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 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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Thurmond earns certified commissioner status

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – In an effort to better serve the citizens, Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond has earned the certificate of recognition as a Certified County Commissioner from the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government, in partnership with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).

To earn the certification, Thurmond successfully completed nine training sessions covering 66 hours of required courses. Courses included County Government 101, County Government Finance, County Government Law, Economic Development, Ethics, Human Resources, Leadership Institute, Property Appraisal and Taxation, and Public Health and Safety.

“I will use the knowledge that I have gained from the classes I took to obtain this certification to better serve the citizens of Dawson County,” said Thurmond.

The Institute of Government, in partnership with ACCG, offers courses through the Lifelong Learning Academy for county commissioners to develop and enhance their leadership and governing skills. Academy courses are offered at least once every other year during training programs. These programs are held in conjunction with regularly scheduled ACCG meetings or as stand-alone sessions. In order to receive credit, a person must attend the entire course.

 

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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