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.”
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.”
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.
McCaysville, Ga. – The new year brought in new faces to the McCaysville City Council, and these new members wasted no time stepping away from the status quo of city council meetings.
Council member Gilita Carter brought pause to the meeting’s proceedings early on when a motion was made to “pay the bills for January”.
“I’ve been coming to a lot of meetings and it always comes up, about paying the bills,” Carter spoke to the Mayor and Council, “Well, I often sit there and wonder, what bills? Whose bills?”
In meetings past, a motion would come to pay the city’s bills for the month, followed by a second, and unanimous approval. There was never given any explanation or break down of what these bills were or an amount to be paid.
Carter, who is assigned to look at city financials, continued, “We (the city) did operate at a loss and we need to look closely at these things and keep track.” She followed this statement by reading a detailed list of the monthly bills to be approved broken down by department.
The department totals for the month were as follows:
- Administration – $1,633.37
- Police Department – $17,190.74
- Court – $519.50
- Street Department – $1,272.94
- City Park – $1419.39
- Water and Sewer – $15,971.69
After completing the list of bills due, Carter questioned, “Have all of these, to this point, been approved? Is there anything on here that had to go before prior approval?”
McCaysville City Clerk Nancy Godfrey clarified the spending process of the city for new council members: “We do have a policy or resolution in place that anything over $500 is supposed to be approved by council.”
“The water department is different. All of those things don’t have to come before the council because they’re chemicals that are required to treat water,” Godfrey explained, but added that there was one item in the department’s bills that was questionable.
No representative from the Water and Sewer Department was present to give insight to council about this item.
McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley was present and did explain his department’s bills that had a total over $500.
One of these bills in particular accounted for the bulk of the department’s expenditures for the month. $11,300.87 was requested to pay Resurgens Orthopaedics.
This item was easily explained by Earley. Resurgens Orthopaedics is where suspect James Larry Parris, Jr. was treated after the officer involved shooting that took place in Aug. 2019.
“Once, you discharge your weapon on someone, they automatically become in custody,” Earley explained and continued, “so we assume all of their medical bills from that point forward and while they’re in jail.”
There were a few more items listed for the police department that had needed prior council approval. Council member Jason Woody questioned Earley, “Was it in the budget to purchase those items?”
Earley answered Woody that all purchases were in the budget and offered to code his budget showing where each line item is taken from.
In the police department bills was an invoice for $702.08 for new tires (including balancing and mounting) for a Tahoe.
While Earley agreed that moving forward he would seek approval on expenditures over $500, he added, “There’s a few things in a police department that, if we have a few blow outs on our vehicles, I can’t wait to get tires for a vehicle. I have to get our vehicle back on the road.”
Earley suggested that he meet with council to go over necessities for the department and get an ongoing pre-approval of certain items that his department needs to function immediately, so that if need arose he would already have the go ahead to purchase.
Council agreed to this suggestion by Earley.
Moving forward the City Council agreed that all department purchases over $500, that is nonessential for the department’s continued operation, would need to have prior approval before spending can take place.
McCaysville, Ga. – Reimbursement of grant money, or lack thereof, was a major point of discussion at the Jan. McCaysville City Council meeting, and based on the discussion, taxpayers could be on the hook for over $300,000 in park renovations.
“Mayor, I hate to beat a dead horse, but have we got our money back for the park yet?” former Council Member Rodney Patterson spoke during public commentary.
The approved grant for the City of McCaysville from Georgia One was in the amount of up to $500,000 and was to be used for improvements to the city park. According to the grant the city is responsible for any initial costs and if guidelines are properly followed, the city would be reimbursed for monies spent.
McCaysville City Attorney Cortney Staurt stated that the grant had very “specific guidelines” and while she personally had not had any involvement with the grant process, she is aware of the issues being faced with getting reimbursement.
“There are reasons that it has been denied, or is in the process of being approved, that is a better way to put it,” Stuart spoke to the citizens and council, “The quick answer is, they (Georgia One) need more information. It needs to be resubmitted with the correct information, and then at that point we will know whether or not they approved it.”
If not approved, tax payers could be shelling out $342,459.35 to cover the costs of work already completed and this amount according to Patterson was never approved by the council to be spent: “I’m still trying to figure out how you (Mayor Seabolt) spent $342,459.35 out of the city budget and never got approval for it.”
The grant outlines that any jobs over $100,000 must be put out to bid. The city, however, used a sole source provider to complete these jobs. The jobs were finished and paid for in Sep. 2019.
“That didn’t happen,” Stuart said of the city receiving bids but added, “My understanding, there were bids, they just wasn’t submitted to the city.”
Now the city is in the process of tracking down these possible bids in order to resubmit paperwork for reimbursement.
So how did the City of McCaysville end up in this predicament?
According to Patterson and Stuart, there was a series of missteps that took place in the process.
Initially Paragon Consulting Group, Inc. a company out of Griffin, Ga., was hired to oversee the work done at the park, but several people felt that their spending was more than necessary, and upon the recommendation of Mayor Thomas Seabolt and citizen Ann Williams, Paragon Consulting Group, Inc. was let go.
“I was opposed to ever hiring Paragon in the first place,” Stuart spoke on this move and added of who took over the project, “In my opinion I think the Revitalization Committee is great but they should not have that power and they have too much power right now. They have way too much power. They are making council decisions and they should not be able to.”
While Stuart stated that the Revitalization Committee is “not a bad thing”, she did feel that specific guidelines need to be publicly made clear to the committee, namely that they cannot purchase on behalf of the city and that all purchases should be approved by the city council: “I’m not saying the Revitalization Committee is bad. I’m saying, somehow, all this money got spent and the council didn’t approve it.”
“It has got us in problems,” Stuart acknowledged about the actions taken by the Revitalization Committee without City Council oversight.
Another point of contention surrounds Ann Williams, who was paid $15,000 by the city for continuing the grant writing process.
It was noted during commentary that Williams was paid out of General Fund money that would not be reimbursed and that she had subcontracted the work to a person in Blairsville.
On the subject of Ann Williams receiving the grant writing contract, Stuart shared her opinion, “I do know that she got a contract. Which I was completely opposed to.”
Patterson questioned Mayor Seabolt about Williams and the possibility of the city not being reimbursed, “Does she got to pay back the $15,000 if we lose the grant? Or did we just give it to her?”
City Council plans to meet with the Revitalization Committee to discuss moving forward on city improvements in the future and establish clear guidelines between the two groups.
The city is also in the process of gathering more information to resubmit to Georgia One in hopes that the $342,459.35 will be reimbursed.
When questioned directly by Patterson about when the city will see the reimbursement, Seabolt simply replied, “I’m working on it. It will come. Just don’t worry about it.”
McCaysville, Ga. – The final 2019 meeting of the McCaysville City Council was anything but business as usual, as conversations aimed at the Mayor became heated and accusations came to light.
Council member Rodney Patterson, who ran against Mayor Thomas Seabolt in the recent city election, used his last meeting with the council to “clear his conscious”. Patterson brought to the forefront some of the issues that he felt the re-elected Seabolt was not being completely transparent about.
The first of Patterson’s reveals were the Mayor’s reimbursement filings for the use of his personal vehicle to conduct city business. According to Patterson, Seabolt had turned in $2,055 in claimed vehicle expenditures last year.
“That’s equivalent to 822 gallons of gas at $2.50 a gallon,” Patterson said explaining his concern and added, “That’s 12,335 miles at 15 miles per gallon.”
Patterson questioned Seabolt if he had done that many miles in less than a 2 square mile city. Seabolt responded, “I might have. I don’t know.”
Seabolt pointed out that the amount also covers “wear and tear” on the vehicle and that he had adhered to the City Charter when turning in his expenditures.
Council member Richard Wagner came to Seabolt’s defense stating that the expenditures also cover vehicle insurance: “I don’t think it’s being abused at all.”
“I’ve never turned in no expense,” Patterson retorted, stating that he has used his personal vehicle for city business as well, “I figured the $200 a month (city council salary) they give me was fair enough for me to do my traveling.”
Patterson then turned his attention to recent renovations being completed at the city park. $28,000 was set aside for renovations of the park’s restrooms. This remodel was to include five toilets and one urinal.
Beavers Home Improvement was put in charge of the job and the city did manage to stay under budget only spending $23,346. However, renovations were not done as expected. Patterson pointed out that the restrooms ended up only having 3 toilets and one urinal, and that no insulation or heating and cooling were put into place, so the restrooms could not even be left open during the Winter months due to the threat of freezing pipes.
A citizen in the audience, a former plumber with over 30 years experience, chimed in on the restroom issue.
“I’ve never seen a job that was done so shabby,” the citizen addressed Seabolt speaking of pipes being installed at improper heights and the lack of quality of the fixtures.
The citizen went on to express his feelings on the possibility of nepotism playing a role: “This man is not a plumber. He is not a qualified contractor. He’s not licensed, but yet he gets a job to go down there and gets paid by the city and his mother’s on the council. This is not right.”
Wondering why the job wasn’t inspected before payment was given the citizen summed up his feelings by stating, “I’ve never in my life seen my tax dollars thrown down the drain like I did down there.”
Although the restroom remodel came in under budget, the park budget itself is $42,459 over the original $300,000 agreed upon by council to spend. Patterson asked Seabolt why the city had not been reimbursed through grant money for the amount spent on the park, and wondered if the city would see the reimbursement at all. Patterson felt the bid process was not done properly by the city and this could disqualify them for reimbursement.
Lastly, Patterson questioned why city employees were driving a Class A vehicle without a CDL license.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, a Class A CDL is required to drive tractor-trailer, or combination vehicles that have a gross combined weight rating of 26,001 pounds or higher with the towed portion of the vehicle that weighing more than 10,000 lbs.
“Why did we not send them to Tri County?” Patterson questioned about the licensing, saying that he had brought this issue to the council before and it was brushed aside. “I just want to know why our employees is driving around illegally in a CDL Vehicle, and there is not a single employee in the City of McCaysville that is licensed to drive it.”
Patterson pointed out the liability to the city and asked City Attorney Cortney Stuart what would be the end result if there were an accident in the vehicle without proper licensing. Stuart replied, “It’s a problem.”
Seabolt also took criticism from citizens in the audience.
Tamberlyn Tanner addressed the workload that McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley has taken on. Earley gives monthly updates at City Council meetings, and usually these updates pertain to more than just police business.
In these updates Earley will often speak of upkeep taking place within the city. It is clear from the updates that Earley is the point of contact on many projects including roadwork, bridge inspection, and city infrastructure.
Tanner expressed that these responsibilities should fall on the Mayor and not the city’s Chief of Police.
“How are you supposed to do your job plus do his job?” Tanner spoke to Earley and then turned to Seabolt, “You’ve added things on his plate that you should be doing and you should be taking care of, not him.”
Tanner said that Earley’s main concern should be to protect and serve the citizens of the city, and wonders how he can continue to do so when new responsibilities are being added to his plate regularly.
This turned into a heated debate between Tanner and Seabolt about Seabolt’s inability or unwillingness to handle the responsibilities of mayor with Seabolt finally stating to Tanner, “I’m not going to sit here and listen to you.”
“Well, you will because I pay taxes here,” Tanner replied.
Seabolt offered no further explanations or defense during the public comments and adjourned the meeting.
Featured Image : Previous McCaysville City Council meeting. (L-R) Rodney Patterson, Richard Wagner, Thomas Seabolt, and Larry Collis
Blue Ridge, Ga. – City Council, along with the Mayor, say that a sidewalk ordinance is in the works. Still in the beginning stages, the sidewalk ordinance stands to address complaints and concerns expressed by local business owners and visitors.
Drew Dillard, owner of Juliana’s Boutique, a clothing and accessory shop on East Main Street, spoke to council about his personal dealings with a particular street performer who regularly sets up in front of his store.
“For the last year I’ve had a street performer set up outside of my store over two dozen times,” Dillard spoke during the Blue Ridge City Council meeting, “He has a donation bucket, a microphone stand, an umbrella , an umbrella stand, his guitar case, a speaker and a large piece of luggage that he uses to role all of his equipment in.”
Dillard pointed out that this vendor essentially blocks the sidewalk and he has witnessed pedestrians having to walk into the street to get around the performer. He questioned if this would cause a liability issue for the city should there be an accident.
The noise from the performer, however, was Dillard’s main complaint when addressing the council. In order to combat the music being played by the performer, Dillard says he has to close the doors to his shop and turn up his own music: “I have had dozens of customers who have complained to me about it, and there’s nothing I can do because there’s no ordinance in place.”
Beyond the noise, liability, and inconvenience street vendors could cause in the city, Dillard also pointed out that “legitimate business owners” also pay a plethora of fees and taxes, including licenses fees, property taxes, and individual taxes. Local businesses also collect sales tax which in turn gets reinvested in our community.
Dillard suggested that vendors should pay a permit fee and that the city could designate areas for them to set up.
Upon Dillard completing his argument, Mayor Donna Whitener immediately replied that an ordinance was already being worked out.
Council member Nathan Fitts backed Dillard’s complaints stating, “I’ve had several complaints and phone calls too.”
“Just so you know we’ve already started that process,” City Attorney James Balli spoke of city efforts on the matter.
Balli pointed out that the city has to do its due diligence in composing the ordinance and must be careful in the wording due to First Amendment rights. The City of McCaysville passed a vendor ordinance earlier this year that was met with controversy for this reason after a street preacher claimed that preaching was no longer allowed on the streets.
Regardless of the wait while an ordinance is being drafted, Balli did say referencing the safety and liability issues: “There may be some other things that can be done if someone is blocking the sidewalk.”
McCaysville, Ga. – Polls have closed and votes have been tallied in the City of McCaysville 2019 General Election.
The hot topic on the ballot for this 2019 election was Sunday alcohol sales within city limits. The proposal and reading of the new ordinance was met with little opposition and overwhelming favor at public hearings and City Council meetings.
Although, there appeared to be little opposition to the new ordinance the final count of the votes told a different story with the votes being split on the yes/no question.
Ordinance 19-08-13 currently reads that a licensed establishment within city limits would be allowed “Sunday sales of malt beverages and wine for consumption on the premises”.
These sales can include beer or wine (hard ciders will also be allowed) on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m.
Voters ultimately decided to allow these sales with a final tally of:
- Yes (in favor) – 90
- No (opposed) – 87
Thomas Seabolt will remain as Mayor of McCaysville, beating out opponent Rodney Patterson. Incumbents Larry Collis and Sue Beaver will also remain as members on the City Council. Newcomers Gilta Carter, Susan Kiker, and Jason Woody will take the three seats vacated by previous council members.
***These election results are unofficial until being certified by the Secretary of State’s office***
- Thomas Seabolt – 117
- Rodney Patterson – 63
- Jason Woody – 146
- Gilta Carter -131
- Larry Collis – 122
- Susan Kiker – 120
- Sue Beaver – 112
- Steve Stanley – 93
- Tamberlyn Tanner – 48
- Nathan Turpin – 69
McCaysville, Ga. – Voters will have a lot to decide in the upcoming Nov.5 election in the City of McCaysville. Early voting officially opens Monday, Oct. 14 and will run through Friday, Nov. 1.
Early voters can cast their ballots at the McCaysville City Hall, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The hot topic on the ballot for this 2019 election is Sunday alcohol sales within city limits. The proposal and reading of the new ordinance was met with little opposition and overwhelming favor at public hearings and City Council meetings.
Ordinance 19-08-13 currently reads that a licensed establishment within city limits would be allowed “Sunday sales of malt beverages and wine for consumption on the premises”.
These sales can include beer or wine (hard ciders will also be allowed) on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m.
Establishments, serving alcohol, who stay open beyond 45 minutes of the allowed alcohol sales time window are subject to legal action. No alcohol sales will be allowed on Christmas Day in city limits.
Voters will be asked to answer yes or no to the following question:
“Shall the governing authority of the City of McCaysville Georgia be authorized to permit and regulate Sunday sales of distilled spirits or alcoholic beverages for beverage purposes by the drink?”
McCaysville City Attorney Cortney Stuart clarified that the current ordinance will not allow for the sale of hard liquor even though wording on the ballot suggests otherwise. Staurt explained that by law the term “distilled spirits” had to be included on the ballot.
“Distilled spirits is liquor,” Staurt said explaining the wording, “however, in the City of McCaysville, now as the ordinance stands, there is only malt beverages and wine allowed inside the City of McCaysville.”
Staurt did confirm that future councils would have the option of amending the alcohol ordinance to allow liquor sales.
New faces will also be seen on the City Council following the 2019 election. Current council members Tommy Quintrell and Richard Wagner will not be seeking re-election. Council member Rodney Patterson will also be vacating his seat in his bid to become McCaysville’s next mayor.
In total at least 3 seats on the 5 person council will be vacant for newcomers. Voters will decide the next 5 members by popular vote and will have the following to choose from:
- Larry Collis (Incumbent)
- Sue Beaver (Incumbent)
- Gilta Carter
- Jason Woody
- Susan Kiker
- Steve Stanley
- Tamberlyn Tanner
- Nathan Turpin
Voters will also need to decide between incumbent Thomas Seabolt or challenger Rodney Patterson for seat of Mayor.
The General Election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 5. Voters can cast their ballots at McCaysville City Hall on the day of the General Election or during the designated early voting times.
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