Tiny home subdivision moratorium extended until January 2022

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tiny home subdivision moratorium

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – After continued discussion on the matter, Fannin County Commissioners opted to extend the tiny home subdivision moratorium until 2022.

Tiny homes can be on wheels or on a foundation and have risen in popularity recently. The “tiny life” movement is focused on living with less and creating a more efficient space. In addition to the minimalist lifestyle, some want tiny homes to house people who couldn’t afford a regular size house.

The board plans on learning more about tiny homes and holding another public hearing on the matter.

At the Tuesday commission meeting, the majority of those in attendance were against tiny home subdivisions entering Fannin County. They worried about a tiny home community spoiling the beauty of Fannin County and unexpected consequences associated with those subdivisions.

“People come up here to get away from everything. If you bring a lot of small homes, especially like a subdivision on 96 acres, on a third of an acre, build 350 houses, that dump at least 350 cars on side roads…that’s just one spot in the county,” resident Tim Stanton stated.

They’re also worried these subdivisions would be used as cabin rentals, not permanent residents who need affordable housing options. Rentals would bring new people in and out on a daily basis, which could stretch public safety even thin.

“That land is precious to us too because we grew up on that land,” Post One Johnny Scearce added. “We got to do some kind of controlled growth on that. Our water is very precious up here to us. We’re going to do everything we can within our power to see that we do as much protection of it and our citizens.”

One individual in attendance was in favor of tiny homes.

“I don’t understand the stigma of a tiny home being less than the $1 million home my brother lives in,” Tommy Williams said. “It could be run down, windows busted out, and a chicken house comes in and say I’m going to put chickens in this house, then that would bring the property value down…My point is why is there a stigma attached to it.”

The moratorium applies to any type of tiny home subdivision either on water, sewer, septic, DNR approved wells, or self-contained units.

Private citizens who want to build one tiny home on their property can do so, but they still must meet the land requirements for the structure. Subdivisions are considered three or more lots in size.

A moratorium on tiny home subdivisions has been in place for approximately two years. Previous boards have continued the measure to try and come to a consensus on the issue.

A tiny home is defined as 400 sq. ft. or less by the state of Georgia and ICC. This dictates building codes for the structure. A residential house requires 200 sq. ft. per person, so a tiny home can accommodate two people. It’s not meant to house more than two.

“Just because you’re doing a tiny home, we’re not going to change the lot size,” County Building inspector Keith Nicholson explained at the public hearing on August 17. “You still have to have so much land to put in a septic tank and an individual well on private property. Typically, depending on your soil samples, that’s anywhere from an acre and a quarter up to an acre and a half.”

Septic fill lines must be 100 feet away from the drinking water source.

Sometimes the price per square foot for a tiny home is more costly than a regular house.

Any unit on a piece of property would need its own septic tank. A well could be shared. Subdivisions with shared wells are considered EPD wells. DNR-approved wells are approved through the state.

Many are worried a tiny home community will become an eye-sore if specific guidelines aren’t put into place ahead of time.

Fannin’s currently in the middle of rewriting several ordinances, and the tiny home issue will hopefully be addressed.

All commissioners have expressed an interest in hearing both sides of the argument for and against tiny homes.

“I’m open to listening. I see a dilemma. There’s a lot of things to look at as far as economic structure and how it will affect Fannin County,” Post Two Glenn Patterson stated. “I’d just like to see more time to look at it…have a moratorium till we feel like we’ve got [an ordinance] that works.”

The moratorium will last until the first meeting in January 2022.

Aquatic Center discussions continue

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Blue Ridge, Ga. – Discussions continue as Blue Ridge City Council Member Mike Panter asks County Commissioners to consider a feasibility study for a proposed aquatic center in Fannin County.

Aquatic Center, Fannin County, Board of Commissioners, City Council, Board of Education, Farmer’s Market, Rec Center, Study, Cost, Chairman, Jamie Hensley, Post 1, Johnny Scearce, Mike Panter, Brian Higgins

Council member Mike Panter discusses proposed aquatic center with Fannin County Board of Commissioners.

“I am speaking not necessarily on behalf of the City Council,” Panter opened, stating that at the time he was speaking as a resident who had done research into a project and is hoping to gain support from not only the Fannin County Board of Commissioners but also from Blue Ridge City Council and the Fannin County Board of Education.

“The closest swimming facility is in Blairsville and it’s owned by the hospital,” Panter said of the lack of a comparable facility in our area. He did point out that currently the City of Calhoun in Gordon County has an aquatic center but that it is aging.

Some students from the Fannin County School System make several trips a week to utilize the Calhoun facility for aquatic sports, which is a 2 hour round trip.

There has been recent discussion of Fannin County putting in a splash pad for residents. The splash pad at Meeks Park in Union County was brought up as a comparison for price. The Meeks Park splash pad was installed in 2016 with an approximate cost of $360,000.

Panter also noted Lincoln County’s splash pad with a price tag of $156,000, “The reason it was so cheap was because they filled in their pool. They already had a bathroom facility and sewer.”

The City of Blue Ridge had looked into a similar possibility of a splash pad, due to the costly repairs needed at the city’s current outdoor pool.

Panter pointed out that the current city pool repairs could have a price tag of over $100,000 and would only be able to be used three to four months each year.

The proposed aquatic center could incorporate a splash pad, along with a heated indoor pool and a health club. 

A similar plan for an aquatic center has recently been approved in Lumpkin County.  

The Lumpkin County Aquatic Center website states :

“This state-of-the art facility will not only have indoor and outdoor swimming, but will also have a lazy river and splash activities for children, outdoor rental spaces, and a therapy pool for those who desire low impact exercise or need rehabilitation after illness or surgery.”

The cost of Lumpkin County’s new endeavor is roughly $8 million, which Panter projects Fannin County to have a similar cost. Panter stated that the cost would not necessarily have to be a lump sum and that the project could be done in phases.

Using the current location of the Blue Ridge Farmer’s Market building could save at least $1 million in on site prep work according to Panter, “The city has no debt on that property whatsoever.”

“The high school themselves, they are being pushed to have an aquatics program,” Panter stated when asked if the school system was considering building its own aquatic facility but added of the general public’s ability to use a facility strictly owned by the school system, “As all of us know in the school systems, a lot of the school facilities are locked down. It’s hard to use the school facilities.”

Panter stressed that this was another reason that he felt an intergovernmental agreement between the three entities would best serve the community.

While no Commissioners seemed outright opposed to the idea of an aquatic center, concerns were expressed of the long term benefits, costs and responsibilities of such a facility. 

Fannin County Commission Chairman Jamie Hensley stated that with a project of such magnitude being proposed, he wants to make sure it would be done correctly the first time and that it is truly something that would benefit the community in the long term.

Concerns were also raised of Panter’s proposed location of the City’s Farmer’s Market building, with Post 1 Commissioner Johnny Scearce directly discussing these concerns. 

“That Farmer’s Market has been sitting there for 10 years unused,” Panter answered Scearce’s questions, “We’ve spent over $100,000 in tax payers money on the Farmer’s Market just to keep it there.” 

Brian Higgins, a long time proponent of bringing back Blue Ridge’s Farmer’s Market to the unused facility, spoke during public comments, “We are totally in agreement on the aquatic center. It’s the location that we have a difference of opinion on.”

Higgins pointed out that the Farmer’s Market is one of the few nostalgic properties left in the city limits and feels that the Rec. Center would be a more appropriate location.

Citing that it makes more sense to build an aquatic center where the county’s main sports hub already resides, Higgins also pointed out that the Rec. Center has much more land, giving Fannin County the option of expansion as need arises in the future.

Panter is hoping that a feasibility study can help point everyone in the right direction and clarify a lot of the uncertainties surrounding the proposed project.

The cost of a feasibility study could run around $75,000. 

Panter is expected to present again to all three entities once he obtains a quote. His hope is to get approval from the Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Blue Ridge City Council and the Fannin County Board of Education on splitting the cost of the study, so that everyone can get an accurate idea of what will be involved in moving forward with the project.


Featured Image: City of Blue Ridge Farmer’s Market Property

30-day moratorium on special use permit for alcohol license

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special use permits

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Fannin County Commissioners opted for a 30-day moratorium on special use permits for alcohol licenses while they gather more information and the ordinance is rewritten.

When Fannin County added the alcohol permit ordinance to its official code, commissioners did not include a special use provision, but the application for a special use permit is available to the public.

The first special permit didn’t cause any issues with the county, and the sheriff’s office gave the go-ahead for the second event requesting a special use permit.

Post One Johnny Scearce asked, “Is there any liability that can fall back on the county?” County Attorney Lynn Doss stated the county wouldn’t be liable for these events.

Special event permits require hired security to be always on the scene.  Doss added she believed the requirement for special events is one off-duty officer for every 200 to 300 people.

More venues are becoming available throughout the county and a special use permit might benefit their businesses. However, parameters need to be set in place to prevent everyone from applying for a special use beer and wine permit.

County Attorney Lynn Doss doesn’t know where the application came from, she didn’t create it, nor knows how it became available to the public.

“It’s not that it’s a bad idea. It might be a great idea. It’s just that literally in our ordinance there’s no provision for it. There’s no regulation of it. If the commission feels okay with just continuing on and letting individuals make applications until we can get the ordinance rewritten, which we’re in the process of doing, that’s fine. Another idea is just to say there is a moratorium there will be no special use permits issued until the ordinance is rewritten,” Doss explained.

Since beer and wine came into the county, two special use permits have been approved for use.

Liquor sales aren’t allowed within the county, but the city can sell liquor, beer, and wine. Liquor requires a vote, and when alcohol was placed on the ballot previously, it failed. The commissioners at the time found a way around the citizen’s opinion and brought just beer and wine into the county.

police chief

Post One Johnny Scearce also serves as Blue Ridge Police Chief and has experience with alcohol regulations.

“I just think when it comes to alcohol you’ve got to have things in place that’s going to cover you. There is a lot of liability,” Scearce remarked. “Our responsibility here is to make sure we’re looking at the best interest of the people.”

Special use permits would only be for beer and wine.

Plus, if the county grants a license, the Georgia Department of Revenue still must approve a license for a business going forward.

“Willow Falls can get a permit that’s not a special event permit that would be good for a year,” Doss explained, “It has to renew every year.”

The first issuance of an alcohol license is $10,000 and the renewal is $150. It’s also tied to food sales. The markers serve as a buffer to keep people out of the market.

Chairman Jamie Hensley posed a hypothetical for a person who received their alcohol license, “I start going to different venues in the county…how is that fare that I’m able to do that when say Toccoa Restaurant had to pay $10,000 to be able to sell it…If I’m the person that gets to put on that one-time event at this location and now I can go to this location and do it again because I’ve got my license.”

Doss confirmed that a situation is something that needs to be addressed in the updated ordinance. She then cited a Supreme Court Case that stated an alcohol license is a privilege is not a right. The county can put in place different stipulations depending upon the business and use purposes.

Anyone who serves alcohol in Georgia must pass a background check, which is currently reported to the state.

A facility in Georgia can only hold 24 special use permits a year. Public parks are considered county property and will never be allowed as a location for alcohol events.

Some Fannin County restaurants would prefer that the new ordinance included Sunday beer and wine sales to compete with Blue Ridge establishments.

The updated ordinances in Fannin are in process but likely won’t be finalized till the end of the year. Ordinance updates require two public hearings before final approval as well.

In 30 days, the commissioners will decide to either extend or eliminate the moratorium. During this time, they will review all existing materials and decide on the best course forward.

May proclaimed Mental Health Awareness Month

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Fannin County Commissioners declared May 2021 as Mental Health Awareness Month.

Members of Fannin County Connection accepted the proclamation. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans are diagnosed with a mental health condition per year. 46 percent of Americans will be diagnosable with a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime and half of those will be before the age of 14.

At this time, 44 million Americans are experiencing mental illness with 42.5 million suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is one of the more prominent disorders in America.

24.6 million Americans don’t receive treatment for their mental disorders whether it’s anxiety, substance abuse, depression, bipolar, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia, or suicidal thoughts.

Chairman Jamie Hensley and Post Two Glenn Patterson with members of Family Connection.

Chairman Jamie Hensley and Post Two Glenn Patterson with members of Family Connection.

Mental Health Awareness Month began in 1949 by Mental Health America (MHA). Each year MHA presents a theme for the month. This year it continues on the Tools2Thrive theme from 2020 and  “providing practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency regardless of their personal situation.”




The tools provided pertain to:

  • Adapting after trauma and stress
  • Dealing with anger and frustration
  • Getting out of thinking traps
  • Processing big changes
  • Taking time for yourself
  • Radical acceptance

MHA’s website offers several mental health checks and tests for anyone wanting to gain a better understanding of themselves.

More county business

Zack Ratcliff was reappointed to the Water Authority Board by Post One Johnny Scearce.

The purchase of a used trackhoe for the public works department was approved for $57,700. The used model is a K2057 with 104 hours on it. SPLOST money will be used for the purchase.

Four bids for the new 911 radio console system were received and opened. The issue was tabled for two weeks to give everyone time to review the bids.

Commissioners officially dismiss Animal Control Head


BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Following an executive session, all three Fannin County Commissioners voted to terminate Animal Control Department Head John Drullinger.

When asked about the dismissal later, Chairman Jamie Hensley stated it was time to make a change and go in a different direction.

The public began calling for Drullinger’s termination months ago. Several of those who came forward questioned if they had been personally slighted by the department head because of their opposition to his leadership style. The most recent calls for termination came on April 13, 2021.

Read more about individuals’ complaints with the former Animal Control Head here.

Since Hensley took office, the county’s been making changes to improve the animal control facilities like fixing the drainage issue inside the building, trucks now have a GPS monitoring system, new sink installed, new hours, an account for donations, and started a volunteer of the month.

Anyone interest can donate to Fannin County Animal Control on the county website.

The animal control facility was recently deep cleaned and organized on April 27. Hensley’s hopeful these positive strides forward will continue in the future.

J.R. Cornett was placed as interim head of Animal Control. He’s been with the department for more than five years.

Fannin’s also accepting applications for those who are qualified to lead Animal Control.

Blue Ridge’s Panter provides county with brief aquatic center synopsis

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Blue Ridge City Councilmember Mike Panter attended the April 27 Board of Commissioners meeting to present his idea for an aquatic and wellness center.

Though not officially on the agenda, the commissioners granted Panter time to present during public commentary. Previously, the commissioners all encouraged the city council to publicly present the idea at a county meeting.

He began by stating he wants to develop a communal space for the city, county, and school on the unused farmer’s market property. The area’s been closed for almost 12 years according to Mayor Donna Whitener.

Intended property for the building.

The proposed aquatic and wellness center would include an indoor heated pool, outdoor splash pad, two indoor gyms, indoor playground, fitness center, wellness center, two multipurpose conference rooms, and indoor/outdoor walking tracks.

Panter estimated the project will cost between $7 and $9 million since the city already owns the land – 4.91 acres. In-depth cost analysis wasn’t addressed during the meeting.

“Lot of opportunity, a lot of money that can be raised for a facility of this size. Now $7 to $8 million dollars sounds like a lot of money. If we wait 10 years from now that same facility will be $25 million based on our growth,” Panter explained, “What I’m proposing is that the city of Blue Ridge do a joint venture with the school system and the county government to see if we can use this piece of property, we’ve got sitting right here in the heart of our community.”

The project could be completed in phases. According to the handouts provided by Panter, phase one would include the main building and pool. The pool would be enclosed during phase two with PEMB and openable glass doors.

Panter commented that the center could be a profitable venture for the county, city, and school. Under the current plan, volunteers would predominately operate the facility. The city would pay for the three or four full-time employees.

“If we continue to allow our land to be developed to go high-end commercial to people outside of our community, that land’s not going to be recreated for us down the road. And one of the things I talked to the council about, I said ‘why don’t we take this facility and see if we can work with the county and school system and put something together,” Panter explained.

He added that SPLOST, LOST, hotel/motel tax, and possibly grants could pay for a portion of the project. According to the materials provided, the aquatic and wellness center might qualify as a tourism product development under Georgia Code 48-13-50.2(6)(A-P).

“And other ‘creation or expansion of physical attractions which are available and open to the public and which improves destination appeal to visitors, support visitors’ experience, and are used by visitors,’” the handout document stated.

The layout of the proposed facility

Panter offered that some new residents of Fannin look for tax deduction opportunities and residents could donate money toward the proposed facility. His materials cited Internal Revenue Service Code section 170 (c)(1) which pertains to charitable donations to governmental units for tax deductions if made for a public purpose.

As for SPLOST funds, typically, when citizens vote to approve a new SPLOST tax, it lists the proposed projects. An aquatic and wellness center wasn’t included in the latest list of SPLOST projects, but that doesn’t mean a county can’t divert funds for the effort.

However, Fannin has yet to move forward with the voter-approved administrative facility aside from purchasing Whitepath in 2019. The future of that building for administrative offices faces continued uncertainty with a public hearing scheduled for next week.

Additionally, any decision regarding Whitepath could affect the future of the library. While the library hasn’t appeared on a SPLOST vote either, the state did provide $1.3 million to the library for a capital outlay project – namely the construction of a new facility, either at Whitepath or elsewhere. There’s also a timetable associated with those state funds. Basically, the county has several big-ticket projects to consider before entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the city for something new.

The aquatic and wellness center will be discussed at a later meeting, and Panter intends to speak at a board of education meeting to gauge their support.

Panter campaigned on bringing a YMCA-like facility to Blue Ridge before being elected to city council. He’s tried to develop a similar facility since 1990.

Fannin poised to receive a class 5 ISO rating

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga: Fire Chief Larry Thomas promised Fannin’s Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating would be dropping to a five in the near future.

He presented emails from ISO Community Hazard Mitigation Manager Michael Morash, who confirmed the “department has improved in class.” However, Morash did not have a date when the new rating would go into effect. The final report is still in the middle of being processed. The email was sent on January 27, 2021.

“It very well may take several months. He didn’t give me any ideas,” Thomas stated.

Fire Chief Larry Thomas

Fire Chief Larry Thomas

All the information was compiled in November 2020 and sent to ISO. After Thomas came back from medical leave, he reached out again to Morash about the ISO rating.

Some of the steps taken to get Fannin back to a Clas Five ISO rating included hiring full-time firefighters, public education, personnel training, truck pump testing, fire hose inspections, hydrant testing, ladder inspections, and building pre-plans.

Post Two Glenn Patterson asked how recently the fire chief had spoken with Morash. Thomas said it was around two weeks ago.

“These are his words, ‘we’re going back to a PC class five?’” Chairman Jaimie Hensley inquired. Thomas confirmed and added they would continue in their efforts to bring the rating down further.

“At least, it appears we’re going to go from a six to five, and I think you know we need to set goals to try and improve on that. As a regular citizen, I think we know the difference that it costs the citizens, such as the insurance, for instance. So, for that to come back down to a class five, that’s a pretty good start. Let’s just keep hammering,” Hensley remarked.

Post One Earl Johnson commented it’s a slow process. It took a year for the ISO Mitigation Team to return and reevaluate the county.

“Once they publish this that we’re improving to a five, then at that point, the insurance agencies can apply that rate to quote the new insurances to hopefully bring the premiums where they were,” Johnson commented.

Fannin residents should see insurance rates drop back down.

“I think it’s a very good idea to keep shoving forward as much money as we put into fire and EMS. I think we need to keep striving to get the number on down. Hopefully, with more water throughout the county with the water authority board, get all our fire hydrants in working order. I think it’s going to be continuous whether [ISO’s] auditing our fire services or not. I think it’s very crucial every year.”

Thomas explained that two firefighters spend their days maintaining hydrants and reporting any damage they find. At a previous meeting, Blue Ridge, McCaysville, and Fannin officials met with the fire department to discuss who’s responsible for fixing specific hydrants.

The plan to repair damaged hydrants is working, and the list of out-of-service hydrants has significantly shortened since 2020. Fire department’s still in the process of appropriately marking roadside hydrants to prevent mowers from running them over in the spring and summer.

Fire departments also improved their continuing education with an online program and in-person training. Post One Johnson told Thomas information like new training programs, and he should publicize improvements so the community can recognize their efforts.

litter ordinance

Post One Earl Johnson

“We can all work together and get that number down if at all possible,” Johnson stated. “We need to get that information out there to let people know what you are doing.”

The commissioners approved the hiring of six full-time firefighters as part of the 2020 budget. According to ISO ratios, three volunteers equal one full-time firefighter.

“The ratios they run with I don’t agree with, but as far as some of the other changes we had in our procedures, just quick, I guess on paging out the number of engines per house fire. If we were paging out three, Mike Stokes, the other ISO gentleman, said, you would need a total of 69 people there. I don’t know how they figure that. 20 people usually somebody getting in somebody’s way,” Thomas explained.

69 refers to the number of volunteers needed to replace 23 full-time firefighters, according to ISO standards.

“There’s not 23 paid people in any county around us. What do they do when a house catches on fire?” Johnson asked.

Thomas’s response was volunteer firefighters. Johnson added that some of the surrounding counties have a better ISO rating than Fannin. Thomas stated in the meeting that Union County has a four, which Union County’s website confirmed.

Chairman Hensley asked if urban and rural areas had different ratios. Thomas added all ratios were the same across the state.

Currently, Fannin’s volunteer firefighter base has dwindled due to extenuating circumstances like other employment and COVID-19. They’re working on filling those spots. However, the firefighter ratio can be overcome with more equipment, according to Thomas.

Fannin discusses how to enforce litter ordinance

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litter ordinance

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – The predicament of loose trash on Fannin roads and fixing the litter issue took center stage during the commissioner meeting.

Originally, Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody approached the commissioners about changing some language on the Adopt a Road application. She had a list of 67 individuals and families in her records and 37 are still active. Four new people recently signed up as well.

Woody commended an Adopt a Road participant who picks up the trash and then sorts out the recycling before bagging it.

Woody presenting the new Adopt a Road program application.

Woody presenting the new Adopt a Road program application.

COVID-19 has prevented the Colwell Detention Center crews from picking up garbage since last March. As part of the contract with Colwell, Fannin only pays for the detainees if they work. Recently, local probationers have begun picking up trash every Saturday. The first Saturday, they worked several miles and picked up a dumpster full of garbage.

After some discussion about trash being strewn about the county, the conversation turned to the private garbage haulers. A letter about litter was sent to those businesses in early February.

Post One Earl Johnson relayed a story about witnessing a private garbage collector lose a bag on the road. The person stopped and picked up the bag but didn’t collect the pieces that fell out of the bag. When asked by Johnson if he would pick the garbage up, the individual drove away.  He believed the only way to stop littering is to crack down on those businesses.

Some haulers don’t cover the garbage or secure it in any way.

“Why can’t we make these people secure their loads?” Johnson inquired. “I just want us to do something, to do our job, to get them to start securing their load.”

He cited that one of the Adopt Road participants stated it picks up six bags a week.

Fannin does have an ordinance in place stating it’s unlawful for any vehicle to transport loose materials on any road or street without “suitable covers to securely fastened to the vehicle.” In the collections operation portion of the document, the ordinance also mandates that collection/transportation vehicles “shall be loaded in a way that the contents will not fall, leak, or spill” and “be covered when necessary to prevent the blowing or falling of materials from the vehicle.” Read entire Litter Control Ordinance 2009

Section of litter ordinance addressing littering and spillage

Section of ordinance addressing transportation of loose materials

Woody mentioned rewriting the solid waste ordinance to add clearer specifications for pick-ups, large trucks, along with tarp and enclosed backends. Johnson asserted that the state has a secured load law for vehicles.

However, Woody can’t issue a citation due to a change in Georgia law. The state changed the law to say that only a mandated officer can write a citation. She’s a code enforcement officer, not a state mandated officer.

“[The citation] would have to come from an officer who’s been to mandate school,” Woody said.




Chairman Jamie Hensley mentioned that they’ve talked about a potential county Marshall to enforce ordinances. The person would travel around and issue violation citations. It could be an off-duty officer as long as the person it mandated. The fine could range between $410 to $1,000, per day.

Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody

Some rental properties and associated cleaners may bear some responsibility for loose bags of trash in the community.

Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff found a bag on Colwell Church Road, which contained a note from weekend cabin renters.

“The note inside of the garbage said, “We did not find an outside garbage can, so we left the garbage in the kitchen,’” Woody explained. “So, whoever picked it up from the cleaning job took it and deposited it out on Colwell Church Road.”

Woody asked for a list of all the cabin rentals in Fannin – all 1,600 owners. She’s considering sending a letter about littering to them as well.

“At this point, we got to do something. If’s there’s not any fear of losing bags of garbage, it’s going to just keep on. It’s went on so long now; it’s just awful,” Johnson commented.

Mineral Springs and more business

The commissioners granted Mineral Springs 2021 funding early after the facility asked for assistance due to the hardships of COVID-19.

2020 budget CARES Act Reimbursements was approved for four departments, totaling $78,000.

Janie Bearden was reappointed to the Tax Assessor Board.

Larry Chapman and Angie Arp were reappointed to the Water Authority Board.

Future of WhitePath building in continued limbo

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga: The Whitepath building discussion resumed during the February 9 meeting without a resolution on how to proceed.

At a previous meeting, Post Two Glenn Patterson asked for site testing, such as asbestos, mold, mildew, and underground rock, to be performed before further plans were developed. According to Patterson, the recommended testing fell around $11,000, but it would remove several unknowns surrounding the project. The board asked County Attorney Lynn Doss to contact companies asking if they could perform soil testing and asbestos testing before the February meeting.

Hayes James promised to provide an estimate after the February meeting, and the county reached back out to Contour to “reduce the scope” of the testing to cut the price hopefully.

The board doesn’t believe parking lot drilling for rock will be necessary because most of Fannin’s ground doesn’t contain difficult to remove stone like granite.

“I just want to be as frugal as we possibly can with the county’s money,” Chairman Jamie Hensley stated.

Administration, Library, or Both

Another point of conversation was the intended use of the Whitepath building – will it include the library or just administration offices?  

When Patterson and outgoing Post One Earl Johnson agreed to purchase the building in 2019, they bought it solely for administration purposes. In January 2020, the state bestowed a $1,383,000 grant for a new library, and Whitepath would be the proposed location.

County Attorney Lynn Doss spoke with bound council Gray and Panell, who previously worked with Fannin on SPLOST matters. The law office confirmed it’s not uncommon to house a library within an administrative building.

Johnson geared the SPLOST allocated for the new administrative building could be “lambasted by the library board” without established terms. 

The SPLOST specifically addressed creating new administrative offices to make it easier for the public to access. It didn’t include a new library as part of those funds when passed by Fannin County citizens.

“If the library goes in the building, there can be some sort of reimbursement made,” Johnson commented. “If the plan can come together for the library and the funds be appropriated to maybe reimburse SPLOST and purchase, say, a wing of the building or an acre of the property, then I would never have an objection to that.”

Outgoing Post One Earl Johnson

Patterson agreed that the SPLOST funds should go toward the administrative building, not the library.

Additionally, the $1.3 million grant likely won’t cover all library expenses, and the project would need more funding. Some on the library board estimated the new building would cost around $5 to $8 million.

The current square footage of the Fannin County Library is approximately 6,800 square feet. Previously, library board member Ron Bolin stated that according to state standards the new library would need at least 19,000 square feet.

Georgia Director of Library Planning and Construction Nate Rall has promised to help Fannin through the process.

Hensley wasn’t present for the purchase of Whitepath asked if the county had any other options before buying the building?

Johnson confirmed it wasn’t the only option, but ultimately, it’s the direction the board went. With the hot real-estate, it’s unlikely the county will find another piece of property for a similar value.

Changes on the way for Fannin Commission meetings, Walker selected interim CFO

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Fannin commission meeting

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – At the first commission meeting of the new administration, Chairman Jamie Hensley proposed several changes to the format.

Going forward, for a trial period, the meetings will be moved until 6 p.m., instead of 5:15 p.m. The later start time will hopefully give more citizens an opportunity to attend the meetings, which remain on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

“You can’t get a good pulse from the citizens if they can’t get here,” Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson commented.

Post Two Glenn Patterson asked if county costs would go up if the meeting moved to a later time. He furthered explained if the meeting was later, would county employees add that as extra time to their workday if asked to attend. He also commented the meeting would start after dark for five months out of the year if moved to 6 p.m. Some older individuals prefer not to drive in the dark, he added.

Hensley stated, “Nobody is able to attend and have the input or anything they might want to say. I want everybody to understand I work for the county, for the citizens of Fannin County…I want to give every opportunity they possibly can.”

Board meetings will move to 6 p.m. on a trial basis.

Also, public comments will occur at the end of the meeting, not the middle. The time limit for speakers will be extended from three minutes to five minutes. Again, this change will begin on a trial basis.

“I have mixed emotions,” Patterson remarked about public comments. “I know we deal with a lot of things up here. Some things can be very controversial…The way we do it now. We don’t feed the fire. They come up there thinking about what they want to say.”

Patterson believed the middle of the meeting commentary allows for cooler heads to prevail.

“You’re going to get it whether it’s here or right out there, so take your pick,” Johnson said. “In here, it’s usually more reserved, civil, or go right out there and you might hear something that really hurts your feelings.”

Johnson added moving public commentary to the end gives citizens an opportunity to congratulate the board or quickly get something off their chest instead of “stewing” for two weeks.

“I see both sides,” Hensley stated. “I’m always the one if there’s an issue, I want to know now that way we can put the fire out so to speak, and move forward. I know they are things will have to take a step back on, but I always want to move forward.”

The trial period for the meeting time and public comments runs from January through April. After that, the board will decide to make the change permanent or not.

Additional Bussiness

County Clerk Sherri Walker was selected as the interim Chief Financial Officer following the resignation of Robin Gazaway in December.

Sherri Walker will serve as interim CFO.

The board also granted the tax commissioner approval to accept checks, cash, debit, credit cards on behalf of Fannin County and disperse property tax and motor vehicle tax bimonthly.  Additionally, the commissioners approved the tax commissioner’s ability to waive interest or penalties for valid reasons.

Commissioners accepted the Division of Family and Children Services budget for 2021.

Two variances were tabled, and one was approved.

Read more about why Post One Earl Johnson is continuing to serve, here.

Commissioners approve hazard pay for county-employed emergency services

Board of Commissioners, Featured, Featured News, Featured Stories, News
hazard pay

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Fannin County first responders, firefighters, and sheriff’s office employees will be receiving hazard pay for their efforts during the pandemic. The commissioners finally reached an understanding on the subject in the November 24, 2020 meeting.

“These EMS workers, sheriff’s department, fire department, they can’t telefix anyone. They have to be right there with them, hands-on, dealing with them absolutely directly,” Post One Earl Johnson stated. “I feel even stronger about it now than our last meeting… If anybody is deserving of the $500 hazard pay, it’s our first responders at this moment.”

Read previous meeting hazard pay article.

Post Two Glenn Patterson agreed with Johnson and added that “you’re never going to have 100 percent support in anything you do. I think this would increase morale and give workers financial security and confidence.

Full and part-time paramedics, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, jailers, school resource officers, and first responders will receive $500 or $250 depending on their employment status.

“If they’re employed by Fannin County full-time $500, part-time $250,” Johnson clarified. “

However, volunteer firefighters won’t be receiving any hazard pay.

“I think their name says it all. They’re not full-time, not that I don’t appreciate them. I think that was the big sticking point when we first started talking about this. How do you distinguish between, you know, people that are active volunteer firefighters and people that are still volunteer firefighters, but they’re not able to volunteer much…I think it would be hard to be fair with volunteers,” Johnson explained. “No one came up with a definitive way to do it and do it fairly. As of right now, it would be hard to include them in this.”

Patterson added that maybe after the first of the year, the county could consider an incentive for the volunteers.
Elected officials and department heads aren’t eligible to receive hazard pay.

The total amount for the county would be between $50,000 and $65,000. However, the money is reimbursable through the $1.3 million provided to Fannin County through the CARES Act.

Technically, Fannin County will experience less of a financial burden than neighboring counties for hazard pay. For example, Pickens County awarded its first responders $2,000 in hazard pay.

Fannin can’t award pay retroactively, so they must issue it in upcoming pay periods. However, Chairman Stan Helton and Post One Johnson can’t approve anything past December 31.

“If we’re dealing with federal money, I want to make sure that we’re not going to do anything that’s going to put us in a bind for next year. The retroactive pay that was discussed last meeting was a game-changer. This is an important thing that we’re trying to get to a decision, but it’s important stuff here that we don’t mess it up,” Chairman Helton explained.

Ultimately, the board left it up to the financial department to decide it a lump sum or 4-increments based on county employees’ most tax beneficial outcome.

Johnson made the motion, Patterson seconded, and all three commissioners voted in favor of it.

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