Blue Ridge, Ga. – “I believe that smaller government is better government, but I also believe that in areas where government does play a legitimate role we should demand that it is done better.” Former Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker spoke these words that echo true in the thoughts of many Americans across the nation. Here at home, in Fannin County, we are seeing the literal effects of these words when put into action.
Zack Ratcliff, Director of Public Works in Fannin County, has not only managed to cut the department’s expenses by close to $1,000,000 in just two years but his management has also led the Public Works department to more than double productivity in many areas.
In 2016 the Public Works department had 53 employees with a budget of $1,826,505 in payroll alone. The number of employees dramatically decreased by 2017 to 35. This brought payroll expenditures down to $1,308,744.
By 2018 employee total for the department sits at 36 with a payroll of $1,289,868. This alone has brought a little over $500,000 in savings to taxpayers each year.
“Any time you have change in administration or management there has always been that old fear, you hear that term cleaning house, you (Ratcliff) didn’t do that,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton said clarifying what allowed Ratcliff to make these cuts in payroll. “What you came out there and did, you set a standard of what was expected of employees.You raised the bar.”
Ratcliff confirmed Helton’s statement by saying that upon becoming the Director of Public Works he has only had one termination in the department.
With the department now having roughly two-thirds of the employees held in 2016, one would assume productivity or quality would be lacking, but Public Works has sacrificed neither of these by streamlining the department, and the number of jobs completed each year is actually on the rise.
In the last year, roughly 117 miles of road have been restriped, 12 miles of road have been paved, 25 miles of road have been chip and sealed, the Aska Transfer Station also received chip and seal, as well as the Recreation Center parking area, 28 culverts have been installed, 600 road signs have been cleaned and straightened, and 649 new road signs were created for use throughout the county.
Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson commented on how this kind of productivity saves money for residents: “The numbers that I see that aren’t reflected in these numbers, of other savings, is when you chip and seal a road, that is that many roads we’re not having to gravel, to grade or to maintain, other than clogged ditches and what have you. So really it’s hard to put a number on that (indirect savings).”
Ratcliff has also managed to cut costs by strategically coordinating work done throughout the county. By coming up with a well mapped plan for the year, the department has cut time and fuel by focusing on specific areas within the county to complete multiple projects.
Along with cutting costs, Ratcliff has added over $85,000 back to the county’s General Fund through selling the department’s older vehicles and equipment.
While the payroll is the most dramatic of the savings, other areas have improved in expenditures as well. The Fuel Master system was installed to track fuel use leading to greater accountability, through negotiations with various vendors the county is now receiving 2-10 percent discounts on its bills, and a new uniform provider was found that can provide uniforms at half the cost that the county was previously paying.
Ratcliff credits the success of the Public Works department to the employees in it and stated of the workers, “My crew is an efficient crew. Everybody’s professional.”
Johnson spoke of the dramatic affect one department can have on Fannin County as a whole, “These numbers right here is what keeps Fannin County’s millage rate the lowest in the state.”
“I think this is a great example of being able to professionally manage a department and do it effectively,” Helton added his thoughts on the accomplishments of the Public Works department, “That’s real money. That’s big time money.”
The 2017 audit showed the initial savings of the now more efficient Public Works department as being $999,333.
When asked what motivates him to continue to look for ways to improve the department and save taxpayers money Ratcliff simply replied, “I’m a public servant.”
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on July 14th, 2015. The meeting took place just a few hours after a court decision in favor of Fannin County Post Commissioners Earl Johnson and Larry Joe Sosebee. A lawsuit filed by Commission Chair Bill Simonds against the post commissioners, seeking sole control of hiring and firing of Department Heads in the County was dismissed in a court proceeding in Fannin.
The meeting began with approval of minutes and a 1st vote on Home Rule Spending Limit Ordinance. Comments from the Commissioners appeared to show effort of trying to put the court case behind them and moving forward to do the work elected to do for Fannin County. Commission Chair Simonds response did not give a definite answer as to whether he will appeal.
Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran and Personal Property Appraiser Yvonne Middlebrook spoke to the Commissioners concerning the personal property laws as pertains to the Tax Assessor’s office. The pair sought the “agreement” if you will from the Commissioners for the Tax Assessor’s office to follow the law and send certified letters, followed by subpoenas, in circumstances where businesses failed to respond to the request for inventory information. There was not a specific name mentioned during this time however we were left with an impression it was a sizeable business that was not in compliance. The Commission Board moved and agreed to the request showing its support. While it is not necessary for a vote from the Commission Board to follow the law, the support for the proper action to take place was shown by the vote.
Additional business of the County saw the approval of the upcoming expenditures to move from $2500 to $4500 through resolution. There was comments (opposition) if you will from someone stating this was not the legal way to change this, asking if it shouldn’t be done by an ordinance change. Lynn Doss, County Attorney, replied, in essence, the amount was under a previous higher amount, therefore it shouldn’t be a problem.
There was discussion on the 10% Splost and a motion and move to begin investigation into the a new Fannin County Fire Department. Currently the Fire Department is housed downtown in a small and difficult in and out location. The property for a new facility has been purchased and it appears early planning stages will begin. There was also a motion and a move which was passed to pay for the new facility from Splost. Mr. Johnson saying, “People like to touch how the tax money is spent.”
During public commentary concerns regarding a bonus to Marie Woody was questioned. The bonus was given by the Water Authority however it was claimed the $1200 check was written out of the Splost account. Some from the crowd said they heard from rumor and asked for transparency. Lynn Doss, County Attorney, stood and replied the meeting of the Water Authority, where the decision was made to give the bonus, was public.
Ending comments from the Commissioners seemed to show a sign of relief for having the court case behind it and Earl Johnson made the point of having 3 working on decisions was a better scenario for the taxpayers of Fannin County. Johnson referred to a list of roads to be paved he had received in the mail, explaining it would make sense for the 3 to meet on these matters since he could use his expertise in paving to negotiate better pricing for the County. Hopefully the Commissioners will move forward and work together.