Fannin County approves increases to expenditures

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FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. – With previously approved expenditures coming back to the county with changes, Fannin County approved two major increases to planned expenditures this month through the Library and the Public Safety Department.

Fannin County has celebrated a state grant in support of building a new library within the county. Even hosting House Speaker David Ralston at the more recent announcement of an increase to that grant. This month saw the Board of Commissioners return to that agenda item to adopt the official resolution to increase the county’s expenditures to match the doubled grant amount.

That amount from the state was originally set at $1.3 million and has since doubled to $2.6 million. Now, with this approval the county has officially increased its match from the original $650,000 to $1.3 million. Approved unanimously by the Board of Commissioners, this agenda item solidified the county’s final commitment to the project increase.

Within the Public Safety a Ford F250 pickup truck hasn’t been received from the dealership one year after its order. Approved on June 22, 2021, the order for a new truck in the department still hasn’t come in at the end of July 2022. Furthermore, according to EMA Director Robert Graham, it could be very late this year or even next year before its even in production as he has been told by the dealership.

To answer the immediate need, the department has found another vehicle, a 2022 Chevrolet 2500 Heavy Duty Crew Cab Truck. With rising costs of materials and shortages on supplies in the nation, prices have continued to rise since the original trucks order, though. The Ford was ordered for a price of $32,789.64. The new vehicle, the chevrolet, has already been produced and is for sale for $54,000.

expenditures

EMA Director Robert Graham speaks to the Fannin County BOC about a new squad vehicle after a previously ordered one hasn’t seen delivery in over a year.

The departments current vehicle in use has over 179,000 miles and needs replacing. Graham told the Board of Commissioners that it is run every day for medical and fire calls. The vehicle responds out of Station 1.

Director Graham is requesting that the county use SPLOST to purchase the Chevy for use, but not instead of the Ford F250. Graham stated, “We will never get another new vehicle at that price. I suggest we leave it on order to come in next year or something for future use. At $32,000, you’re not going to get a three-quarter-ton pickup for that price anymore. As long as we keep it on order, they’ll have to hold to that price.”

The troubles continue as the department also looks ahead to future orders as Graham reported that Chevrolet opened to receive “fleet orders” for only four hours on one day and will not accept any more orders again until next year.

The county approved the request for expenditures from SPLOST to cover an extra $54,000 on top of last year’s approved purchase and is looking to continue along with the previous order as requested, although some early discussion came that the Ford truck could be used in another department if a major need arises before it is delivered. Even if production does start on the vehicle in late 2022, the county could still see delivery not coming until 2023.

Fannin County Announces new library in joint meeting

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library

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. – A special called meeting that was held as a joint meeting between the Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) and the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) also saw special guest David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives to announce a new public library to be constructed.

An unprecedented time as both Speaker Ralston and County Attorney Lynn Doss called it, the joint meeting is the beginning of a major, multi-million dollar project for Fannin County.

The meeting proceeded as the Fannin BOE made a motion and approval to donate land to the Board of Commissioners for the sole purpose of constructing a new public library. The BOE has purchased property from the United States Forestry Service near Blue Ridge Dam in order to construct two new facilities for the school system. The BOE is currently constructing a staff development center there that will be the new home for staff working out of the building at 2290 East First Street.

Because of this, the property at 2290 East First Street, soon to be empty with the move, has been donated to the county for a new library. The property, adjacent to Fannin High School, will be 0.85 acres in total. Though the project was described as a standalone library, there are no current designs for the building. Both the BOE’s motion to donate and the BOC’s motion to accept the land came with unanimous approvals of the present members of these boards.

Speaker Ralston said that a standalone library has been on the community wish list for many years. He stated, “I want to commend both the Board of Education and the Commissioners for this arrangement which will now expedite this project. The project is a result of cooperative efforts between the Fannin County Board of Education, the Fannin County Commission, and the state of Georgia.”

library

A special called meeting hosted the Fannin BOE, Fannin BOC, and Speaker of the House David Ralston on April 22, 2022, to approve land donation for a new standalone library.

Ralston noted that the general assembly’s budget is providing funding for part of the library project. The state’s commitment totals $2.6 million as Ralston stated, “The budget that we just passed this past session in the general assembly provided for an additional $1.3 million specified for this project. That goes with the $1.3 million that had been appropriated back two or three budget cycles ago.”

The county can begin planning but will not break ground or start construction until after the BOE faculty have moved to their new facility when construction is complete. Due to this, County Attorney Lynn Doss said there isn’t a start date for the project. She went on to add that the contract has a provision that if the property ever ceases to be a library, it will revert back to Board of Education ownership.

Ralston stated, “A library says a lot about a community. That’s why this has been important to me and I know its been important to many of you. Because when you go into a community and you see they have a nice library facility, that says volumes about where they put priorities on learning and education and all the things that we associate with a library. When this library is completed, it will say that Fannin County is proud of our past, our present, and our future.”

With the celebration of the donated land and the unofficial beginning of the county’s multi-million dollar library project, Ralston had one more note to say as he stated that good news will keep coming. Ralston said he would be returning to Fannin County in a few weeks for another meeting and announcement with another special guest.

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Future of WhitePath building in continued limbo

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga: The Whitepath building discussion resumed during the February 9 meeting without a resolution on how to proceed.

At a previous meeting, Post Two Glenn Patterson asked for site testing, such as asbestos, mold, mildew, and underground rock, to be performed before further plans were developed. According to Patterson, the recommended testing fell around $11,000, but it would remove several unknowns surrounding the project. The board asked County Attorney Lynn Doss to contact companies asking if they could perform soil testing and asbestos testing before the February meeting.

Hayes James promised to provide an estimate after the February meeting, and the county reached back out to Contour to “reduce the scope” of the testing to cut the price hopefully.

The board doesn’t believe parking lot drilling for rock will be necessary because most of Fannin’s ground doesn’t contain difficult to remove stone like granite.

“I just want to be as frugal as we possibly can with the county’s money,” Chairman Jamie Hensley stated.

The chairman also reached out to the UGA extension office because it conducts some of the testing needed at Whitepath. If a plausible solution, the extension office might save Fannin some money.

Administration, Library, or Both

Another point of conversation was the intended use of the Whitepath building – will it include the library or just administration offices?  

When Patterson and outgoing Post One Earl Johnson agreed to purchase the building in 2019, they bought it solely for administration purposes. Whitepath cost the county around $1.3 million.

In January 2020, the state bestowed a $1,383,000 grant for a new library, and Whitepath would be the proposed location.

County Attorney Lynn Doss spoke with bound council Gray and Panell, who previously worked with Fannin on SPLOST matters. The law office confirmed it’s not uncommon to house a library within an administrative building.

Johnson geared the SPLOST allocated for the new administrative building could be “lambasted by the library board” without established terms. 

The SPLOST specifically addressed creating new administrative offices to make it easier for the public to access. It didn’t include a new library as part of those funds when passed by Fannin County citizens.

“If the library goes in the building, there can be some sort of reimbursement made,” Johnson commented. “If the plan can come together for the library and the funds be appropriated to maybe reimburse SPLOST and purchase, say, a wing of the building or an acre of the property, then I would never have an objection to that.”

Outgoing Post One Earl Johnson

Patterson agreed that the SPLOST funds should go toward the administrative building, not the library.

Additionally, the $1.3 million grant likely won’t cover all library expenses, and the project would need more funding. Some on the library board estimated the new building would cost around $5 to $8 million.

The current square footage of the Fannin County Library is approximately 6,800 square feet. Previously, library board member Ron Bolin stated that according to state standards the new library would need at least 19,000 square feet.

Georgia Director of Library Planning and Construction Nate Rall has promised to help Fannin through the process.

Hensley wasn’t present for the purchase of Whitepath asked if the county had any other options before buying the building?

Johnson confirmed it wasn’t the only option, but ultimately, it’s the direction the board went. With the hot real-estate, it’s unlikely the county will find another piece of property for a similar value.

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