Commissioners set millage rate, impact fees


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.”


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Christie Haynes Presents Chamber Update


Christie Haynes Chamber of Commerce President

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes presented an update of the Chamber and Office of Tourism Development activities at Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

Among the highlights:

The county’s revenue from the hotel/motel tax continues to grow. In 2015, the tax generated $386,297. That grew to $430,876 in 2016 and continues to grow month over month in 2017;

9,381 visitors to Dawson County stayed at Amicalola Falls Lodge from January through July of this year;

Five new stores have opened in North Georgia Premium Outlets in 2017 and an Old Navy store will be opening soon;

The recent ‘Shine Pedlars Metric and Half-Metric continues to grow with 244 cyclists participating this year, an increase of 59 percent since 2016;

There have been 34 ribbon cuttings in the first seven months of 2017 compared to 30 all last year;

The Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year;

Eighteen young people graduated from the Chamber-sponsored Leadership Dawson in April.

Haynes continues to be honored for her work with the Chamber.

In 2015, she was only the second recipient of the Young Alumni Award from the University of Georgia. Within two years of graduation she became the youngest president of a Georgia chamber. She is a 2012 UGA 40 Under 40 honoree, and is a past president of the School of Public and International Affairs Alumni Board.

This year, she received the coveted Georgia Certified Chamber Executive award.









Chamber, Racing Hall of Fame and Dawsonville Distillery Review 2016 for City Council


DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The Dawsonville City Council heard presentations from the Bill Elliott Dawsonville Distillery, Dawsonville History Museum and Chamber of Commerce during its work session Monday.

Council also considered its meeting schedule for 2017 and appointments and mayor and council board member designations.

Dawson Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes gave the Chamber presentation, outlining the organization’s structure and activities in 2016.

The Chamber now has 437 members and held 24 ribbon cuttings for new businesses like The Purple Corn Boutique, Turner and Pooch Grooming and Outside the Lines Art Studio this year. They also conducted seminars and activities to assist local businesses in maximizing productivity and profitability.

Haynes said the Chamber is planning to add one new employee soon and is currently working on plans to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2017.

Representatives of the Dawsonville Distillery said two new products were introduced in 2016 and there will be more releases in 2017. The business now has online sales through a third party and has hired one new ‘moonshiner’ They also are the presenting sponsor for KARE for Kids — an organization whose focus is providing opportunity for every child in Dawson County to have the Christmas they deserve — at the Moonshine Festival and the sponsor of No One Alone, a non-profit organization providing emergency shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

David Sosebee of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame (GRHOF) reported the facility is operating below budget and added, “We held 124 events this year, not including the holiday season that hasn’t begun yet. We’ve had visitors from 46 states and 12 countries including France, Germany, Russia and South Africa.”

Sosebee added that the GRHOF was featured in a CMT special this year and he said there is a major event coming up in January that should attract more visitors to Dawsonville.

“Raymond Parks will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame so we need to see what we can do to pull a little more traffic down here because this is a really big thing for Dawsonville. It should have happened many years ago but it will happen in January.”

Council also began preliminary discussion of a historic preservation overlay district ordinance.



Chamber Hosts Luncheon Series for Area Non-Profits Tuesday


DAWSONVILLE, Ga.–The Dawson County Chamber of Commerce is launching a luncheon series geared specifically to aid local non-profit organizations. Connect Dawson, hosted by the Community Development Committee of the Chamber will kick off its first luncheon in the series Tuesday, August 16 at 11:30 a.m. at the Professional Development Center.

With more than 80 nonprofit groups in the area, Community Development Committee Chair Regina Varnado said she feels there is a great value in the seminar series.

“With such an abundance of nonprofit groups in our area, the Community Development Committee wanted to come up with a way to best serve these entities,” Varnado said. “We feel that being able to offer tools and training through this seminar series will only help strengthen these organizations and allow them to even better fulfill their mission statements.”

The August 16 luncheon will be led by Cheryl Vandiver and Blair Diaz of the North Georgia Community Foundation. Vandiver serves as the director of operations for the foundation and Diaz is a certified public accountant. Topics covered in the luncheon will be nonprofit board development, fiscal management, accounting procedures, legal issues and general responsibilities.

“The Chamber and the Community Development Committee feel this luncheon will be beneficial to anyone involved with an area nonprofit,” Dawson County Chamber President Christie Haynes said. “Whether you serve as a board member, hold a staff position or even volunteer for the organization, there will be a topic covered that pertains to your role within the nonprofit.”

The Connect Dawson seminar series is expected to be offered quarterly. Upcoming topics will include: Getting the most out of your Fundraiser and Building a Strong Board. If there is another topic that would be interesting, Haynes invites people to contact the Chamber. “We want these seminars to be as beneficial as possible to our community.”

The cost of the luncheon is $10 for Chamber members and $15 for non-members. To register, please call 706-265-6278 or email

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