Thurmond will ask commissioners to censure Julie Hughes-Nix

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond will introduce a resolution to censure Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix for a breach of attorney-client privilege and executive session privilege during Thursday’s voting session.

Thurmond claims Nix sent emails to a county employee despite the fact the emails were marked confidential and attorney-client privileged.

The resolution states: “Despite this specific admonition, such communications were forwarded by Commissioner Nix in violation of the attorney-client privilege when such communications were concerning personnel issues about the very employee to whom she forwarded the communications, this employee was represented by an attorney, and this employee was taking positions adverse to Dawson County’s interests.”

Nix told Fetch Your News Tuesday, “I accept responsibility. I did inadvertently release information from executive session. I apologize to my fellow commissioners and, more importantly, to the citizens of Dawson County. I can promise that will never happen again.”

Censures are mainly symbolic. There is no loss of rights or privileges and therefore, a censure carries no more weight than a written reprimand.

The issue that is expected to draw a large crowd, Thursday is a request by Chamber of Commerce President Christie Moore that commissioners consider reducing impact fees on road projects and fire protection categories to 25 percent.

During last week’s work session, Moore said impact fees are the reason at least one company declined to open a business in Dawson County.

Moore provided the example of one large fitness center that had planned to build a new facility in the community but backed out when it was learned the impact fee would be $51,000.

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett challenged assertion.

“What would have been their tap fee,” she questioned. Moore said she didn’t know. Fausett continues, saying, “But you know it would have been a lot more than that right.”

“It certainly would have been,” Moore said and that is another entity we’ve been advocating with.”

 

Other issues commissioners are also expected to vote on include:

  • A resolution extending the agreement with interim county attorneys Jarrard & Davis;
  • A FY 2019 public defender intergovernmental agreement between Dawson and Hall counties;
  • The FY 2019 state public defender contract;
  • 2019 Charity Boot Drives;
  • Special event business license application for a motorcycle event;
  • Acceptance of a Geographic Information System summer intern grant;
  • A new recycling agreement with Advanced Disposal;
  • A request for Highway 53 / Lumpkin Campground Road Intersection Improvement Project budget;
  • Approval of a legal services agreement to retain Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley, P.C. as special legal counsel in opioid litigation;
  • A settlement agreement with Hodges-Mace, LLC to resolve a contract claim.

 

A resolution of censure. 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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Citizen Stowers has recommendations for Board of Commissioners

News

Speaking during the Public Comments portion of Thursday’s Dawson County Board of Commission meeting, a long-time resident Hugh Stowers offered a number of recommendation for commissioners to consider.

Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix felt many of the recommendations were sound and she thanked Stowers. She also suggested the Board take his recommendations under consideration then meet back in one month to review.

Stowers recommended the Board:

  • Work with the City of Dawsonville to equip and operate the new fire station on Sweetwater Juno Road which would respond to Atlanta Motorsports Park and a proposed airport, both of which belong to the city limits;
  • Request the Department of Transportation (DOT) Add right turn arrows on Hwy. 53 approach to Hwy. 9 in front of Burger King;
  • Discuss with DOT a way to make the entrance onto Hwy. 53 from the Ingles Parking lot safer;
  • Consider a way to make the intersection of Grizzle Road and Lumpkin Campground Road safer;
  • Launch a Facebook page similar to the City of Blue Ridge Facebook page to promote the county and demonstrate to citizens the amount of sales tax brings to the county;
  • Identify unsafe roads in the county and place them in a databank and showing the projected cost to make them safer;
  • Appoint individuals in each district to be the commissioners’ “eyes and ears” and keep them abreast of what is going on in their community.

Stowers expressed disappointment with the new housing development approved by the city on Hwy. 9.

“I’m disappointed when I drive up Hwy. 9 and look at what I call the kudzu field and see all the new piping there to serve the new multi-housing development approved by the city,” he said. “I feel sure the Etowah Water Authority will raise the cost to all its customers to cover the cost of construction to serve this development. The city can approve this housing for people living like sardines in a can, but can’t supply water, can’t supply sewer, education or law enforcement.”

 

 

h 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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County budget approval postponed two weeks

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Approval of Dawson County’s $27.1 million FY 2019 budget will have wait a few more weeks after commissioners made several recommendations, including the elimination of one new position in the fire department, hiring the position of public information officer and extending library hours during Thursday’s third public hearing.

Commissioners voted to table budget approval while Chief Financial Officer Vickie Neikirk calculates the impact the recommendations will have on the final budget.

Chris Gaines

The proposed budget called for hiring a new fire training officer at a cost of approximately $61,000 annually. District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines recommended that current personnel provide the training in addition to their normal roles. He also proposed awarding the department an additional $15,000 of overtime pay to compensate officers for the additional responsibilities. The savings would be approximately $46,000.

“By allocating those resources, it would be a little more efficient,” Gaines said.

The county is attempting to address important needs that have existed for a long time but could not be addressed due to the recession and recovering economy.

Julie Hughes-Nix

“We’re trying to plug as many holes as possible and still be responsible with the citizens’ money,” Gaines said. “My goal and my desire is to go into next year’s budget with the mentality of how can we not ask more of the citizens when it comes to property taxes.”

County commissioners have long felt the need to improve communications with the public and District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix recommended the county hire a public information officer to perform those responsibilities.

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett asked for a breakdown of cost to provide extended hours for the Dawson County Library’s satellite office on Hwy. 53. “I don’t think it speaks very well of us when people come and it is closed,” she said.

Shron Fausett

The satellite office is currently opened on Mondays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and Thursdays from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

No citizen rose to speak in opposition to or in favor of the budget.

Commissioners voted 3-1, with Dist. 2 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby opposed, to postpone several requests for annexation of property into the city of Dawsonville for two weeks.

Commissioners unanimously approved:

  • A request to accept a 2019 Victims of Crime Act Grant funds in the amount of $74,088.84. No county match is required;
  • A request to apply for a Department of Natural Resources Land & Water Conservation Fund Grant to repair/replace the fishing pier at War Hill Park. The minimum fund grant that can be applied for is $25,000. The maximum grant if $100,000 and the county will have to provide a 50 percent match;
  • A request to hire a legal assistant. The position is already included in the 2019 budget, but the request is to fill the position this year at an additional cost of $6,956.20 for five pay periods through the end of December;
  • A Service Delivery Strategy Agreement;
  • A request by Michael Turner, executor for the estate of Kenneth K. Turner to have property located at the intersection of Perimeter Road and Allen Street annexed into the City of Dawsonville. The Dawsonville Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the issue on Oct. 8. The Dawsonville City Council will hold a public hearing on Oct. 22 and the annexation could be awarded final approval on Nov. 5;
  • A request by Board of Tax Appraisers Chief Appraiser Elaine Garrett to approve a contract for the services of an additional appraiser for the current year and next tax year.

 

 

 

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

News

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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Commissioner Hamby will not seek re-election

News

Comm. Jimmy Hamby

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby will not seek a third term on the Dawson County Board of Commissioners.

“I’ve done two terms and that is enough,” Hamby said Tuesday. “I lost my son a year and a half ago, and I want to try to spend more time with my family.”

Hamby, who has built a reputation for keeping a tight rein on taxpayer dollars, said, “I’ve tried to keep the people I represent in mind, and I hope whoever takes my place does the same. I’ve always felt like it was the people’s money I was in charge of and not mine.”

Hamby said he would miss helping to shape the future of the county but added he plans to stay active and involved in county affairs.

“I’ll definitely miss it, but people can still call me and I’ll do my best to help them if I can,” Hamby stated.

Asked about the future of Dawson County, Hamby said, “Here’s the way I look at it: You can’t get much better than Dawson County and the quality of life we have here. I think we’re in good shape as far as our leadership. We have a good board of commissioners and good people working for the county.”

As far as the growth that is headed for Dawson County, Hamby said. “I don’t want to stop the growth, but I want to see it done to the benefit of everybody who lives here.”

District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix said she would miss Hamby.

“Jimmy always works to provide the very best service possible to the citizens of Dawson,” Hughes-Nix said. “He has been a great steward of taxpayer dollars and has earned the respect of the community and local officials. His commitment to protecting our quality of life is beneficial for the future of Dawson County. It has been a privilege to work beside him.”

 

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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Candidates Make Their Case at Dawson Forum.

News, Politics

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — With the May 24 General Primary three weeks away, candidates for Dawson County Commission Chairman, Tax Commissioner and Commission Districts 2 and 4 presented their case for election Monday night in the Dawson County High School Auditorium.

County Commission Chairman
Commission Chairman candidate Billy Thurmond has served the citizens of Dawson County for 37 years. He started in the Parks and Recreation Department and for the last 14 years has served as the Director of Emergency Services.

Thurmond said a top priority will be improved communications between county government and the citizens as well as the staff and other elected officials. “Communications is the key to success in anything we try to do,” he said.

Thurmond added that the county needs an employment retention plan. ” We’ve seen over 300 employees leave in the last five years,” he said. “That comes at a huge cost to taxpayers of well over $1 million.”

Another proactive plan he wants the Board to implement within the current budget is a road restoration plan where roads can be fixed to provide 10 to 15 years of service.

Thurmond’s opponent Peter Hill is an architect in private practice for 18 years who says what is needed on the Board is business representation.

“I’m a business advocate and I want to see us become an even more pro-business community,” Hill said.

Hill is a member of the Chamber of Commerce who served as Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2013. He served three terms as Chairman of the Development Authority and was appointed by Georgia House Speaker David Ralston to the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Commission.

“I have a balanced vision of economic development,” he said. “I want to bring opportunity to our county so when kids graduate they have place to start their business and grow their family but I would also preserve our crown jewel which is our natural environment.”

District 2 County Commission
Chris Gaines and Tim Davis are the candidates in District 2.

Davis is a truck driver and native of Dawson County. He was elected supervisor of the soil and water conservation district for two terms in the late 1970’s. He says the county is moving in the right direction but needs to prepare for the growth that is coming.

He wants to see most of that growth remain in the Georgia 400 corridor. “I’d also like to ensure our roads and bridges are well maintained, that our children receive a good education and our elderly are well cared for,” he added.

Gaines has lived in Dawson County since 2001. He has a business management degree from the University of North Georgia.

He earned the biggest laugh of the evening when he mocked Donald Trump, saying “My plan is to build a wall around Dawson County and make Forsyth County pay for it.”

Gaines said the county commission has laid a good foundation for the community but now that Chairman Mike Berg and District 2 Commissioner James Swafford are leaving, the commission needs someone who has demonstrated leadership capabilities. The former Dawsonville City Councilman said he is the right choice.

He wants to recruit high tech companies and light industry to the 400 corridor. “Moving forward, we also need a revitalized downtown area with a down home atmosphere and we need to appreciate our rural areas and enjoy them and keep them the way they are.”

District 4 County Commission
Incumbent Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix has served four terms on the Board of Commissioners but said, “I consider myself a career public servant, not a career politician.”

She encouraged voters to look at a candidate’s accomplishments when making their decision.

“We have a new library, a new government center, a new jail, a new fire station and we are redoing the Senior Center,” “The good news is that all of that is already paid for.”

Her opponent Heather Hulsebus is a professional in the healthcare industry, President of the Republican Women of Dawson County and a member of the Dawson County Tea Party. She has also done a great deal of volunteer work in the county for non-profit organizations like Relay for Life.

Hulsebus said she is running because it is time for change, new perspectives and new leadership.

“It’s important that we continue to grow at a rate that all our citizens can handle,” she said. “I know we can find a balance of growth that will allow us to keep the gift that this county has to offer.”

Tax Commssioner
Andi Hinson Juliette has experience managing budgets far larger than that of Dawson County. A graduate of North Georgia College and State University, she is a former analyst for a Department of Defense contractor and the FBI. She has managed budgets in excess of $50 million.

“I’m the only candidate with the experience of managing a budget this size,” she said. “I’ve proven my trustworthiness by way of my top secret security clearance. I’ve proven my ability to deliver the highest level of customer service. If you only remember one thing from tonight, I hope you remember the tax commissioner has a tremendous responsibility and that errors, lack of experience or poor judgement can have an extremely detrimental effect on our quality of life.”

Karin McKee, a native of Dawson County, is making her second bid to become Tax Commissioner. She ran for the office in 2012 and lost by 150 votes. She has worked in the healthcare industry for most of here career. She worked as business office manager for Ashton Woods Convalescent Center in Atlanta where she managed accounts payable and receivable, Medicare billing and served as consultant for medical records. In 1990, she was named assistant administrator and bookkeeper of Knollwood Terrace (Nursing Center) where her responsibilities included hiring staff, setting up policies and procedures, managing budgets and Medicare and Medicaid billing.

“I’m very familiar with budgets between $10 and $18 million,” she said. A top priority for her is to do away with the cold government environment she sees in the Tax Commissioner’s office today.

Johnny Glass is an entrepreneur who built custom homes until the economy drove so many small businessmen out of business. Since then he has owned a towing and recovery service. If he’s elected he said his top priority will be to maintain the current high rate of tax collection. “In my business now, I collect about 99.4 percent,” he said.

Nicole Stewart is also a Dawson County native who has worked in many volunteer organizations, including Relay for Life and the Boy Scouts of America. She is a graduate of North Georgia College and State University and is working on her MBA at Brenau University. In 2015, she was named Dawson County’s Outstanding Citizen.

“I will bring my professionalism, my enthusiasm and my leadership skills to this office,” she said. “I’ve developed and polished my leadership and customer service skills and I know if I’m elected I can do a great job.”

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