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