Union County Commission Meetings for 2021

Community, News
public hearings millage rate courthouse Qualifying meetings state of emergency

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – During the December 2020 meeting, Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris approved the meeting schedule for 2021.

The meetings will continue to take place on the third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Union County Courthouse in Courtroom A.

The dates are as follows

  • January 21
  • February 18
  • March 18
  • April 15
  • May 20
  • June 17
  • July 15
  • August 19
  • September 16
  • October 21
  • November 18
  • December 16

All meetings are open to the public. Individuals with disabilities can contact the County Clerk to allow Union County to make accommodations for those people.

Commissioner declares World Polio Day and Wilonell Dyer Day

News
polio

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – In the Union County Commission meeting, Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris signed two proclamations for World Polio Day on October 24 and Wilonell Dyer Day on October 11.

Members of the Rotary Club were in attendance to accept the World Polio Day proclamation. Over 1.2 million professionals and business leaders make up Rotary International, which specializes in providing humanitarian service and promoting goodwill and peace in the world.

In 1985, Rotary began the PolioPlus and headed up the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to immunize children against polio. Today the effort includes the World Health Organization, CDC, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Since 1988, polio cases in children have dropped 99 percent, and the world is close to eradicating the disease. Rotary club volunteers have protected more than two billion children in 122 countries from the disease. Currently, the club is working to raise an additional $100 million, which will be doubled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to $300 million.

Wilonell Dyer Day

Commissioner Paris visited Wilonell Dyer in the Union County Nursing Home just before her 101st birthday on October 11 to present her proclamation. Born Wilonell Collins in 1919 in the Choestoe area, she married Ervin Dyer, and they had four children Jerry, Larry, Judy, and Janie.

Wilonell taught school for over 30 years, with 29 of those years spent teaching Algebra and Math to Union County youths. She retired on June 30, 1982.

A life-long member of Choestoe Baptist Church, she served as the treasurer for several years. Also, with nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, she regularly earned Mother’s Day honors for having the most grandchildren present on the holiday. She’s currently the oldest living member of the church.

Currently, the Union County Nursing Home is allowing window visits for its residents to protect them against COVID-19.

In other business, Paris accepted two accountability courts grants for the Enotah Mental Health Court, in the amounts of $12,582.00 and $29,640.00. He also closed two old bank accounts that are no longer in use: the Capital Improvements bank account at Bank OZK and the 2015 Bond Project Fund maintained by the Treasury Office.

October 1 is Environmental Awareness Day in Union County

Community
Environmental awareness

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – To demonstrate good faith and commitment to a clean future, Union County Sole Commissioner declared October 1, 2020, as Environmental Awareness Day in the county.

“The citizens of Union County shown great concern regarding the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams in Union County, whereas the rivers, streams, and Lake Nottely are invaluable to recreation and tourism in Union County, whereas Lake Nottely specifically is an asset for Union County and its citizens, Union County and its citizens must join together to protect and maintain water quality of bodies of water in Union County and the surrounding areas,” read the proclamation.

The government will protect and sustain local waterways, including Lake Nottely, to the extent that it has the authority to do so. Lake Nottely is TVA property, which will impose some limitations.
Marlene Hadden spoke at the meeting about preserving current quality of local water. She asked Paris to help the citizens to help him maintain water quality.

Marlene Hadden asked for a joint effort in protecting Union County’s water and air quality.

“Here in Union County, we believe we have higher standard criteria of good clean water, and we’d like it to stay that way,” Hadden stated. “Being reactive is not the way to deal with this situation. It spawns distrust. It makes people angry, worried, and even scared about their water. Being proactive fosters all of us coming together to try and maintain and protect our current quality of water.”

Paris thanked her for speaking and serving as a reminder about the importance of water and air quality.

At the September Union County Commission meeting, Paris again stated that Union County government didn’t control the leachate issue. It’s a city issue, and Blairsville City Council voted to halt leachate processing in September. According to Paris, “there’s no evidence the city did anything wrong or polluted Lake Nottely in the least.

In other meeting news, the county accepted an accountability courts grant for Enotah Adult Felony Drug Courts Medically Assisted Treatment program for $30,832.00.

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month

Community
suicide prevention

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Union County had the third-highest suicide rate per capita in Georgia in 2018, according to the CDC.

Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris proclaimed September 2020 as Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month in Union County with Change in Our World Director Rebecca Brendle.

Beginning in 2015, Change in Our World had brought awareness and ministered to countless young people in the community about the value of life.

Exert from the proclamation: “Young people are key to Union County, Georgia’s future success, prosperity, and quality of life, our young people are our most valuable resource; they deserve opportunities to discover themselves and their purpose in secure environments that allow them to create relationships, find wholeness, and strengthen others.”

Change in Our World tirelessly works to provide opportunity and gathering places for the youth of Union County. The organization has a regular meeting space, hosts local events, and recently purchased the Blairsville Ice Cream and Mini-Golf stand. Change in Our World participants and the community are always invited to stop by the ice cream shop. In October, the organization will be participating in the Georgia Mountain Fairground Arts and Crafts Festival, and then in November, it will be attending the Mountain Country Christmas in Lights Festival.

Hopefully, its efforts will help to empower local young people, letting them find their voices and becoming contributing members of the community.

By raising awareness and placing value on the lives of the individual, suicide can be prevented. Those dedicated to creating safe and guided environments for Union County’s youths that are free of judgment, alcohol, and drugs will give teenagers and children an opportunity to reach their full potential and become the next generation of leaders.

The county’s goal is to let young people know that they’re valued. No one will be forgotten.

Feature image courtesy of Change in Our World. Recently, the non-profit received a $5,000 grant from the county.

Union County lowers tax increase to 17 percent

News, Press Release
lowers tax increase

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – In a called meeting, Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris approved dropping the tax increase from 19.98 percent to 17 percent.

“After hearing from constituents at the three public hearings, Union County has decided to reduce the proposed property tax increase to 17%. The school portion of your bill is about two-thirds of the total tax bill meaning that even with the increase from the county, your actual out of pocket property tax increase should only be about 5.8% of your total property tax bill,” Paris explained.

Millage Rate Resolution

The county side of the millage rate is now set at 7.178 mills, not the 7.361 mills that was approved in the August 27 called meeting.

The commissioner also detailed all the reasons behind the proposed increase.

  1.  “We have mostly been in the top three lowest mil rates in Georgia out of 159 counties since I have been in office.  In trying to help the public with low taxes and provide the best facilities and services possible, this very low rate is just not sustainable any longer.
  2. Increase of salaries for Sheriff and Jail deputies in order to maintain staff and not lose them to other counties.
  3. In order to keep property taxes low, we have had to utilize the reserve funds to help balance the budget and need to replenish them.
  4. Our medical insurance rates have increased each year with 2018 increasing $750,000 which we are still trying to make up for and are going up $100,000 next year.
  5. We are being required to have all property reevaluated in the county by next year and the cost is $380,000.
  6. Our commitment to a new gun range that has been in the works for nearly 5 years will be approximately $500,000 and it is too late to change. Thanks to the sheriff, 75% will be paid by grant funding.
  7. The State of Georgia has cut its budget 15% which is estimated to impact the county library, drug court, health dept by approximately $70,000.
  8. Vehicle maintenance and equipment repairs are up $40,000.
  9. Paving (LMIG Funds) from the State DOT will be decreased $104,000.
  10. While the county is being reimbursed for some of the COVID-19 funds, we have no idea what our cost and expense will be in 2021. We are just holding our breath with the huge amount of new infection we are now experiencing in the county and not sure what the future holds.

Thanks for your understanding as we are all working very hard to keep our budget as low as possible and we will all continue that process.  Thank you!!”

The board of education maintained it’s millage rate at 11.74 mills, which was lower than the rollback rate.

4 non-profits working to end substance abuse and poverty

Community
substance abuse grants

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Change in Our World, Freedom Ministries, New Hope Counseling, and Family Connection received four substance abuse grants at the August 2020 Union County Commission Meeting.

Five local organizations applied for the grant, and an independent committee selected the four winners. The members of the committee are anonymous. The commissioner had zero input on who received funds. These grants began in 2010 after the passage of the alcohol referendum.

“I make the commitment to set aside $50,00 each year from alcohol license fees and tax receipts to put back into the community for the purpose of helping to combat the alcohol and drug abuse problems that already exist in Union County,” said Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris.

The county distributes half of the assets in the form of grants to organizations that applied for the funds.
Change in Our World, founded by Rebecca Brendle in 2015, is a suicide prevention organization that helps young people navigate their teenage years. The organization offers several outreach initiatives throughout the year and provides teenagers with a meeting facility at the Change in Our World office. Recently, Brendle purchased Blairsville’s Ice Cream and Mini Golf as another area for Change kids to volunteer. She hopes it will be open almost all year round to provide young people with a fun place to go.

“A lot of this has to do with prevention work because their families are bad situations for them, so they can either repeat the pattern or come out of that pattern,” explained Brendle. “We’re a faith-based organization, so we’re not necessarily a part of the school. It’s a lot of word of mouth on how they come to us.

Freedom Ministries in North Georgia provides addiction counseling for almost 15 years. The faith-based program has classes for men and women. It also has the Freedom House for men in the area who don’t have a safe place to stay.

“Right now, with all this going on, our alcohol and opioid addiction is spiraling out of control. It’s just climbing. We thank everybody in the county for supporting us,” said James Spiva.

L to R: Family Connection Katy Jones, New Hope Counseling Troy Beaver, Freedom Ministries James Spiva, Change in Our World Rebecca Brendle

Established in 20015, New Hope Counseling is an accredited alcohol and drug treatment program as well as DUI school. Out of 2,300 to 3,000 clinical evaluations, 40 and 50 percent of people are in treatment, and 20 and 30 percent are in recovery. Since 2008, New Hope Counseling has struggled to keep the doors open due to the non-renewal of the federal grant it received in 2005.

New Hope Counseling Representative Troy Beaver enlightened the room about the difficulties of prevention measurement:

 

“It’s extremely difficult to measure prevention, I can’t tell you how many cases of the coronavirus were prevented because you’re wearing a mask…I can’t tell you how many of your lawnmowers or chainsaws or weed eaters weren’t stolen last night because someone received treatment at New Hope…but I could fill this room with individuals that will give testimonials about how New Hope Counseling through their work and our supportive treatment are now productive, tax-paying members of our community.”

Family Connection, founded in 1998, works with children to ensure a child’s success and instill productive habits that they will carry into adulthood. The program has paid out over $25,700 emergency funds to families in need. The Goodies from the Heart and Panthers’ Pantry worked to deliver weekly meals to 60 families who lacked transportation during the COVID-19 shutdown. Over 400 students participated in the Backpack to School Bash, which removed the financial stress of back-to-school shopping for those families.

“There’s a Family Connection in every county. It might look a little bit different. In Union County, since the beginning, we have realized how to prevent poverty and break that cycle is to get a good education. We work in the school, that’s where our clients are…Our main goal is to make sure that all children in Union County grow up to be successful, contributing members of their community,” said Family Connection Coordinator Katy Jones.

The non-profit also creates positivity polls to inform students that their peers aren’t all drinking alcohol or using drugs. The number might be much smaller than they realize.

“In this time of such tremendous problems, nationwide with the opioid crisis, it’s nice to know that we have these non-profit organizations spending their time and effort in Union County,” stated Paris.

Financial strain reason behind 19.98 percent tax increase

News
union tax increase public hearing

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – On Thursday, August 20, Union County Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris held two of three public hearings concerning a proposed property tax increase. In each meeting, the commissioner echoed the necessity to raise taxes to combat rising costs and maintain services. 

**EDIT*** After the three public hearings, Commissioner Paris decided to lower the tax increase from 19.98 percent to 17 percent. This article was published a week prior to the final hearing.

Each hearing took place in a packed, socially distanced courtroom with a total of roughly 50 uneasy citizens looking for answers about the sudden increase to their taxes.

“I have dedicated the past 20 years to making Union County a place we can all be proud to call home,” Commissioner Paris stated, “Very few times have I had to increase the property taxes. It gives me a sick pain to my stomach, and I had rather do anything than raise property taxes.”

The proposed increase is necessary to balance the county budget in 2021. Previously, Paris has striven to keep Union County’s millage rate one of the lowest in the state.

“We’ve been just about straight flat for four or five years, and now we’ve got this blip to try to catch up. I’ve tried to keep your taxes so low for so long that I’ve really overdone it,” Paris stated.

The county-portion of millage rate will increase by 1.226 mills or 19.98 percent over the rollback rate. A tax rate of one mill represents a tax liability of one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value.

2020 Notice of Property Tax Increase

The entire millage rate includes rates set by county and board of education. In Union County, the board of education makes up two-thirds of the complete rate, and the county is just one-third. The board of education has announced intentions to maintain the same rate as last year. As a result, Union County citizens should see an approximate increase of 6.8 percent to their yearly property tax bill in September.

The proposed tax increase for a year for a home with a fair market value of $100,000 is approximately $46.25. The proposed tax increase for a year for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $200,000 is roughly $97.36. For example, if a person had a tax bill of $900 with the increase, it would go up to $961, in other words, around $2.60 a day.

The state of Georgia calculates taxes the following way: 

“How to Figure Tax: The assessed value (40 percent of the fair market value) of a house worth $100,000 is $40,000. In a county where the millage rate is 25 mills, the property tax on that house would be $1,000; $25 for every $1,000 of assessed value or $25 multiplied by 40 is $1,000.”

With the proposed increase, the millage rate will be 7.361 mills. Without the tentative tax increase, the millage rate will be no more than 6.135 mills. As it stands, it no other Georgia counties raise their rates, Union County will move from the third lowest to the 11th lowest in the state.

The millage rate in 2006 was 6.65. The overall increase since then was .7 mills, and it was the highest rate in Union County until now. It has fluctuated up and down in that time.

The 10 a.m. meeting lasted over an hour and a half.

Union County does try to keep property taxes equally allocated between salaries and operating expenses at an almost 50/50 ratio. However, the property tax revenue for 2020 was short, nearly $1 million due to increased costs and state budget cuts.

2020 Current Tax Digest and 5 Year History

In the past, property values increased enough to pay the extra funds needed to cover county expenses. The county is in the middle of a property reassessment, which might put the county in a position to lower the millage rate in 2021. Once homes and real estate receive new appraised values, it should improve the budget digest. Additionally, the revaluation won’t necessarily result in property values increase. Some will receive at a higher reassessment, and others won’t.  

“The problem: By working so hard over the past four years to keep our taxes as some of the five lowest [in Georgia’s in 159 counties,] I have strained our budget. At the same time, the prices of almost everything we use has increased. The state of Georgia cut budgets last year, and this year, in most cases, by 15 percent. The cuts mean the county will have to pick up several of those increases,” Paris explained to the crowded courtroom.

Impact to the Budget

Areas of county government and services that will be impacted by state budget cuts are the library, health department, and court system. These departments cost around $70,000 for the county to run. The full impact of the state budget cuts remains unclear. 

The state also cut the road department’s local maintenance and improvement grant (LMIG), which goes toward road improvements by $104,000. The county also has to budget for a 20 percent match to receive this grant.

To help everyone understand how property taxes are levied, appraised, and collect, a short video from ACCG played to the audience.

Without the proposed increase, the county would have to let go of 35 employees. Currently, a total of 160 employees work for the county.

Paris added that they need “this cushion to fall back on in 2021,” and operating budgets will undergo cuts in every area possible.

Additionally, employees’ medical insurance continues to sky-rocket. The sheriff office, including deputies and jailers, have received pay increases to keep the staff in Union County. The pay increases must be kept competitive with other counties in the area. However, Paris praised Sheriff Mack Mason for keeping expenses down in other areas, such as jail board fees.

Areas of increased expenses in 2020

  • Health care costs – up by $100,000 (two years ago up by $700,000*)
  • Vehicle and equipment repairs – up by $20,000
  • Repairs and maintenance – up by $22,000
  • Property and vehicle insurance – up by $25,000
  • Vehicle purchases – up by $40,000

*The $700,000 increase in health insurance from two years ago marked the start of some financial issues. 

Another expense the county must budget for is the new gun range going up on Hwy. 180. The proposed cost is around $2 million. However, if built to Department of Natural Resources (DNR) specifications, the government organization should reimburse the county, up to 75 percent.

Turnout for the 5 p.m. public hearing, which was followed by the 6 p.m. county meeting.

Perhaps, one of the biggest reasons for the property tax increase is to replenish and protect the fund balance. Currently, Union County has one and a half months in reserves. GASB directs counties to keep two to five months of operating expenses in reserves.

 

 

“I am very sorry; we simply have no choice. If we let our reserve funds get any lower, it will negatively impact our county credit rating. [It] could create real problems, in the future, if emergency funds were ever needed to be borrowed,” Paris added.

During the public hearing, several concerned citizens raised questions about the recent purchases of the Hill Property for a little less than $750,000 and the Old Shoe Factory for $800,000.

Commissioner Paris explained that the Old Shoe Factory was purchased using SPLOST funds, and the county previously budgeted for the Hill Property. Neither, according to Paris, was a factor in the property tax increase.

At the end of the day, the county continues to be in good financial health, but it must take measures in 2020 to maintain it’s good standing for future generations.

State of the county following COVID-19 shutdowns

Community, Health
county

UNION COUNTY, Ga – Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris gave a brief update on how Union County is faring while many residents try to find a sense of normalcy.

Over the course of approximately one month, Union County’s cases grew by 20. Out of the 43, only eleven of those patients needed hospitalization and one death. Union General Hospital had one active patient as of May 22. Previously, multiple beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients.

“We’re very fortunate up here,” stated Paris. “The fact that we’ve only got one in the hospital is a great sign. Does that mean we’re only going to have one? No. Does it mean we’re out of the woods yet? No. But we feel that what we have done in the county is very preventative.”

The commissioner added that those over 65 and with preexisting conditions are still under the Gov. Kemp’s stay at home order until June 13.

“We just have to remember that this thing still is serious. My concern going forward is people are going to – like me, like all of us – are just tired of it. Just like wearing [masks] or not wearing [it],” expressed Paris.

He wanted everyone to continue to be cautious and follow social distancing. He did encourage masks wearing in public areas and to use common sense to try and flatten the curve.

“Employees at those stores are the ones who really notice it. They feel like if you don’t wear one, then you’re not concerned about protecting them,” said Paris.

Whether or not to open the Meeks Park pool is currently being debated because current COVID-19 protocols limit use to 50 people at one time. Also, all chairs must be disinfected each time the person using one leaves the facility. If the county decides to open, it might have to hire someone to sanitize all surfaces in and around the pool.

“It’s not only what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it, but it’s what’s the governor’s going to do. Is he going to loosen the guidelines or tighten the guidelines?” Paris commented on the rapidly evolving situation.

On a positive note, county sales tax revenue for April is slightly up from the same time last year. However, this isn’t expected to last. Also, the state still must unveil its 14 percent budget cuts, which will affect some areas of the county.

The city of Blairsville reported tax revenue numbers similar to last year as well. Currently, COVID-19 hasn’t significantly impacted the city’s budget, but again these numbers could change as the year progresses.

Across the board, it’s too early to determine the financial impact of COVID-19.

U.S. Forest Service grants permit for Union County target range

Announcements, Featured, News
target range

UNION COUNTY, Ga – The Union County target range project can officially proceed after the U.S. Forest Service issued a special use permit.

This is the current milestone crossed for Union’s first gun range. Currently, residents and law enforcement must use private land or travel outside the community to practice their shooting skills.

The range will be located off SR 180 between mile markers 18 and 19. It will feature a 200-yard rifle range, a shorter pistol range, and clubhouse. Union County Gun Club, formed in 2017, will be responsible for the operation of the facility.

Sheriff Mack Mason has been a strong proponent for establishing a gun range, “There is a lot of target practice that takes place on Forest Service land near houses, and homeowners, in close proximity, disturb one another when shooting on their property. “I’m hoping to centralize these people, that maybe they’ll want to join this club, confine it to a particular area by shooting in a nice, safe facility.”

Mason even approached Commissioner Lamar Paris with this location for the range around two-and-a-half years ago. Paris had been looking for a suitable location for the project for five years.

Previously, the county government held three separate public hearings as required by the U.S. Forest Service to inform the public and answer any concerns. No one issued a complaint against using national forest land.

In Nov. 2019, Blue Ridge District Ranger Andy Baker issued a Final Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact. “This decision consists of authorizing Union County Government to construct a target range on National Forest lands,” Baker’s report stated.

Paris commented on the use of U.S. Forest land, “It’s not all just the campers and the hikers. That’s a big part of it – you don’t want to destroy your national forest – but this particular property
is already in the grass, so there are very few trees that will have to be cut.”

Now that the project can move ahead, Union County government officials and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will meet to discuss funding and site planning.

Site planning will take between two or three months, but it’s too early to provide a construction timeline.

Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris announces acquisition of property for recreational use

News

Union County Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris shows map of new land acquisition

Blairsville, GA – Union County Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris announced in his May Commissioner’s Meeting on May 18, 2017 that an Option Agreement between Union County and the Estate of Leon Davenport, Sydney Vandiver, Laurie Shelnut and Kenneth C. Chambers for a 90-day option had been executed to purchase the property located in Land Lot 269, 9th District, 1st Section of Union County. The cost of the option was $500. The parcel of land is 13.080 acres and runs generally north to south bordering the east side of Blairsville Farmer’s Market property which Union County already owns. The price of the land is $678,500; which is $51,873 per acre. Paris said he anticipates closing on the property in the next 45 days. He said the acquisition of this property is a boon for the citizens on Union County as it will enable the County to further expand its recreational capabilities. He expressed a heartfelt thank you to the Davenport Family for working with Union County in this matter; he said the original asking price was about $1.2M. The Davenport Family is excited for Union County to be able to utilize this property, he said.

Paris said work on the reconstruction of the Hunter-England House, the oldest house in the County and on the Farmer’s Market property, was going very well. He estimated it to be about 75 per cent complete at the time of this meeting, if you don’t count the chimney.

Work on the old Blairsville Graveyard, he said, is coming along well. He said that about two years ago it was established that there were 104 unmarked graves plus the 60-70 marked graves. He said that five of those graves are those of Confederate Veterans and that the Sons of Confederate Veterans had been instrumental in helping with the revamping of the old cemetery. “We owe it to those that came before us to at least take care of their graves”, he said.

Butternut Golf Course is getting a new irrigation system, said Paris. He said the cost will be in the $600-750K range. He said the old system, after over thirty years, finally gave out. It’s a big expense, he said, but a necessary one.

Paris said that the developers of Hidden Harbor out on Hwy 129 donated two acres of land (near the entrance) to Union County and the County bought another acre. He said a fire and rescue station is planned for that property and possibly a recycling center. He said preliminary grading might get started this year for that project.

Paris said that he, County Manager Larry Garrett and Magistrate Judge Cary Cox went to Washington D.C. earlier in the week and witnessed the Military Service and burial for Leon Davenport. He said the event was “indescribable”; that he didn’t think a President could have been treated any better. He said the three of them were as touched by the event as any three people could be. He said they marched with a group of about 35 people behind the caisson for about a third of a mile until they reached the burial site. It was something he said he’d never forget.

Paris approved the Business Licenses of MLFD, LLC, located at 58 Hawk Dr.; Premier Mountain Rentals, located at 670 Arrowood Landing and Cabins at Critter Crossing, located at 27 Critter Crossing.

Union County Resident Pat Thibodeaux, during public comment, asked Paris when the Union County Jail would get some attention. She said that she had toured the jail and that there were inmates sleeping in makeshift beds on the floor and others that had to be transported to surrounding county jails. Paris responded that the County Jail had been built by the previous Commissioner. He said that it had been built too small in the first place and that he had been compelled to sink $600-800K just into grading around it to keep it from sliding off the hill shortly after he took office. He said that he had replaced all the heating and AC units about four years ago. He said he had given the Sheriff’s Office the go-ahead to fix anything that breaks down. Normally, he said, overcrowding only happens for short periods of time. He said it is less expensive to house inmates at remote facilities than it would be to build a new facility. Paris said: “If they’re not having a good time over there, I don’t care. I want it to be rough on them”. He said where he draws the line is if the Deputies are not safe. That, he said, can’t happen. But, he said, he would not allow inmates, who caused problems for Union County citizens, to detract from County projects that benefit Union County citizens.

A video of the entire Meeting can be viewed here.

Paris adopts fiscal year 2018 proposed budget

News

Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris convened the December commissioner’s meeting Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, at 6 p.m. following the 2018 Budget hearing, which commenced at 5 p.m. at the Union County Court House. Laura Driscol, Union County Finance Director, was available at both the budget hearing and the commissioner’s meeting for questions. No comments were made at the budget hearing. Paris adopted the proposed budget at the commissioner’s meeting with Resolution R-2017-17.

FY 2018 PROPOSED BUDGET
EXPENDITURES
Administration 487,270 SPECIAL REVENUE FUND
Building Maintenance 835,609 Revenues 1,384,353
Elections 161,197 Expenditures 1,384,353
Inspection 234,767
Law 20,000 CAPITAL PROJECT FUND
Tax Commissioner 327,033 Revenues 7,840,200
Tax Assessor 332,479 Expenditures 7,840,200
Risk Management 240,000
Internal Audit 50,000 ENTERPRISE FUND REVENUES
Gen. Government Bldgs and Plant 293,014 Revenues 2,663,535
Judicial Administration 3,500 Expenditures 2,663,535
Superior Court 122,500
Clerk of Superior Court 280,098 DEBT SERVICE
District Attorney 97,011 Revenues 1,464,150
Magistrate Court 193,590 Expenditures 1,464,150
Probate Court 234,873
Juvenile Court 184,500
Grand Jury 1,200
Public Defender 85,000
Sheriff 2,743,644
Jail 1,622,332
SRO 162,153
Animal Control 154,972
Coroner 33,282
Ambulance 300,000
Fire 1,148,800
Highways and Streets 1,229,389
Solid Waste and Recycling 62,200
Maintenance and Shop 134,698
Health 152,386
Welfare 25,000
Senior Citizens Center 171,491
Community Center 59,420
City of Blairsville/ UGH 135,000
Transportation Services 84,640 REVENUES
Drug Court 1,000 Taxes 10,853,319
Culture/Recreation Administration 47,100 Sales tax 3,310,000
Library 263,500 Licenses and Permits 312,100
Conservation Administration 77,833 Charges for Services 244,900
Development Authority 170,000 Intergovernmental Revenues 551,173
Agricultural Resources 46,514 Fines and Forfeitures 513,000
Forest Resources 5,355 Investment Income 38,000
Engineering Planning & Land Use 148,242 Contributions and Donations 5,000
Economic Development 52,000 Miscellaneous 726,600
Operating Transfers to Other Funds 3,400,000 Other Financing Sources 60,500
TOTAL EXPENDITURES 16,614,592 TOTAL REVENUES 16,614,592

 

The commissioner adopted Resolution R-2017-15 authorizing the filing of an application with the Georgia Department of Transportation and the United States Department of Transportation for a grant for public transportation assistance under Section 5311 of the Federal Transit Laws. He said the grant has historically paid for 40 to 45 percent of the cost of the Union County Transit System.

Resolution R-2017-16 was approved by Paris authorizing participation in the ACCG – Interlocal Risk Management Agency (IRMA) Supplemental Medical, Accident and Disability Fund for the purpose of providing coverage, by state law as of Jan. 1, 2018, for those risks imposed upon the county. This resolution, he said, authorizes him to sign a participation agreement with ACCG Insurance for the company to provide cancer insurance for all full-time and volunteer firefighters in Union County. The agreement, which Paris approved, between ACCG-IRMA and Union County for the county’s participation in the Firefighter’s Cancer Benefit Program will cost $12,225 per year.

Paris approved a notice to proceed for Stahlman-England Irrigation, Inc. to commence work in accordance with a contract dated Nov. 16, 2017, on Nov. 27, 2017. The work shall be completed on or before April 30, 2018.

A contract between Union County and Correctional Resource Group, a restaurant management and development firm located in McDonough, Georgia, to provide meals at the Union County Jail was approved by Paris. The contract meal price is guaranteed through Dec. 31, 2018. There is no increase in the meal price over last year. Paris said meals ran under $2 per unit.

The commissioner approved an amendment to the health services agreement between Union County and CorrectHealth Union, LLC to be effective Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2018. The contract price remains the same as last year at $12,279.84 per month. CorrectHealth Union, LLC manages the medical needs of inmates at the Union County Jail.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Paris approved a Business License for Rock Ridge Retreat, a cabin rental business located at 89 Flat Rock Ridge Road, Blairsville, Georgia. This is the only type of license issued in Union County, he said, for the purpose of collecting the hotel/motel tax.

In his commissioner’s comments, Paris remarked that the county made it through the first winter snow with a minimum of hardship and only one automobile accident with serious injuries. Paris also made mention of the retirement of the old courthouse video camera that uses VHS tapes and its replacement, a new digital video camera.

A question was raised regarding the cost to people who use the county transportation system. Paris responded that there had been no complaints about it, but if there were people who were financially strapped to use the system, they would need to contact Jenifer Queen at the Commissioner’s Office to see if some concession could be found. Queen said the fee to anyone who uses the system is $3 for the first mile and $0.25 per mile after that and that because state and federal funding is involved, the rules are very strict.

Another question was raised regarding the economic development of Union County, specifically, if any incentives were being offered to attract business to this area. Paris responded that it is still early in the recovery and nothing was being offered at this time. However, he said, Advanced Digital Cable is expanding their facility at the Industrial Park, doubling their square footage, so they can double their production. Also, he said, Advanced Corrugated Replacement will likely expand in the next year.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at [email protected].

Paris approves city annexation, announces multiple proclamations

News
public hearings millage rate courthouse Qualifying meetings state of emergency

BLAIRSVILLLE, Ga. – Union County Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris approved city annexation from the city of Blairsville for a tract off of Pat Haralson Memorial Drive and approved several proclamations in his monthly meeting Thursday, April 19.

Paris explained a senior-living apartment development and a Fellowship of the Hills building project will be the main beneficiaries of a property annexation by the city of Blairsville. The city approved its end of the proposed annexation Tuesday, April 3, after two months of talks and negotiations between property owners falling within the annexation route, the developer of the proposed apartment complex and Fellowship of the Hills church.

The annexation route follows a 50-foot wide path from the current city limits through a portion of Butternut Creek Golf Course to the tract of land off of Pat Haralson Drive. As Paris explained, the annexation allows the city to provide and extend utilities to the tract of land to be annexed.

Paris also signed six proclamations during the meeting. The first officially designated May 3, 2018, as Union County Day of Prayer. According to the proclamation, in 1988, federal legislation, passed by both Houses of Congress and signed into effect by President Ronald Reagan, set aside the first Thursday in May each year as a National Day of Prayer. On hand for this year’s proclamation were Blairsville Mayor Jim Conley and civic leader Sharon Morrison. Of the day, Morrison stated, “Prayer changes things … (the nation) is very divided right now, among the country and the churches, and we just ask God to heal that.”

Peggy Deyton speaks of the importance of raising awareness of Parkinson’s Disease.

A proclamation declaring April to be Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month in Union County was announced by Paris. Local resident Peggy Deyton, who has Parkinson’s, spoke about the need for awareness and education of the disease. Deyton, who previously worked as Paris’ executive assistant, stated, “Parkinson’s Disease is one of the fastest growing diseases on the planet … to the extent that some have suggested it will soon become a pandemic.” Deyton continued to say that the number of people suffering from the disease has doubled in the last 25 years with approximately 6.9 million globally with Parkinson’s. Also, by 2040, it is projected that 14.2 million will have Parkinson’s world wide, and at present, the cause of the neurodegenerative disease remains unknown.

Paris also signed a proclamation declaring April to be National Donate Life Month in Union County. According to the proclamation, in Georgia alone, over 5,590 people await a life-saving or life-enhancing organ transplant and each day 22 people die while awaiting an organ transplant. However, more than 4.7 million Georgians have registered their decision to Donate Life via an organ transplant at www.donatelifegeorgia.org or when receiving or renewing their driver’s license at a local driver’s license office.

Jennifer Addington, center, speaks of the dangers of food allergies as Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris, right, prepares to sign a proclamation declaring May 13-19 to be Food Allergy Awareness Week in Union County. Jennifer’s daughter, Abigail Addington, left, suffers from a severe food allergy.

A proclamation declaring May 13 through 19 to be Food Allergy Awareness Week in Union County was presented by Paris. On hand for the proclamation were Jennifer Addington and her daughter, Abigail, who has a severe food allergy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 200,000 ambulatory care visits involving children under 18 in the U.S. are due reactions from food allergies. Jennifer Addington spoke of her own daughter’s allergy to certain foods and the overall importance of raising awareness saying, “Some people dismiss it as just an intolerance, but it’s a matter of life and death.”

Paris presented another proclamation declaring April to be Child Abuse Prevention Month in Union County. Paris spoke of the “sobering display” by Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), currently located on the lawn of the Historic Courthouse on the Blairsville Town Square. “This display consists of … 291 blue pinwheels, which represent the number of children in our district – I think it’s an 11-county district – who had to be removed from a home due to abuse or neglect this past year,” Paris stated.

Lastly, Paris announced a proclamation declaring April to be Confederate History and Heritage Month and April 26 to be Confederate Memorial Day in Union County. “It has been the practice of Georgia governors since 1984 to proclaim April 26 as Confederate Memorial Day,” Paris stated. “The month of April bears special significance since it marks both the beginning and the ending of the War Between the States.

Commissioner Paris signed an agreement with CHA Consulting, Inc. to provide design services to the county for the new access road to be located at the intersection of U.S. 76 and Glenn Gooch Bypass. The cost for the services are to exceed $44,513.00, according to the agreement. The access road will provide enhanced access to the Farmers Market and youth sports complex, and Paris stated, “Probably after the season, or maybe even during the season, we hope to have (the road) completed.”

An agreement with AMR Business Products was approved by Paris for remote software maintenance and services for system failures of the recording equipment at the 911 dispatch center. The cost of the agreement is $2,834 and the agreement is valid from March 12, 2018, to March 11, 2019.

Paris also approved an agreement for Indigent Defense Services from the Public Defender Office of the Enotah Judicial Circuit, which consists of Union, Lumpkin, White and Towns counties. Paris explained Union County’s share was $95,563 for services for fiscal year 2017-18.

An agreement with Air Methods Corporation for emergency air medical transport services for the county was approved by Paris in the amount of $57,320. The agreement will take effect June 1, 2018, and will run through May 31, 2019. Paris explained the county is only responsible for half of the total amount of the contract and stated, “We want to thank everyone involved in this decision, especially Air Methods and Union General Hospital. Without this assistance, this invaluable program to assist our citizens would not be possible.”

Paris approved an agreement between the county and Legacy Link for the required local share of $95,000 during the 2019 fiscal year. “These funds are used by the Area Agency on Aging as match to draw down the federal and state monies for administration, coordination, information and referral, employment and training of older workers and volunteer programs. This program is provided through the Union County Senior Center … We really appreciate all the work they do,” Paris stated.

An Accountability Courts grant in the amount of $30,000 for Family Drug Court was accepted by Paris.

Author

Jason Beck

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.

Union General talks parking expansion during monthly board meeting

Business, News

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – Chief Executive Officer of Union General Hospital Lewis Kelley recommended to the hospital’s Board of Directors at their monthly meeting Tuesday, Nov. 28, to proceed with plans to expand parking at its Blairsville facility.

Kelley explained the hospital owns a forested strip of a land adjacent to Union General that, if cleared, would allow for approximately 50 more parking spaces. The lot, located just across Deep South Farm Road, would be used for employee parking and would make available more spaces in its main lot for patients and visitors to the hospital.

“We’re in desperate need of parking,” Kelley told the board. “If you come over here on some of our days, every piece of parking we have is full.”

Kelley stated about 50 trees would need to be cut and cleared, and the bid cost for site development is approximately $49,600. The CEO further explained paving for the lot would not be able to completed until spring; however, prior to the paving, the lot could be graveled to allow for sooner use. Kelley also stated the hospital would speak with Union County Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris about the possibility of adding a crosswalk with a caution light to provide employees safe crossing from the lot.

Though the amount for the project is under Kelley’s $50,000 spending limit, the CEO asked the board to approve the expenditure, which was approved unanimously.

Kelley also brought to the board’s attention the need to replace a piece of ear nose and throat (ENT) equipment for the operating room that failed two weeks prior to the meeting. According to Kelley, hospital officials are evaluating the situation and taking bids to replace the equipment. The equipment, Kelley stated, would cost between $190,000 to $225,000. Currently, the hospital is using a piece of equipment on loan from a private company until a permanent replacement can be attained, according to Kelley.

Also during the meeting, Julia Barnett, chief nursing officer for Union General, announced the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) gave the hospital a five-star rating for the quarter in its latest quality measures rating. “I just want you all to understand how hard that all of our folks have worked to get to a five-star rating,” Barnett said.

In addition, Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee received a four-star rating from CMS.

The board also approved the hospital’s updated Organizational Plan for Patient Care Services, which, according to Barnett, is a CMS required document that outlines and explains all of Union General’s patient services and is updated annually.

Chief Financial Officer Nick Townsend delivered the monthly financial statement and reported Union General has netted $2.5 million this fiscal year to date in comparison to $3.6 million this time last fiscal year. Rising healthcare and health insurance costs across the industry, Townsend stated, are contributing factors to the decrease.

Townsend also reported Union General received $74,000 from the Georgia Rural Hospital Tax Credit while Chatuge Regional received $17,000 from the tax credit. As for the hospital’s clinics, Townsend stated, “Overall visits continue to trend upward each month.”

Michael Gay, chief operating officer, presented a construction update for the hospital’s orthopedic wing expansion stating the demolition phase has been completed and walls have been constructed in the wing. Gay estimated a completion date of February 2018 for the construction.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at [email protected]

Author

Jason Beck

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.

Union County Fire Department Station 4 Open House a Fun Day for All

Community, News

Sole Commissioner Paris and Montana’s mom.

Blairsville, GA – On Saturday, May 20, 2017, UCFD Station 4 opened up their house to residents of Union County and plied them with hot dogs, burgers and soft drinks. UCFD Lieutenant David Ueltzen and the volunteers of Station 4 put the event together. Union County Fire Chief David and his wife were there along with along with UCFD Battalion Chief Richard Jones and Lieutenant Brent Long and his family. Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris was on hand to greet residents and sample the ‘dogs’; and there were lots of kids around to keep the adults busy.

Lt. Ueltzen, Chief and Mrs Dyer, Battalion Chief Jones and friend

How ’bout a dog?

One cold one comin’ up!

Station 4 Volunteer Montana Tinture and daughter

Station 4 volunteer Andy Tinture cookin’ up some ‘dogs’.

One resident of Union County made the suggestion that Station 4 develop a Website. Lt. Ueltzen thought that was a great idea; so, look for Station 4 on the Web soon.

There was a silent auction as well as a bundle of prizes that were given away to some happy visitors. All the items were donated by local businesses:
• Davis Jewelry of Blairsville
• Home Depot
• Walmart
• Chick-Fil-A
• Auto Zone
• O’Reilly Auto
• American Cowboy Store
• Ace Hardware
• Rose Auto
• Circuit World
• Pat’s Hallmark
• Brasstown Drug and Gun
• Fatz Restaurant
• Butternut Golf Course
• Union County Pool
• Christian Quilters

Lt. Brent Long and family.

All in all, it was a fun day for everyone. Lieutenant Ueltzen and the volunteers of Station 4 wish to thank all those residents who kindly donated to our cause.

Someone had a good time getting there!

Sole Commissioner Paris Recognizes Outstanding Citizens, Secures Hwy 515 Access to Farmers Market

News

Lamar Paris congratulating Allison McGraw

Blairsville, GA – Union County Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris convened his September Meeting at the Union County Court House on Sept. 21, 2017 at 6 p.m.

Allison McGraw, known locally as “The 4-H Lady”, was recognized for her outstanding service to the community through 12 years of work with the UGA Extension as a family and consumer science agent and for her “unselfish dedication and unending compassion” in all the volunteer endeavors she has been involved with since her retirement in 1996. Paris said she was responsible for getting 2000 balloons aloft at the Hwy 515 opening. He declared Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 as Allison McGraw Appreciation Day in Union County.

Lamar Paris with UCSO Deputy David McGregor

David McGregor was recognized for his service to our country and in law enforcement. McGregor served in the United States Navy during the Vietnam years, was an Atlanta Police Officer and a Dekalb County Police Officer. In 1998, McGregor moved to Blairsville and, with another Dekalb County Police Officer, started the Blairsville Police Department and was “instrumental in setting up the Municipal Court and introducing a complete set of Ordinances”. In 2011, McGregor retired from the Blairsville Police Department and became a Union County Deputy Sheriff where he continues to serve our community. In all, McGregor has served over 50 years in public service. Paris declared Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 as David McGregor Appreciation Day in Union County. Sheriff Mack Mason, Chief Deputy John George and over a dozen UCSO Deputies and Blairsville Police Officers were on hand for the recognition.

Tract 4 not designated; intersection of Gooch Bypass and Hwy 515 at bottom left.

Paris announced an exchange and purchase agreement between Charles Jenkins, Edgar Jenkins, Marilyn Thomasson, Kenneth Jenkins and Patricia Chambers, and, Union County for Real Property located in Land Lot 269 9th District, 1st Section of Union County. The Jenkins agreed to transfer to Union County Tract 3 and Tract 4 totaling 1.13 acres and Union County agreed to transfer Tract 2 to the Jenkins which totals 1.02 acres plus $35,000 in additional compensation. This exchange and purchase allows Union County unobstructed access from Hwy. 515 to the Farmers Market and the adjoining Davenport property that Union County acquired in May 2017.

Paris also announced that the parcel of land acquired for the Union County 4-H Clay/Trap Shooting Range is no longer a viable location for that purpose due to recent residential developments being constructed in close proximity. As a result of this development, two Lease Agreements, at no cost to Union County, have been signed for access to a temporary location where clay shooters can practice. The first Lease Agreement is between William Lee Wood and Carol L. Wood, and, Union County for the use of a 5-acre tract of land located in Land Lot 251, 9th District, 1st Section of Union County to be used for a shooting range. The second Lease Agreement is between Joel Miller, Trustee of the Colwell Children’s Trust, and, Union County for ingress and egress along or about that road from Hwy 325 to the shooting range located on Hwy 325. Said access will cross that tract or parcel of land being described in Deed Book 864, Page 300-301.

A Second Reading and Acceptance of the Revised Union County Alcohol Ordinance was made by Paris. Copies of the Revised Ordinance may be obtained at the Union County Commissioner’s Office.

Paris declared Sept. 17 – Sept. 23, 2017 as Constitution Week in Union County and Constitution Day was declared as Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.

Paris declared Sept. 22, 2017 as Surgical Technologists Day.

Resolution R-2017-13 adopting the Records Retention Schedules for Local Government Records established by the (Georgia) Secretary of State’s Office was accepted by Paris.

Pawnee Cherokee Daniel Horsechief next to statue of Native American stick ball player.

Paris accepted Lee Harkins Road into the county maintained road system.

In his Commissioner’s Comments, after the business of the Meeting was concluded, Paris praised the most recent class of Leadership Union for their hard work over a two year period to bring about the “We Are Still Here” event at Meeks Park, where a 10-foot tall bronze statue of a Native American stick ball player was unveiled on Thursday, Sept. 21st. A Pawnee Cherokee, Daniel Horsechief, of Oklahoma, cast the statue. It will serve as a reminder of the Native American roots of our community.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at [email protected]

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