Wildcat Community residents hold townhall meeting to addresses fire protection concerns

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DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. — Nearly 100 residents of the Wildcat Community — a group of several small housing developments located in an isolated, mountainous section on the Dawson/Pickens county line — gathered inside Fire Station 8 Saturday morning to ask questions about fire protection for the community.

Two weeks before the meeting, a home on Burnt Mountain Ridge Road was destroyed by fire and community residents, some of them angry, spent nearly two hours grilling Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson and County Manager David Headley about fire protection for their community. County Commissioner Sharon Fausett, who represents the district, was also on hand as was Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones.

The meeting was organized by Clayton Preble, president of the Wildcat Community, John Tarantini, a volunteer firefighter at Fire Station 8. The questions they wanted answers to were: Why did it take so long for Fire Station 8 to respond to the fire on Burnt Mountain Ridge Road, why was Fire Station 8 not dispatched promptly since it is only 2.5 miles from the fire and what  became of the water tank the organizers say Dawson County promised to provide.

Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson responds to questions Saturday.

Thompson explained that due to a flaw in Dawson County’s aging computer aided dispatch system (CAD)  — which the county is in the process of replacing — the initial 9-1-1 call bypassed Fire Station 8 and went to stations 6, 4 and 1, the closest of which is located in nearby Big Canoe.

The initial call was received at 8:04 a.m. and, according to CAD data, the first firetruck on the scene arrived at 8:28 a.m.

Thompson pointed out that while Fire Station 8 did not receive the 9-1-1 Tarantini had monitored the call and was aware of the fire 2.5 miles away. He was free to self-report to the scene,” Thompson said. But he also noted that Fire Station 8 is manned by volunteers and is not authorized to engage in fire suppression activities. Their sole responsibility is to lay hose lines and prepare the scene for arriving certified firefighters. Therefore, he said, there is no chance they could have saved the home.

For 90 minutes, Thompson, who only joined the Dawson County Emergency Services in May 2018, patiently and fully answered every question.

Then came the question that Headley said was the real reason for the meeting. That question: What happened to the water tank Dawson County promised?”

There is a water tank located at Fire Station 8, but it holds only 45,000 gallons of water and once it is drained takes several days to refill.

In a slide presentation prepared by Preble, he asserts, “It was agreed that Dawson County would provide a tank and move it and Pickens County would construct the foundation. There was a firm agreement that each party would do their part.”

Preble further asserts that Pickens County has constructed a concrete slab as the foundation for the tank at a cost of approximately $20,000 and the Wildcat Community has reimbursed Pickens County about $12,500. Now, he said, the ball is in Dawson County’s court.

 

Headley said Dawson and Pickens County officials and representatives from Wildcat Community have engaged in informal discussions about an additional tank but he strongly disagrees there was ever a “firm agreement.” Any agreement, he points out, would have to be approved by the Dawson County Board of Commissioners and that has not happened.

Headley said when the talks began, a tank was located and former Emergency Services Director Lanier Swafford estimated moving the tank would cost approximately $10,000. Since then, however, county officials have learned the cost could be anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 if a contractor could be located. Headley said the county advertised invitations to bid (IFB) and no bids were received.

Headley said the whole purpose of Saturday’s meeting was to “ambush” Dawson County officials and pressure them into providing a water tank for the community. “We wanted to hold the meeting here at the Senior Center but they said no. We wanted to set the agenda but they said no.”

Headley said he understands the community’s concern and wants to but feels the cost has to be equally shared by all parties.

 

 

 

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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Veteran fireman, EMS director Lanier Swafford resigns

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Lanier Swafford, a fixture in Dawson County’s Fire Department for almost 30 years, has announced he will resign effective Friday.

Swafford served in the dual role of emergency services director and fire chief until the department was restructured earlier this year. At that time, Swafford accepted a voluntary demotion but retained both ranks until the county hired Danny Thompson as the new Emergency Medical Services (EMS) director last week.

“It is clear the county and Mr. Thompson have decided to go in a different direction, so I have resigned my position effective Friday,” Swafford said.

He started working as a volunteer fireman in Dawson County in 1989 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1991. In 1997, he became a full-time firefighter and was named chief of the volunteer fire department.

Former EMS Director Billy Thurmond promoted Swafford to EMS division chief in 2007. In 2015, he succeeded Thurmond as EMS director.

Thurmond said, “This is a tremendous loss for Dawson County. Lanier was dedicated to the citizens for over 25 years. It’s a huge loss. He is the kind of person you can’t replace. He always had the best interest of the citizens at heart even to the point of missing out on some opportunities with his family due to his dedication.”

Tim Satterfield, who served as deputy fire chief under Swafford, said, “Lanier is a good man. He has done a lot for the citizens of Dawson County and Dawson County Emergency Services. He is well respected throughout the state with all the work he has done for fire services and firefighters in Georgia. I wish him well.”

Swafford said he has worked with Thompson this week to ensure the transition was as smooth as possible.

 

 

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 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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Humane Society will attempt to buy land it currently leases from Dawson County

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Carolyn Bowen, president of the Dawson County Humane Society, will ask county commissioners to consider selling the 5.3 acres of land on which the animal shelter is built when the Board of Commissioners meets in a work session Thursday at 4 p.m.

The Humane Society has leased the land from the county since 2005 for $1 a year and the county leases the land from the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority for the same amount. The lease agreement is for 50 years.

However, Bowen said in order to receive funding to continue to build and improve the shelter, the Humane Society needs to own the land. Bowen added the Humane Society has a major benefactor who has significant concerns that the organization does not own the land under the building in which the trust has invested.

Late last year, commissioners appointed a committee to conduct a study of current compensation and to make recommendations for future compensation for board members. After reviewing compensation of 10 comparable Georgia counties, Tara Hardwick, chairwoman of the committee, will present a recommendation at Thursday’s meeting

Dawson County Emergency Services Fire Chief Lanier Swafford will present a proposal for an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the city of Johns Creek for apparatus storage.

Swafford also will ask commissioners to consider approval of a grant application. The Chesney Fallen Firefighters Memorial Grant Program 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.

Grants awarded under this program are to be used by Georgia fire departments to develop a new program or enhance an existing public life safety program, dedicated to fire safety and burn prevention education.

Dawson County Emergency Services has received this grant in the past, and it was used to fund the department’s fire safety house used at schools and other events. If awarded, this grant would fund the purchase of a fire extinguisher simulator training aid. The maximum amount of each grant is $3,000 and the deadline for applications is March 30, 2018

Accounting and Budget Manager Natalie Johnson will present the 2017 Board of Commissioners’ expenses, and Public Works Director David McKee will present the disposal services agreement with Advanced Disposal/Eagle Point Landfill.

 

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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Chairman says commission cannot accept pay raise until county employees get long-awaited increase

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BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Tara Hardwick, chairwoman of the commissioners’ compensation committee, presented the findings of her committee at last week’s Dawson County Board of Commissioners work session. After a review of 10 similar-sized and adjacent counties, Hardwick said the committee recommends the commissioners and chairman be given a 2 percent increase in base pay beginning in January 2019.

Hardwick said the study found the average annual pay in the 10-county area is $9,818 for commissioners and $13,774 for commission chairmen. Dawson County Commissioners earn $9,600 and Chairman Billy Thurmond is paid $12,000 annually.

Hardwick said, “We took into consideration current and projected population growth as well as the desire to attract only the most highly qualified candidates.” She also pointed out commissioners had not had a pay increase in 12 years other than the annual cost of living allowance (COLA), which is regulated by the General Assembly.

Thurmond said, “Enabling legislation requires us to do this every four years, and it hasn’t been done since 2005. So, this isn’t intended to give county commissioners a big raise and new car but to get us into compliance with our own rules.”

Thurmond thanked the committee for its hard work but added, “(The Board) is still in agreement that as long as we haven’t given our employees the 2 percent pay increase they are in line for, we will not accept one for the board at this time.”

Carolyn Bowen informed the board the Dawson County Humane Society is interested in buying the land it has leased from the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority. Bowen, the organization president, said in order to receive funding to continue to build and improve the shelter, the Humane Society needs to own the land. Bowen said funding will come from a major benefactor who has significant concerns that the organization does not own the land under the building in which the trust has invested.

Dawson County Emergency Services Fire Chief Lanier Swafford said that the city of Johns Creek had requested permission to temporarily store one of its new fire trucks in one of the empty bays at a Dawson County firehouse until its new firehouse has been constructed. Swafford added that if an intergovernmental agreement is approved, the county will have no financial liability for any damage that may occur.

Swafford also asked commissioners to consider approval of a grant 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. If awarded, this grant would fund the purchase of a fire extinguisher simulator training aid. The maximum amount of each grant is $3,000 and the deadline for applications is March 30, 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. 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 say no to major residential development

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Dist. 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to deny a zoning application by Dawson Forest Holdings to build 177 single-family homes and 95 townhomes near Hwy. 53 and Elliott Road during Thursday’s commission meeting.

Dawson Forest Holding attorney Joshua Scoggins, of Miles, Hansford and Tallant, threatened to sue the county if commissioners voted to deny the application. However, commissioners stood their ground and sided with area homeowners who have repeatedly voiced strong opposition to the development.

Commissioners tabled decisions on approval of a budget for the Development Authority of Dawson County and the Impact Fee Methodology Report.

A revision of the Animal Control Ordinance that prohibits the use of tethering as the primary means of animal confinement was unanimously approved.

Commissioners also approved a request by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director Lanier Swafford to apply for a Georgia Trauma Commission Non-Competitive EMS Equipment Grant in the amount of $5,371.91. The grant requires no county match.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby surprised many in attendance when he announced that he would not seek re-election. Hamby will end his second term as commissioner December 31.

FetchYourNews will have a report Tuesday, Jan. 23, on Hamby’s decision.

 

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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Dawson County searching for new EMS director

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EMS Director Lanier Swafford

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County has begun advertising for a new director of Emergency Management Services (EMS) to replace Lanier Swafford.

Swafford, who currently serves the dual function of EMS director and fire chief, will remain as the county’s fire chief. County Manager David Headey said Tuesday, Jan. 23, the move was the result of a change in administrative functions that have taken place in the department and Swafford had volunteered to step back.

“Lanier is involved in a lot of public safety functions for outside organizations, and this will allow him more flexibility,” Headley said. Swafford will receive a 10 percent reduction in salary to serve exclusively as fire chief.

Headley added that Danny Speaks will take on the position of deputy fire chief with responsibility for operations and training. Speaks will report to Swafford who will be in charge of administration and oversee battalion chiefs.

Headley said the county will search internally and externally for a new EMS director, and he hopes to fill the position by the end of February. Until then, Swafford will continue to serve as director.

 

 

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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Future of the Development Authority will be discussed at Thursday’s commissioners meeting

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Key issues the Dawson County Board of Commissioners will discuss during the first meeting of the new year include funding for the Development Authority of Dawson County (DADC), a new impact fee methodology report and 2018 qualifying fees for elected officials.

The work session is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday in the Dawson County Government Center Assembly Room.

The Development Authority annual budget was eliminated for 2017 and 2018. However, DADC Chairwoman Sherry Weeks made a presentation to commissioners at a special called meeting last month requesting that operating expenses be approved in the amount of $175,000. The annual budget had been $150,000.00, but Weeks is requesting an additional $25,000 to fund a move from its Prominence Court location into the Chamber of Commerce facility.

Bill Ross, of Ross & Associates, gave a presentation of a final draft of a proposed Impact Fee Report in December. The report addressed appropriate levels for impact fees to be charged under an updated Impact Fee Program. The report was tabled last month but will come back before the board Thursday.

The county’s contract for uniforms for the Fire Department and Emergency Management expires in December. Fire Chief/EMA Director Lanier Swafford will ask the board to approve a new contract with NAFECO, the most responsive and responsible bidder. The average annual uniform procurement cost has been $52,274.92. Uniforms are purchased only on an as-needed basis. The contract, if approved, would be for one year with two renewal options.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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