BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Residents may have noticed a change to the speed limit on Old Hwy. 76 this week. The Board of Commissioners (BOC) discussed an increase in the limit at the Nov. 28 meeting.
“It’s kind of convoluted, but going east on 76, from downtown to Marina Drive, that’s the city of Blue Ridge, and then it becomes the county’s responsibility from Marina Drive out to the Lakewood intersection where Hwy. 60 comes in,” Fannin County BOC Chairman Stan Helton clarified as to which entities are accountable for maintenance and regulations along Old Hwy. 76.
Helton went on to say, “And then that’s state responsibility from Lakewood intersection all the way out to where 60 (state Route 60) turns south on Morganton headed towards Suches. And then from that point going on east towards Union County, that’s the county’s responsibility again.”
From Union County to the Lakewood intersection, the highway has a constant speed limit of 45 mph. From the Lakewood intersection to Marina Drive, the speed limit drops to 35 mph.
The change in speed limit will not affect the current speed limit at Blue Ridge Dam and along Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) property. The speed limit will still remain at 35 mph in that area.
After receiving calls from various citizens wanting to raise the speed limit in this area, Helton brought the issue to the attention of the board. Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson and Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee agreed that bringing uniformity to the speed limit would be a positive.
Johnson deferred to Fannin County Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff to get his opinion on the proposed change.
Ratcliff pointed out that the current speed limit causes a bottleneck on that section of road and added, “I recommend that we at least do something to improve that area. I think it would help. That’s pretty slow going across there if you abide by that speed limit.”
Johnson agreed, “It does kind of bottleneck down there. There are still some law-abiding citizens left and that is too slow.”
Sosebee asked Ratcliff if the change would alleviate that issue, to which Ratcliff replied, “It used to be that (45 mph). It actually used to be that. TVA did work on the dam, and they reduced all the speed through there because they were doing the work, and it never got bumped back up.”
BOC Chairman Helton made a motion to raise the speed limit from Marina Drive to the Lakewood intersection (excluding the dam and the area along TVA property) to 45 mph. Johnson seconded the motion, and it was passed unanimously by all three commissioners.
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BLUE RIDGE, GA – In what is being heralded as the first of its kind in the county, Fannin County Board of Commissioners held an all day budget workshop on Wednesday, September 20, 2017, in preparation for the 2018 budget.
The workshop was scheduled from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. and was open to the public. Department Heads from each department came in to discuss their area’s proposed budget.
Commissioners scrutinized each line item while the department’s representatives were present. They questioned what each department planned to do with the money that they were asking for.
Most departments stayed right in line with the previous year’s budget having small increases or decreases to account for different needs in staffing or cost of goods to operate. All offices saw a slight raise in their salary budget as an overall 2% raise was given to government employees.
A few departments requested significant increases, but most were explained away with the need for additional personnel. Building Maintenance Supervisor Ken Petty was one of those who faced heavy scrutiny as his budget request was broken down and analysed.
County Chairman Stan Helton questioned Petty, “You have maintenance repair of the old courthouse building. Are you anticipating something there? 2017 there’s nothing in there, but you have requested it for 2018.”
Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee further questioned Petty, “We got a request here for $2,000-$3,000 for maintenance and repair on vehicle. You got a new vehicle, what do you anticipate tearing up on it?”
To both of these questions Petty replied, “We just put it in there in case there is something.”
Petty’s budget request was approximately $748,000, showing over a 17% increase from last year’s request of $620,000.
Helton concluded with, “Go through and look at these items…if we can’t justify with something we have a known expenditure coming, then we are going to have to look at reducing that.”
On the opposite end of the budget spectrum, some departments made dramatic cuts, with the largest cut going to the Roads Department by Public Works Director Zach Ratcliff.
Ratcliff proposed approximately $300,000 in cuts to his department. These cuts came mainly from fuel purchases, tire allowance, and payroll. This $300,000 decrease comes on top of an 11% decrease in the department’s budget last year.
Helton remarked, “You were able to cut the tire budget way down. That’s on track to be about 1/4 of what you’ve spent out there before.”
Ratcliff confirmed that he was able to decrease the tire budget from $50,000 to roughly $8,000.
Another significant decrease came in salaries, as the Roads Department has reduced the number of employees from 54 to 39. Helton pointed out that we still have “50% more employees than surrounding counties.”
Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson stated that looking at the Road Department’s budget shows that what the county is doing is working. He said, “I’m proud of what we are doing with your budget. I’m glad to hear these amounts are coming down the way they have.”
This workshop gave insight into the county’s 2018 budget,but the Commissioners will meet and continue to amend the budget proposals. The final budget will be discussed and approved at a regularly scheduled meeting later this year.
BLUE RIDGE, GA – Fannin County is set to receive new equipment after the Board of Commissioner meeting that was held on Tuesday, September, 12, 2017. Commissioners voted unanimously to purchase a new fire truck and spreader for the county.
Public Works Director Zach Ratcliff addressed the Board about the purchase of a new spreader that would salt the roads during inclement weather. Ratcliff found a used spreader for $7,000 that he describes as in “like new” condition.
Ratcliff was unable to get a quote on a new spreader of this size, but noted that one that is new in a smaller size would cost $21,000. With the used spreader only being a third of that price, Ratcliff stated, “That’s just a good deal anyway you look at it.”
County Chairman Stan Helton questioned, “And we need this, correct?”
To which Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee confirmed, “Everything we’ve got out there now is rusted.”
After approval for the purchase of the new spreader, Fire Chief Larry Thomas discussed with the Board a used fire engine he had found. The fire engine, located in Alabama, had been inspected by Thomas and he stated, “It appears to be in very, very good condition. With low mileage.”
The original asking price of the vehicle was $59,000, but Thomas had managed to negotiate this price. The sellers came down on price to $45,000 with an agreement to deliver the vehicle to Fannin County.
Thomas stated, “These commercial chassis are very hard to come by.”
Thomas confirmed that he had received $30,000 in insurance reimbursement after an accident involving one of the county’s fire engines in December 2016. This money would be put toward the purchase of the new vehicle.
The new fire engine will be placed at Station 9 to take the place of the vehicle damaged in the December 2016 accident.
BLUE RIDGE, GA – Public Works Director, Zach Ratcliff proposed a solution to a recommendation found in the Fannin County 2016 Audit Report.
At the Board of Commissioners meeting held August 22, 2017, Ratcliff proposed the county enter into a contract with Wright Enterprises, which would provide county employees with a WEX card.
These cards would track information such as vehicle mileage and money spent on fuel. This information would be broken down into individual departments. Ratcliff stated that “under the contract we are not charged anything.”
County Chairman Stan Helton liked the idea and took the time to explain to the public that in the recommendations of the 2016 Audit, “This was the first item on our audit, that we have lack of fiscal control on our fuel inventory, and this would immediately correct our deficiencies in that area.”
Commissioners also unanimously approved a second mower to be purchased. After approval and discussion of purchasing the first mower last month, Commissioner Earl Johnson wanted Ratcliff to look into pricing for a second mower since the counties’ two mowers are equal in usage and need of repair.
Ratcliff was able to secure a second mower for the same price as quoted on the first, $118,225.
Bids were received at this regular meeting for the resurfacing of Loving Road and Salem Road, and were tabled until commissioners had time to review each bid. At a special called meeting held on August 28, 2017, commissioners met and unanimously approved the lowest bid, at $796,825.
Of this amount, the state will be funding approximately 30% of the bid price with the remaining balance coming out of SPLOST.
The special called meeting allowed the county to expedite the beginning of this project by two weeks.
The annual summary of the 2016 County Audit was the main focus of the Fannin County Board of Commissioners meeting held on August 8, 2017.
It became apparent during the review that the public were not the only ones who have received limited information in the past. As discussion came to a management report within the audit, Post Commissioner Earl Johnson was surprised that he had not been made aware of this document and was even further surprised that he had never received a copy of this annual document since 2012.
Commission Chairman Stan Helton made it clear that “anything that is available to me, is available to both of them.” In keeping with his promise of transparency within the county, Helton went on to say, “We are putting up everything and not leaving anything out”, stating that the entire audit is available on the County website for the public to view.
Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee wanted to clear up misinformation that had been put out in the form of editorials. Over the past two weeks, concerns have been expressed about the county being short of emergency vehicles.
While the county was down three ambulances, EMA Director Robert Graham clarified that only one front line vehicle was down, while the other two were back up vehicles. He expressed that this is a rarity and that there is always a backup plan. When questioned about the public’s safety, Graham responded, “At no time were any of our citizens in any danger of not having emergency services.”
Fannin County Maintenance Department Head, Ken Petty, brought three bids to the board regarding renovations at Animal Control. These renovations include the installation of guillotine doors that would allow the dogs to go outside directly from their kennels. The addition of these doors would also allow FCAC staff to safely enter the dog runs for daily cleaning and feeding. The lowest bid was $18,932, coming in approximately $500 under the singular bid placed last meeting. The board, however, chose to still table the vote for another two weeks to give Petty time to gather a start and completion date from the bidders.
Zach Ratcliff, Fannin County Public Works Director, was added to the agenda as his department was in need of new equipment. The county’s two mowers have seen over 6000 hours and are in “limp mode” as Ratcliff stated. These being the most used equipment in the department that provide safety on our roadways, Ratcliff presented the board with a bid for $118,225 to replace one of the existing mowers.
Ratcliff went through an existing government contract and was able to save the county $24,864 by doing so. Commissioners unanimously agreed that this purchase was necessary and would be able to use funds from SPLOST to cover this necessity.
January 6, 2017 – North Georgia is bracing for a possible major winter storm. Robert Graham, EMA Director, and Zach Ratcliff, Fannin County Public Works Director, deliver updates concerning possible accumulations, temperatures, warming centers, and road conditions.