Commissioners Approve Raising Hotel/Motel Tax Resolution

Fannin County Chamber, News
Hotel.Motel Tax

BLUE RIDGE, GA – The process to move the hotel/motel tax from five percent to six percent has begun after commissioners unanimously approved the resolution.

Now, the resolution must go before the Georgia legislature for approval. Once the tax goes above five percent, the state must approve it. Due to this process, the increase won’t take effect until at least 2020.

However, after an extensive discussion, the commissioners and Chamber of Commerce representatives decided Jan. 2021 would result in an easier transition for local government and hotel/motel owners.

Currently, the hotel/motel tax’s split 50/50 between the chamber and Fannin County government. The one percent increase should give each $200,000 in extra funding. The chamber intends to spend the money on marketing and tourism development.

The increase mainly affects tourists who visit the county throughout the year.

“I talk to several cabin rental property people and the chamber board, and there wasn’t anybody who thought it would damage business at all,” stated Chamber President Jan Hackett.

The chamber also unanimously approved a decision to raise the tax rate and presented a letter attesting to that fact.
Commissioners agreed to spend the funds on public safety efforts since the increased tourism puts a strain on law enforcement, EMS, and EMA services.

“This would be a good way to elevate that some of that stress because even though folks, if they’re not from here, when they call 911, we don’t ask them if they’re a resident or not,” said Chairman Stan Helton, “If you need help, you’re going to get help.”

In 4:15 workshop, the commissioners worked out the hotel/motel tax increase resolution.

The increase in hotel/motel taxes can only begin on the first of a quarter, which led to the decision to move the start date to Jan. 2021. Once the resolution passes through the Georgia House and Senate, two public hearings and then adoption of the new rate would have to occur.

“I noted on the chart that Helen and White County are charging eight percent of hotel excise tax and we often charge five,” stated Hackett.

This entire process could take 12 to 15 weeks, which would result in an Oct. 2020 start date – right in the middle of the holiday season. Most book Thanksgiving and Christmas trips a year in advance. Hotels, motels, and Airbnb’s take hotel/motel tax at the time of booking. However, the county collects the tax at the time of the stay.

“The growth isn’t just to try and squeeze more out of people. When one house is being rented out, usually three or four people might live in it. Sometimes these houses, there are six or eight people coming, so when you double the number of people, the same tax is being paid, stated Post One Earl Johnson, “I don’t want anyone to believe that we’re just trying to squeeze an extra percentage out and it’s going to just disappear. We all feel like it should go to public safety.”

By raising the tax during the busy season, it could create unnecessary hardship on business owners and tourists. As a result, the start date has moved to Jan. 2021, one of the slowest months of the year.

For now, the county has to wait until the Georgia legislature reconvenes to present the hotel/motel tax resolution for approval.

Feature image is courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce website.

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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Natalie Kissel

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Fannin County 4 percent under budget

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Blue Ridge, Ga. – With 83.33 percent of the budget complete, Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway revealed that the county is in good shape and currently four percent under budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

Gazaway presented an overview of the county’s budget at the latest Board of Commissioners meeting. Showing the standing of the county budget through Oct. 31 of this year, most departments are reporting right at their projected spending or a little below.

The Parks and Recreation Department is reporting approximately $224,000 in revenue for the year, and the Hotel/Motel tax has produced record numbers for the county.

Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax (SPOLST) revenues are also up in 2018. All of this added revenue points to a healthy economy in Fannin County.

A few departments showed overages with one being the Administration Department.

“The biggest difference is the health insurance cost,” Gazaway said explaining the slight overage in Administration.

The Administration Department recently took on the role of managing all healthcare costs and insurance, rather than having the cost divided among departments. This was due in large to protecting the anonymity of employees when it comes to healthcare.

Gazaway explained that this number will “level out” some as the county is reimbursed for monies spent and also pointed out that healthcare is an area of budgeting that is more difficult to predict.

The Public Safety Department also showed to be over their projected budget through October.

“Mostly that is due to the detention center,” Gazaway explained that Public Safety is another area that is difficult to plan ahead, “and that is something that just cannot be predicted. Most of the overages is due to the fact that there is more inmates.”

This point of interest regarding the Public Safety Department led to discussion about how spending is handled for inmates being held at the detention facility.

“Inmate medical is based on the number inmates,” Gazaway stated of the current system, “It’s not really based on if they are sick or not. They just have a set rate per inmate.”

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton clarified, “I know that inmate medical and food, those two line items were quite a bit over for the year, and again it just gets back to having more inmates.”

Chief Deputy, Major Keith Bosen was present at the meeting and shed light onto the influx in Fannin County’s inmate population: “Numbers fluctuate. This time of the year they end up going a little bit higher over the colder part of the season. More crimes are being committed, as well as the holiday season is coming up. So you’re going to have some burglaries, people trying to steal things because people are buying them (gifts) getting ready for Christmas and the holidays.”

Bosen also added about inmate medical costs, “They either have this (illness) when they come in and they have no medical insurance and we’re stuck with it, or some do have medical insurance.”

“That’s just something out of our control,” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson stated of the unpredictability of the matter.

Despite some departments showing slight increases in the budget for the year, Fannin County is still in good standing overall by being four percent under budget with less than 20 percent of the fiscal year remaining.

 

 

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

GA Senator and Candidate for Governor (R) Hunter Hill Interviews with BKP

Election, Politics

Constitutional conservative GA Senator and Candidate for GA Governor Hunter Hill came on the show this morning to discuss why he is running for Governor. Hill has been a member of the GA Senate since 2012 after returning home from his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. During this interview Hunter Hill talks about the importance of the core competencies that he would focus on in the state if elected as Governor. These being public safety, education, and transportation. Hill made the statement that the current restrictions on the education system is “stifling leadership” not just within the classroom but even into the administration within the schools. Hear all these details and more in this interview.

Gilmer Responds to Tour Bus Collision

News

Shortly after the incident involving a wreck of a Tour Bus and a Semi-Truck on Highway 515 in Gilmer County, Tony Pritchett, Director of Public Safety for Gilmer County, held a conference to answer questions.

dsc08331Director Pritchett stated a call came in to Gilmer County 911 at 11:02 for response to the accident.

When FYN arrived on the scene, several helicopters were still circling the area including both news choppers and Life-Flight services. The accident is suspected at this time by authorities to have occurred while a tour bus was traveling north on Highway 515 collided with a Semi-Truck who was crossing into or across the highway from Whitestone Road.

Minutes after the call came in, emergency response was on the scene to provide care and Gilmer County also responded with its Mass Casualties Trailer to aid in on-scene triage. Pritchett confirmed one fatality in the wreck belonging to the driver of the Tour bus. While four people remained uninjured, another 43 have sustained injuries requiring one to be Life-Flighted and others transported via ambulance to local hospitals including Fannin Regional Hospital, Northside Cherokee Hospital, and Piedmont Mountainside Hospital according to Pritchett.

dsc08324FYN has been informed that the tour bus was carrying a majority of elderly passengers and had sustained extensive damage collapsing the front end. However, the quick response units were able to arrive and get on the bus quickly to begin caring for those on board.

More aid was quickly brought to the scene as well due to several mutual aid agreements in place with surrounding areas. In fact, authorities from  Gilmer Fire and Rescue and EMS as well as Gilmer County Sheriff’s Department, Georgia State Patrol, Fannin County EMS Resources, Pickens County EMS Resources, Dawson County EMS Resources, and Murray County EMS Resources were all confirmed to be on-scene aiding with the incident. Pritchett went on to say he was “very thankful for the response of those surrounding jurisdictions, they were very helpful.”

While the limited sight distance at the location was referenced as a possible factor with the incident, no official statement was given with regards to cause or circumstance involved in the incident as the investigation is ongoing. Director Pritchett did confirm with FYN that he could recall at least one other incident involving a fatality occurring at the same location earlier this year. Witnesses have also been confirmed on scene and are speaking with officials at this time.

Currently, 515 will remain shutdown as a continuing investigation will be undertaken by the Georgia State Patrol and authorities are redirecting traffic around the accident. One traffic officer FYN talked with suggested those heading North on 515 to detour down Highway 136 to Old 5 to bypass it.

For more information on the accident and the Press Conference watch the video below and stay connected with Fetch Your News as more information becomes available.

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Public Health Notice: DO NOT DRINK WATER FROM FLOODED WELLS OR SPRINGS

Featured, Featured Stories

NGHD-1

Click here for Public Health Notice

Public Health Notice: DO NOT DRINK WATER FROM FLOODED WELLS OR SPRINGS

North Georgia – Due to recent weather conditions, any well or spring that has been covered with flood waters must be considered contaminated. Do not drink the water until after flood waters have receded, the well or spring has been disinfected with household bleach and the water has been laboratory tested. Contact the local county Environmental Health Office for questions and further instructions, if needed.

 

Shock Chlorination

 

Disinfecting a Well

Well disinfection is necessary if the well or spring was covered with flood waters. Before chlorinating, it is important to check the integrity of the well or spring water source to prevent future contamination. Well construction must prevent entry of surface water, debris, insects and animals. The well casing and concrete slab should be sealed and the well cap or sanitary seal must be secure. Springs should be in a sealed spring house.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Thoroughly clean all accessible outside surfaces removing any loose debris and mud around the well or spring. Then, wash the well area with a strong chlorine solution (1 quart of household bleach per 5 gallon of water).

 

  1. Determine the amount of water in the well. Calculate the amount of bleach chlorine needed. DO NOT USE SCENTED BLEACHES. Health officials recommend using the normal strength household bleach, which is 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite.

 

  1. Remove the well cap or place a funnel into the small vent pipe of the well cap. Use the table below and add the appropriate amount of bleach. A minimum of 50 ppm chlorine solution is required:
WATERDEPTH

(FEET)

WELL DIAMETER
2” 4” 6” 8” 24” 36”
20’ 3 pints 3 pints ½ gal. ½ gal. 2 gal. 3 gal.
40’ 3 pints 3 pints ½ gal. ¾ gal.
80’ 3 pints ½ gal. ½ gal. ¾ gal.
100’ 3 pints ½ gal. ¾ gal. 1 gal.

 

If depth and diameter are unknown, 1 gallon of bleach can be used. Extra bleach does not necessarily mean extra disinfection and can be a health hazard in itself.

 

DO NOT DRINK OR PREPARE FOODS WITH WATER WHILE BLEACH IS IN THE WATER SYSTEM!

  1. Run water from an outside faucet through a hose until a strong chlorine odor can be detected. Place the end of the hose in the well allowing the water to run down the sides of the casing and circulate for at least 15 minutes. Replace the well cap.

 

  1. Turn off the hose and enter the home opening each tap, one at a time, until the smell of chlorine can be detected. Please include hot water faucets, toilets, bathtubs, washing machine, etc.

 

  1. Once the chlorine odor reaches all outlets, let the water system stand for 8 hours, preferably overnight. Refrain from any water use during this time.

 

  1. Flush the system of chlorine by turning on an outside faucet letting it run until the chlorine odor dissipates. Finally, run indoor faucets until the water is clear and the chlorine odor is gone. Do not run any unnecessary water into the septic system or allow the chlorinated water to drain directly into a stream or pond. Continue this process until the odor of bleach is completely gone.

 

  1. The water should be laboratory tested to determine if it is safe to drink. It is recommended that over the next several weeks two additional samples be taken to be sure results are satisfactory. Repeated chlorination and/or a well professional should be called if problems remain.

 

  1. If not sure how to disinfect a well or spring, how to take a well sample or how to get laboratory results, contact the local county Environmental Health Office.

 

####

____________________

 

Written by Raymond King, Director of Environmental Health, North Georgia Health District 1-2

____________________

 

For direct access to this Public Health Notice on our website, log onto  http://nghd.org/pr/34-/741-public-health-notice-do-not-drink-water-from-flooded-wells-or-springs.html

 

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