Citizens will have one more chance to provide input into the county’s future growth Thursday

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners will hold one final public hearing on the proposed 2018 comprehensive plan when it meets in a voting session Thursday (Jan. 10) at 4 p.m. in the Dawson County Government Center Assembly Room.

The plan is one of the county’s most important documents because it serves as a road map to future growth. It was developed after months of gathering public input at citizen meetings and in an online survey.

The state requires that a county’s comprehensive plan be updated every five years in order to be eligible for state grants and be approved by the Department of Community Affairs.

This plan has received DCA approval and could have been adopted in December, but commissioners wanted to hold one public hearing to give citizens one more chance to provide input.

Planning and Development Director Jameson Kinley will present the plan.

Other items on Thursday’s agenda include:

  • Presentation of Georgia Trauma Commission Grant Application Request by Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson;
  • Presentation of IFB #330-18 – 15-Foot Rock Gravel Spreader Award Request by Public Works Director David McKee;
  • Presentation of Professional Exemption for Medical Director Services for the Dawson County Detention Center by Purchasing Manager Melissa Hawk;
  • Presentation of Sole Source Purchase Request for Computer Aided Dispatch System Upgrade by Purchasing Manager Melissa Hawk;
  • Presentation of Purchasing Policy Ordinance and Purchasing Card Program Policies and Procedures Update Recommendation by Purchasing Manager Melissa Hawk;
  • Presentation of Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Dawsonville for Municipal Elections by interim County Attorney;
  • Presentation of Revised Intergovernmental Agreement with Pickens County Regarding Fire Protection for the Wildcat Community by Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond;
  • Presentation of Board reappointments to the Chestatee-Chattahoochee Resource Conservation & Development.

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City, county officials strive for greater cooperation During day-long retreat at Amicalola Falls Lodge

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DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. – City and county officials gathered for a day-long retreat at beautiful Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge Friday to explore ways the two governments – that don’t always see eye-to-eye on issues – might be able to work together for the benefit of all residents.

Facilitator Langford Holbrook of the UGA Institute of Government led the joint strategic planning session while leaders discussed broad issues such as goals, a vision for the future and areas of possible collaboration between the two governments. Then they narrowed the discussion to more specific issues like impact fees, the importance of a truck route around the city and a potential local road maintenance and improvement tax.

The one goal that was mentioned more than any other was improved communication between the two governments and with the citizens they serve.

The session had just begun when Holbrook asked the leaders to identify important goals. Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond, who cited improved communication throughout his 2016 campaign, was first to answer.

“We should strive to improve communications between ourselves and with the general public,” Thurmond said.

County Commissioners Julie Hughes-Nix, Sharon Fausett and Chris Gaines and County Manager David Headley quickly agreed, as did Mayor Mike Eason and commissioner-elect Tim Satterfield.

City officials did take a major step toward improving communications with the public earlier this year by streaming video of their city council meetings onto the website. Citizens who cannot attend meetings in person can now view them at their leisure.

The county is also taking steps to provide more information. Last month, Headley requested the position of public information officer (PIO) be added to the 2019 budget. So far, the PIO position has not been added to the budget, but Gaines, Nix and Fausett have all said they support the initiative.

In assessing the current relationship between the two governments, Eason cited a need for more “understanding of each other’s goals and willingness to work together to accomplish them.”

Headley said the “exchange of information has improved.” And, Fausett said she senses there is “more spirit of cooperation than ever before.”

Dawson County Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes said the two governments need “a more unified vision.” Stephen Tolson called for elected officials to consider how issues “benefit the whole and not just the part.”

Leaders also addressed future trends the two governments need to consider together and how they will impact city and county residents. City Councilman Caleb Phillips quickly identified “transportation congestion.” Satterfield cited infrastructure, including water and sewer and service delivery.

City Councilman Stephen Tolson surprised nearly everyone in the room when he said there are more than 110 homeless families in the county that need help. Tolson said finding jobs is not the problem. Many of the homeless, he said, have jobs. The problem is finding affordable housing for people in low-paying jobs.

There was also a discussion other issues that lend themselves to collaboration between the two governments – a local transportation and road improvement tax, downtown revitalization, a truck route around the city and the future of the airport.

Headley pointed out that a local transportation and road improvement tax collected over a five-year period could generate up to $50 million, all of which could be used to fund only local roads and bridges. He added there is a possibility the Georgia Department of Transportation would match whatever amount the tax generates.

City officials said rerouting truck traffic around the city is the key to revitalizing the downtown area.

Eason said more than 100 trucks pass City Hall every hour. “We have to get these trucks out of town,” he said. “GDOT says it will not restrict truck traffic unless we have a truck route. We have to do that before we can revitalize the city.”

 

 

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 want more information on the replacement or relocation of water tank

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson and Pickens county officials have been looking for ways to improve the efficiency of Fire Station 8 in the Wildcat community.

The station is located in an extremely remote and mountainous section of Dawson County near the Pickens County line. It has been operated as a joint venture between the two counties. The initial memorandum of understanding (MOU) called for Pickens to pay the cost to build the station and Dawson to provide the equipment and train personnel.

There are no fire hydrants in the community. The closest is approximately six miles away at Fausett’s Lake. When a firefighters arrive at the scene of a fire, they fight the fire and if more water is needed, they have to drive back to Fausett’s Lake to refill then return.

Commissioners have discussed relocating the old water tank which is approximately 14 miles away to a location near the fire station.

But, Dawson County Fire Chief/EMA Director Danny Thompson appeared before the Board of Commissioners work session Thursday to say that no vendor had been located who would provide a price quote for relocation. Thompson pointed out that even if a vendor could eventually be found, the operation would be costly and there is no guarantee of structural integrity once the tank was on the ground.

So the discussion turned from relocation to replacement. Thompson said a reasonable estimate to purchase a new 20,000-gallon water tank and have it installed would be approximately $35,360.

He added that Pickens County had already spent $10,000 to construct a concrete pad for the tower.

Chairman Billy Thurmond called for more discussion between the two counties on how the cost would be split.

“If you’re asking this Board to fund $35,000 for a water tank that is a joint venture, I don’t know what the Board thinks, but I think there should be more play from Pickens County before we consider spending taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Commissioner Julie Nix said, “The question is how much is all this going to cost and then we should split the cost.”

In other business before the Board:

  • There was a presentation of a request for funds to renovate the Chamber of Commerce office for Economic Development;
  • Planning Director Jason Streetman presented a proposed site plan for Dawsonville Self-Storage facility;
  • Streetman also presented a request to adopt an update to the Capital Improvements Element of the Comprehensive Plan.

Commissioners do not vote during work sessions but the items discussed are placed on the agenda for the next voting session.

 

 

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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Lt. Governor Casey Cagle Visits Dawsonville

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From left Sen. Steve Gooch, Bill Elliott and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Former NASCAR great Bill Elliott — better known as Awesome Bill from Dawsonville —  and a large contingent of community leaders welcomed Lt. Governor Casey Cagle to Dawsonville Wednesday morning.  Cagle is in the midst of a 17-stop bus tour of north Georgia to promote his campaign for governor.

You have to wonder if Elliott gave the Hall County Republican some inside tips on how to make a quick pit stop because after spending a little quality time with Dawson County community leaders and a quick stump speech, Cagle sped off to Pickens, Gilmer, Gordon, and Whitfield counties.

Before getting back on the road, Cagle visited with Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond, Commissioners Jimmy Hamby and Chris Gaines, Mayor James Grogan, County Manager David Headley, Sherriff Jeff Johnson and Chamber President Christie Hayes.

Former Commission Chairman Mike Berg introduced the lieutenant governor who didn’t need much of an introduction since he once represented the county as State Senator and has been lieutenant governor for eight years.

Cagle’s said he would focus on transportation, jobs, education and providing broadband to rural areas of Georgia

Cagle said, Georgia needs a transportation plan to accommodate a population growth of about 4.5 million people in the next 15 years.

“We have to get busy with a two-year strategic plan built around transportation that is able to go under, go over, go around, whatever is required to prepared ourselves for the kind of growth that is coming.”

On jobs, Cagle said he wants to build a world-class workforce second to none. “As I woke up this morning there were 150,000 jobs available today and out of that 150,000, 25 percent need four-year degrees but 75 percent need industry certification or a two-year degree. So, I want to make sure we are aligning education with what industry needs.”

On education he said, “The college and career education network I created reshapes the way we deliver education, giving our kids more options.”

Cagle also repeated his pledge of 500,000 new jobs during his first term in office and $100 million in tax cuts in the first 100 days.

Cagle said he understands how important broadband access is to education and to attracting business to Georgia and he fired a salvo over the heads of broadband internet providers.

“We’re going to have best in class as it pertains to rural broadband,” he said. “I’m going to set a standard that I expect every single provider in this state to reach. I know we have a problem with last mile so we’ll be looking at technology that will allow us to provide that. But I’m not going to accept any excuses. The providers are going to get in gear to make this a reality or we’re going to find someone that can. It’s just that simple.

Asked if the state school board members should be elected or appointed, he said, “Many people believe that the superintendent should be appointed almost like a cabinet position. I don’t believe that having an elected state school board is going to fundamentally improve education.”

On what has been a highly controversial religious freedom bill, Cagle said, “I and the other candidates have signed a pledge that if there is a federal mirror Xerox copy of what is already federal law that comes to my desk, I will sign it. There are a lot of social issues out there that are very divisive. As a born-again Christian, with a strong belief in religious freedom, I don’t want anyone trampling on that. As governor, I am also not for discrimination. So we’re not using this in a way that will cloak ourselves in a way that allows us to discriminate. So, these are balancing acts. We’ll do it in a way that doesn’t cost us business.”

 

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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New Commission Chairman Will Preside at Thursday Meeting

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County’s new Board of Commissioners Chairman brings a very specific set of goals to his new job and if past success is a barometer, Billy Thurmond can be expected to achieve them.

Thurmond, who will preside over his first county commission meeting on Thursday, served the county’s Emergency Management Agency for 37 years.

In 2000, the agency was recognized as Georgia’s EMA of the Year. In 2011, he received the governor’s Public Safety Award for contributions to his profession and in 2012 was named EMA Director of the Year.

His goals as chairman: To make the county government more productive and cost efficient, to halt the costly migration of county employees to other counties and to improve communication with citizens.

“We’ve got to get to the point where we are more competitive in the job market,” he said Thursday. It costs a lot of money to replace employees.”
About 300 county employees have left Dawson County for higher paying jobs in the last six years.

“If you look at the number of people we have lost in those years, it costs millions of dollars to train their replacements. The Sheriff’s Office lost 80-90 people during that time span and the Fire Department lost 40-50. Those jobs are hard to fill if you’re not competitive in the job market.”

Being competitive, of course, means salary increases, something that causes taxpayers to flinch.

But as Thurmond points out, “The upfront cost will be a little higher than most people want to pay, but you will save money in the long run.”

Thurmond said former Sheriff Billy Carlisle once told him it cost about $8,000 to hire a replacement for a deputy who leaves to take the same job in Hall or Forsyth counties where the pay is higher. Replacing the 90 or so deputies who have left in the last six years cost taxpayers about $720,000.

“He had to hire somebody off the street with little or no training, send them to school for 11 weeks to get trained and have them ride with somebody for another month,” Thurmond said. That meant the Sheriff’s Office had to replace an experienced law enforcement officer with an inexperienced one at a cost of $8,000 each.

Thurmond said improved communication with citizens is another top priority.

“One of the biggest things I learned during my campaign is that citizens want more information coming from county government and I want to give it to them. When they see there has been so much money spent on salaries or equipment, they want an explanation as to why. If the county commission executes a contract of an intergovernmental agreement (IGA), I would like to see the contract or agreement on our website the next day so citizens can review it.”

He also said there needs to be more details on commission meetings provided to the public. “If you attend a regular meeting, you really don’t know what is being voted on unless you attended the work session too,” he said.

Thurmond said, generally speaking, the county is in good shape.

“We don’t have a lot of debt, so that is good,” he said. “We’re getting a good bit of new business along the Ga. 400 cooridor and hopefully that will generate a lot more sales tax and give us an opportunity to roll back property taxes.”

Thurmond and Commissioner Chris Haynes will begin their first terms on the Board of Commissioners Thursday.

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