Dawson County Commissioners issue call for legal services

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Still grappling with the rising cost of legal fees, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for legal services.

The firm of Jarrard and Davis has been under contract to represent the county since Lynn Frey, the county’s in-house attorney, resigned. But the contract with Jarrard and Davis will expire on Dec. 31.

Purchasing Manager Melissa Hawk presented commissioners three options; Hire an in-house attorney; Release a RFP to procure legal services by Jan. 1; Offer an extension request to Jarrard & Davis at the same prices, terms and conditions to begin Jan. 1, through Dec. 31.

Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix has expressed her concern about the rising cost of legal fees. The Board recently voted to approve a request for increased legal funding for 2019. The request was for an additional $250,000, bringing the total 2019 budget up to $410,413. As recently as 2017, the budgeted amount for legal services was $232,000.

The Board also approved a land use resolution update that will add two new classifications – Residential Suburban 2 and Residential Suburban 3 – and adopted a moratorium on rezonings through Feb. 7.

In other votes, commissioners approved:

  • A resolution to allow the county manager to approve a new special event business license for an annual event that was previously approved by the Board of Commissioners, providing there has been no material change in the event;
  • A contract with the Georgia Public Defenders Office for 2020 in the amount of $187,311;
  • The renewal of a memorandum of understanding with Georgia Forestry Commission that allows the county to purchase and operate Georgia Forestry equipment and trucks at a reduced cost for three years;
  • A mutual aid agreement that requires both counties to respond to structure fires in areas identified in the agreement;
  • The appointment of Austin Harmon as an alternate planning commissioner in District 4.
  • Updates to the capital improvement element plan required by the Department of Community Affairs.

 

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

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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

 

 

 

Dawson County attorney resigns due to ill health, Jarrard and Davis receives interim contract

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. –The law firm of Jarrard and Davis has contracted with Dawson County to provide legal services after County Attorney Lynn Frey announced his resignation on Dec. 20 due to ill health.

In a letter to the Board of Commissioners, Frey, who was Dawson County’s first staff attorney, said, “After a great deal of thought I have realized that I am unable to continue to serve as county attorney for the wonderful community that is Dawson County,” the letter reads. “My health has deteriorated to a degree that prevents me from providing the level of service the county deserves…I will miss a great many folks, too many to name here, and will leave with gratitude for the welcome I was given, for the many kindnesses I have been shown over the last couple of years and for the opportunity you gave me to be part of something that matters.”

Frey will be return to his former home in Darien where he served as city attorney for 13 years. He will be paid compensation of $25,000 according to an agreement ratified by the board.

The Jarrard and Davis firm serves many municipalities in Georgia, including Forsyth County where Ken Jarrard has represented the Board of Commissioners for approximately 15 years. The board ratified an interim retention agreement with the firm for a period of 60 days until permanent legal representation can be obtained.

Jarrard said “The board of commissioners has been emphatic that they want a seamless transition while they consider what next steps to take with respect to representation and we have been honored to provide that interim representation.”

Frey’s salary was $90,000 in 2018. The board recently approved a new legal assistant position with an annual salary of $30,547, though the position was never filled.

 

 

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 BOC to discuss legal representation at Thursday work session

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioner will discuss how to proceed with its legal representation during Thursday’s work session which begins at 4 p.m.

County attorney Lynn Frey, who was hired as in-house counsel in Feb. 2017, announced in a letter to commissioners that he is retiring due to an illness.

The BOC retained Jarrard & Davis, LLP to serve as interim Dawson County attorneys for a period of 60 days on December 27, 2018.

In following the county’s purchasing policy ordinance County Manager David Headley will ask the Board to approve a request for a professional exemption for Jarrard & Davis to fulfill the scope of services in the approved agreement and to approve a budget for their services.

Chief Financial Officer Vickie Neikirk will recommend using the funds allocated for the county attorney in 2019. All costs will go into account called Legal Fees.

Other items on the agenda include:

  • Presentation of LED Lighting Project Proposal for the library that was tabled from the Nov. meeting;
  • Consideration of the Comprehensive Plan, tabled from the Jan. 17 voting session[, Voting Session)
  • Presentation of Capital Improvements Element Annual Update;
  • Presentation of FY 2019 Legacy Link Nutrition Program ;
  • Presentation of Community Development Block Grant Language Access Plan Update;
  • Presentation of Professional Exemption Request for Interim County Attorney;
  • Presentation of Board Appointments to the Joint Development Authority (Christie Haynes Moore, John Drew, Betsy McGriff);
  • Discussion of Grant Application Procedures.

 

 

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 delays vote on Chestatee variance

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners tabled a variance request by Chestatee Development Corporation Thursday to gain a better understanding of the legal complexities surrounding the issue.

The petitioner has asked for a variance to the master plan for Chestatee subdivision that would allow Brian Ferris, the property owner, to build lots with 70-foot widths instead of 100-foot widths, thus allowing 11 additional lots in the Linkside section of Chestatee.

The vote to table was unanimous and followed a 10-minute, back-and-forth discussion between County Attorney Lynn Frey and Ethan Underwood, the lawyer for the petitioner.

Dave Pollack was one of six Chestatee homeowners who spoke in opposition to the variance.

Attorney Ethan Underwood

“Linkside was originally marketed as luxury homes on half-acre lots starting at $600,000,” he said. “The quick math that I did shows we will lose 20-30 percent (home value) not only in Linkside but in all Chestatee if this goes through.”

Loss of home value was the issue most often mentioned by homeowners who spoke in opposition but traffic was another concern.

Michelle Pyne expressed concern about traffic safety, especially at the entrance to the Linkside section. “Fireside Lane is the only entry into Linkside,” she said. “Everyone living in or visiting Linkside must navigate the intersection of Fireside Lane and Fireside Drive. The golf cart path crosses that intersection and it has already caused some serious safety concerns. The intersection is also about 30-40 feet from the swimming pool, tennis courts and basketball courts so that adds to the foot traffic there. Adding at least 22 more cars, if not more, to the master plan for Linkside would certainly make those serious concerns even more.”

Frey questioned Underwood about where the authority to modify the master plan comes from.

“Our assertion is the master plan references the requirement for a covenant and the covenant states the declarant has the authority to modify those lots,” Underwood said. “Our position, as laid out in our reservation of rights, is that specific approval supersedes a general provision of the land use resolution.”

In other decisions, the Board:

  • Accepted the results of the Fiscal Year 2017 financial audit by Rushton Company;
  • Ratified the Georgia Trauma Commission Grant that will fund the purchase of emergency equipment for ambulances;
  • Disposal of four climate control units for the Detention Center;
  • Approved a list of surplus items to be sold on Govdeals.com;
  • Approved a design/build contract with Charles Black Construction in the amount of $2,644,127 for the new Fleet/Public Works complex;
  • Approved a special event business license for Carol Stream Amusements, Inc. Carnival to operate in the parking lot of North Georgia Premium Outlets. The vote was 3-1 with Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix opposed;
  • Approved a site plan for John Megel Chevrolet to build a used car lot on its property;
  • Approved the 2018 Land Use District Map;
  • Approved the re-appointment of Joey Bearden to the Department of Family and Children Services board.
  • Approved moving the next regular meeting to July 3.

 

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 to hold final public hearing on 2019 budget

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County citizens will have one last chance to express their views on the proposed 2019 budget when the Board of Commissioners holds the third and final public hearing Thursday at 6 p.m. in the County Administration Building.

Following that hearing, commissioners can vote to approve the $27.1 million spending plan that includes 23 new employees –19 full-time and four part-time.

The full-time positions include a legal assistant for County Attorney Lynn Frey, a training captain for emergency services, an administrative assistant for fleet maintenance, a human resources specialist, IT coordinator, two park maintenance employees, a building inspector for planning and development, an assistant public defender, three public works employees, a custodian for the senior center, two patrol officers for the Sheriff’s Office and two transfer station workers.

The part-time positions include, a weekend judge for Chief Magistrate Lisa Poss-Thurmond’s court, a clerk for the probate court and a deputy coroner.

The 2019 budget is about $700,000 higher than this year’s budget. The new positions will cost taxpayers approximately $932,632.

Commissioners are also expected to vote on:

  • An application for a new alcohol license for Blackrock Food Service, LLC D/B/A Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ located in the Dawson Crossroads Shopping Center;
  • 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

 

 

Chairman Thurmond will present proposed 2019 budget in Thursday work session

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Dawson County BOC

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond will present the proposed county budget for 2019 during Thursday’s work session which will begin at 4 p.m. in the Dawson County Government Center Assembly Room.

The Board of Commissioners is required to adopt an annual budget prior to the end of the fiscal year (December 31). As part of the budget process, the Chairman presents his proposed budget to the Board of Commissioners (BOC) and the public.

In meetings after the Chairman’s presentation, public hearings for the budget will be held for citizen input.

The BOC will hold 3 public hearings for the 2019 budget on October 4, 11 and 18. The budget may be adopted October 18, following the third public hearing.

Dawson County Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne will seek board approval to apply for a Department of Natural Resources Land & Water Conservation Fund Grant. The minimum grant that can be awarded is $25,000 and the maximum is $100,000. A 50 percent county match is required.

The grant could be used to repair or replace the fishing pier at War Hill Park. The pier has undergone repair for many years and Payne says it would be more cost and time effective to have it replaced.

District Attorney Lee Darragh will ask board approval to accept a Victims of Crime Act Grant in the amount of $74,088.84. No county match is required.

County Attorney Lynn Frey will ask board approval to hire a legal assistant who can perform legal secretary functions, is familiar with specified job duties and has relevant experience. The position was described and requested in the County Attorney Budget for FY 2019, but Frey said subsequent discussion has led to the conclusion that the need is sufficiently urgent at present to move ahead on the position rather than delay until January.

The salary for a mid-October commencement of the job would be approximately $6,956.20 for five pay periods through the end of December. Eligibility for benefits would not occur until January. Annual salary for this grade 11 position, using entry level figures, is $30,547.

 

 

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

 

 

 

What next in Sheriff Johnson vs. Dawson County?

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County Attorney Lynn Frey

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Both parties in the Sheriff vs. Dawson County Board of Commissioners Battle of the Budget agree on one thing:   The court has no authority to decide what amount of money is sufficient for Sheriff Jeff Johnson to carry out his sworn duties.

Johnson’s attorney Joey Homans petitioned the court to order the county to approve a budget sufficient to allow that to occur. The sheriff proposed an all-in 2018 budget of $9,564,324. The board approved $9,173,080, which commissioners say is an increase on nearly $1 million over the previous year.

Homans has accused the Board of “abuse of discretion” in cutting the sheriff’s proposed budget. Commissioners say a $1 million increase hardly constitutes abuse.

During two days of testimony last week, Homans clearly established the sheriff’s office is understaffed. Division head after division head testified their employees cannot get the proper training due to a lack of personnel and that paid leave and overtime pay are also a problem.

What is not so clear is who is to blame for the staffing problem.

Sheriff Jeff Johnson

The sheriff contends those issues could have been resolved if the Board had approved the budget he proposed. Commissioners argue the sizeable increase they approved should be enough.

There are currently nine positions in the sheriff’s office that are frozen. However, as a duly elected Constitutional officer, Johnson has the authority to fill those positions, frozen or not. He also has the flexibility to move some money from his line items to help fund the positions.

So what happens next?

The judge gave the two parties until Feb. 15 to come to an agreement. If they cannot resolve their differences, he will issue a ruling.

If he decides the approved budget is sufficient, the sheriff can appeal.  If he rules it insufficient, the Board still has the authority to approve the budget with no direction from the court. If the sheriff still does not agree, he could return to court.

Another trip to court would damage the relationship between the county and the sheriff, which is already strained almost to the breaking point. It would also be very expensive for taxpayers.

 

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

Decision on sheriff, county rift continued to Feb. 15

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Judge Fred A. Bishop asked Sheriff Johnson and the county commission to meet again, but if differences can’t be resolved, he will rule on the petition for mandamus by Feb. 15.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The bitter dispute between Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson and the Board of Commissioners will not be resolved until at least Feb 15.

After a two-day hearing in Senior Superior Court Judge Fred A. Bishop’s courtroom, Johnson’s attorney Joey Homans and County Attorney Lynn Frey agreed to have the sheriff and county officials meet again to see if they can resolve their differences.

“It seems to me there ought to be a face-to-face sincere sit down here between the two parties to see if there is some middle ground,” Bishop said. If the two sides do not agree, Bishop said he would render “an appropriate judgment.”

Homans petitioned the court for an order of mandamus to force the county to provide what he calls “a budget sufficient for the sheriff to perform his sworn duties.” In presenting his case Tuesday, Homans accused the county of “abuse of discretion” because commissioners made cuts to the sheriff’s proposed 2018 budget.

Homans rested his case Wednesday morning. Frey then made an opening statement before calling his only witnesses — Chief Financial Officer Vickie Neikirk and Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Thurmond.

Frey began by stating the sheriff received 29 percent of all available funds in the 2018 budget. He also said Johnson got the largest increase of all general fund budgets and did not receive a cut in the previous year’s budget as Johnson has claimed.

Neikirk confirmed Johnson did receive an increase in his 2018 budget and that he received an increase in every line item but one.  She also pointed out that the county’s tax revenue today is considerably lower than it was in 2008, before the recession, when it was about $12 million.

Thurmond testified that funds are tight. It cost the county $1 million to implement an across-the-board salary increase for county employees to address serious retention problems, he said. He also said the county was informed that it would cost an additional $300,000 to insure employees in 2018. Asked why the county didn’t approve the sheriff’s proposed budget, he said, “There wasn’t enough revenue.”

Asked about the positions that are frozen within the sheriff’s office, Thurmond said the sheriff has the authority, as a Constitutional officer, to fill those positions and that money can be moved from his line items to pay for salaries.

In his closing statement, Homans said, the Board of Commissioners abused their discretion in the cuts made to the sheriff’s proposed budget. “They really haven’t presented any evidence other than to say we don’t have the funds,” he said.

However, Frey countered by saying, “There is no reason to believe there has been an abuse of discretion, certainly nothing that would be a basis for mandamus or order to give more money to the sheriff. Mandamus is only available in a case of a clear legal right, and I don’t think he has shown a clear legal right to anything more than what they have given 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

Sheriff, county fail to reach budget agreement

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Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson and county officials failed to reach an agreement on the sheriff’s 2018 budget during a 90-minute meeting Tuesday which places the decision back in the hands of Senior Superior Court Judge Fred A. Bishop Jr.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners, claiming the budget they approved was not sufficient for him to perform his sworn duties.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said he, Commissioner Chris Gaines and County Attorney Lynn Frey met with Johnson and his attorney Joey Homans Tuesday.

“We had a good discussion but did not reach an agreement,” Thurmond said. “It was cordial on both sides. We explained we would continue to look at the revenue and would need time to see what the final numbers are from the property tax evaluation.”

Sheriff Jeff Johnson

Thurmond said he would update the rest of the Board of Commissioners on the meeting when they go into executive session during Thursday’s meeting.

Unless the board decides something different, Thurmond said he expects the case to go back to Bishop for a verdict.

Homans and Frey will prepare briefs for the judge to review. Regardless of which side prevails, there is likely to be an appeal.

Fetch Your News reached out to the sheriff for his comments, but he did not return our call.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Sheriff’s attorney presents case against county

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Attorney Joey Homans

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The dispute between Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson and the Board of Commissioners over the sheriff’s 2018 budget entered Senior Superior Court Judge Fred A. Bishop’s courtroom Tuesday. Attorney Joey Homans began by asking Bishop to order the county to provide a budget sufficient for the sheriff to perform the duties of his office.

Homans acknowledged the judge has the authority to order the county’s compliance but cannot decide a dollar amount to be awarded.

In his questioning of Johnson, Homans said the county reported the total amount approved to the sheriff was $9,564,324. However, he added, the sheriff did not have discretion over about $600,000 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds or $260,000 in capital projects.

County Attorney Lynn Frey

In his cross examination of Johnson, County Attorney Lynn Frey elicited testimony that indicated only once since 2010 did the sheriff’s office have more than the current 112 employees. Johnson has often cited the growth in the county’s population as a reason he is requesting more funding, but when Frey asked if the sheriff knew how much population growth there has been, he could not answer.

County 911 Director Alisha Rucker testified there has been an increase in calls for service from 61,241 in 2015 to 65,96e in 2017. She also noted marked increases in reported assaults, domestic violence, child abuse, forgery and sexual battery.

Capt. Matt Hester, who supervises the Uniform Patrol Division, testified the shortage of personnel impacts his officers’ ability to enforce the laws and leads to them being more reactive rather than proactive. “With the current personnel we have,” Hester said, “we’re more in a reactive stance. They respond to calls for service and don’t have as much time to generate proactive activity. They go from call to call to call as opposed to looking for criminal activity.

Lt. Theresa Kirby, who works in the detention center, said the jail is currently allotted 37 positions but has only 33 and needs 57. She testified the division cannot afford to send officers for training.

The lone witness from outside the sheriff’s office was Bill Harkswell, coordinator of jail and court services for the Georgia Sheriff’s Association. Harkswell conducted an analysis of the sheriff’s office in 2014 and concluded that 139 employees were needed to adequately perform the duties at that time. The county currently has 112 employees.

Harkswell said he had 11 years of experience in analyzing staffing needs for sheriffs and that he had performed between 20 and 40 such analyses.

Frey asked how many times Harkswell had ever recommended a reduction in staff. Harkswell answered, “Never.”

The hearing will resume Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. Homans said he has only one more witness to call before Frey begins his defense.

 

 

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

 

 

 

BOC Considers Purchase of Fire Hydrants on Kilough Church Road

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Lanier Swafford

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — During Thursday’s work session, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners listened to a series of presentations including one from Emergency Services Director Lanier Swafford regarding the installation of seven fire hydrants along Kilough Church Road at a cost of $27,755.

If approved, the fire hydrants would be installed in conjunction with an Etowah Water and Sewer Authority project starting just below Kilough Elementary School.

Planning Director Jason Streetman asked commissioners to consider approving the annual Bootlegger/Five Star, an endurance triathlon event on Sept. 10 from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. The event would start at Veterans Memorial Park. The bike riding portion would continue from the park to Lumpkin County along Hwy. 9. Riders would then return to the park along the same route. Public safety has been arranged and volunteers plan to help with safety and traffic control along the way.

Jason Streetman

Streetman also presented a request for commissioners to approve a special event alcohol permit for a Business After Hours event planned by the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce to be held at Northside Hospital on Dawson Drive.

Stormwater Manager Robbie Irvin informed commissioners that the state has modified its soil erosion ordinance regarding the definition of “final stabilization” and the planting of certain grasses to aid in the prevention of soil erosion. Irvin said when the state changes its ordinance the county is required by law to change its ordinance so that it matches that of the state.

Senior Services Director Dawn Pruitt asked commissioners to approve the Senior Center’s annual handcrafted quilt raffle to begin in late October or early November. Proceeds from the event will go to purchase presents for the center’s senior clients.

Dawn Pruitt

Pruitt also asked for approval of the senior center’s transportation contract with Deanna Specialty Transportation, a subcontractor for the Department of Human Services. The contract provides for trips for seniors to and from the center as well as transportation to doctor’s appointments, etc.

County Attorney Lynn Frey asked commissioners to approve a quit claim deed for Lots 38 and 41 in Charles Martin Subdivision. Frey pointed out that a couple wanted to purchase those lots and in doing the research, he discovered the old plat erroneously shows the front portion of the lots are in the Dawson County right of way. He asked for the quit claim deed to show the county has no claim to the lots.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Sheriff Prepared to Sue County Over 2018 Budget

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Sheriff Jeff Johnson

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — First-year Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson wants a bigger slice of the 2018 county budget than commissioners approved last month and he is prepared to take them to court to get it.

Johnson’s attorney Joseph Homans sent County Attorney Lynn Frey an email requesting additional legal fees for the sheriff regarding the petition for mandamus he intends to file in Superior Court should the county not approve the budget submitted by the sheriff in July.

According to the petition, that request was for $8,961,406. In September county commissioners approved a budget of $8,273,080.

The petition states, “The budget approved by Respondents constitutes abuse of discretion as Respondents failed to fulfill their duty to adopt a budget making reasonable and adequate provisions for personnel and equipment necessary to enable the Sheriff to perform his duties.”

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond

As of Tuesday (Oct. 24), Homans said he had nothad a response from the county.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “We are looking at it with our attorney right now. We will discuss it in executive session on Thursday and I will be able to say more about it then.”

The sheriff’s budgeting process is unlike any in state government. Commissioners control the budget, but sheriffs are constitutional officers, elected by the citizens. Their budgets cannot be cut unless the sheriff agrees.

Commissioners contend the budget they approved reflects an increase over the 2017 budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commissioners Discuss Agreements with Probation Company, Legacy Link

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Judge Andrew Fuller presented a request for renewal of the contract between Dawson County and Northeast Georgia Probation Services, Inc. (NGPSI) for Probation Supervision and Rehabilitation Services during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners work session.

The letter designates NGPSI as the sole provider of probation services for the county as ordered by Superior and Probate Court. NGPSI provides services and programs for misdemeanor offenders on probation by the courts.

Legacy Link, which provides multiple services for the county’s senior center requires the county to sign a commitment letter each year to receive funding.

The commitment is for a local government match. For the last several years the annual match amount has been $9,450 per year. That was the amount budgeted for 2017. The new commitment letter states is for $10,450 for July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. Because the grant crosses years, the increase needed for 2017 is $500. In 2018, the other half of the increase ($500) will be budgeted. Legacy Link provides services like Meals on Wheels, congregate meals, transportation, and center management to the county.

The board is also considering a request for $2,600 to provide training for four new members and 2 returning members to the Development Authority of Dawson County.

The county’s new attorney Lynn Frey reported that a charge of discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January against the Sheriff’s Department was responded to by former attorney Joey Homans and that the EEOC has not taken the claim as one they will pursue. In dismissing the administrative claim the EEOC has given the former employee a “right to sue” letter which states that it is now up to the claimant to decide whether to take it to a State or Federal court by filing a Complaint in Court. The claimant will have 90 days to file suit or lose the right to further action.

Frey also reported that Homans had drafted an answer to the Dawson Forrest Holdings lawsuit: before turning the file over to him and that he would handle the matter going forward.

County Will Get 65 “Gently Used” Voting Machines

News

Dawson County Director of Elections Glenda Ferguson

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The county’s aging voting machines are about to be replaced. The machines have been in use for 16 years and can no longer be repaired. Commissioners voted Thursday to buy 65 machines from San Diego County at a cost of $39,194.90.

San Diego’s machines have only been used once but, because their future elections will be done by paper ballots, county officials need to sell the “gently used” machines. Elections Supervisor Glenda Ferguson felt this was a good opportunity to buy replacement machines at a discount.

Commissioners also voted unanimously to accept the county audit performed by Rushton and Company that shows the county’s General Fund revenue increased by 5.41 percent from $21,054,087 in 2015 to $22,183,220 last year. At the same time expenditures rose by 6.73 percent from $20,186,557 to $21,734,253. Sales tax accounted for 40.86 percent of 2015 revenue while property taxes generated 32.3 percent.

The county has maintained a very healthy fund balance of $5,102,625 or 24.6 percent of expenditures. The Association of County Commissioners Georgia recommends not less than 15 percent.

Commissioners also approved a Parks and Recreation request for $29,966 to purchase a LED message board at the entrance to Veterans Memorial Park and Senior Services. The project came in under budget.

The Magistrate Court is asking commissioners to add $1,000 to the current budget to pay for federally mandated interpreters. The amount budgeted for 2017 was expended in June.

Commissioners agreed to renew a contract with the Bank of the Ozarks for a joint project with Etowah Water and Sewer Authority (EWSA). The county approved the financing arrangement in 1998 to provide a sanitary sewer facility to serve the Georgia 400 retail/outlet. The loan has been paid down to about $1.4 million and the current note is now due. Though the note is in the name of EWSA, the County has indirect liability on the note.

Commissioners selected County Manager David Bearden, County Attorney Lynn Frey and County Clerk Danielle Yarborough to serve on a committee that will study the commissioners’ compensation, something that has not been done in 12 years.

The board declined a request to separate code compliancy and enforcement from the Planning and Zoning Department as requested.

Allen Ferg and Peter Thomas were appointed to the Dawson County Library Board. Their terms will run through 2021.

Randy Harris was appointed to serve a one-year term on the Industrial Building Authority Board.

The board went into executive session to discuss a legal matter. Following the executive session, the board heard a summary from the county attorney of the parties and significant terms of a proposed Consent Order in the case of Dawson Forest Holdings LLC against Dawson County and its commissioners.  Following that session, the BOC voted affirmatively on a motion to approve execution of the Consent Order and presentation of it to the Superior Court.

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GDOT Seeks Letter of Support from Commissioners

Business

david-mckeeDAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Intersection work to be performed and funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation along Ga. Hwy 400 took center stage at Thursday’s Dawson County Board of Commissioners work session.

Dawson County Public Works Director David McKee told commissioners that GDOT is requesting a letter of support for installation of Right In Right Out Left In (RIROLI) access controls at the intersections of Kilough Church Road and Ga. Hwy. 400 and Walmart/Home Depot North Georgia Premium Outlets and Ga. Hwy. 400. All improvements will be made within the existing Right of Way.

The work is a GDOT project that does not require Board of Commissioners approval, but if commissioners approve the letter of support, McKee said the work would begin right away.

McKee also asked asked the Board to approve a letter to GDOT requesting funds for the repair of a wing wall off Dawson Forest Road and along Blacks Mill Creek damaged by last winter’s storm. GDOT has a Local Maintenance Improvement Education Emergency Economic grant available for emergencies that could cover the damage which is estimated to be about $180,000.

McKee also asked the Board to approve the purchase of one side arm mower and one utility tractor mower for the Public Works Department to replace three pieces of equipment that are no longer serviceable at a cost of $214,000 to be funded by SPLOST VI.

Dawson County Treatment Services plans to bring the HELP Program under Treatment Court in fiscal year 2018 as a mental health court track and Director Debbie Mott asked the Board for permission to request state grant in the amount of $279,514 which would require a county match of $31,057 would be required from county funds.

County Attorney Lynn Frey asked the Board to consider renewal of an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the City of Dawsonville authorizing the county to organize and implement all municipal elections. The IGA is drafted and adopted each odd year and any even year when a special election is called.

These issues and others are expected to be voted on at the regular meeting next Thursday.

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