BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – At their Tuesday, June 5, meeting, the Blairsville City Council heard from Clay Pilgrim, of the accounting firm Rushton & Company, who presented the city’s financial audit for fiscal year 2017.
Pilgrim explained this was the first year that Rushton & Company conducted an audit for the city of Blairsville.
“Things did go well during the auditing process, especially for a first-year audit,” Pilgrim stated. “Sometimes the first year of an audit does not go as smooth as the second, third, fourth and fifth … (I am) very pleased with all your department heads, all your finance staff.”
According to Pilgrim, the audit produced an “unmodified opinion” for fiscal year 2017. Essentially, this means the financial statements of the city “ended in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the (U.S.)”
Pilgrim went on to state the city’s total net position for 2017 was $23,429,812.
“That’s going to be your capital assets – buildings, equipment, land – less the depreciation on those assets, less any debt that’s outstanding that was used to acquire those assets,” Pilgrim explained.
Concerning the city’s general fund, Pilgrim stated revenues decreased in 2017 by 8.8 percent for a total of $152,615.
“A couple of causes there – fines and forfeitures decreased about $29,000 and intergovernmental revenues decreased $139,685 largely due to LMIG (Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant) and timing there on when those are spent,” Pilgrim said.
Expenditures, however, also decreased $214,354.00, approximately 14.7 percent than that of 2016, and the ending unassigned fund balance, or reserves, for the city stood at $2,489,042 as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to Pilgrim.
Regarding the reserves balance, Pilgrim described this as “extremely healthy.”
Highlighting the statement on economic condition and growth for the city, the audit stated, “The city will continue to face challenges as a result of past slow economic growth, but (Rushton & Company is) encouraged at the very positive direction of the current economy along with strong fiscal city policies … (the) average unemployment rate is the lowest in many years and continues to be among the lowest in our region … (Rushton & Company remains) cautiously optimistic that the growth in revenues and businesses in the city of Blairsville will continue.”
Following Pilgrim’s presentation, Councilwoman Mary Ruth Cook commended City Clerk Kaye McCann and Acccounting Clerk Joan Manheim for their assistance to the auditors. To this, Manheim also thanked all of the city department heads for their participation in the audit.
“I’m very appreciative of the trust you put in us, our firm, to do your audit,” Pilgrim stated.
“Well, we appreciate you and your team, Clay,” Mayor Jim Conley told Pilgrim.
The council also approved a reimbursement amount to Union County for an accounting error going back to 2009. Since that time, Manheim explained, a utility bill from Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) for a sewer lift station at the airport has continued to be sent to the county. Manheim explained the error was discovered after BRMEMC refused to provide the city information about the meter at the lift station, since the meter number was not registered to the city.
Upon investigation, BRMEMC determined the meter was erroneously registered to the county’s Recreation Department.
Manheim further explained the city has made a request to BRMEMC to update all of the city’s meter numbers.
In addition, Mayor Conley said the total amount the county has paid to BRMEMC since the error originated has amounted to $10,784.20.
“Lamar (Paris, sole commissioner of Union County), when I met with him, he said, ‘If you all pay us half of it, we’ll be satisfied,’” Mayor Conley explained.
The council unanimously agreed to pay $5,392.10 to Union County as reimbursement.
In department head reports, Darren Harper, of the Downtown Development Authority, reminded the council that this Thursday, June 7, is Shop Late Thursday for the month, during which downtown businesses will stay open later in the evening to allow potential patrons who cannot come downtown during the day a chance to visit and shop at downtown businesses. Harper also gave a report on a forthcoming property off of Pat Haralson Drive. Harper said the three-story building would consist of two floors, at 4,000 square feet each, of retail space and a third 4,000 square-foot for residential space.
Blairsville Airport Manager John Hamler reported that despite the rainy weather seen across the region in the past few weeks, business has continued to rise at the airport. Hamler also stated over 50 people or entities are currently on the waiting list for hangar space at the airport. “I think with the new fuel system, the new Jet A tank, additional people coming in, I think we are going to see those sales come up,” Hamler stated. “I can envision us hitting $1 million a year there in sales in the next two to three years.”
Police Chief Johnny Carroll reminded the council and those present the new hands-free driving law for the state of Georgia will go into effect on July 1. This law prohibits drivers from holding their cell phones in their hands while driving. Drivers will now be required to use a hands-free device or system to access their phones.
In other business, the council approved the purchase of a Kubota zero-turn mower from Nelson Tractor in the amount of $12,157.28 for the Blairsville Airport. Funds from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) will be used to finance the purchase.
The council approved a new work detail agreement for fiscal year 2018-19 with the Georgia Department of Corrections in the amount of $39,500 for the year.
Councilwoman Cook mentioned the need for a crosswalk and/or pedestrian crossing signage on Pat Haralson Drive near the Downtown Develoment Authority property and Millie’s Corner Plaza. The council agreed that signage would be the best and most expedient option, and Mayor Conley told Cook pedestrian crossing signs could be installed as early next week.
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Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.