to do the job. We might have some drainage issues as well. I know that these two quotes checked the roof out and I guess we’ll get the roof on it and see.”

Patterson wanted to add a new roof, but the drainage and potential mold issues also merited consideration. He was unsure how long offices could remain usable in the current state.

“We don’t want any danger to our employees,” said Patterson.

Patterson brought up multiple issues with the old fire station.

Post one Commissioner Earl Johnson agreed that the building needs a new roof and the county should start there as it’s the most pressing issue.

“The concern I would have with the building. We start with the roof, stop all the leaks. There’s no telling how old that roofing is and how long it’s been on there,” commented Johnson.

J&D Construction will remove the entire roof and replace with new shingles and materials. Johnson recommended using J&D for that reason and because Stacy Roofing’s bid accounted for $65 per sheet of plywood fixes. Stacy’s estimate could result in extra charges once the project begins.

“When I parked this afternoon, I noticed all the fascia boards and most of them were rotten, and [J&D]’s quote states that they’re going to replace all the fascia boards and replace with new,” said Johnson, “Not only just price but the amount of work that’s going to be done. It looks like a significant amount more with J&D.”

Helton responded to Patterson’s concerns about the long-term usability of the firehouse. The building needs to be available for office space for the county, and other entities might need it in the future. With rental rates increasing, more departments might need to move into the old fire station.

“It is a county asset; there’s value to it. If we take care of it like we should do our county assets, we should make some usable space available. If we do the roof, which I really believe we should do this year, and we can discuss at a later time what we should do next,” explained Helton.

Patterson asked to address the baseboards, flooring, and doors after installation of the new roof.

Johnson added that he wanted to clarify with J&D about the gutters and if they accounted for gutters in the initial scope of work.
Helton confirmed neither company included guttering in the initial quote. Patterson asked to include it in the project costs because it’s necessary for a new roof.

“We may have some leverage if we wait with the guttering on the drainage issue,” said Patterson.

“I don’t have a problem moving forward with the roof and negotiating the guttering,” stated Johnson.

Helton made a motion to approve the J&D bid for the new firehouse roof, which passed 2 to 1 with Patterson against the decision due to lack of guttering in the initial quote.

Road Detail Update

Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff approached the board for permission to buy a 2010 Van 13K to transport the work detail from Blairsville.

“I’ve looked high and low at our dealerships, and a passenger van is really hard to find,” stated Ratcliff, “Lucked up on one at AA Auto Rental, I went up and drove it. $13,000 is the price on it with 100,000 miles on it.”

Colwell Detention Center requires counties to have a way to transport work details back and forth from the facility to the roadside.

“We expected this when we decided to hire them,” said Johnson.

The van will be available on Monday, July 22, after it is fitted to meet all detention center requirements.
The board unanimously approved the purchase.

Fannin Commissioners Commit to 2020 Census

News, Police & Government
Census

Blue Ridge, Ga – Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) presented their case for participation in the 2020 census.

DCA Specialist Khuyen Nguyen spoke to the Board of Commissioners about DCA’s initiative to record everyone in the upcoming census. She outlined three methods available to Fannin county citizens, including online form, calling in, or paper copy of the survey designed to record the United States population.

“We’re looking at one representation, but two, more importantly, we’re looking at $6,075,000,000 in federal funding that’s going to be distributed to the 50 states based on population. It’s going to be impacting, not only at the national level but at the state and local levels as well. We want to make sure that Georgia and Fannin County get their fair share,” explained Nguyen.

In March 2020, every household will receive a postcard listing the three options to complete the form, and everyone can complete the census according to their comfort level.

She also asked for the county to form a complete count committee. Christy Gribble is heading up the search for the complete count committee.

DCA is also hiring part-time local employees to assist with the process.

ETC Renewal

Board of Commissioners renewed community television company franchise agreement with ETC. It’s a 15-year agreement. The contract gives ETC permission to cross the county’s right of way to work on cables and provide continual service and currently in effect.

“They provide a big service for the community, and I think we need to let them continue,” said Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson.

Old Fire Station Remodel

Chairman Stan Helton initiated the discussion of remodeling the old fire station next to the courthouse. The old building will soon need a new roof and commissioners also addressed updating the exterior.

“Since we took the garage down, it kind of sits out there by itself and makes all the scratches and flaws on it a lot more evident than in the past,” stated Helton, “It will need a new roof in the near future, a gutter and roof, and the sidings looking pretty rough.”

Chairman Helton brought up the need for the old firehouse to be remodeled in the near future.

The building’s currently worth more than $200,000 and houses the extension office, Red Cross, Chaplin, and coroner’s office. It’s not currently leaking but might after one more winter. Helton was unsure if the county wanted to take the chance of another winter with the current roof.

“Definitely need to keep a roof on it, but as far as the exterior, it’s been ugly for a long time, and it can stay ugly for a little while longer,” stated Johnson, “It’s a good reminder of where we come from.”

Helton said he had some rough numbers and wanted to see if the Post One and Post Two Commissioners wanted to do something with the firehouse this year or put it on the 2020 budget.

“I’d like to see a cost analysis,” said Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson.

Helton told Patterson to speak with Mr. Hawkins for the rough estimates on the project. The building offers a lot of space for the county to use.

Commissioners tabled the issue until the next meeting.

Cooler Days for Jail and Courthouse with new AC Agreement

News
AC Trane System

Blue Ridge, Ga – Sheriff’s Office resolved its air conditioner (AC) problems and entered into a new maintenance agreement with Trane.

Sheriff Dane Kirby advised partnering with Trane Heating and Cooling for all future AC issues with the jail and the courthouse. The two service agreements one covers mechanical and the other maintains the computer equipment. The mechanical agreement is roughly $10,000 annually, broken into $2,500 quarterly. The computer agreement is $3,570, with quarterly payments of $896. Together, the agreements totaled $13,570 a year.

“I think maintenance would really help. I’m not even going to get into what they found. They said one of them looked like it had a dead dog in it, but we’ve got [the system] going now,” said Kirby.

Kirby presents case for AC service agreement

Sheriff Kirby presented a case for entering into a maintenance agreement with Trane for future AC repairs.

Over the years, the jail and Sheriff’s Office faced constant AC issues and applied fixes deemed appropriate. Normally, the office called local contractors to fix the problems.

However, the system broke again a few weeks ago, and a Trane specialist advised setting the system back to zero. After resetting the system, Trane wanted to enter into a maintenance agreement with the county.

“We’ve reached a point that with the age of those units that if we don’t do something to maintain them, and see that the maintenance is done on an ongoing basis, we could be looking at some severe costs,” said Chairman Stan Helton.”

The life expectancy of a maintained Trane AC unit is 10 to 15 years.

The bill for the service charges totaled at $16,000, but with the proposed service agreement, Trane dropped the bill to $13,091.

“Looks like it’s very necessary to get it done,” stated Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson, “I think it would be well worth it to do so.”

With the new maintenance agreements, the county will pay $13,750 a year for the next three years.

Kirby’s 2019 budget didn’t account for the of the new service agreements but felt it would save money in the future.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “It’s right in line with what we’ve spent on the system every year. I know last year we spent $15,000 or $16,000. I think it’s a good idea to let the people whose unit it is to actually fix it, and it sounds even better if they are going to maintain the courthouse as well.”

Also, the Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of a new ambulance from Custom Works for a total of $143,821, included in the 2020 budget.

Custom Works was the higher bid than MEDIX, who previously supplied ambulances for the county. However, MEDIX no longer has a service representative in Georgia. Trucks would have to travel to Indiana to receive service.

Custom Works offered a Georgia location for service with no exceptions to the requirements put forth by Director of EMA Robert Graham.

County Encourages Tobacco Users to Quit

News

Blue Ridge, Ga – Board of Commissioners offer county employees incentives to quit tobacco in the 2019 healthcare plan.

In a called meeting of the Board of Commissioners, the commissioners added a $50 a month surcharge to monthly premiums for tobacco users. Studies have shown that tobacco use causes poor health in individuals who partake over a number of years. The addition to the premium is an effort to promote good health among the employees of the county government.

Fannin County employees have six months to stop using tobacco, starting on July 1.

“The fair thing is to give employees a chance, a timeframe to stop, to cease the use of tobacco and then along with that plan to offer some tools that helps them to get off of it,” said Chairman Stan Helton.

Sheriff Dane Kirby confirmed with Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway that current premiums and how the $50 monthly charge would break down week to week.

“It would be about $11.50 or $12 extra a week,” said Gazaway.

Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson asked, “Are we going to provide them with things to help them stop?”

Benefit Support’s Representative Lena Andrews assured him that the health plan will offer them tools to quit. Starting in July, which is when the new healthcare year will start, tobacco users will have access to cessation methods as well that the county will pay for. They can choose the patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler,  and nasal spray to help them quit.

County employees have six months to stop their tobacco use before the $50 surcharge goes into effect.

However, if employees haven’t quit by January 2020, they will be charged the $50 surcharge on their insurance premium. January 1, 2020, would be when the county sent out the first surcharge. Employees can also choose to quit to take advantage of the cessation methods at any time.

Additionally, the county included a spousal carve-out clause to their insurance plans. Essentially, if an employee’s husband or wife has the opportunity to be insured by their employer, then they must be covered through their employer.

“If the spouse has access to coverage through their employer, then that spouse is required to sign up for coverage through that employer. They can stay on the county if so desired, but the county becomes secondary to the other group health insurance plan,” explained Total Insurance Representative Ron Offord, “That being said, a lot of employers don’t offer spousal coverage because they are allowed to do that under Affordable Care Act plans.”

Spouses have 60 days to make the change, and the effective date must be July 1 for the individual to be covered on their new plan. The healthcare providers plan to meet with each and every employee to go through all the details.

A prescription step-up plan was also added, which states the lowest cost prescription is the first choice by the healthcare plan. If a doctor prescribes a more expensive prescription, however, the insurance will cover the cost.

No raises in insurance premiums this year for Fannin County employees.

The county’s making these changes in an effort to keep employee premiums down and provide the most benefit to everyone. The program’s self-funded and claims greatly affect health insurance rates, so by helping employees become healthier and fewer people on the insurance plans the rates can remain low.

“We’re not raising, this year, their premiums,” said Helton, “it will happen. We don’t know when, but we felt strongly that we needed to look at some other options before going to the pocketbook.”

Post One Commissioner was absent during this called meeting, and all present department heads decided the changes were fair when asked at the end of the meeting.

Road Construction Beginning in June

News

Blue Ridge, Ga – GDOT (Georgia Department of Transportation) grants determine county road projects for the year and construction will begin soon.

Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff approached the Fannin County Board of Commissioners with updated grant money estimates from GDOT for road improvements.

New asphalt construction will begin around June.

GDOT’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) goes toward improving roads and bridges in the county. The organization gave Fannin County $664,195.59 to lay new asphalt. The amount increased by $4,000 from 2018.

The estimated total for the paving project is $1.5M, which includes the grant with a 30 percent match required from the county. It would be paid out of the roads and bridges SPLOST.

The project is now out to bid according to Georgia’s guidelines. The acceptance of bids will run for a couple of weeks, and the paving should start around the first of June.

Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “He is glad of the amount that we’re receiving from the state.”

Next, GDOT’s Safety Assistance Program, part of LMIG, is providing funds for striping of county roads. The grant is for $69,000 with the county providing a 30 percent match for a total of $89,700.

Thermal Plastic will be used for the restriping in the county.

Chairman Stan Helton added, “We have to do this according to their standards, which is pretty exacting and pretty expensive, but it’s still worth it since they’re giving us this kind of money.”

Helton also commended Ratcliff for going to GDOT’s district office to lobby for more funds to update the county’s road striping project.

“This comes out to $8,800 per mile, and we’re looking at ten miles,” Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson contributed.

This restriping will be eight miles of Aska Road and two miles of Old 76. These roads were chosen by GDOT. The material used will be thermal plastic. It’s heated up to 400 degrees and sits on top of the pavement. The plastic’s more durable than water-based paint typically used by the county and can last up to three times as long as paint.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson clarified that striping season only lasts for five months out of the year, and weather will wear striping off the road. Ratcliff added that striping can’t be laid in unfavorable conditions.

“You can go on some state roads right now and it’s hard to see the yellow line. It’s just the nature of the business, and the only way to take care of that is restriping every year. And no one can afford that. At all times, some of our road striping is going better than others and that’s why. It’s just not cost effective to restripe every road every year,” said Johnson.

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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Fannin County opens door for competition in waste removal pricing

Business, Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) began the process of opening up the way for competition when it comes to waste removal in the county.

Recent commission meetings showed much discussion about the current contract with Advanced Disposal. The contract set to expire on Sept. 1 of this year, requires the BOC give at least 180 day notice if there is intent to amend or cease further business with the company.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson expressed his disappoint with the company’s automatic 3 percent increase in price annually and said, “We’re where we’re at because there’s one company. You can’t get a competing price when no one else will bid.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johsnon, Glenn Patterson, Advanced Disposal, Tony Sidebotham, Operations Manager, Contract, Renewal, Glass Recycling, Competition, Attorney, Lynn Doss

Board of Commissioners speak with attorney Lynn Doss about opening the door to competition.

All board members did recognize the asset Advanced Disposal has become to Fannin County through their community partnerships and participation.
“The intent is not to get rid of ADS. We still need them as an operator in our county,” Chairman Stan Helton spoke of the intentions behind the contract discussions.

Helton added that the BOC intentions were “to introduce competition, someone that can do the job, that would have a transfer station, and see if we (BOC) could open the door up for them to at least quote, bid, or prove to us that they would be a viable alternative, another resource for the county.”

An individual has come forward and spoken with commissioners about the possibility to offering their services to the county. Helton had a meeting with the individual that he referred to as being “positive”.

“This is a gentleman that has an interest in serving the community and he’s got equipment and a transfer station that would be available,” Helton said explaining the meeting and pointed out that the services the individual could provide would be on a much smaller scale than Advanced Disposal.

Post 2 Commissioner Glenn Patterson shared his thoughts that “competition’s always good”.

Previously Fannin County was under consent and by court order could only allow for one solid waste transfer station to operate. This order has since expired.

Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss told the BOC that she would review the consent order and work towards allowing for the county to have more than one solid waste transfer station and recommended that the BOC develop a pricing template for waste removal before seeking bids.

Johnson added to this that the county needs a set of requirements, above the already mandated state requirements, to ensure that companies operating in the county are permitted by the state and capable of delivering the results that are agreed upon.

Helton reiterated that he is not in favor of eliminating Advanced Disposal’s services as the county’s primary supplier and added that he didn’t feel that anyone at this time is in a position to take the place of Advanced Disposal.

“We felt if there was some way to open up a little bit of competition, perhaps that would be the favorable result for the county,” Helton explained that perhaps in years to come that a door would open to receive numerous bids.

Johnson spoke of Advance Disposal, “Advanced, as far as I know, they handle all of the garbage the county has right now. They do a good job of it,” but added that his goal is to stabilize costs: “I think we should look at every route to try to reduce our prices.”

No official vote was needed in the matter and with all three commissioners in agreement about saving the residents of Fannin County money, they gave the go ahead to Doss to notify Advanced Disposal of their intent to negotiate the upcoming contract.

 

 

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