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.

 

 

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

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Tourism brings big dollars to Fannin County

Community, Fannin County Chamber, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – There is no denying that our area is a hot spot for tourists and the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce gave a 2018 update letting citizens know just how much money our thriving tourist industry is bringing to our area.

Last year alone, $39 million was collected in local lodging tax by both the City of Blue Ridge and Fannin County.

“That’s just the ones who pay the tax,” Jan Hackett, President of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce spoke of the significance of these numbers, “so anyone out there who is an Airbnb or a VRBO who is not paying the tax is not in that number.”

In recent years Georgia Tech teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce to do a study on our economic impact numbers. According to Hackett the purpose of this study was to determine the amount of dollars spent in our local economy based on the lodging taxes collected.

Georgia Tech was able to produce an equation that they felt would portray an accurate number based on percentages of sales in direct comparison with lodging taxes.

“Based on their percentages the amount of money that visitors spent directly was $170.5 million dollars,” Hackett said explaining the findings for calendar year 2018 and added that this number is based on overnight visitors alone and does not account for day trippers and our area’s population of second home owners.

According to these numbers and based on SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) collections last year, overnight visitors made up roughly a third of all retail sales in the county. SPLOST reported a record breaking $555 million is sales last year for Fannin County.

Hackett broke down the numbers into a daily average. On average per day lodging brings in $100,795 and visitors spend roughly $484,375. This equates to $39,347 of taxes collected locally.

While our county can become crowded due to the visitors, there is a definite positive impact these visitors bring with them. Roughly one-third of the jobs in Fannin County (excluding governmental) are supported by the tourist industry, and all the extra revenue saves residents approximately $865 in taxation per household.

Hackett pointed out that in 2001: “At that point in time we had less in retail sales than any county in the four around us.” These counties include Fannin, Glimer, Pickens, and Union.

Fast forward to recent years and Fannin County is now leading the way in retail sales and economic growth. A comparison shows that in 2001 retail sales were approximately $150 million and in 2018 retail sales were $555,697,658.

With the lodging tax now being split 50/50 between the chamber and the county, Hackett reported that the decrease from the 70 percent that the chamber previously received has not posed any negative effect on the ability to market our area.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton explains where the extra revenue the county is now getting from the split in lodging tax is being spent, “When we adjusted this ratio between the board of commissioners and the chamber, our intent was to take half of that increase and put it into safety.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson is credited with the idea of investing the funds into public safety, and had pointed out in previous meetings that his reasoning is simply with more people visiting and more events being held in our area there becomes an increased demand for emergency services to be provided.

Up next for the Chamber of Commerce is to continue to promote growth and visitation in our area. Hackett said of moving forward, “Our mission is only to help make Fannin County a better place to live, work and play.”

The chamber has recently focused efforts into making the Copper Basin area a desirable place to visit and has teamed up with the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government Study to produce an in depth study of McCaysville, Copperhill, and Ducktown.

“The Carl Vinson Institute is doing a kind of strategic planning process for McCaysville, Copperhill, and Ducktown….the Copper Basin,” Hackett said of the partnership and added that she is expecting the study to be complete by the end of February.

The study and planning will work to make the Copper Basin area a more appealing place to work, live and visit. Its focus is to re-brand the area. Under the name the Copper Basin Renaissance, the partnership with UGA is focusing its campaign on the slogan “Copper Basin. Too Great for One State”.

Hackett said of the chamber’s focus, “As Blue Ridge has gotten more crowded, it only makes since to try to do more in McCaysville and Copper Hill and the Basin, so that when visitors are here we’ll have them spread out in the county.”

The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce debuted a new website that went live in March of last year. 617,905 users visited the site and of those users 82 percent were new.

The new design of the website landed the chamber a prestigious Silver Adrian Award from the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.

“To give you an idea of what an honor that is, the Jackson Hole Wyoming website also won a silver,” Hackett said of the accomplishment.

The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce plans to continue efforts in 2019 to once again bring in record numbers to our area and help define Fannin County as a resilient place to visit or to make home.

Featured Image: A small sample of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce new award winning website.

 

 

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

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North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network continues to provide much needed services in our area

Community, News, Non Profit

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network (NGMCN) is not often highlighted among the nonprofit charities in our community. With the sensitive nature of the services they provide, it is a fine line that the charity must walk in order to financially continue operations and still protect the anonymity of the victims who seek their help.

Fannin County, North Georgia, North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Victims, Advocacy, Services, Awareness, Shelter, Board Member, Steven Miracle, Executive Director, Julie Welch, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson

NGMCN has two thrift stores, one located in Blue Ridge and one in McCaysville. Both stores help to provide financial assistance to the charity organization.

Started in 1986, the NGMCN is entering its 33 year of service.

“There are a lot of non profit organizations in our community providing care and support to residents of Fannin County,” NGMCN Board Member Steven Miracle said explaining where the charity’s services fall, “Our mission is to provide safety and support to survivors and their children of sexual abuse and domestic violence.”

Miracle went on to explain that there are four major areas in which the organization focuses:

  • Sexual Assault. Through NGMCN victims of sexual assault are provided counseling and support services to help navigate them through a very difficult time.
  • Domestic Violence. While NGMCN offers the counseling and services to victims of domestic violence as it does to victims of sexual assault, it also offers shelter to house these victims and their children.
  • Legal Advocacy. NGMCN has a trained staff that will help victims navigate the sometimes daunting legal system.
  • Education Awareness. NGMCN helps to spread the word of domestic and sexual violence through community outreach. This includes working hand in hand with law enforcement, hospitals, and different organizations that provide services to these victims.

In 2018, NGMCN housed 129 residents at their shelter. This accounted for 3,173 bed/nights (a measure of occupancy for one person assigned to one bed for one night). Residents of the shelter were also provided with well over 10,000 units of service.

“That’s actually sitting across from a survivor and their children within the shelter to be able to make phone calls, to be able to help them with any type of individual support,” NGMCN Executive Director Julie Welch explained the term “units of service”.

Outreach clients or those who did not require a shelter stay for last year totaled 158 clients and 8,700 units of service.

So far in 2019 the charity has already provided 380 bed/nights, 87 hotline calls, and 600 units of service.

Once a victim has stayed at the NGMCN shelter, the services continue even after that person has checked out. The charity works with community services in the area that the victim chooses to move to and helps provide a network of resources.

Welch said of this work, “That way we can provide a net of services so they don’t fall through the cracks.”

Over $60,000 were provided to those who reached out to NGMCN in 2018. This financial assistance is used when a client leaving a threatening situation has no source of income initially or is needed as short-term emergency funds.

Fannin County, North Georgia, North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Victims, Advocacy, Services, Awareness, Shelter, Board Member, Steven Miracle, Executive Director, Julie Welch, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson

NGMCN will host a 5k run or 1 mile walk on April 13, 2019 in downtown Blue Ridge.

“The fact that we are part of the budget is very much appreciated,” Miracle spoke to the Fannin County Board of Commissioners about the role the county plays, “and the support that you provide in helping us provide services to survivors and victims of our community is very, very much appreciated.”

Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson shared his thoughts, “I admire what you do because quite simply, every situation you deal with is not a good situation, and you continually do it and your passion about what you do and everything that your organization does do, no one knows. I admire people who work behind the scenes. They do the things that they do. They don’t do it for any glamour or glory, they do it just for the reason you all do it because that’s what you feel like you should do.”

Welch acknowledged that it takes many volunteers, staff, and the community as a whole to provide these services: “It’s not just us. There’s a whole host of other people. It’s a team and working with law enforcement, the judicial system, hospitals…it’s completely a team and community effort.”

“I know some people that you literally saved their lives,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton thanked Miracle and Welch for the work they do. “Getting them out of situations that are horrendous. I’m not sure how many people in the county are aware of what a great thing you do. You do such a great thing for the community.”

There are currently 49 clients in their legal advocacy program and NGMCN is housing 14 people in their 12 bed shelter.

“Often times we will have moms that come in that will have small children,” Welch explained the high occupancy.

NGMCN serves both men and women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. They hope by promoting education and awareness in these areas that eventually the cycle of abuse will come to an end.

 

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

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Natalie Kissel

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Advanced Disposal contract up for discussion

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Tony Sidebotham, Advanced Disposal Operations Manager for the North Georgia Area, met with the Board of Commissioners (BOC) recently to discuss the terms of the upcoming waste disposal contract renewal.


The current contract was signed and agreed upon 2016, and is up for renewal on Sept. 1 of this year. According to the current contract the county must give Advanced Disposal 180 day notice if there are requests for changes or negotiation discussions that need to take place.


Currently Fannin County pays $54.16 per ton for waste disposal, and in the current contract this price is subject to increase by three percent annually. Advanced Disposal has approximately 150 to 170 tons of waste that move through their facilities daily.


“So your company hasn’t gotten to a point to where you felt like it would be fair not to utilize the three percent increase?” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson questioned and added that at the current rate the county will be paying close to $60.00 per ton by the end of another 3 year contract. “$60.00 per ton is quite a bit higher than surrounding areas.”


Sidebotham explained that the three percent increase covers his cost of operations. He told commissioners that not only does pricing go up for the services Advanced Disposal utilizes but he also has to consider his employees and their raise requests and benefits.


Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton questioned how Fannin County’s pricing compares to those of surrounding counties.


“It’s hard to compare contract to contract,” Sidebotham replied and explained that each county has different needs and different circumstances.


One of the circumstances affecting the pricing in Fannin County is that with the exception of the Aska Road facility, which is county owned property, Advanced Disposal owns its own properties in the county.


Helton further questioned, “Is it feasible to look, if we own one facility of having a different rate at the place we own?”


Sidebotham replied that anything is up for discussion, and acknowledged the Union County does have different pricing because the county owns its own facilities.


“It’s going to hard because they own their facilities and in other counties they (the counties) own their facilities, so in the years past these contracts, being as they own the only transfer station in the county, our rates are automatically going to be higher,” Johnson expressed his opinion on what drives the pricing higher for our area.


Johnson also pointed out that when the contract was last up for renewal Advanced Disposal was the only bidder: “We’re where we’re at because there’s one company. You can’t get a competing price when no one else will bid.”


Johnson pointed out that Fannin County only allows for one transfer company to be present. He feels that this also plays a role in being unable to obtaining competing pricing.


Glass recycling was also discussed as it has been a concern for numerous residents since the option of recycling glass was discontinued.


As for now it looks like the possibility of this recycling option will not return to Fannin County. Sidebotham explains, “The easiest way I can explain it is, there’s no easy way to recycle glass now a days. For companies that recycle glass the most profitable way to make a return on it is to sort it by color and so to do that you need a large area of space, a large area to heat the glass. And then the shipping of it, there’s no returns on it. Even recyclers that we use, they’ve all gone away. There’s no place for us to get rid of the glass.”

A glass recycling facility in Pa. shows the large property needed to accommodate this type of recycling.


Advanced Disposal and their employees have taken proactive steps to become a positive impact on the community during the current contract.
Recently the business agreed to extend holiday hours in an effort to help Fannin County with their unique circumstances that causes an influx of visitors during these time.


Previously the waste disposal facilities in Fannin County were closed six days a year in observance of different holidays. Advanced Disposal agreed to open half days for three of these major holidays (Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Memorial Day) and only remain closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year day.


Advanced Disposal has also donated dumpsters and containers for community clean up events, and have recently agreed to pick up certain colored garbage bags from sides of roadways where litter collection has taken place.


The Fannin County Fire Department also benefits from the collection of aluminum cans at the Advanced Disposal sites. 100 percent of proceeds from these collections go to fund the fire department’s educational outreach programs.


A full time litter personnel was recently hired and will soon be seen in Fannin County two days a week to help combat the ongoing litter issue.


Sidebotham expressed that he would continue efforts at the facilities to hold trash haulers responsible for securing their loads. He explained that aside from having clear signage posted pertaining to the law, with first time offenders he often will have them pull to the side and secure their load before being allowed to tip.


“I have found that sometimes the inconvenience of having to do that, you know taking an extra 10 – 15 minutes, the next time they come through they would know that it has to be secured,” Sidebotham said of the effect the effort has on those pulled aside.


A new scale house will be seen at the Hwy. 60 waste disposal facility. The scalehouse will be placed to allow direct and immediate contact between Advanced Disposal personnel and drivers. This move will help to combat the issue of unsecured loads as well, as it can be addressed immediately upon the vehicle entering the scales.


While negotiations are expected to take place concerning the current waste disposal contract, all three commissioners acknowledged the work being done by Advanced Disposal in Fannin County and showed appreciation for the company’s willingness to get involved.

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

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Natalie Kissel

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$1,000,000 in savings. Public Works cuts budget and raises productivity.

Community, News

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

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County Fire Department upgrades life saving equipment

Community, Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – “I would like to say at this time, thanks to the public for the donations, and the taxpayers here in the county that are taking care of us,” Fannin County Fire Chief Larry Thomas spoke to the Board of Commissioners (BOC) on Tuesday about the purchase of new equipment for the department.

The Fannin County Fire Department will see an upgrade to their life-saving hydraulic extraction tools, better known as the Jaws of Life.

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Fire Chief, Fannin County Fire Department, EMS, EMA, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Larry Thomas, HURST, Jaws of Life, Equipment Upgrade, volunteers, public, donations

An example of Jaws of Life being used for extrication.

Thomas informed the BOC that volunteer firefighters had voted late in 2018 to use money from their donation account to purchase the new equipment: “The volunteers, in one of our volunteer meetings, voted to go ahead and start upgrading the Jaws of Life, the extrication tools that we carry on some of our vehicles.”

After researching pricing, the fire department chose to go with Hurst to provide this new equipment. Hurst now provides a battery operated version of this tool that can be operated by a single person.

This upgrade will save time for local rescuers who are often put in situations where every minute matters.

“Before, in the beginning, way back, it took two people to use a set of jaws,” Thomas said explaining the importance of the equipment upgrade.
The total price for three new sets of Jaws of Life would come to approximately $60,000. Thomas explained that his department had already put $17,000 towards this total with the intention of applying another $7,300 in the near future.

Although the fire department has enough funds available in the donation account, Thomas stated that they would like to finance the remaining amount of approximately $35,000 as to not deplete all monies currently in the donation account.

In order finance this remaining balance, Fannin County would need to “cosign” for the loan, as most banks cannot loan to volunteer groups.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson asked for clarification on the terms of the loan being sought, to which Thomas replied that they would be seeking a three year repayment period.

Although the loan terms would be set for three years, Thomas stated, “We’re hoping to pay it off next year” and pointed to the history the department has with paying off any loan debt before the loan fully matures.

“I think it’s a great thing really,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton expressed his opinion before the vote. “I appreciate the volunteers and the money they have brought in to pay for equipment that is going to serve the public.”

The three commissioners voted in favor of signing off on a loan for the fire department, and bringing this life saving upgrade to the county.

 

 

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

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Natalie Kissel

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Compromise reached on Tax Assessors budget

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Talks surrounding the 2019 Tax Assessor budget continued at Tuesday evening’s Board of Commissioner (BOC) meeting, and for the time being a compromise was met between the BOC and the Board of Assessors (BOA).

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Board of Tax Assessors, Tax Assessors, Chier Appraiser, GMASS, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Dawn Cochran, Janie Bearden, Troy Junnier, Mark Henson, Anthony Holloway, Angelina Powell, 2019 Budget, Consent, Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services

The Board of Commissioners look over numbers for the proposed Tax Assessor budget.

A tentative budget of $633,493 was passed for the Tax Assessors department in Dec. of 2018. This budget included $223,000 for a contract with Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services (GMASS) to help conduct appraisals in Fannin County and to remain in compliance with the state of Georgia.

After budget cuts within the department, Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran presented a counter-proposal  to the BOC in the amount of $683,209.22, roughly a $50,000 difference from the already approved budget.

The newly requested budget from Cochran only set aside $28,800 for services provided by GMASS. This amount includes two contracts in which the BOA would like to enter with GMASS.

The first of these contracts would be for rural land revaluation. “The total for that is approximately $18,300,” Cochran said explaining the breakdown of the two contracts, “and the reason that we have to have an approximate is the timber land reviews is based off of sales.”

The second contract in the amount of $10,500 would be for mapping. Recently, the BOA voted to restructure the GIS (Geographic Information System) department, in an attempt to decrease the overall budget. This move resulted in the loss of an employee.

All three county commissioners voted in favor of entering into these two contracts with GMASS.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton who previously stated, “I was elected to look after the taxpayers dollars and I’m not going to back off of challenging any department if I feel like we’ve got ways to improve and bring greater value to the tax paying citizens of the county. They deserve that and that’s what they’re going to get,” held true to his word.

Helton noted that the difference between the initial monies set aside for GMASS assistance and the monies needed for the two contracts would be approximately $194,200. He recommended moving that difference to the departments salaries and benefits without increasing the budget.

“We could cut the budget further,” Helton spoke of voting to amend certain line items, “or we could reapply that to other line items, which I would make the assumption that you would want to apply that back to employee benefits, salaries and social security.”

Cochran and newly appointed BOA chairman Troy Junnier argued that this amount would not be enough to cover all salaries and that further employees would have to be cut.

“We’re down from 15 to 11,” Cochran stated of the current number of employees, and went further to say that without the extra $50,000 requested two to three employees could lose employment.

“What we see here is a trend that it is improving,” speaking of the Tax Assessor’s proposed budget, Post 2 Commissioner Glenn Patterson added, “Budget cuts are always difficult and we can see there that they are trying.You can look at Ms. Cochran’s budget and she’s not spent all of her budget.”

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Board of Tax Assessors, Tax Assessors, Chier Appraiser, GMASS, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Dawn Cochran, Janie Bearden, Troy Junnier, Mark Henson, Anthony Holloway, Angelina Powell, 2019 Budget, Consent, Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services

Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran goes over GMASS contracts approved by the BOA.

Patterson, showing favor of the amendment, spoke to his fellow commissioners and members of the BOA: “I would like for us to have a better partnership and to have a good working relationship. I feel like in supporting this amendment that it would boost the spirits and morale showing them some support.”

“I’m glad to see some of these numbers coming down,” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson addressed Cochran and Junnier, “By all of us having a dialogue for the first time in my six years of being here, people on different sides of the coin, at this point, the Tax Assessors Board and the Board of Commissioners, at this point, have somehow or another come up with $200,000 worth of savings in a two month period.”

“I feel like we can get the job done,” Cochran made one last case for the requested amendment, “The $50,000 lies within salaries, so you have employees right now that have been up in the air on whether or not they are going to have their jobs from November to December to January, and it’s really hard to hold a group and keep a team pushing forward under the circumstances.”

After brief discussion Helton reiterated his stance, “Anyway you look at it, it’s (Tax Assessor budget) absolutely the highest than any of the other counties, and I feel very strongly that we’ve got to get that back and I’m prepared to do that.”

Patterson made a motion to approve the amended budget giving the Tax Assessors office the requested $683,209.22. This motion, however, failed due to a lack of a second.

To this, Johnson presented a compromise of approving an extra $25,000 for the budget to meet halfway: “My motion would be that, much to my disagreement with it, I would meet halfway in between, and with that we would relook at it in six months at least.”

“You’re not getting exactly what you want and I’m not getting exactly what I want, but we are meeting in the middle,” Johnson spoke of the compromise. “We’re doing our jobs.”

Johnson’s motion to meet halfway with a total budget of $658,493 was seconded by Patterson, and passed with a two to one vote, with Helton against the increase.

The Board of Assessors have called a meeting to be held Friday, Jan. 11 at 2 p.m.

 

 

 

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Natalie Kissel

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GMASS meets with Board of Assessors to discuss future plans

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Board of Assessors (BOA) called a one-on-one meeting with Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services (GMASS) to discuss the Tax Assessor’s office and the role that GMASS would potentially play in the future.

GMASS Chief Financial Officer Kristi Reese broke the ice by stating, “I feel like maybe there is some hostility between us because we don’t really know how all of this came about. We did not come into Fannin County with the intent of firing anybody or having anything of that nature done.”

Reese explained that GMASS is simply a company that can assist counties with appraisal work and in no way advocates or is responsible for the removal local office staff: “I do not want our name associated with any of that.”

Members of the BOA acknowledged that what Reese was saying was true and that they value the ongoing working relationship between GMASS and the Fannin County Tax Assessors.

“I think that the commissioners are trying to force something that they don’t truly understand every part, ” BOA board member Troy Junnier replied to Reese, “I think they are looking at just the money. They are not looking at everything that goes into that.”

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Board of Tax Assessors, Tax Assessors, Chier Appraiser, Land Development, GMASS, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Dawn Cochran, Janie Bearden, Troy Junnier, Mark Henson, Anthony Holloway, Angelina Powell, Marie Woody, Kristi Reece, Budget, Consent, Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services

The Board of Assessors sits down with representatives from GMASS to work out future plans for the Tax Assessor’s office.

Fannin County Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran added, “I personally know what it takes to run this office. The commissioners do not know what it takes to run this office. GMASS knows what it takes to do their part but does not know what it takes to do our county with our circumstances.”

The Board of Commissioners did make initial contact with GMASS requesting a bid for appraisal and maintenance services. This contact came about due to an inability for an agreement to be made regarding the budget of the Tax Assessor’s office.

Cochran stated bluntly of the move to hire GMASS, “In order for you all to come in and do your work, people would have to lose their jobs.”

Cochran explained that when Fannin County came under consent from the state of Georgia for not complying with regulations that the county opted then to fully staff the department instead of using GMASS at that time.

Now that the county is out from under the consent order Cochran added, “The timing of this is kind of a gut punch.”

Cochran acknowledged that the department has fallen a bit behind: “The Board of Assessors choose quality over quantity. So it has taken a little longer than expected.” She reasoned that the blame fell on the amount of work it took to come into compliance and the set back of her department not having enough vehicles to do this work.

“I feel like the commissioners are going to go forward with their budget cuts regardless of what we do here,” Reece stated of the direction of the BOA’s conversation. “I understand your concerns, but we don’t have control over anything at this point. We are just here to meet with you and calm some of your fears.”

Eventually the discussion veered toward what GMASS is able to provide the county. Cochran questioned GMASS of several areas including insurance, workload, and customer service.

Through this series of questions GMASS answered that they would be responsible for field appraisals and would complete one third of the county’s parcels each year keeping in compliance with state law.

Reece answered all questions leaving little doubt that GMASS is fully capable of completing their obligation as well as working side by side with the Tax Assessor’s office.

GMASS would essentially streamline the appraisal process, and Reece explained that this is because GMASS has staff to focus in specific areas. This is in contrast to the current staffing in most counties where appraisers must multitask in several areas.

Concern was expressed about customer service being provided, to which Reece replied that a GMASS representative would be happy to meet in person or discuss via phone with any taxpayer who has a question about their appraisal.

No action was taken at this meeting by the BOA regarding staffing of the office. Discussions are expected to continue at the next meeting to be held on Thursday, Dec. 13. The BOA and Board of Commissioners previously agreed to come to terms with a budget for 2019 by the end of this year.

 

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

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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