Jeff Johnson, Billy Thurmond win reelection, but voters reject transportation SPLOST

Politics

DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. — Sheriff Jeff Johnson won a second term without the need for a runoff Tuesday. Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Thurmond also won a second term but political newcomer Renee Duren threw a real scare into the former Public Safety Director.

Johnson received 3,683 votes (53.92%) to Marcus Sewell 1,757 and Jeff Perry 1,390.

The race for county commission chair went down to the wire. Thurmond a longtime public servant with strong name recognition, survived by just over 200 votes. Thurmond’s total was 3,143 to Duren’s 2,907. The focus of Duren’s campaign was zoning issues and quality of life.

Emory Dooley won the race for District 4 county commissioner, defeating David Pressley by a count of 3,143 to 2,907.

Fed up with a dwindling job market, COVID-19 and the rising racial tensions in the U.S., Dawson County voters were in no mood to raise their own taxes. They voted “no” to the transportation special purpose local option sales tax (TSPLOST) 4.445 TO 3.467.

All races are unofficial until certified by the Secretary of State.

 

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

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: Dawson County candidate qualifying: Day 1

News

DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. – The following is an update of the candidates that qualified to run in county, state and federal races through Tuesday:

COUNTY RACES

Board of Commissioners Chairman — Billy Thurmond (I), Renee Duren

County Commissioner District 2 – Chris Gaines (I)

County Commissioner District 4 Emory Dooley

Sheriff – Jeff Johnson (I), Marcus Sewell

Clerk of Superior Court – Justin Power (I)

Probate Court Judge – Jennifer Burt (I)

Tax Commissioner – Nicole Stewart (I)

Board of Education District 4 Roger Slaton (I)

STATE RACES

State Rep. District 9 – Clint Smith, Will Wade

FEDERAL RACES                              

US Congress District 9 –Michael Boggus, Andrew Clyde, State Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger), Maria Strickland, State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Tiger), Ethan Underwood

Qualifying will continue through March 6 at noon. Continue to read fetchyournews.com for daily updates until qualifying ends.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Billy Thurmond talks about re-election campaign

News

DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. – In discussing his decision to campaign for a second term, County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “I enjoy trying to make the county better. I’ve served the citizens of the county over 40 years and I still have the desire to do that. I think I’m providing a good service so I want to continue my serve to them.”

Thurmond, began a decades-long career with Dawson County, working in the Parks and Recreation Department before he received EMT training and started working in public safety where he served many years before being named Director of Emergency Services He retired in 2015 and ran for the Board of Commissioners.

Thurmond said the county has made a number of improvements during his first term as chairman, including communications and facilities and equipment. He also said the county has become more productive and cost-efficient.

“When I ran for this job first thing I told the people I wanted to do is improve communications with the citizens, as well as the staff and our community partners,” he said. “We’ve updated our website. It’s more user friendly. We have updated our newsletter. We’ve hired a public information director. We’re putting information out on all forms of media. I feel like we’ve done a good job as a board making the county a lot more transparent for our citizens.”

By slowing the employee turnover rate, Thurmond said county operations have become more productive and cost-efficient.

“In the five years prior to me becoming chairman we had a 105% turnover ratio,” he said. “We’ve worked diligently to maintain a quality workforce. Everybody knows a good quality workforce is more productive. You’re not productive if you’re constantly replacing someone, if you’re spending a whole lot of money in recruitment and training. This past year, 2019, we only had a 19 percent turnover.”

As for the upgrade in facilities, he stated, “We’re coming on line with a brand new public works facility, a brand new fleet shop. A lot of the things we needed to do in fleet department, we had to contract out because we didn’t have the facility or the equipment. This will allow us to do a lot more stuff in house which will be more cost efficient.”

Thurmond also said the county has become more proactive in seeking out grants.

“In the last three years, we’ve gotten some pretty good grants,” he said. “We got the SAFIR grant for $1 million for fire personnel. We got the community development block grant for $750,000 for the Senior Center. By going down that road, we have been able to – for the first time in 15 years – lower the millage rate this year.”

The General Primary Election Day is May 19. Candidate qualifying to run in the election is May 2-5 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and May 6 from 9 a.m. until noon. Candidates must qualify at the Dawson County Elections Office, 96 Academy Avenue.

 

 

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

 

Commissioners set to approve 2020 budget today

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners will hold the third public hearing before adopting the 2020 budget during Thursday (Oct 17) at 6 p.m. in the Dawson County Government Center Assembly Room, 25 Justice Way.

The 2019 budget was just over $27 million. The proposed 2020 budget is $29.9 million, an increase of almost $3 million or 10.26 percent over this year.

When Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond presented the proposed spending plan two weeks, he said it is justified by what is projected to be a $2.8 million increase in revenue for next year. But much of that increase will come from the county’s reserve or “rainy day fund.”

In some unfinished business from Sept. 19, commissioners are expected to vote on a controversial vape shop ordinance.

New business items on the agenda include a request to use the county facility parking lots during the Mountain Moonshine Festival;

Consideration of an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between Dawson County and the Development Authority of Dawson County;

Consideration to move forward with a public hearing for Special Event Business License Ordinance Revision; Consideration of the sale of surplus real property owned by Dawson County;

Consideration of a request for additional funds for legal fees;

There will also be a number of zoning requests for commissioners to consider.

 

 

 

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

 

Commissioners hit pause button on vape ordinance

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – County commissioners were prepared Thursday to end the sale of flavored vape products and prevent vape shop owners from having their business license renewed. But the compelling and passionate argument of dozens of consumers and vape shop owners caused them to reconsider – for now.

The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to table an ordinance that would have put four specialty vape shops out of business and impacted thousands of their customers.

The proposed ordinance would define a specialty vape shop as one whose sales of alternative nicotine products and vapor products, combined, exceeds 25 twenty-five percent of sales.

Those who pleaded with commissioners came from Dawson, Cherokee, Paulding and Gwinnett counties. One man came all the way from Warner Robins. Many repeated the same theme: Vape products get smokers off cigarettes. Another man who smoked cigarettes for 40 years said flavored vape products were the only way he could quit. Other smokers said without flavored vape products they were afraid they would go back to cigarettes.

Jamie Wheatley, owner of The Vaperz Den, said, “The proposed vapor ban would push people back into a more harmful choice. There is something in this ordinance that no specialty vapor shop could operate in this county. There are four that it would force out of business.”

Wheatley continued, saying, “We know the underage thing is a big deal. We’re the ones that card at the door. You can’t walk into any one of these specialty vape shops without being of age. I would like to ask if there is a way we could table this ordinance and schedule some one-on-one meetings with you guys to educate and inform you about what it is we do and come to some sort of compromise that we can continue to do business.”

Their comments obviously had an impact on commissioners.

Julie Hughes-Nix who made the motion to table a vote on the proposed ordinance said,

“I appreciate your comments. Everyone up here is listening to you because we care. I want to learn more. I think we need to do a better job of checking into what we need to do here.”

Her words were interrupted by a long, very loud applause. “So my recommendation to this board is that we table this and go back to the drawing board.”

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “There has been a lot of information brought forward tonight that needs to be investigated.

 

 

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

 

County officials break ground for Fire Station 8

News

PRESS RELEASE

Representatives from the architecture firm Clark Patterson Lee, general contractor CT Darnell, Dawson County Emergency Services, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners and Dawson County Administration gathered at the site of the future Dawson County Fire Station 8 to hold an official “Ground Breaking” ceremony. The site is on Sweetwater-Juno Road near the intersection of Reagan Rd.

Fire Chief Danny Thompson welcomed all in attendance and spoke of the importance of the new station. He explained how response times and insurance ratings will be greatly reduced with the addition of the new station. Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond also addressed the crowd. He stated that this station will bring a level of emergency response to this area of county that most of the rest of the county has been accustomed to for years.

Due to parking constraints the “Ground Breaking” ceremony was not open to the public. However, Chief Thompson stresses that once the new building is complete the public will be welcome to attend a “Grand Opening” ceremony and tour the community’s newest public safety facility.

Sheriff Johnson has sole authority to give employees a pay raise

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson has had the budget and the authority to give his employees a well-deserved pay raise for the last two years but chose not to do so.

As a constitutional officer, elected by the citizens of Dawson County, Johnson has sole discretion over how he manages his budget. Board approval is not required.

But on July 2 Johnson did come before the Board to request approval of a 15 percent across-the-board pay increase for employees. In a passionate plea to the Board he said, “In a time when law enforcement agencies are aggressively competing for staff through increased pay, benefits, signing bonuses, recruiting bonuses, etc., DCSO continues to fall further and further behind in these areas.”

But at last Thursday’s meeting, Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond explained to the sheriff that he can give his employees a pay raise any time he chooses.

Johnson has had serious budget management issues in the past. In 2017, his first year in office, he initiated a lawsuit against the Board in an effort to have them increase his budget. The lawsuit failed and, at the end of that year, the sheriff discovered he had $526,565 left over in his budget. That money had to be returned to the county fund balance.

Again in 2018, the Board allocated more money to the sheriff’s budget than he actually spent. At the end of that year, Johnson had $200,995 left over. In two years, Johnson wound up returning $727,560 to the county fund balance.

2020 is an election year and Johnson has not yet announced whether he will seek reelection. Two candidates — Jeff Perry, a veteran parole officer, and Marcus Sewell, Chief Investigator for the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office — have announced they will campaign for sheriff. Johnson’s opponents are expected to attack the sheriff for what they perceive to be his fiscal mismanagement.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Commissioners approve addition of a $100,000 emergency contingency to the general fund budget

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – By the narrowest of margins, Dawson County commissioners voted Thursday to add $100,000 contingency to the general fund budget that County Manager David Headley will have the authority to spend in case of an emergency without receiving Board authorization.

Prior to the vote, Dist. 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines asked for three stipulations:  The expenditure would require dual signatures from CFO Vickie Neikirk and Headley, a maximum amount of $25,000 for each emergency expenditure with an aggregate amount of $100,000 annually and the expenditure be included in the public record at the next Board of Commissioners meeting.

Chairman Billy Thurmond, Dist. 3 Commissioner Tim Satterfield and Gaines voted to approve the contingency.

But Dist. 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix and Dist 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett, who wanted Headley on a shorter leash, voted no.

Nix reminded commissioners that the money they spend is not theirs, but belongs to taxpayers and that commissioners should maintain a tighter control on spending.

“I would really like to know up front what it is,” she said. “I’m really guided by the fact that the money belongs to our citizens and we need to be more accountable.”

In other decisions, commissioners voted to approve a Landbridge Development, LLC request to rezone property located between Krystal and the movie theater just off Hwy. 400 from Commercial Highway Business to Residential Multi Family for the purpose of building five apartment buildings with 12 rental units each.

Commissioners unanimously approved Amber Popphan’s request for a variance to the Land Use Resolution that will allow her to build a mobile home on property of less than five acres that was given to her by her father.

The Board also approved a request by Planning Director Jameson Kinley to hire an Alcohol Licensing administrative assistant at a rate of $15.84 per hour.

Two weeks ago, the county received a low bid from CT Darnell to execute a design-build contract for Fire Station 9. However, no contract was awarded and since then, the county discovered it could save as much as $75,000 by entering into negotiations with Darnell. Commissioners unanimously agreed to allow the negotiation to proceed.

The Board also voted 4-0 to approve a local share commitment letter for Legacy Link.

Thurmond read a proclamation to celebrate Arbor Day on April 26. The event this year will be celebrated by the Dawson County Tree Preservation Committee and Keep Dawson County Beautiful planting a tree on April 26th and encouraging others to plant trees across the county.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawson County EMS staffing reaches crisis stage

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson made a heartfelt and emotional plea for a pay raise on behalf of the men and women of his department during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners work session.

Thompson said the attrition rate in emergency services is nearing a “crisis situation” with 11 percent of the employees leaving to work at other fire departments or to go into the private sector. “That is two-and-a-half times the national average, he said.

“In exit interviews, we’ve learned that a lot of them love working in Dawson County. The big reason for the exodus is money. Right now, there are 11 fire departments within 30 miles of this county that pay between $10,000 and $16,000 more.”

Thompson presented three options to commissioners for a potential salary increase.

When asked by Commissioner Sharon Fausett which option worked best for his department, he answered Option A – a 10 percent across-the-board increase for all personnel.

Dozens of firefighters/EMTs sat in the audience as Thompson spoke

“These men and women sitting back here tonight love this county. They love its residents. They’re willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. But, I need your help,” he said.

“Bottom line is I need you to stand up for these men and women. Don’t turn your back on them because tonight, if you need them, they’re going to be there for you no matter what decision you make. I’m troubled as you can tell. I’m tired of looking at these men and women knowing they’re living paycheck to paycheck. It’s sad and it’s got to stop. It starts with you guys.”

While Thompson said the situation is nearing the crisis state, Chairman Billy Thurmond, who used to manage the same department said, “I can tell you, having run this department that 11 vacancies is a crisis today. That is not a crisis tomorrow.”

Agenda items discussed during work sessions are generally voted on at the next regular meeting.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

County legal fees are twice the budgeted amount

News
Joey Homans

Joey Homans

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Legal services in 2019 will cost Dawson County taxpayers about $250,000 more than what county commissioners had budgeted.

The budget was set at $160,413. But, after four months less than $20,000 remains so the Board of Commissioners were forced to approve an additional $250,000 during Thursday’s commission meeting.

Most commissioners agree the fault does not lie with the interim law firm of Jarrard and Davis. Some blame the overrun on former in-house counsel Lynn Frey who resigned in December due to poor health.

Commissioners Julie Hughes-Nix and Sharon Fausett say Frey frequently did not show up for work and rarely worked an eight-hour day in the office. Both say they told County Manager David Headley and other Board members about the problem in 2017 but nothing was done. They also say that much of the work he was supposed to do was left for Jarrard and Davis to complete.

Julie Hughes-Nix

Nix said, “In the fall of 2017, department heads were saying to me we have an issue. (Frey) isn’t coming to work. He’s not getting the work done. I alerted the rest of the Board to that. I wanted him in the office from 8 until 5 because that’s what we hired him for. I think that was doable. I kept trying to get the attention of the Board but they didn’t have an issue with that. As a result, we let this linger on and this is what we created. If we had addressed the issue in 2017 when I tried to, we would not be in the situation we are in now.”

After the meeting, Fausett said, “We definitely sounded the alarm a long time ago but got nowhere. We made it crystal clear many times that we wanted him in the office five days a week. We even wrote him up on performance evaluations.”

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “Mrs. (Angela) Davis did say last week that as soon as we cleaned up the remainder of the stuff that is pending, we would see a downward trend.”

Two years ago, county commissioners decided the $180,316 they paid attorney Joey Homans for legal services for one year (2016) was too much. After 20 years of service, they declined to renew his contract and hired Frey to replace him.

But Homans’ fee was a bargain compared to what the county will spend this year and he was on hand to take a victory lap during Thursday’s meeting.

“Two years ago, when you made another appointment other than me after 20 years, you asserted that it was done to save the taxpayers money,” he said. “With this request (for additional funding) your total legal fee will be $410,000.

“The comment that it was done to save taxpayers money, I took as an attack on my integrity and my character. It was an indicator that I was gouging or overcharging. The fact, that legal fees now are twice what they were, I submit, absolves me of that. I submit that what you’re paying for legal services to very competent legal counsel reflects there was no overcharging. There was no gouging. In fact, taxpayers are now paying more.”

 

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

 

 

 

Commissioners will vote on new meeting schedule Thursday

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County Commissioners will vote Thursday on a proposal brought to the Board by Chairman Billy Thurmond that would limit commission meetings to just two days a week when they meet Thursday at 6 p.m. in the County Government Building.

In the past Dawson County commissioners have held meetings four times a month with work sessions and voting meetings held on alternate Thursdays. Work sessions are held for the purpose of discussing issues that will be voted on the next week. That has led to some voting sessions lasting less than 15 minutes.

Thurmond said rather than bring staff and citizens together for two very short voting meetings each month, it would be more efficient to hold work sessions and voting meetings on the same night.

If approved, future work sessions will be held at 4 p.m. followed by an executive session at 5 p.m. if necessary and a voting meeting at 6 p.m.

Thurmond said he proposed the change, “In an effort to make meetings more efficient and more productive.”

Commissioners will also vote Thursday on the hiring of an Alcohol Licensing Administrator at a pay range between $17 and $26.35 per hour. The position is currently frozen.

Other issues to be voted on Thursday include:

  • The hiring of Ross and Associates to conduct the land use resolution update the Board requested at a cost of $8,100;
  • A request by the 4H Rabies Clinic to hold the 5th annual parade and assembly on April 27;
  • Creation of a general fund contingency of $100,000 to be added to the 2019 budget.;
  • A request from MLH Farm/Uncle Shucks to hold a corn maze, sunflower maze and possibly a Christmas tree sale at their new location;
  • A request to surplus/demolish the Transfer Station weigh station modular office;
  • A presentation of the 2019 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) VI;
  • A three-party agreement between Dawson County, City of Dawsonville and Dawson County Humane Society on animal control;
  • A new pay schedule for Constitutional Officers;
  • An appointment to the Tax Assessors 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. 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

 

County Commissioners consider changing meeting schedule

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — In the past Dawson County commissioners have held meetings four times a month but that could change to twice monthly if they decide to adopt the proposal discussed at Thursday’s work session.

Currently, the Board holds work sessions on the first and third Thursday each month and a voting sessions on the second and fourth Thursday. During the work sessions, they discuss issues that will be voted at the voting session. But that has resulted in voting sessions that, at times, have lasted less than 15 minutes.

Chairman Billy Thurmond said rather than bring staff and citizens together for two very short voting meetings each month, it would be more efficient to hold work sessions and voting meetings on the same night.

If approved, future work sessions will be held at 4 p.m. followed by an executive session at 5 p.m. if necessary and a voting meeting at 6 p.m.

“Chairman Billy Thurmond he proposed the change, “In an effort to make meetings more efficient and more productive.”

Planning Director Jameson Kinley asked commissioners to authorize the hiring of an Alcohol Licensing Administrator at a pay range between $17 and $26.35 per hour. The position is currently frozen.

He also asked for $8,100 to hire Ross and Associates to conduct the land use resolution update the Board had requested. The department put the update out for bids. Ross and Associates was the sole bidder.

Commissioners heard a request by the 4H Rabies Clinic to hold the 5th annual parade and assembly on April 27.

Chief Financial Officer Vickie Neikirk requested Board approval to create a general fund contingency of $100,000 in the 2019 budget. Dawson County has had a contingency in the past but it was not included in the 2019 budget.

Generally, department heads would ask for money for their department and if she believed it to be in the county’s interest, she would present it to County Manager David could authorize the expenditure before presenting it to the Board as part of his County Manager report.

Other agenda items discussed include:

  • A request from MLH Farm/Uncle Shucks to hold a corn maze, sunflower maze and possibly a Christmas tree sale at their new location;
  • A request to surplus/demolish the Transfer Station weigh station modular office;
  • A presentation of the 2019 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) VI;
  • A presentation of a three-party agreement between Dawson County, City of Dawsonville and Dawson County Humane Society on animal control;
  • A presentation of the pay schedule for Constitutional Officers;
  • A presentation of a board appointment to the Tax Assessors 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. 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hamby, Headley honored for outstanding achievement during Thursday work session

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The Dawson County Board of Commissioners had a busy work session agenda Thursday, but took time out to honor two individuals for very special accomplishments – County Manager David Headley and District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby.

Hamby will be retiring from the Board at the end of the month following eight years in office. The Board presented him a plaque in honor of his dedicated service to Dawson County and held a reception for him following the meeting.

County Manager David Headley was named as the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission Appointed Official of the Year recently. The region covers 13 counties and 51 municipalities. “We’re proud of David and his recognition as Official of the Year,” said Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond.

Public Works Director David McKee addressed the Board on several issues. The first was a course aggregate contract bid submitted by Vulcan Materials in the amount of $161,664. The current contract has expired and all renewal year options have been exhausted. The department has a full-time paving crew on staff to perform the Local Maintenance Improvement Grant work and several miles of other road work and parking lot repairs.

The current contract to purchase hot asphaltic mix has also exhausted all renewal years and Mckee asked the Board to accept contracts with Baldwin Paving, Blunt Construction and CW Matthews Contracting to provide the product. Each company offered the low bids on the various items required.

Mckee brought another long-standing issue of the intersection of Lumpkin Campground Road and SR 53 before the Board. He pointed out the county has partnered with Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to install a right-hand turn lane along the Lumpkin Campground mainline. SR 53 traffic will not be changed. Upon completion, GDOT will adjust all traffic signals. The project qualifies for SPLOST VI funds, Impact Fee funds or General Fund.

Commissioners also discussed a highway beautification project. The county has been looking for ways to landscape areas along the GA 400 Corridor that are within the GDOT right-of-way for 10 years. The project requires special encroachment permits, and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the long-term maintenance of this corridor. In September, the project was bid and two bids were received with a total bid cost was $116,246.85, which is $69,556.85 over the total grant amount. The project is not SPLOST VI eligible, and additional funding will have to come from another source such as the general fund. McKee asked the Board for direction on the project.

GEBCorp Regional Client Manager Ryan Reynolds presented commissioners with options for a county employee retirement plan

Planning & Development Director Jameson Kinley presented a review of the 2018 comprehensive plan.

The purpose of the plan to provide guidance for everyday decision making by local government officials and other community leaders. It represents the efforts of the government, the residents and various stakeholders by identifying the critical issues and goals for the communy. The plan has been approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The Board can amend the plan at any time.

Commissioners unanimously approved a request by Kinley to add a summer intern to work on Geographic Information System issues within Planning and Development. The position is fully funded by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson asked for Board approval to apply for the annual Georgia Forestry Commission 50/50 grant program. The maximum allowed on this grant is $10,000.00. Thompson said the grant is needed to purchase replacement fire hoses, nozzles and scene lights. This grant will not be awarded until spring of 2019.

Commissioners unanimously approved Thompson’s request to apply for the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) Injury Prevention Program. The program is designed to provide funding to public safety agencies in Georgia. DPH provides Dawson Fire/EMS with six convertible and four high-back booster child safety seats monthly to issue to citizens. The grant requires no county match.

Senior Services Director Dawn Pruett asked the Board to approve the annual contract with Deanna Specialty Transportation, Inc. to provide specialty transportation within the county. The company reimburses the county for senior client rides.

Commissioners also discussed the following board appointments/reappointments:  Tax Assessor Board, Jim Perdue; Department of Family and Children Services Board, Nancy Stites replacing Vickie Porter; Planning Commission John Dooley Chairman, Jason Hamby, John Maloney, Tim Bennett and Neil Hornsey.

 

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

 

BOC tables Dawson Village vote for 30 days

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County commissioners voted to place a rezoning request by Dawson Village Partners, LLC to build the largest development in county history on hold for 30 days last night (May 16).

The controversial project attracted very strong public participation. The meeting room was nearly full and two dozen Dawson County residents rose to share their views with commissioners. Eighteen opposed, eight supported.

Rod Bishoff

The project, if approved, would add 2,175 new residential units, 338,000 square feet of retail space and 242,000 square feet of office space to the county which, many argued would over burden the roads, law enforcement and public safety. It would be built on 777 acres from the intersection of Ga. 400 and Lumpkin Campground Road west to Etowah River Road before crossing Etowah River.

The county planning commission voted 3-2 to recommend denial to the Board of Commissioners based on the impact the development would have on the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens and the environmental impact on the Etowah River and flood plain.

Approval of a mixed use village is a two-part process. The initial phase calls for a concept plan in which the county looks at proposed uses, designates areas, open space, amenities, the road system, access points, location of streams and public and private streets for the development.

Dwight Roberts

If the concept is approved, the project would come back before commissioners who would then take a deeper dive into water and sewer locations, a stormwater plan, building areas and landscaping and architectural standards

Rod Bishoff, a retired developer who said he has developed property in Fulton, DeKalb, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, called the project a fantasy.

“These (developers) are doing a great job but not one of them is going to build a darn thing in this county,” he said. “Not one of them has any money to build these things. I have friends in the banking and insurance industries and not one of them knows anything about this project.”

He added, “Once you do this zoning, you open the door to a whole lot of problems. I think it’s a great idea, but you need the right people to do it with you. You need people to say, ‘this is my project. I’m here to build it with you.’ We don’t have that and that is a problem.”

Dava Hudgins said some part of the project would be built on a historic site.

“My ancestors opened a trading post on that site,” she said. “They married Cherokee women. There are Indian mounds there and I know where there are two different Indian burial grounds. It’s not just a flood plain. It is historically important.”

Dwight Roberts, a realtor, said he had not made up his mind before attending last night’s meeting. “I wanted to learn more and see more,” he said. “But after listening and knowing how many good people there are in the community and how concerned they are about this project, it makes me think they are probably right. There is something here that is precious. There is something here that should not be bought or sold. So, I just want to say that I am now against it.”

Tony Passarello

On the other side, Tony Passarello argued in favor of approving the project.

He pointed out the project complies with the county’s future land use plan (FLUP) and gives the county a way to manage the growth that is headed to Dawson County.

“Let’s assume that each of these properties were developed individually over the same time period according to their assigned zoning,” he said. “In this hypothetical scenario, there would be no zoning and planning commission hearing required. There would be no opportunity for citizen input, and in most cases, there would be no commission vote.”

Passarello then asked, “Is it not better to treat these 777 acres in a managed planned development with the scale, quality and vision of Etowah Village or piecemeal without continuity or vision.

In addition to planned management, he said the project presents a number of opportunities, including controlled growth over eight to 10 years, development of Dawson County as a destination spot, living wage jobs for decades and the opportunity to attract millenials and members of Generation X,

Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “When you look at the portion east of the river toward Ga. 400, the majority of that property is currently zoned where most of the pods (A,B,C,D,E, and F) they are requesting could be done without the approval of this Board.”

Those pods consist of retail space, office space, performing arts center, convenience center, 300-room luxury hotel, art museum, Asian garden and retirement community.

Thurmond said he could see the negative side of the project across the river. “You have flood plain issues that will require a floodplain analysis. It could require a bridge that may or may not get approved by the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers, and EPD. You have endangered species in the river that have to be taken into consideration. Most of that is outside the current zoning and land use plan. That’s a lot to think about when you look at the vast complexity of a project such as this.”

Thurmond’s motion to table the request for 30 days was unanimously approved.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawson gets first look at Pickens IGA proposal counters with key modifications

News

Commission Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Officials in Dawson and Pickens counties, who have been working to re-write a 10-year old intergovernmental agreement (IGA) in an effort to get Fire Station No. 8 in the Wildcat Community operating again, exchanged first drafts Wednesday.

The station was effectively closed earlier this month when the 13 firefighters – all volunteers – refused an order by Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson to participate in training to help them gain state certification and turned in their resignations.

The area served by Station No. 8 is located in both counties and the two governments entered into an IGA in 2008 to facilitate purchase of the land, construction of the building, and provide for management and training. Since the mass resignation, Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond and Pickens County Chairman Rob Jones have been working to re-negotiate the IGA.

“The meetings went very well,” Thurmond said Wednesday. “We both realize the main goal is to protect the community. To do that, we need an agreement in place that everyone can get along with.”

Dawson County received Pickens’ first draft of a new IGA Wednesday and, while there are still many issues to be negotiated, one issue that appears to be agreeable to each side is that Pickens County will assume operational control of the station.

After reviewing the draft, Thurmond said, “This is a work in progress. There probably will be more changes.” Late Wednesday, he discussed Pickens’ draft with Thompson and there were several additional areas of agreement that included, but are not limited to:

  • Pickens will maintain the fire station;
  • Pickens County shall provide insurance for the building and its contents;
  • Pickens County shall assume operation of the fire station and operate it as a substation of Pickens County Emergency Services;
  • Dawson County shall transfer title of Engine 8 and Pickens County will insure it;
  • Dawson County shall maintain the title of the existing tanker truck and insure and maintain it;
  • Pickens County shall obtain the necessary Compliance Certification for the fire station from the Georgia Firefighters Standards and Training Council.

There are also a number of areas where Dawson County wants modifications to the Pickens proposal. They include, but are not limited to, how the counties will respond to situations where automatic aid is provided, who will provide radio equipment for the station, who will provide insurance and drivers for the tanker.

While Pickens County agrees to provide training, equipment and workers compensation insurance for volunteer firefighters, Dawson County wants Pickens to also provide cancer insurance for them just as it does now.

Where the Pickens proposal states that it will provide administrative support and leadership, Dawson wants it clearly spelled out that “All personnel will operate as to their level of certification as outlined by the Georgia Firefighters Standards and Training Council. The newest edition of this manual shall be in effect and the Jurisdiction having Authority shall have operational control at all emergency incidents.”

Once the two sides agree on a draft, it must be submitted to the Boards of Commissioners in both counties for final approval.

 

 

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

 

 

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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