JASPER, Ga. – January’s meeting of the Pickens County Board of Commissioners brought with it the final budget report of FY 2018.
Entering the new year showcases departments both over and under. Most notably, the budget sat at 97.92% ($25,648,382) of total revenue collected.
On the other side, total expenditures came in at 92.72% ($24,287,881).
Individual Departments and Offices over-budget at the end of December include:
- Sheriff was budgeted at $6,663,915. The 2019 Actual was $6,759,370, achieving 101.43% of the budget.
- Probation & Drug Abuse Funds was budgeted at $27,500. The 2019 ACtual was $58,984, achieving 214.49% of the budget.
- General Gov Buildings was budgeted at $420,728. The 2019 Actual was $522,158, achieving 124.11% of the budget.
- Superior Court & Grant Admin was budgeted at $365,124. The 2019 Actual was $395,334, achieving 140.14% of the budget.
- Economic Development was budgeted at $56,273. The 2019 Actual was $56,768, achieving 100.88% of the budget.
Be sure to see the full budget provided by Pickens County below.
JASPER, Ga. – A press release from Pickens County could indicate a positive movement on the recent troubles and issues of Dawson County Fire Station 8.
Pickens County Commission Chairman Robert Jones and Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond met on Wednesday the 12th to discuss the recent discrepancies involving Fire Station 8 located off Monument Road. The meeting was productive in making clear the desires and expectations of both counties. The Chairmen agreed the most crucial aspect is to provide adequate fire protection for both counties’ citizens. The two men representing their respected Boards tentatively agreed to work together to solve these discrepancies and guarantee proper service to this area. The Chairmen also tentatively agreed to begin renegotiating a new Intergovernmental Agreement that will reflect the desires of both government agencies as well as the citizens in the affected community. Chairman Jones believes the meeting was in good faith from both sides and is appreciative for Chairman Thurmond’s willingness to build constructively on the partnership between both counties. Chairman Jones is optimistic in the direction this situation has taken and believes the result will be beneficial to all involved.
JASPER, Ga. – A Special Called Meeting saw the Pickens County Board of Commissioners approve a resolution to officially adhere to election results from November.
The Sunday Sales question on Novembers ballot resulted in 63.55% approval, that’s 8,205 votes. Though election results showed the county’s wishes, it still had to be approved by the Board. Though almost a formality, the election results were followed with a 3-0 vote by the Commissioners to approve the resolution.
Effective immediately after the vote, Chairman Rob Jones clarified with County Attorney Philip Landrum that this allows the sell of spirits on Sundays with a few notable exceptions including holidays like Easter Sunday and Christmas. This will be allowed from 11 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Sundays.
Though the county already has resolutions for beer and wine, this resolution allows for the sales of distilled spirits.
DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – What has been a simmering disagreement between Dawson and Pickens counties for months, erupted into something far more serious Monday when it was learned that Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones plans to violate an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that has existed between the two counties since 2008.
Jones has made it clear Pickens County will take over training for the volunteer firefighters at Station 8 in the Wildcat Community, part of which lies inside both counties.
Dawson County Manager David Headley said Jones’ decision violates Section 5 of the IGA which states: “Dawson County shall provide training, equipment and workers compensation insurance for up to ten volunteer firefighters.”
It could also violate Section 12 of the IGA if Pickens plans to pullout of the agreement completely. Section 12 states: “The terms of the agreement shall be renewed automatically each year unless 180 days written notice of termination is provided by the other party.”
“I’m disappointed with the position (Jones) has taken,” Headley said Monday morning. “Dawson County has always been there for that community. Unfortunately the Pickens County Chairman has chosen not to adhere to the IGA.”
Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson said he has a training class scheduled for the volunteers at Station 8 tomorrow (Dec. 4) at 6 p.m.
Jones decision to violate the IGA places volunteers in the difficult position of deciding whether to attend training provided by Dawson or Pickens counties. Sources have told Fetch Your News the volunteers are being pressured to attend the Pickens training which won’t begin for several more weeks.
Fetch Your News reached out to Chairman Jones but he did not return our phone call.
Station 8 was constructed in 2008. Under the terms of the IGA, Pickens County assumed responsibility for acquiring the land, making improvements to the land, construction of the station, building and contents insurance and LP gas.
Dawson County’s responsibilities include operation of the station, providing fire apparatus, including a fire engine and tanker truck, training and equipping the volunteers as well as administrative support and leadership.
The agreement worked well until recently when a dispute arose over the need for an additional water tank. The existing tank at Station 8 holds only 45,000 gallons of water and once it is drained, it takes several days to refill. The need for an additional water source was driven home last month when a home on Burnt Mountain Ridge Road was destroyed by fire.
In a townhall meeting following that fire — which Headley said was meant to ambush Dawson County officials — Clayton Preble, president of the Wildcat Community, said there was a firm agreement that Dawson County would provide a tank and move it and that Pickens County would construct the foundation.
Headley said that is nonsense. “There was an informal discussion but it never went any further than that,” he said. “Something like that would have to be approved by the Board of Commissioners and the issue was never placed before them.”
Headley said former Emergency Services Director Lanier Swafford located a tank the county could have obtained for the price of moving it, which Swafford estimated to be about $10,000. But the actual cost turned out to be much higher — between $50,000 and $60,000. Moreover, no contractor was willing to bid on moving it.
Headley and Thompson spent more than an hour being grilled by the residents of Wildcat Community during the townhall meeting while Jones sat in the back of the room and was never questioned.
“It seems like their refusal to adhere to the IGA is in retaliation for us not giving them what they want with regard to the water tank,” Headley said.
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JASPER, Ga. – A full extra mil on taxes, that is what citizens could expect if no cuts are made to the over $1.1 million difference between the 2018 and 2019 budgets for the Sheriff’s office.
The difference accrues over a loss of revenue including an end to the housing inmates from Sandy Springs in the Pickens Detention Center as well as $448,043 increases in the Sheriff’s Administration, Uniform Patrol, Detention Center, and School Resource Officers areas alone.
Although the budget already had at least one point ready to cut as it covered two contingencies involving either continuing overtime pay for certain staff or hiring new employees to spread the work among them. Craig noted there are 11 openings in the office that he is seeking to fill.
Like the other offices and departments, the Sheriff’s Office is seeking the 2.5% increase in salaries for employees. There are other increases such as repairs and maintenance in the office as Craig says some of the older cruisers are showing their age, with some vehicles dating back to 1996.
While the county is attempting to push some of the costs like newer vehicles among other things into the county’s next SPLOST cycle, there are many things that Craig said need immediate attention. He also noted that many of the increases involve things the Sheriff’s Office can’t control saying, “I can’t cut employees, and I can’t cut the services we have.”
He also noted increases to the demands on the office including 37,000 in call volume in this year alone. He said there hasn’t been a major increase in staffing in recent years despite doubling the call volume in the last decade.
Plans for an additional School Resource Officer and upgrading computer systems are just a small part of the changes coming. But citizens need not wait until next year to see them beginning as December will see the office going live with the upgraded Caliber System. Next year will see the $117,965 payment for the system, though.
As the Board of Commissioners are still working on the budgets, the Sheriff’s Office is working along with them to deeper analyze the office’s revenue and expenses. Chairman Jones did note that he believed the county could handle up to a $300,000 increase in the budget without needing to change the millage rate.
FYN reached out to Chairman Jones to ask when the last time a major increase like this occurred in the county’s budget. He replied saying that the county raised the Sheriff’s budget three years ago by about $700,000 to cover inadequate salaries.
If approved as is, the Sherriff’s budget will reach $7,092,649. For comparison, Pickens’ northern neighbors, Gilmer County’s Sheriff’s Budget is proposed for 2019 to total $5,673,394, that’s $1,419,255 less for a county of similar size and population.
However, this is still early in the budget process for Pickens County. As both the Board of Commissioners and the Sheriff’s Office have agreed to continue working on the budget, citizens can continue to stay informed through the county’s work session, Thursday, November 1, and special called meetings that may arise in the coming month.
One thing to note as talks continue and a final budget is set. Though discussed and agreed to under the county budget meetings, it is ultimately the Sheriff’s budget and responsibility as the elected official in 2019.
JASPER, Ga. – As part of his 27-day bus tour, Georgia Governor candidate Brian Kemp stopped at the Appalachian Gun, Pawn, and Range to visit locals and connect with Georgians during his campaign.
Kemp stated about the tour, “We’ve been having to really work hard on our fundraising to offset the billionaires in California and New York that are funding my opponent’s campaign. We’ve done that. Now, we’re hitting the road and we’re going to keep moving …”
Stopping into his Pickens location a little after 10 a.m., Kemp was joined by U.S. Congressman Doug Collins, State Senator Steve Gooch, and State Representative Rick Jasperse, who all spoke on his behalf at the stump speech. Additionally, State Senator Chuck Payne was also present.
Even local Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones attended the event as he said yes he is officially supporting Kemp saying, “He knows where we are at, he knows who we are, and he knows what kind of support we’ve got here.”
Gooch welcomed citizens to the event and called for support for electing Republicans across the state offices, spearheaded with Brian Kemp’s campaign for Governor saying, “We all have to get our families, our friends, and our selves to the polls and elect these good conservatives that are running.”
Jasperse added to the call to get more people to the polls saying that the next four weeks needed hard work to get those not present at the rally to vote as well. “We’ve got to have all of us joining hands to elect our next governor… to make sure that we elect a great Georgian who is going to reflect our values.”
Collins also spoke at the event. Building up the crowd, he called the legislation in Washington D.C. a fight in need of help from the country saying, “It’s got to start at home… I don’t want to know what you would have done on November 7. I don’t want to know who you would have called on November 7. I want to start today and say how many of you are willing to text people today, on October 1, and say, ‘Voting is coming up, I need you to go vote for Brian Kemp.'”
Kemp called Georgia politics a fight as well since he is running against a radical. Quoting his campaign slogan to “Put Georgians First,” Kemp spoke about cutting regulations and aiding the small businesses like his hosts, Appalachian Gun, Pawn, and Range. He said he wanted to lower Georgia’s taxes as opposed to his opponent’s plan “to raise your taxes even though she hasn’t paid her own.”
Saying it is not Georgia’s values that she holds, he said he wants to continue the work that the senators and representatives that were at the rally with him have started.
Kemp attacked Abrams’ plans for big government in education saying, “She believes in more government education, more mandates, more big government programs that don’t work. She wants to do away with SSO Scholarships, she wants to do away with private pre-K providers, and she wants to give the Hope Scholarship to non-citizens. That is not what we want.”
Kemp instead advocated for local control, school choice, and better education funding as he noted that for the first time ever, the QBE program has been funded.
Kemp also attacked the healthcare programs saying that she ultimately wants a single-payer government run healthcare system and a three-fold increase in taxes to pay for it. Kemp opposed the program saying, “We need private sector solutions to create a better market, to lower costs on healthcare.”
Calling on those present to help the campaign and urge others to vote, Kemp said, “The stakes have never been higher. We are literally battling the socialists and the radical left from all over this country. They are pouring money into this race. But they can’t vote, and you can.”
He colloquially told people to “put some more gas in that chainsaw. Get your ax and your mattock out, and keep chopping wood.”
He said the race isn’t a foregone conclusion, calling the other side motivated. Kemp urged his voters and supporters to be more motivated saying, “If you turned out here for the presidential election to elect Donald Trump, we need you to turn out here to elect Brian Kemp.”
The event turned out over 400 people to hear Kemp speak and support the campaign. One citizen, Dianne Traynham, said she was there because she was interested in what Kemp has said and his support for rural Georgia. She added that her daughter is a teacher and Kemp’s pledge to take care of the state’s teachers was a major reason for her support.
Another citizen, Brandi Dean, said she “absolutely, 100%” voted for Kemp in the primary, and wants to do it again. She added that Kemp is not afraid to share his Christian values and morals and is not afraid to put them out there. Sharing those same values, she was excited to see him in Pickens County.
Both women said that visiting Pickens county specifically was meaningful and showed that he recognized how important the rural counties are in the election.
Wrapping up the speeches, a special presentation was held as Ralph and Kim Fitts, owners of Appalachian Gun, Pawn, and Range, presented Kemp with a Smith & Wesson Governor, a snub-nosed revolver. In celebration of Kemp’s visit, Kim Fitts said they would be sending the gun into Smith & Wesson to have “Governor Brian Kemp” engraved on the barrel of the gun.
For more photos from the event, visit the FetchYourNews Facebook Page.