County’s proposed 2019 budget of $27.13 million includes 19 full-time, 4 part-time new hires

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Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners will hold the first public hearing on a proposed 2019 budget of $27,130,089 Thursday (Oct. 3) at 6 p.m. in the County Administration Building.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond will present the proposed budget which includes 23 new employees –19 full-time and four part-time.

The full-time positions include a legal assistant for County Attorney Lynn Frey, a training captain for emergency services, an administrative assistant for fleet maintenance, a human resources specialist, IT coordinator, two park maintenance employees, building inspector for planning and development, an assistant public defender, three public works workers, custodian for the senior center, two patrol officers for the Sheriff’s Office and two transfer station workers.

The part-time positions include, a weekend judge for Chief Magistrate Lisa Poss-Thurmond’s court, a clerk for probate court and a deputy coroner.

The 2019 budget is about $700,000 higher than last year’s budget. The new positions will cost taxpayers approximately $932,632.

A second public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for Oct. 11, followed by the third public hearing on Oct. 18. The budget can be approved following the Oct. 18 public hearing.

Commissioners are also expected to vote on:

  • An application for a new alcohol license for Blackrock Food Service, LLC D/B/A Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ located in the Dawson Crossroads Shopping Center;
  • A request to accept a 2019 Victims of Crime Act Grant funds in the amount of $74,088.84. No county match is required;
  • A request to apply for a Department of Natural Resources Land & Water Conservation Fund Grant to repair/replace the fishing pier at War Hill Park. The minimum fund grant that can be applied for is $25,000. The maximum grant if $100,000 and the county will have to provide a 50 percent match;
  • A request to hire a legal assistant. The position is already included in the 2019 budget, but the request is to fill the position this year at an additional cost of $6,956.20 for five pay periods through the end of December;
  • A Service Delivery Strategy Agreement;
  • A request by Michael Turner, executor for the estate of Kenneth K. Turner to have property located at the intersection of Perimeter Road and Allen Street annexed into the City of Dawsonville. The Dawsonville Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the issue on Oct. 8. The Dawsonville City Council will hold a public hearing on Oct. 22 and the annexation could be awarded final approval on Nov. 5;
  • A request by Board of Tax Appraisers Chief Appraiser Elaine Garrett to approve a contract for the services of an additional appraiser for the current year and next tax year.

 

 

 

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Chairman Thurmond will present proposed 2019 budget in Thursday work session

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Dawson County BOC

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond will present the proposed county budget for 2019 during Thursday’s work session which will begin at 4 p.m. in the Dawson County Government Center Assembly Room.

The Board of Commissioners is required to adopt an annual budget prior to the end of the fiscal year (December 31). As part of the budget process, the Chairman presents his proposed budget to the Board of Commissioners (BOC) and the public.

In meetings after the Chairman’s presentation, public hearings for the budget will be held for citizen input.

The BOC will hold 3 public hearings for the 2019 budget on October 4, 11 and 18. The budget may be adopted October 18, following the third public hearing.

Dawson County Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne will seek board approval to apply for a Department of Natural Resources Land & Water Conservation Fund Grant. The minimum grant that can be awarded is $25,000 and the maximum is $100,000. A 50 percent county match is required.

The grant could be used to repair or replace the fishing pier at War Hill Park. The pier has undergone repair for many years and Payne says it would be more cost and time effective to have it replaced.

District Attorney Lee Darragh will ask board approval to accept a Victims of Crime Act Grant in the amount of $74,088.84. No county match is required.

County Attorney Lynn Frey will ask board approval to hire a legal assistant who can perform legal secretary functions, is familiar with specified job duties and has relevant experience. The position was described and requested in the County Attorney Budget for FY 2019, but Frey said subsequent discussion has led to the conclusion that the need is sufficiently urgent at present to move ahead on the position rather than delay until January.

The salary for a mid-October commencement of the job would be approximately $6,956.20 for five pay periods through the end of December. Eligibility for benefits would not occur until January. Annual salary for this grade 11 position, using entry level figures, is $30,547.

 

 

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 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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