Board of Commissioners keep Fannin County finances as top priority

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) are moving forward in 2018 with the county budget still being a top priority. The BOC began their first meeting of the year by passing a resolution acknowledging that they upheld and will continue to uphold progress made in the passing of the 2018 Budget at their Dec. 12 meeting.

This resolution stated that the commissioners complied with Georgia state laws when adopting this year’s budget and acknowledged that commissioners kept promises made throughout the year in regard to the budget, including an all day public workshop on the topic.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, 2018 Budget, 2017 Audit, Rushton and Company, Hotel / Motel Tax, Finance Director Robin Gazaway, Ed Hawkins, Ken Petty, Public Works, Fannin County Water Authority, Building Maintance, General Election 2018, Board of Education, Qualifying Fees

BOC holds first meeting of 2018.

Commissioners also voted unanimously to hire Rushton and Company to conduct the audit on the county’s 2017 fiscal year. Rushton and Company, accounting and business advisors, were responsible for the 2016 audit.

“I think they did a pretty thorough job,” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson discussed of the hire, “and I don’t see any reason not to use them again.”

Rushton and Company proposed a contract with the county to continue services for this year at the same rate as the previous year and to not exceed a total of $54,900. A report on the county’s finances will be made available by June 30, 2018.

Johnson, a long-time proponent of a more transparent approach to the use of the Hotel/Motel Tax, discussed with the board setting up a public workshop to address this issue.

In 2018, the county will receive an extra 10 percent proportion of this tax. Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee recommended allowing some of these funds to accumulate before addressing their use.

Commission Chairman Stan Helton stated that the extra 10 percent, based on the previous year’s revenue, would come to approximately $150,000.

Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway stated that a separate account could be set up specifically for the 10 percent increase. The board agreed to separate this revenue and schedule a workshop to discuss where these funds will be allocated.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, 2018 Budget, 2017 Audit, Rushton and Company, Hotel / Motel Tax, Finance Director Robin Gazaway, Ed Hawkins, Ken Petty, Public Works, Fannin County Water Authority, Building Maintance, General Election 2018, Board of Education, Qualifying Fees

Fannin County Library Branch Manager Andrew Vickers accepts paperwork confirming appointment of Steven Miracle to the Board of Trustees.

Steven Miracle is the latest appointment to the Board of Trustees in Fannin County. Andrew Vickers, Fannin County Library Branch Manager, was present at the meeting as the board discussed the newest appointee.

Helton addressed Vickers, “Andrew, I understand this fills your board up with what the county appoints are allowed?”

To which Vickers acknowledged that this would fill the final position on the Board of Trustees.

“Mr. Miracle does a lot of good things for this county, and I certainly have no questions,” Helton stated before asking post commissioners their thoughts. All commissioners agreed that this would be a good addition for the board and voted unanimously in favor of Miracle.

Former Building Maintenance Supervisor Ken Petty recently transferred to the Public Works department, leaving his position with Building Maintenance open.

“I would like to recommend that we appoint Mr. Ed Hawkins as the new department head over at maintenance,” Helton suggested to the board.

Sosebee replied to this recommendation, “Good choice.”

Johnson clarified that the appointment of Hawkins to this position would not change the number of employees in the maintenance department. Hawkins, formerly with the Fannin County Water Authority, was approved for this position.

The board also approved the qualification fees for the 2018 general election. The Post 2 Commissioner seat along with two seats on the Board of Education will be on the ballot this year.

The qualifying fees for these positions are $349 for Post 2 Commissioner and $144 each for a seat with the Board of Education. Qualifying begins March 5 at 9 a.m. and will close on March 9 at noon.

The general election will take place on Nov. 11, 2018.


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Natalie Kissel

Public Workshop For 2018 Proposed Budget


BLUE RIDGE, GA – In what is being heralded as the first of its kind in the county, Fannin County Board of Commissioners held an all day budget workshop on Wednesday, September 20, 2017, in preparation for the 2018 budget.

The workshop was scheduled from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. and was open to the public. Department Heads from each department came in to discuss their area’s proposed budget.

Commissioners scrutinized each line item while the department’s representatives were present. They questioned what each department planned to do with the money that they were asking for.

Most departments stayed right in line with the previous year’s budget having small increases or decreases to account for different needs in staffing or cost of goods to operate. All offices saw a slight raise in their salary budget as an overall 2% raise was given to government employees.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, 2018 Budget, workshop, Zach Ratcliff, Roads Department, Ken Petty

Commissioners discuss proposed budgets.

A few departments requested significant increases, but most were explained away with the need for additional personnel. Building Maintenance Supervisor Ken Petty was one of those who faced heavy scrutiny as his budget request was broken down and analysed.

County Chairman Stan Helton questioned Petty, “You have maintenance repair of the old courthouse building. Are you anticipating something there? 2017 there’s nothing in there, but you have requested it for 2018.”

Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee further questioned Petty, “We got a request here for $2,000-$3,000 for maintenance and repair on vehicle. You got a new vehicle, what do you anticipate tearing up on it?”

To both of these questions Petty replied, “We just put it in there in case there is something.”
Petty’s budget request was approximately $748,000, showing over a 17% increase from last year’s request of $620,000.

Helton concluded with, “Go through and look at these items…if we can’t justify with something we have a known expenditure coming, then we are going to have to look at reducing that.”

On the opposite end of the budget spectrum, some departments made dramatic cuts, with the largest cut going to the Roads Department by Public Works Director Zach Ratcliff.

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

Helton remarked, “You were able to cut the tire budget way down. That’s on track to be about 1/4 of what you’ve spent out there before.”

Ratcliff confirmed that he was able to decrease the tire budget from $50,000 to roughly $8,000.

Another significant decrease came in salaries, as the Roads Department has reduced the number of employees from 54 to 39. Helton pointed out that we still have “50% more employees than surrounding counties.”

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson stated that looking at the Road Department’s budget shows that what the county is doing is working. He said, “I’m proud of what we are doing with your budget. I’m glad to hear these amounts are coming down the way they have.”

This workshop gave insight into the county’s 2018 budget,but the Commissioners will meet and continue to amend the budget proposals. The final budget will be discussed and approved at a regularly scheduled meeting later this year.


Natalie Kissel

Board of Commissioners Approve Animal Control Upgrades


BLUE RIDGE, GA – Fannin County Animal Control has finally received approval for much needed upgrades to their facility located on Industrial Park Blvd.

After several weeks of being tabled for lack of proper information required in the bids, Maintenance Department Head Ken Petty was finally able to produce suitable bids for the Commissioners to consider and ultimately approve.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Stan Helton, Early Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Ken Petty, Animal Control

Ken Petty addresses the Board of Commissioners.

A bid for $18,932 was approved and would add fourteen outdoor runs to the facility, as well as guillotine doors to allow the dogs access these runs from their indoor kennels.

County Chairman Stan Helton stated, “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.”

Petty was also questioned by County Commissioner Earl Johnson about an earlier bid approval to fix the air conditioning unit at the jail.

Johnson wanted to know why he had “seconded a motion for $5,340 on the air conditioning unit at the jail and was just asked to sign a check for $15,416?”

Johnson reiterated the importance of proper scope of work and bids. “We specify as a county what work we want done, and what we require.” He went further in saying that it is not up to the contractor to decide what work they want to do.

Petty who had not seen the bill in question, said that he would follow up with the contractor and find out why the amount had almost tripled.


Natalie Kissel

It’s Not Just The Public Being Left Out

Community, News

The annual summary of the 2016 County Audit was the main focus of the Fannin County Board of Commissioners meeting held on August 8, 2017.
It became apparent during the review that the public were not the only ones who have received limited information in the past. As discussion came to a management report within the audit, Post Commissioner Earl Johnson was surprised that he had not been made aware of this document and was even further surprised that he had never received a copy of this annual document since 2012.

Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Zach Ratcliff, Ken Petty, Audit, EMA, Robert Graham

Commissioners review 2016 audit summary.

Commission Chairman Stan Helton made it clear that “anything that is available to me, is available to both of them.” In keeping with his promise of transparency within the county, Helton went on to say, “We are putting up everything and not leaving anything out”, stating that the entire audit is available on the County website for the public to view.

Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee wanted to clear up misinformation that had been put out in the form of editorials. Over the past two weeks, concerns have been expressed about the county being short of emergency vehicles.

While the county was down three ambulances, EMA Director Robert Graham clarified that only one front line vehicle was down, while the other two were back up vehicles. He expressed that this is a rarity and that there is always a backup plan. When questioned about the public’s safety, Graham responded, “At no time were any of our citizens in any danger of not having emergency services.”

Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Zach Ratcliff, Ken Petty, Audit, EMA, Robert Graham

Commissioner Earl Johnson questions why he has never received a Management Report.

Fannin County Maintenance Department Head, Ken Petty, brought three bids to the board regarding renovations at Animal Control. These renovations include the installation of guillotine doors that would allow the dogs to go outside directly from their kennels. The addition of these doors would also allow FCAC staff to safely enter the dog runs for daily cleaning and feeding. The lowest bid was $18,932, coming in approximately $500 under the singular bid placed last meeting. The board, however, chose to still table the vote for another two weeks to give Petty time to gather a start and completion date from the bidders.

Zach Ratcliff, Fannin County Public Works Director, was added to the agenda as his department was in need of new equipment. The county’s two mowers have seen over 6000 hours and are in “limp mode” as Ratcliff stated. These being the most used equipment in the department that provide safety on our roadways, Ratcliff presented the board with a bid for $118,225 to replace one of the existing mowers.

Ratcliff went through an existing government contract and was able to save the county $24,864 by doing so. Commissioners unanimously agreed that this purchase was necessary and would be able to use funds from SPLOST to cover this necessity.


Natalie Kissel

Fannin County Board of Commissioners Hold Final July Meeting

Community, News
Fannin Court House

BLUE RIDGE, GA – Fannin County Board of Commissioners held their final meeting for this month on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Among the items on the agenda, County Commissioners addressed the issue of the County Roads Moratorium. There was public commentary that addressed both sides of the issue the county faces when deciding to adopt or remove roadways from its care.

Fannin County Board of Commissioners, County Road Moratorium

Citizens address the Board concerning county roadways.

Citizens were there to ask Fannin County to consider adopting Phase 1 of the My Mountain Community into its county road system for maintenance and upkeep, citing that this phase of the community has been in existence for almost 20 years. On the opposite side of the discussion, citizens expressed concern on current county roads that they feel have been neglected. Post Commissioner Earl Johnson urged the Board to use caution when adopting new roads into the system, wanting first for the county to obtain proper inspections and right of ways before making any decision. Fannin County Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee and Commission Chairman Stan Helton agreed with this assessment. While voting to continue the county road moratorium, there was also a unanimous decision to work on current roads in the system before accepting new roads.

Ken Petty, Fannin County Maintenance Department Head, addressed the Board seeking approval for three issues needing financial payment from the county. He presented cases for $5,340.00 to replace a compressor on the commercial Trane air conditioning unit at the jail, $19,160.00 for improvements to the Animal Control Facility located on Fannin Industrial Park, and roof repair at the county maintenance building.

Petty was only able to present one bid on the broken compressor at the jail. When questioned by Post Commissioner Earl Johnson on failure to receive further bids, Petty stated that no one he contacted in Fannin County was willing to work on the unit. Johnson further questioned Petty as to why he was not providing the county or the bidder with a proper scope of work, and both agreed in the future that this documentation will be provided. Ultimately the board agreed to address and fix the issue of the air conditioning since it is essential to the jail’s day to day operations, but opted to table the other two issues until further documentation and bids could be obtained.

Commissioners expanded the Board of Assessors through resolution and praised the three current appointees for bringing the county up to compliance with the State of Georgia. The expansion will bring the current board of three members up to a state allotted five member board. The board unanimously voted to appoint former Superintendent Mark Henson to a four year term on the Board of Assessors, and Troy Junnier to serve a three year term. Chairman Helton felt that the addition of these two individuals based on their experience and knowledge of the county would keep operations within the Board running smoothly for years to come.

Marie Woody discusses options for the Scrap Tire Management Grant.

Marie Woody discusses options for the Scrap Tire Management Grant.

Marie Woody with Land Development informed the board that all requirements were met to move forward with condemnation of property located at 188 Riverside Lane. The cost of removing the structure would be approximately $7,500.00 and approval was granted to advance this project. This property will be the fifth this year to be condemned and removed. Discussion was also held about the Scrap Tire Management Grant that was obtained from the State of Georgia. Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee wants to focus on where the man power will come from to complete this project and does not want to tax an already short handed Road Department of the county.

Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented the public with year to date financial information showing that the county is currently $1,675,006 under budget for the fiscal year 2017. Out of the county’s $27,131,207 yearly budget expenditures, actual amounts show that $12,975,846 has been spent.

Most county departments reported staying within or under their current budget amount as of July 18th. Administration was the only department reporting an overage with their current rate of spending at 72.9%. For departments to fall under budget their current rate should be below 54%. When questioned as to why this number was so high, Gazaway explained that new county policy requires all insurance claims be filed under a single department, and that they were working on an amendment that would create a new line item to reflect changes in this policy.


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