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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Commission to set millage rate, impact fees

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County Commissioners have two important issues to decide during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting:  The millage rate and impact fees.

The millage rate is set for the third of three required public hearings. Commissioners could vote to keep the current millage rate 8.138, apply the rollback rate of 7.393 mills or increase the rate.

The most likely course of action is to keep the millage rate at 8.138, where it has been the last 10 years. That would allow the county to raise an additional $1.3 million in revenue above last year. Setting the rollback rate would mean the county would generate the same amount of revenue as last year. One mill equals about $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said Wednesday, “My first goal as a conservative is always going to be to find a way to save on taxes and roll back as much as possible. I know we won’t be able to roll back much because the county does have some tremendous needs.”

Gaines mentioned the need to replace aging equipment rather than paying for costly repairs again and again as one need.

“I’ve gone through budgets many times before both here and during my time on city council,” he said. “But this year I’ve spent more time than ever before trying to make sure I’m looking at every single dollar of efficiency.”

During previous public hearings, only one citizen spoke out against keeping the millage rate at 8.138.

Last Thursday, Mike Wenson told commissioners, “My taxes are going through the roof. I know as government employees you can turn around and raise taxes and not take into consideration the problems that people have paying them.” He also said his taxes had gone up more than 100 percent in three years.

Commissioners also will hold a second final public hearing on impact fees Thursday.

Commissioners approved impact fees in 2006, but suspended them during the recession of 2009 when new development was practically non-existent. The fees are imposed on new development projects to pay for all — or a portion of the costs — of providing public services to those developments.

Bill Ross whose company, Ross and Associates, has been working on an impact fee program for the county outlined that program during the Aug. 9 commission meeting.

He pointed out that the county’s population is expected to double in the next two decades and that there will be 2,700 more housing units by then. “By 2040, almost half the traffic on your roads will be generated by new development that has moved into the county,” he said.

The program looked specifically at the impact growth will have on library services, parks and recreation, fire protection, law enforcement and road improvement.

By 2040, it is projected that the county will require one new library and twice the volume of books, computers and DVDs. Four new fire stations will need to be built and 16 firetrucks purchased. The county, Ross said, will need 137 additional acres for recreational facilities.

The maximum fees the county could impose on various types of development include $3,400 for a single-family home, $1.64 per square foot for a shopping center and $1.88 for a super market.

Commission meetings are held in the second floor assembly room of the Dawson County Government Center, located at 25 Justice Way in downtown 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. 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 reviews county Hazardous Mitigation Plan

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson presented the county’s updated Hazardous Mitigation Plan at the Board of Commissioners work session Thursday.

The plan is a revision of the 2012 version and ensures Dawson County is in compliance with the regulations of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 that allows the county to maintain eligibility and qualify to secure federal funding from disastrous events.

During the plan development, the Dawson County Hazard Plan Committee identified five goals:

  • Protect public health and safety;
  • Reduce and eliminate exposure to natural/manmade hazard events;
  • Reduce the loss and damage to private property/public infrastructure resulting from these various disasters;
  • Maintain continuity of public/private sector operations during disasters;
  • Respond promptly, appropriately and efficiently in the time of an event.

The plan was awarded a $24,000 Hazard Mitigation Planning Grant by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) which requires a 25 percent match.

Thompson also asked Board approval to move money from the contingency fund to provide a 10 percent match for the Georgia Fireworks Tax Monies Grant to pay for the purchase of ten sets of firefighter personal protective ensemble (PPE) that cost $3,000 each.

Commissioners discussed three options for replacing some of the county’s aging photocopiers. The options included purchasing copiers, leasing copiers or a combination of a lease/purchase agreement. Staff recommended the county utilize the Georgia Department of Administrative Services contract to leverage the state’s purchasing power.

Public Works Director David McKee informed the Board of a safety concern created by increased traffic along Red Rider Road due to commercial development. The road is very narrow and pavement edges are significantly worn from the heavy through truck traffic. There is not enough right-of-way to widen the road to accommodate two traffic lanes.

McKee said staff is trying to work through short- and long-term solutions but heavy truck traffic, and through traffic continues to degrade the crumbling roadway. He recommended temporarily closing the road to through traffic from the intersection of Lumpkin Campground and Red Rider to a point approximately 1300’ from the intersection and added that his staff will continue to work with local property owners on a solution for long-term intersection improvements.

Items discussed during work sessions can be voted on at the next voting session of the Board of Commissioners.

 

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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Dawson County department heads present their 2019 budget requests to Board of Commissioners

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Human Resources Director Danielle Yarbrough presents her 2019 budget request to commissioners.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – After months of preparation, Dawson County’s department heads presented their 2019 budget requests to the Board of Commissioners Monday. Commissioners scrutinized every line item in search of efficiencies that would save tax payer dollars.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Gosselin, Tax Commissioner Nicole Stewart, Development Authority Director Brian Trapnell, Human Resource Director Danielle Yarbrough and Probate Court Judge Jennifer Burt were the first to present their requests.

Superior Court is asking for an increase of $16,297 in its 2019 budget to $516,971. Most of the increase is due to the addition of a fifth superior court judge to serve Dawson and Hall counties. Judge Clint Bearden was appointed to that post by Governor Nathan Deal in December.

Stewart was next in line and she brought good news, informing commissioners that her department –which is ranked number one in the state in percentage of taxes collected – is seeking a budget reduction of approximately $22,618 to $429,054 in 2019.

Chairman Billy Thurmond pointed out that the reduction was due to “some people (within the department) changing positions and some people making less money.”

As they reviewed the presentation, Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix noted that Stewart’s expenditures for legal fees also declined when the county hired County Attorney Lynn Frey.

“I noticed your attorney fees were $4,440 in 2017 and this year only $1,500,” she said. “I would recommend to the Board that we take a look at all departments and leave those line items out for attorney fees because we do have a county attorney now.”

The Development Authority operated on a $150,000 budget in 2017. Commissioners voted not to fund the group in 2018 but has chosen to reinstate it in 2019. Trapnell requested an operating budget of $200,000, part of which would be to engage an expert consultant to identify options for Development Authority funding.

Judge Burt is asking for a slight increase in her budget from $309,028 to $316,068. The increase is a result of the 2 percent countywide pay increase approved by the Board of Commissioner and the rest is in retirement contributions.

In 2016, the Director of Administration position was dissolved and Human Resources assumed responsibility for risk management. HR Director Danielle Yarbrough presented a budget request for 2019 which reflected a $25,000 decrease in risk management costs.

For non-risk management activities, she requested a budget increase of about $23,965 to $212,973. The increase would be attributed to group insurance ($6,000), retirement contribution ($5,000), general office supplies ($4,000), commission-approved salary increase ($2,000) and attorney review of the new county employee handbook ($4,000). In this case, outside counsel would be required to perform the review because it would be a conflict of interest for the county attorney to do so.

Yarbrough is also asking the Board to approve a position for a human resource specialist at a salary of $34,153 plus benefits totaling approximately $19,589 and retirement contribution. Currently, there are only two employees in Human Resources.

“The Society for Human Resource Management recommends one human resources person for every 100 employees,” Yarbrough explained. “So we are sorely understaffed.” The county has 284 full-time and 158 part-time employees plus 41 vacancies and 21 frozen positions.

“A lot of department heads are going to be coming to you to ask for positions to be unfrozen and for new positions which is going to increase the burden on my department,” she said. “Even if we had two new employees, we would still be understaffed. But we’re only asking for one.”

Budget reviews will be held at 9 a.m. each day through Thursday and the public is encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, commissioners will review the public defender, elections office, extension service, finance department and public works/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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Dawson County impact fees inch closer to reality

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners moved closer to reinstatement of impact fees on developers by holding the first of two public hearings Thursday. The second is scheduled for Aug. 16.

County commissioners approved impact fees in 2006, but suspended them during the recession of 2009 when new development was practically non-existent. The fees are imposed on new development projects to pay for all — or a portion of the costs — of providing public services to those developments.

Bill Ross whose company, Ross and Associates, has been working on an impact fee program for the county outlined that program during Thursday’s commission meeting.

Ross pointed out that the county’s population is expected to double in the next two decades and that there will be 2,700 more housing units by then. “By 2040, almost half the traffic on your roads will be generated by new development that has moved into the county,” he told commissioners.

The program looked specifically at the impact growth will have on library services, parks and recreation, fire protection, law enforcement and road improvement.

By 2040, it is projected that the county will require one new library and twice the volume of books, computers and DVDs. Four new fire stations will need to be built and 16 firetrucks purchased. The county, Ross said, will need 137 additional acres for recreational facilities.

The maximum fees the county could impose of various types of development include $3,400 for a single-family home, $1.64 per square foot for a shopping center and $1.88 for a super market.

Following the Aug. 16 public hearing, commissioners are expected to vote in favor of the reinstatement of the fees.

Commissioners also held the first of three public hearings on the county millage rate for next year. The proposal is to leave the rate the same as it has been the last 10 years, at 8.138 mills. However, at the end of the public hearings, the Board could choose to set the roll back rate of 7.393 mills.

The next public hearings are set for Aug. 9 and 16 at 6 p.m.

Commissioners also approved:

  • The purchase of four new vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office under the Georgia Department of Administrative services Vehicle Cooperative for a total of $125,563.75
  • Phase 1 of the three phase county wide computer replacement program. The total estimated cost for 2018 is $145,000 with funds coming from SPLOST VI. The total estimated cost for the three-year period is $435,000;
  • A new professional services contract that will extend the number of years the contract can be extended from two one-year renewals to four one-year renewals;
  • The appointment of Kara Wilkins as the new executive director with an annual salary of $5,000 to be prorated for the remainder of 2018.

 

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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Dawson County to hold departmental budget hearings next two weeks

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – A process that often goes unnoticed by the public, but which plays a key role in how tax dollars get spent will play out over the next two weeks when Dawson County’s department heads appear before the Board of Commissioners to request funding for their departments.

The hearings begin Monday and will be held Monday through Thursday for the next two weeks in the Dawson County Administration Building starting at 9 a.m.

The process can be tedious and, at times contentious, as department heads defend their requests and commissioners attempt to ensure the county provides the services citizens pay for at a price they can afford. Every dollar is questioned and must be justified to survive the process.

The first to come under Board of Commissioners’ scrutiny Monday will be the Superior and Drug Court, followed at half-hour to 45-minute intervals by Tax Commissioner, Development Authority and Finance.

On Tuesday,  commissioners will hear budget requests from the Public Defender, Elections Superintendent, Extension Service, Probate Judge and Public Works/Transfer Station.

Magistrate Court, Family Connection, Good Shepherd Clinic and Sheriff’s Office will bring their spending plans to commissioners on Wednesday.

The Sheriff’s Office budget is expected to get very close scrutiny. Sheriff Jeff Johnson sued the county last year when commissioners approved a $900,000 increase in the previous year’s budget. But Johnson maintained it wasn’t enough so he went to court.

The sheriff lost the lawsuit and the good will of the commissioners in the process. Commissioners believe the sheriff wastes too much money by not utilizing the county’s Purchasing Department more and by not submitting purchases to a competitive bidding process.

Week one closes out with budget requests from the coroner, facilities department, IT, clerk of court/board of equalization, and county manager/county government.

 

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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First responders get new swift water life jackets

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. —  Dawson County Fire & Emergency Services purchased and issued 26 new Type V Rescue Life Jackets. This new equipment will provide for the safety of First Responders operating in and around moving water. This is the first life vest purchase for Dawson County responders and it is a critical safety tool for personnel.

In May, first responders had two separate water rescue calls of victims trapped in fast moving waters. In one rescue, first responders had to establish a “high line” rope system to safely get the victims to shore. At that time responders in Dawson County did not have the Type V life jackets needed to operate safely.

Dawson County has over 60 shoreline miles on Lake Lanier, 5 rivers and numerous other creeks and ponds. This added tool to our Emergency Services Department is invaluable to ensure the safety of our responder’s and citizen’s. This purchase was made possible by funding allotted to us by our Dawson County Board of Commissioners.

 

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 votes to join lawsuit against federal government

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DAWSONVILLE Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday (July 19) to participate in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government to recover money the county is due under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program.

The PILOT program allows the federal government to make payments to local governments in lieu of paying property taxes on federal lands within eligible counties.

Late last year, Kane County, Utah filed litigation against the federal government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims seeking to recover the balance of funds created by underpayments to the counties. The court ruled those underpayments must be paid and the case was certified as a class-action lawsuit, which allows other counties that were under paid to opt into the lawsuit at no cost to the counties.

There is no cost to the county to join the lawsuit and the county could recover thousands of dollars owed to its taxpayers.

“There is no downside to and there is a good possibility the county could obtain a modest amount by way of the class action,” County Attorney Lynn Frey said last week.

The U.S. Forest Service and Corps of Engineers owns more than 9,000 acres in Dawson County and has been receiving payments under that program since 1999. In 2017, the county received a check for $21,990 and has been advised it will receive a check for $25,835 this year. Should commissioners opt into the class action lawsuit, Frey estimates the county could recover between $3,500 and $5,000.

The federal government can still appeal the court’s decision, but Frey says he has seen no indication it will do so.

In other decision, the Board of Commissioners approved:

  • An alcohol license for Pokeyaki to serve beer in its restaurant at 145 Forest Blvd. Suite 450;
  • The transfer of a retail package alcohol license permit for Dawson Fine Wine and Spirits at 46 Blue Ridge Parkway;
  • A request by the Development Authority of Dawson County (DADC) to accept the bid of AHC Contracting for the purpose of integrating the economic development activities through the co-location of DADC within the Chamber of Commerce office at a cost of $12,470 plus $2,000 for moving expense;
  • The site plan for Piedmont Properties for construction of Dawsonville Self Storage with the stipulation the buffer be expanded. Once the building plan is complete, it must come back before the Board of Commissioners for approval;
  • The capital investment element of the county’s Comprehensive Plan;
  • Retaining the Athens-based law firm of Blasingame, Burch, Garrard and Ashley to represent the county in multi-district opioid litigation to recover expenses incurred by the county arising from the ongoing opioid crisis.

 

 

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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