Commissioners set millage rate, impact fees

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County’s 2019 millage rate is set at 8.138. During Thursday’s third and final public hearing, commissioners voted 3-1 to keep the rate the same as it has been for the last 10 years.

The rollback rate of 7.393 would have generated the same amount of revenue as it has in 2018.

The lone citizen to speak Thursday was Tony Passarello who asked commissioners to consider a compromise between the proposed rate of 8.138 and the rollback rate

Passarello said his position had evolved over the past several months from one supporting the current millage rate to where he could see the argument for a rollback rate.

“Is there an opportunity for us come to a compromise,” he asked. “As someone who has been in sales for a number of years, I can tell you that the best negotiations are the ones where nobody comes away happy.”

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines made a motion for the millage rate be set 8.0635. District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby asked how much that would save individual homeowners. Finance Director Vickie Neikirk came up with a quick calculation of about $7.45 on a $250,000 home. The motion failed 3-1.

After two weeks of open departmental budget hearings, commissioners felt they needed the extra revenue to balance the budget, improve the infrastructure provide the services citizens want.

Commissioners also voted to impose the maximum impact fees on new development, again on a 3-1 vote with Gaines opposed. The maximum fees include $3,400 for a new home, $1.88 per square foot for a super market and $1.64 per square foot for a shopping center.

Dawson County Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes said, “Our chamber is very concerned that a move from zero impact fees to maximum impact fees will overnight change our community into one that is perceived to be anti-business.”

She asked commissioners to consider adopting impact fees at 25 percent of the maximum for at least the first year and she pointed out that the maximum rate would place a higher cost of doing business in Dawson County than much larger counties like Hall, Forsyth and Cherokee.

Gaines said he, too, worried about sending an anti-business message. “We all want to attract higher-paying wages, he said. Setting impact fees at the maximum, he added is, “Simply putting another road block.”

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett argued that by not setting the maximum impact fees, the cost of new services created by the developments shifts to taxpayers already in the county. “I don’t think it should shift onto somebody else. It should be on those businesses.”

Chairman Billy Thurmond, who does not have a vote except in the case of a tie, said, “I think it would be in the best interest that we start the business category at 25 percent.” He stated, the fee could always be raised if it did not appear to discourage desired businesses from moving to the county.

“We talked about that a long time, where we’re looking for technology-based companies or medical,” he said. “We don’t want to take the chance where we may not get the high-paying jobs that come along with that.”

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Two county departments ask for budget cuts

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Coroner Ted Bearden presents budget request.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County officials are walking that fine line between trying to reduce the cost of government and providing the quality services citizens expect. Two more departments presented budget requests for 2019 that reduce their operational expense during Thursday’s budget hearing. Several others asked for modest increases.

County Manager David Headley asked for $8,625 less than his 2018 Administration budge while Justin Power in the Clerk of Courts office is requesting $36,743 less.

The General Government budget requested shows a $131,261 increase over 2018. But that amount is misleading since $100,000 of that is in a contingency account which can be used in an emergency, but which is not expected to be spent. There was some discussion about removing that from the General Government budget and placing it in the county’s Fund Balance.

Coroner Ted Bearden is another example of a county official working hard to keep costs down. So much so that he is self-funding some functions.

Bearden asked for a minimal increase of $20,747 Thursday. He pointed out that his office has not asked for an increase in nearly 20 years. He also noted there has been a 30 percent increase in the coroner’s call volume so far this year. He is also requesting the addition of one new deputy coroner, plus training expense and the cost of some equipment.

Bearden thanked Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond, who served as the county’s Emergency Services Director for many years before running for chairman, for volunteering to act as deputy coroner.

“The county doesn’t pay him to work cases,” Bearden said, “So I pay him out of my own pocket.”

Bearden did hire a deputy coroner this year but because there was no position in the budget, Bearden funds that position himself. “I really don’t think it’s fair that I have to pay him just to keep the county covered,” he said. “But that is the only way I can make it work. We are 24/7, 365. If we get a call Christmas morning, somebody’s got to go.”

Facilities Maintenance, which is responsible for repairs, preventative maintenance and construction of all county facilities, requested an increase of $25,206 to $1,049,928. Much of the increase, if approved, will go toward property repair and maintenance.

Board of Equalization requested a slight increase of $5,533, $5,000 of which was an increase in the salary line item that resulted from the commission-approved salary increase of 2017.

Information Technology is also asking for an increase of about $46,138 in its 2019 budget.

 

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

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BOC continues to hear budget requests

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – On the second day of county budget hearings, it was time for the public defender’s office, elections and voter registration, extension service, finance department and public works to present their requests.

Director of Elections and Registration Glenda Ferguson requested a decrease of $9,875 since 2018 is a non-election year and fewer part-time personnel will be needed.

Extension Agent Clark MacAllister asked for a slight increase of about $5,000 to replace an antiquated analog phone system and a copier and fax machine.

Brad Morris in the Public Defender’s office requested an increase of $17,638 primarily to fund the hiring of two additional personnel.

Commissioner Sharon Fausett wanted to know if defendants are required to prove that they are indigent before they receive taxpayer funded legal representation.

Morris said there is a standardized state form defendants are required to complete to determine if they qualify as indigent.

“Is it that they don’t pay anything at all,” Fausett asked.

Morris explained the defendant must pay $50 for an interview and there is some payback through probation fees. “The judge can also order them to pay some attorney fees,” he said.

Finance Director Vickie Neikirk’s budget request was for an additional $33,000, most of which was to pay for the Board of Commissioners-approved county employee pay raise combined with an increase in group insurance.

Public Works Director David McKee asked for the largest total increase, but it would be spread over several diverse functions that fall under the Public Works Department umbrella – Administration, GIS, Roads, and the Transfer Station. An increase in his administrative budget comes from the movement of the stormwater management position from the planning and development department to public works. It is more of a shifting of funds than an actual increase for the county.

If approved, the transfer station would get an increase of $122,052 but that does not affect the general fund budget since it is covered by the revenue-bearing solid waste fund which currently has a balance of $1,796,130.

Roads department would get an increase of $74,907 while administration would receive an additional $63,397. The GIS/Engineering budget would be reduced by $9,875.

McKee requested the addition of two new positions in the roads department and that three part-time positions be combined into two full-time positions to create a four-man mowing crew. The crew’s responsibility would be mowing 40 hours a week during the growing season then switch to cutting back limbs and assisting in cleaning the county right of ways. McKee said a full-time mowing crew could help transform public works from being reactive to proactive.

“For example, this week, we were paving, finishing up some LMIG (local maintenance improvement grant) work and getting ready to move over to Biscayne subdivision,” he explained. “Yesterday, I received eight mowing calls and seven were substantiated. What do we do? We pull somebody off a crew and send them over to mow or I go do it or we take somebody who needs to be hauling solid waste and we go do that.”

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond welcomed the addition of a full-time mowing crew. He pointed out the crew would be beneficial since it would allow other public works crews to get more road work done and reduce the need to bid road work out.

McKee also asked for one new position to work at the transfer station.

 

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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

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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 FetchYourNews.com

 

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

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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 www.donatelifegeorgia.org.

 

 

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 FetchYourNews.com

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Commissioners expected to say no to pay hike

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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 FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

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Sheriff Discusses Budget Impasse at Community Meeting Monday

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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 FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

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Commissioners OK County Employee Pay Raise

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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.

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