Board approves comprehensive plan with future land use map


DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted the county’s comprehensive plan during Thursday’s work session that includes the future land use map.

Commissioner Chris Gaines’ motion to approve included directions to Planning and Development Director Jameson Kinley and Terri Tragesser, chairwoman of the Long Range Planning Committee to meet in the next 30 days to develop a plan on how to move forward and create a Hwy. 53 overlay. “That overlay is critical,” Gaines said.

The comprehensive plan is the road map commissioners use to plan for future growth. The state requires counties update the plan every five years and submit it to the Department of Community Affairs in order to attain Certified Local Government status and to be eligible to receive state grants.

The county has held numerous public information meetings and conducted an online survey to keep citizens in the loop about the proposed plan.

Commissioners also discussed whether it would be more cost effective to contract with a law firm for legal representation or hire an in-house attorney.

County Attorney Lynn Frey retired in December, citing health issues. Since then the county contracted with Cumming-based Jarrard & Davis to handle legal issues for a 60-day period.

Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix pointed out that department heads had communicated their satisfaction with the firm and Gaines and Chairman Billy Thurmond expressed support for contracting with a firm.

“I think we find efficiencies in a firm that brings a depth of knowledge in various areas that we have to go through,” Gaines said.  “Whether it be zoning, HR, litigation or whatever it may be that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every issue I want it to be a firm that represents other communities and has already been there, done that type of thing.”

Other issues discussed include:

  • Presentation of the Capital Improvement Element annual update;
  • Presentation of the FY 2019 Legacy Link Nutrition Program Services Addendum
  • Presentation of the Community Development Block Grant Language Access Plan;
  • Presentation of the professional exemption request for the interim county attorney;
  • Appointment of Christie Haynes Moore, John Drew and Betsy McGriff to the Joint Development Authority;
  • Discussion of grant application procedures.

Items discussed during work sessions are not generally voted on, but placed on the agenda for the next voting session.

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Board of Commissioners overturns setback variance approval


Commissioner Jimmy Hamby

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – In a rare occurrence Thursday, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners reversed a decision by Planning and Development Director Jason Streetman to grant a setback variance for a convenience store located at the intersection of Hwy. 53 and War Hill Park Road.

Business owner Dipikaben Patel requested a 10-foot front setback variance along Hwy. 53 and a five-foot side variance along War Hill Road to allow the construction of a gas tank canopy. Streetman granted the variance, but several area residents spoke in opposition to the variance at the appeal during Thursday’s meeting and Commissioners Jimmy Hamby, Julie Nix and Sharon Fausett voted to deny it.

Hamby questioned why the owner couldn’t extend a canopy closer to the store rather than the right of way. An engineer speaking on behalf of the owner said it would be impractical since it would limit available parking space.

Speaking in opposition to the variance, Brandon Bennett said, “We do not need to have a traffic burden added to this dangerous intersection.” Bennett said the only way into the parcel is off Hwy. 53 and the only way out is onto War Hill Park Road. “We do not need a tractor trailer (carrying fuel) having to turn around at War Hill when the federal government won’t even let a fuel truck come down War Hill Road to fuel a helicopter for the Rangers.”

Also, commissioners approved a request by Brodie Allred, speaking on behalf of Norkot Financial, Inc. to rezone 46.73 acres on Moss Road from Residential Agriculture (RA) to Residential Sub-Rural (RSR) for a 30-lot single-family residential community. The vote was 3-1 with Fausett opposed.

The board took no action on several requests by residents of the Gold Creek community to have their property annexed into the city of Dawsonville, leaving the decision in the hands of the city, which is scheduled to hear the requests during the March meeting.

Commissioners unanimously approved a contract with SEI, Inc. to design the Blacks Mill Bridge replacement at a cost of $33,700 and the appointment of Angelia Brown to the Avita Community Partners.



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


County employees enjoy Thanksgiving luncheon


Publix Customer Service Manager Nicholas Kirkland, Dawson County Manager David Headley and Publix Assistant Meat Manager Jim Ferrante with the 10 turkeys and two hams the supermarket provided Dawson County at a discount.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County employees do their best to serve the citizens of Dawson County, so County Manager David Headley and the county commissioners decided it was high time they returned the favor.

Headley, Chairman Billy Thurmond and commissioners Jimmy Hamby, Julie Nix, Chris Gaines and Sharon Fausett purchased the turkey and ham and served a Thanksgiving potluck luncheon at Veterans Memorial Park.

Employees could either sit down for their meal or take it to go. An estimated 125 county workers participated.

“Our employees are our most important asset, and this was just one way we are able to show our appreciation,” Headley said. “We also thank our employees for providing the many delicious side dishes, desserts and other items that helped make our gathering a success. We wish our employees and their families, and all of our Dawson County citizens, a happy Thanksgiving.”

Thurmond added, “I want to thank the staff for their hard work and dedication to the citizens of Dawson County. I also want to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.”

Publix in Dawsonville partnered with the county to provide 10 turkeys and two hams at a discounted price.

“We would like to thank our friends at Publix for the delicious meat; those who prepared it, Ricky Rexroat of Emergency Services and David McKee of Public Works; and Commissioners Billy Thurmond, Sharon Fausett, Chris Gaines and Julie Hughes Nix for taking time to help serve the meal,” Headley said.



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


Dawson County Earns “Certified Literate Community” Title


Sandy Lipkowitz (l) and Annaliza Thomas at R.E.A.D. award ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Denise Ray).


DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County is one of only 39 of Georgia’s 159 counties to be designated a “Certified Literate Community” and as State Representative Kevin Tanner said, that’s a big deal.

“It’s a lot more than an award or a road sign,” Tanner said at the recent award ceremony. “It is a sign of progress for more jobs and better jobs. Better salaries allow for nicer homes, a financially sustainable community and more services can be made available. Education is a gift that gives back for a lifetime.”

The event was hosted by Reading Education Association of Dawson County (R.E.A.D.) which coordinated the effort. Community leaders like County Commissioner Julie Nix, R.E.A.D. Executive Director Sandy Lipkowitz, Board Chairman Billy Nickerson and Dawson County’s former Certified Literate Community Director Billy Izzard were on hand when CLCP Director Annaliza Thomas made the announcement.

Lanier Tech President Dr. Ray Perren (Photo courtesy of Denise Ray)

Thomas had high praise for Dawson County’s R.E.A.D. program, calling its application one of the best we have ever seen. She and Izzard evaluated the program and agreed that when it came to community collaboration, Dawson County exceeded all others.

Lanier Technical College President Dr. Ray Perren called it a great day for Dawson County. “The work you are doing, as you already know, is not only changing lives today but its changing lives for generations that are not even born yet.”


Commissioners to Revisit Impact Fee Program


Dawson County Board of Commissioners

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners will have a full slate of issues to decide during Thursday’s regular session which begins at 6 p.m.

Bill Ross of Ross and Associates will give a presentation on what Planning and Development Director Jason Streetman calls a “complete re-write” of the county’s development impact fee program. The process, Streetman said, will involve preparation of a new Impact Fee Methodology Report, a new Capital Improvements Element, an updated Fee Schedule, possible update of the Impact Fee Ordinance, modernization of the computer assessment program and a revised Administrative Procedures Manual.

Under the Georgia Development Impact Fee Act (DIFA) local governments may impose fees on developers to help finance the expansion of their infrastructure systems.

Commissioners will also decide on a request by Chief Tax Appraiser Kurt Tangel to spend $588,300 on a county-wide property revaluation that is expected to take up to two years. The last revaluation was done by county staff in 2006 which led Commissioner Julie Nix to ask why it could not be done in house again.

Tangel said due to the growth in the county since 2006, it could take his staff up to five years to complete. “The staff we have is just trying to keep up with what we have now,” he said.

The project was sent out for bids, but GMASS was the sole bidder, something that troubled Commissioner Jimmy Hamby. “Just having one bid is what concerns me,” Hamby said. “We don’t have anything to compare it to.”

But Tangel blamed the lack of bids on the fact that many companies that do property valuations are located in south Georgia and they may have felt that they would not be competitive after adding travel, overnight hotel accommodation and meals to a project that could take two years to complete.

The county has 15,000 parcels, 200 pre-bill mobile homes, 1,800 commercial/industrial improvements and 12,000 residential homes.

Commissioners will hold the first of two public hearings on forward on an updated Environmental Health Fee Schedule.

There will be two zoning requests for commissioners to decide.

Steele Buffalo Butchery is requesting a special use permit to allow butchering, processing and slaughtering of naturally processed products on its property located on Harmony Church Road (Hwy. 136) five miles east of Ga. 400.

Commissioners must also vote on a request by Richard Bourgeois to rezone seven acres from Residential Suburban to Residential Agriculture to allow for greater agricultural uses on seven acres located on Grizzle Road near the intersection of East Windsor Way.

Other issues set to be decided include:

  • Consideration of Fire House Subs and Chick-fil-A Dawsonville Fund Raising Opportunities to Support Dawson County Emergency Services;
  • Consideration of a request to surplus three fire apparatuses;
  • Consideration to move forward with Public Hearings on June 1, 2017 and June 15, 2017 regarding the Scrap Tire Storage and Disposal Draft Ordinance;
  • Consideration of Dawson County Rotary Club request to contribute handicapped accessible playground equipment for the playground at Rock Creek Park;
  • Consideration of FY2017 Legacy Link Addendum #2;
  • Consideration of FY2018 Legacy Link Contract;
  • Consideration of Proposed Revised Travel Policy;
  • Consideration of 2016 Budget Amendments;
  • Consideration of Contract with GMRC Regarding Community Development Block Grant Application Services for Senior Center Expansion;
  • Consideration of the re-appointment of Susan Roof to the Library Board.


Commissioners Question Property Revaluation Process


Chief Appraser Kurt Tangel

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Chief Tax Appraiser Kurt Tangel’s request for county commission approval of a two-year, $588,300 county-wide property revaluation sparked a flurry of questions from commissioners during Thursday’s work session.

The county’s last revaluation was conducted in-house in 2006 and Commissioner Julie Nix wanted to know why it could not be done in-house again.

Tangel said, “It can be done in house.” But, he pointed out, it could take up to five years to complete since the number of homes in the county has doubled in the last three years. “The staff we have is just trying to keep up with what we have going on now,” he said.

“(GMASS) has a larger knowledge of doing projects like this. I don’t have the number of staff with the same level of knowledge that I can rely on to do all those things.”

The county has 15,000 parcels, 200 pre-bill mobile homes, 1,800 commercial/industrial improvements and 12,000 residential homes.

If approved, the project would be done in two phases. Phase 1 would be revaluation of residential and agricultural properties and would be completed the first year. Phase 2 would revalue commercial and industrial properties.

Tangel said county staff contacted 487 vendors through Georgia Procurement Registry and Vendor Registry and GMASS was the only company to submit a bid.

Commissioner Jimmy Hamby said, “Just having one bid is what concerns me. We don’t have anything to compare it too.”

Tangel said the majority of GMASS staff lives in Dawson and nearby Pickens County and he speculated, “That may be why some other companies didn’t bid on it.”

He added that many of the companies that do this type work are located in south Georgia which would require them to add the cost of travel, hotel accommodations and meals over a two-year period to their bid.

The purpose of a revaluation is to ensure equity and uniformity of assessment. While adding new construction is part of the process, the process also involves reflecting market changes (up or down) in property values.

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



Thurmond, Gaines Take Place on Board of Commissioners


DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The Dawson County Board of Commissioners welcomed two newcomers to the first meeting of the new year Thursday. New Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond presided over the work session and special called meetings and Chris Gaines took his seat as the new commissioner representing District 2.

First order of business during the work session was for the new Board to consider a request by Public Defender Brad Morris to renew an intergovernmental agreement with Hall County to share the cost of two employees in the Public Defender’s office equally. The contract has been in place since 2005. The expense required to fund the IGA ($70,059.13) has been requested and approved in the 2017 budget.

Morris also presented a request that the county renew a contract with the State of Georgia to fund the cost for one attorney and one administrative assistant as State employees in the Georgia Public Defender’s Council.
The contract covers the two employees’ salaries and cost of employment as set forth in Attachment B to the State Contract, and a 5 percent management fee ($180,186.32).:

Next, Emergency Services Director Lanier Swafford presented a request for his department to apply for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER). The grant program was established to assist local fire departments with staffing and deployment capabilities in order to respond to emergencies safely and meet National Standards.

The grant is 100% covered for the cost of salary and benefits for two years.The only cost the county would incur would be the cost of uniforms and gear (approximately $2,000.00 per employee per year). At the end of the two years, the grant offers three options – employing agency assumes responsibility of the cost; apply for a hardship extension to the grant if local funding is limited; termination without penalty.

After two years, the cost for 6 employees would be $231,702 plus benefits. The cost for nine employees would be $347,553.

Commissioners will appoint a vice chairman at the next regular meeting and is expected to renew the contract with Danielle Yarbrough.

During the special called meeting that followed immediately after the conclusion of the work session, commissioners appointed new members to the county’s Planning Commission.

Commissioner Sharon Fausett appointed Jason Hamby to the commission with Haynes Johnson to serve as alternate.

Commissioner Gaines appointed John Maloney with Jeff Looper to serve as alternate.

Commissioner Jim Hamby appointed Tim Bennett with Joan Gibbs to serve as alternate.

Commissioner Julie Nix appointed Neil Hornsey with Mike Miller to serve as alternate.

Chairman Thurmond appointed John Dooley but has not named an alternate. All appointees terms will run concurrently with the commissioner who appointed them.


Thurmond, Gaines and Nix Post Victories Sheriff, Tax Commissioner Races Head for Runoff

News, Politics

DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. — Chairman-elect Billy Thurmond was taking a much deserved rest in Florida Wednesday after a landslide victory in last night’s General Primary election.

Thurmond received 3,041 votes to defeat his opponent Peter J. Hill by nearly a 3 to 1 margin.

“We worked real hard to pull this out and we’re very pleased with the results,” he said. Thurmond said his opponent called him to congratulate hi on running a clean race, something both candidates did.

When he returns on Saturday, Thurmond said he wants to get to work on a plan to improve employee retention. “We’ve lost a lot of people in the last five years. I know commissioners are looking at the pay scale not and that’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to working with them on a lot of things.”

Chris Gaines will be the other new face on the Board of Commissioners. Gaines, who will represent District 2, won a very close victory over Tim Davis with 2,015 votes to Davis’ 1,924.

District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix received 2,556 votes to beat Heather Hulsebus who had 1,495.

Elsewhere, there will be a runoff in the Sheriff and Tax Commissioner races.
Tony Wooten was the top vote getter Tuesday with 1,526 to Jeff Johnson’s 1,156.

The two will meet in the Jume 26 runoff.

Andi Henson Juliette led the way in the Tax Commissioner’s race with 1,212 votes. But Nicole Stewart was a close second with 1,025, enough to secure a place in the runoff.

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