Commissioners discuss Robertson Loia Roof offer, streaming video of BOC meetings onto website


DAWSONVILLE, Ga. —  The architectural and engineering firm of Robertson Loia Roof is no stranger to Dawson County officials. They designed Rock Creek Park back in 2000 as well as Dawson County Junior High School. But the firm’s offer to redesign the facade of the gymnasium at Veterans Memorial Park for free, caught county officials by surprise.

After all, the Board of Commissioners had budgeted the project at $150,000. To have one of the states leading architectural and engineering firms offer to donate its expertise as a gift to the county was completely unexpected.

At Thursday’s work session, Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Henson explained that she sent out requests for proposal in compliance with county policy. “I got two quotes but the third one wasn’t a quote, but an offer from Robertson Loia Roof offering their services free of charge,” Henson said. “So I come before you today to ask that you accept the donation so we can proceed.”

Commissioners do not vote during work sessions so the item was placed on the agenda for the April 19 meeting.

Chairman Billy Thurmond signaled the county’s intention to accept the generous offer by asking fellow commissioners, “Anybody not like free?”

Commissioner Chris Gaines

Commissioner Chris Gaines initiated a discussion about streaming commission meetings live on the county website.”We know not every citizen can be here at the times we hold our meetings so it would be prudent in the spirit of transparency and allowing open government,” Gaines said. “We’re here to serve the citizens.”

Chairman Billy Thurmond said it is an idea the Board should explore. “It’s a great idea, well worth looking into,” he said. “It would give us an opportunity to provide more information to the public. We are always asking the public to assist us by serving on boards and committees. This would be an opportunity for them to see how their government works.”

The Board also discussed, and is expected to vote on the following issues at the next regular meeting:

⦁ Observance of the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 3, to be held on the courthouse steps from 6-7 p.m.;

⦁ The purchase of new computers and additional scanners for the Tax Commissioner’s Office;

⦁ Revisions to the county’s alcohol ordinance;⦁ Presentation of 2018 Arbor Day Proclamation;

⦁ Special Event Business License Application for Amicalola Regional Farmers Market;

⦁ Special Event Business License Application for Hacienda Cinco de Mayo event;

⦁ Special Event Business License Application for Motorcycle Endurance event;

⦁ South 400 Center Lane Road acceptance into county maintenance;

⦁ A request for partial abandonment of Will Hall Road;

⦁ Appointments to the Industrial Building Authority and Library Board.


Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at



Commissioners approve 52-acre senior-living campus-style development


DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — A major mixed-use, senior-living campus-style development at Hwy. 400 and Castleberry Road moved one step closer to reality Thursday when the Dawson County Board of Commissioners agreed to amend the existing zoning of the 52.42-acre site from Commercial Planned Comprehensive Development.

The request was made by Richmond Honan Development and Acquisitions, LLC. The county Planning Commission recommended approval.

Plans for the development include 130,000 square feet of medical/office space, 31,500 square feet of retail, 141,000 square feet of assisted living space and 70,000 square feet for a 128-room hotel. Stipulations approved by commissioners include a maximum of 200 independent living units, 40 loft dwelling units above the retail space and 60 senior-living duplexes.

County commissioners approved a request by the Sheriff’s Office for two additional school resource officers (SRO) and additional funding for off-duty officers to handle traffic control at the schools for July 1 through Dec. 31.

The board also granted Sheriff Jeff Johnson’s request for a permit to hold a 51-mile motorcycle ride for Relay for Live April 14 from 9 a.m. until noon. The event will begin and end at Dawsonville’s Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

Following a public hearing, the board voted 4-0 to approve a draft Capital Improvements Element as part of the county’s consideration of an impact fee program.

Under new business, the board also approved:

⦁ A request to upgrade a part-time clerk position in the Magistrate Court to full time;

⦁ An increase in pay for a clerk in the Magistrate Court who has achieved Georgia Information Crime Center Certification;

⦁ An annual salary increase of $5,000 for the county attorney;

⦁ The purchase of emergency medical supplies for Emergency Services;

⦁ Ratification of FY 2018 Homeland Security Grant Program application in the amount of $14,400 with no county match required;

⦁ Writing off old debt for ambulance service deemed uncollectable;

⦁ The appointment of Jo Ann Overstreet Hause to the Tax Assessor Board; and

⦁ The appointment of George Lyons, Bob Speight and Judy Baer to the Tree Preservation Committee. Commissioners took no action on five requests from residents of Gold Creek to be annexed into the city of Dawsonville.

Chairman Billy Thurmond read a proclamation declaring April National Donate Life Month that was adopted unanimously by the board. LifeLink is Georgia’s non-profit organ and tissue recovery organization. More than 5,000 people in Georgia are awaiting a transplant. One donor can save 75 lives. Each day, 22 people die because an organ does not become available. To sign up for organ or tissue donation, visit



Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at


Commissioners expected to say no to pay hike


DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Elected officials rarely say “thanks but no thanks” to a proposed pay raise. However, that is what Dawson County commissioners are expected to do when they meet in a voting session Thursday at 6 p.m.

During last week’s work session, Tara Hardwick, chairwoman of the commissioners’ compensation committee, presented her committee’s findings which indicate Dawson County commissioners are paid less than their counterparts in 10 counties with similar populations and growth projections.

She also noted that commissioners had not received a pay increase since 2005 and recommended a 2 percent increase beginning in Jan. 2019.

Chairman Billy Thurmond thanked the committee then said commissioners are in agreement they would not accept a pay raise until they were able to authorize the 2 percent increase for which county employees are in line. Thurmond explained the study was undertaken because enabling legislation requires a study be conducted every four years. The last study was conducted in 2005.

Commissioners are also expected to vote on the Dawson County Humane Society’s request to purchase the land where the animal shelter is located. Carolyn Bowen, president of the organization, explained there will be no cost to the county because a benefactor will provide funding.

A couple of issues introduced by Dawson County Emergency Services Fire Chief Lanier Swafford also will be decided. Swafford requested permission for the Johns Creek Fire Department to temporarily park one new firetruck in one of the bays at the county’s firehouse. Johns Creek is constructing a firehouse, and the new fire truck arrived before their firehouse was completed.

Swafford also wants commissioners to approve an application for the Chesney Fallen Firefighters Memorial Grant Program. The grant is offered by the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation (GFBF) in memory of Gwinnett County career firefighter Brant Chesney, who lost his life Dec. 27, 1996, battling a fire as a volunteer with the Forsyth County Fire Department.

Other items on Thursday’s agenda include:

  • Approval of the commissioners’ 2017 expenses which total $2,214;
  • Consideration of a contract with Advanced Disposal/Eagle Point Landfill to dispose of solid waste collected as the Dawson County Landfill; and
  • Consideration of annexation requests by Gold Creek residents to be annexed into the city of Dawsonville.



Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at






Sheriff Discusses Budget Impasse at Community Meeting Monday


A small crowd of 30-35 people attended Sheriff’s community meeting Monday.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson held a community meeting at the Professional Development Center Monday to explain the basis of the budget dispute between his office and the Board of Commissioners.

Between 30 and 35 people attended the hour-long meeting and about two-thirds were sheriff’s office employees.

Sheriff Jeff Johnson talks about his budget dispute with Commissioners.

Johnson requested a budget of $8,961,406 but commissioners approved only $8,273,080. “If nothing changes with this budget, it’s going to put us in a very difficult position,” he said.

Johnson acknowledged that his entire staff, along with other county employees, received a substantial pay raise recently. “I applaud that raise,” he said. And, he added, “We now have the nicest fleet (of cars) we have ever had.”

But, he pointed out that a 2015 study showed there were 139 positions in the sheriff’s office and today only 112. “In 2010, there were 116 employees, four more than today,” Johnson stated.

Joey Homans, the sheriff’s attorney, notified the county last month that he has filed a petition for mandamus in Superior Court stating that the budget approved constitutes “abuse of discretion” by the commissioners in that they failed to fulfill their duty to adopt a budget making reasonable and adequate provisions for personnel and equipment necessary to enable the Sheriff to perform his duties.

Speaking at last night’s meeting, Homans said the dispute is all about positions. “We’ve asked that nine positions be unfrozen and one new position,” he said. “The one position commissioners approved out of those 10 was for a school resource officer.”

Homans said he had made several recommendations about how the sheriff’s budget request could be funded. “But we can’t even get anybody to sit down at a table and talk with us,” he added.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond

Reached at his office Tuesday morning, Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said commissioners have met with the sheriff and his attorney on more than one occasion.

“Obviously, we have met with the sheriff and his attorney and all those meetings were open to the public because I want as much transparency as possible,” he said. “I have also met with the sheriff in his office and I know some of the other commissioners have met with him also.”

Thurmond added should the budget impasse wind up in court, “I’m confident we have done our due diligence in providing adequate funding for the Sheriff’s Office.”



Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at





Commissioners OK County Employee Pay Raise


DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Hoping to slow the exit of county employees leaving for higher-paying jobs in surrounding counties and reducing the high-cost of training their replacements, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to adopt an enhanced pay plan created by the Archer Company.

The new pay scale will take effect April 8.

Archer conducted a study that showed Dawson County had a experienced a 100 percent employee turnover in the last six years, costing taxpayers about $1.5 million. The company created a plan that compared Dawson County job classifications to Forsyth, Hall, Gwinnett, Cherokee, Gilmer, Lumpkin and Pickens counties and the cities of Gainesville, Canton and Cumming.

Several options were presented for the Board’s consideration. Commissioners chose the option that gives employees a 2 percent across-the-board pay raise, brings current employee salaries up to the minimum salary for their job classification and has an option for longevity with county.

“I’m really proud of the board for taking this step,” Thurmond said. “Our employees are our greatest asset. Over time this will save taxpayers money due to the high cost of training replacements.”

In other business, the Board unanimously approved:

  • Increasing the bulk garbage rate at the transfer station to $44 per ton and a minimum of $5 per load weighed;
  • Renewal of the probation services with Northeast Georgia Probation Services, Inc;
  • A request to place Little Lending Libraries on County Government Property;
  • A request for a budget increase for the Legacy Link Local Match and
    Board of Commissioners expenses and
  • Training funds of $2,600 for new members of the Development Authority. That vote was 3-1 vote with Commissioner Julie Nix opposed.


Commissioners to Vote on New Employee Pay Plan


DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — A new county employee pay plan could get an up or down vote when the Dawson County Board of Commissioners meets Thursday at 6 p.m.

A recent study by the Archer Company found that more than 400 employees have left the county for greener pastures in the last six years, costing taxpayers $1.5 million to hire and train their replacements.

The study compared Dawson County’s pay scale to Forsyth, Hall, Gwinnett, Cherokee, Gilmer, Lumpkin and Pickens counties and the cities of Gainesville, Canton and Cumming.

Commissioners are considering several options, including a 2 percent, across-the-board pay raise for all employees, bringing everyone up to the average minimum, bringing everyone up to time in service and class or all of those.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond has said, “The plan would bring stability to the workforce, increase productivity and be more cost-efficient for taxpayers.”

The Board tabled the issue two weeks ago but are expected to vote on the issue Thursday.

The station operates six days a week from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.The current fee schedule has been in place since 2013 and is between $5 and $22 lower than surrounding transfer stations and landfills for bulk garbage and .50 to $1 lower on bagged garbage. Staff has proposed the bulk garbage rate be increased to $44 per ton and a minimum fee of $5 per load weighed. Bagged garbage rates would remain the same.

Other issues to be considered include:

  • Renewal of the contract with Northeast Georgia Probation Services, Inc;
  • A request to place Little Lending Libraries on County Government Property;
  • A request for a budget increase for the Legacy Link Local Match;
  • Board of Commissioners Expenses and
  • Training funds for new members of the Development Authority.


Commissioners Authorize GDOT Letter of Support

Business, News

Jimmy HambyDAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) could begin work immediately on access controls where Ga. Hwy. 400 intersects with Kilough Church Road and the North Georgia Premium Outlets after Dawson County Commissioners voted last night to authorize a letter of support for the project.

The Right In Right Out Left In (RIROLI) access controls will be fully funded by GDOT and should cause minimal inconvenience to motorists since the work will all be done within the existing Right of Way.

Commissioners Sharon Fausett and Chris Gaines missed last night’s meeting while attending training. Their absence required Chairman Billy Thurmond, who usually votes only in the case of ties, to vote on all issues.

The three-person Board voted unanimously to apply for a GDOT grant to fund the repair of a wing wall off Dawson Forest Road along Blacks Mill Creek damaged in last year’s storm.

Commissioners also approved the purchase of a side arm mower and utility tractor mower to replace three tractors that are no longer serviceable at a cost of $210,000. The equipment will be purchased with SPLOST VI proceeds.

In addition, commissioners approved a Drug Treatment Services request to apply for a state grant in the amount of $279,514 to bring HELP Program under Treatment Court as a mental health court track. A county match of $31,057 is required from county funds.

The Board also agreed to renew an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the City of Dawsonville authorizing the county to organize and implement all municipal elections and another IGA with with Etowah Water and Sewer Authority regarding the Taffer Road Gravity Sewer Line.

Commissioners authorized two resolutions to be sent to the City of Dawsonville, one expressing opposition to the city’s purchase of the airport located in Dawson County and it’s future operations and another expressing opposition to a request by Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP) to relax noise and light restrictions.

During the Public Comments period, Jonathan Wolfe asked commissioners to revisit the Paladin Wireless issue. Paladin is a Royston-based wireless internet provider that has proposed placing antennas on the roof of the courthouse. The company said that by doing so it can provide internet access to 400 customers who do not have access.

But commissioners tabled the issue last month to give the company time to provide additional information they requested and Chairman Billy Thurmond said the company has not yet responded.

District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby expressed real concerns about liability issues and whether county taxpayers would be responsible to pay for any damage to the roof or injuries to Paladin personnel who have access to the roof.

Hugh Stowers spoke to the Board about improving communications with its citizens. Mr. Stowers pointed out there are some major projects on the horizon and that citizens need to be fully informed.

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