By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent
April 1st 2019 I will begin a new chapter in my life. I will be retired. Saying those words is something I did not feel that I would ever say, as I do not feel old enough to retire, but the clock says otherwise. I have had the pleasure of being a County Extension Agent for over 34 years and the last 22 I have enjoyed working with the County Commissioners, Board of Education, and citizens of Fannin County.
I could not have made it this far if it were not for several groups of people. First of all my family. They have supported me through several moves across the state of Georgia. I have also missed some of their events as I was working out of town, at summer 4-H camp, or at a training. I am looking forward to making up some of that lost time in retirement.
I definitely could not have made it without co-workers. Here in Fannin County we have a wonderful team that not only helps the public, but each other. Becky Ratcliff wears many hats, as she is the first one that most people talk to when they call or come by. Because I have been working in Gilmer County for the last 7½ years, she has taken on more responsibility for the office and the 4-H program.
We are fortunate to have an AmeriCorps member run the 4-H program. Currently Amanda Foster is the member. She has been doing a fantastic job. McKenzie Owenby served in the role for the previous three years and did a great job. Before we had AmeriCorps members we had five program assistants that did an outstanding job. They were Pat Tucker, Phyllis Davis, Tammye Beck, Marie Traylor, and Kim Cheeves.
In addition to my co-workers, another group that has been a pleasure to work with is the North Georgia Master Gardeners. First, they completed and passed a 10-week program and have continued to volunteer to assist the Fannin County UGA Extension Office. I don’t have the space to list all of their projects, but to name a few, they have assisted in the office, developed the Mineral Springs natural trail, conduct an annual plant sale, and host nature walks for the public. I was also very fortunate to work with Barbara Ferer in the beginning of Feed Fannin and am amazed at how far that program has come in 10 years.
The Smith-Lever Act signed in 1914, established Cooperative Extension. The purpose of Extension is to provide unbiased research based information to the citizens of the state. With this in mind, this makes for a fantastic career. Working with farmers, homeowners, and 4-H youth has been very rewarding. Seeing and helping apple growers improve pest management and watching the wine grape industry grow are just two examples that make this career special. Another has been the opportunity to work with the Chamber of Commerce in their Leadership Fannin program. As one of our specialists has quoted on numerous occasions, “Extension is the greatest job that a person could have.” There is nothing more rewarding than working with young people as they improve their confidence in public speaking and decision-making. The feeling you get watching a young person see a skyscraper or the beach for the first time is hard to explain. There are so many people and groups that I have enjoyed working with through my 22 years in Fannin County that I am sure I have left some out.
Two challenges that I had to overcome was writing a weekly newspaper column and recording a daily radio program. It has taught me to be prepared and meet deadlines. It also taught me to do research so that I could provide up to date information to everyone. I grew up in 4-H and my family depended on the County Agent and I never imagined that I would be in a position to help others. I hope that I have been able to help the citizens of Fannin County, but as I mentioned earlier I could not have done it without help. Thank you for welcoming me into your county and I hope to see you around the county in the future.
An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Organization
Well Water Testing
By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent
For the most part, north Georgia has had an abundance of rain this winter. As of the middle of February we had received over 12 inches since January 1st. As of the third week in February we had received over 15 inches of rain. Our average for the year is 62 inches, so if this pattern keeps up we will once again have abundant rain. Hopefully flooding has been minimal, but so much rain does bring to mind the importance of well safety. Wells that were overtopped by flood waters need to be flushed and tested for bacteria because of the potential danger of contaminants being washed into the well. Water from wells that has had a change in color as a result of the rain should also be checked.
UGA Extension Water Resource Management and Policy Specialist Gary Hawkins recommends pumping and flushing a minimum of 2 or 3 times the well volume to clear the system. This water should be discarded from an outside faucet and not from an inside faucet to bypass the home’s septic tank. After pumping the water, the well should be shock chlorinated. The well should be flushed again until there is no smell of chlorine bleach and, like before, the flushing step should be done through an outdoor faucet to bypass the septic system. This highly chlorinated water, if discharged to the septic tank, could cause problems with the bacterial colonies in the septic tank.
After the well is shock-chlorinated, flushed and the chlorine smell is gone (about two weeks), the well water should be tested for bacteria. Families can get their well water tested using their local county UGA Extension office for $46. Until the test for bacteria comes back, Hawkins strongly suggests that water for cooking or drinking be boiled before consumption. If the well still contains bacteria, the report will explain in detail how to treat the well.
To calculate the volume of water that should be pumped from a well, use the following calculation. Most of the well casings in this area are 6 inches so the factor for that size is 1.47. That means that there are 1.47 gallons of water for every foot in depth. Multiply the depth of water in the well by this factor to determine how much water is in the well. If your casing is not 6 inches, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office and we can get the right factor.
There are several methods to determine how much water you have flushed out, but the one that I use is to calculate how long it takes to fill a 5 gallon bucket. Divide that time by 5 to get the output per minute. Using this figure you can determine how many minutes you need to run the water to flush the number of gallons of water that was determined in the previous calculation. A couple of methods can be used to determine the depth of water in a well. If you can see the water in the well, lower a heavy object tied to a string down the well and measure the length of the string until you see the object touch the water. In a deep well, lower a heavy object like above until you hear the object hit the water and measure the length of string. If you cannot see the object hit the water, another way (but less accurate) is to drop a small stone into the well and count or time the seconds it takes for the stone to hit the water (you will have to listen closely for this.) Multiply the number of seconds by 32.2 and that will let you know how far the water is below the surface. Knowing the depth of the well and the depth from surface, subtract the two to get the height of the water column for calculating the volume of water in the well.
An example of this calculation is if you have a well that is 300 feet deep and the water level is 25 feet from the surface, subtracting 25 from 300 equals 275 which means you have 275 feet of water in the well. Multiply 275 by 1.47 to get the gallons in the well. That figure is 404.25 gallons. Using a factor of 3 pints per 100 gallons, you would need to apply a little over 12 pints of chlorine bleach in the well.
If you have any questions about this process or for more information on well water testing, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.
An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Organization
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.
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I know “it’s been a long time I shouldn’t have left you,” but I been busier than Kim Kardashian’s divorce lawyers. There’s a great deal of sports to cover and so many story lines, from Tears Tebow struggling to complete passes like Jim Abbot doing push ups, to the NBA lockout. (more…)