City council will continue to learn more about land use options

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HIAWASSEE, Ga – Hiawassee City Council agreed to move forward with learning more about land use and potentially zoning options for the city.

After attending a planning and land use class to learn more about the options on the table for cities, the council wanted more information before making any lasting decisions.

“It was a very good class. It was a lot of information poured out very quickly and it’s hard to digest all the information very quickly,” said Councilmember Jay Chastain.

Councilmember Anne Mitchell added she thought it provided the opportunity to “correct some of the growth” and was excited about the opportunity.

Chastain and Mitchell also agreed it would take a lot of discussion before putting anything into place.

Chastain thought the best plan would be if the city ever decided to move forward with more planning, zoning, or land use procedure, then it should be placed on the ballot as a referendum for the people to decide.

The city attorney explained that several cities have placed referendums on the ballot, not related to statutes like alcohol. So, he wasn’t going to advise that a referendum wasn’t a possibility.

“We’ve got to do lots of prepping beforehand,” Chastain stated. “We’ve got to draft what we’re going to attempt to do.”

Currently, the council is just discussing whether they want to move forward with the discussion or drop it entirely.

“I agree with Jay. It’s going to take a lot more community involvement, educating, and research before we decide to go down this direction,” Councilmember Amy Barrett commented.

Mitchell asked for information about how long the process would take and offered to attend as many informational sessions as she can to gain a better handle on the issue.

Young Harris has a zoning policy in effect.

The biggest area in Hiawassee that could benefit from a planning or zoning policy would be the business district. The measure could potentially prevent storage units from being developed along Hwy. 76. However, all of Hiawassee would be zoned either as a business district, residential district, or commercial/industrial. It must be a continuous area for the entire city limits. In some cases, a mixed-use area can be acceptable.

Towns County unincorporated isn’t currently considering a zoning policy. Most residents are against any zoning or planning ordinances.

“I don’t want people telling me what I can do or what I can’t do on my property is what people’s biggest concerns are,” Councilmember Nancy Noblet explained.

They all agreed that they wanted to learn more before implementing or dropping the planning and zoning discussion.

Salaries are an issue for public safety

Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith explained it’s becoming difficult to find individuals to fill officer positions. The main reason for this difficulty is pay.

“There’s a couple of officers I’ve spoken to, trying to get them to leave their current department to come work here, but we’ve had trouble so far,” Smith explained. “The ones I’ve spoken to we can’t match their pay.”

Neighboring departments are paying $4 more an hour. The starting pay for an officer with no experience is $14.26. They are looking for an overnight officer, so the pay is slightly more. Towns County deputies are paid around $3 more an hour.

Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith

Hiawassee Police Department does include a benefits package too.

Smith added that the police training conference he recently attended said this is an issue across the state.

Chastain said it might be time to look at the pay scale for public safety officials.

“I hate that these guys and girls have to put their life on the life for me. It breaks my heart that we’re all about this other stuff, but when it comes to our police department, I feel like that somewhere in the budget. It may not be water or sewer but somewhere in that budget surely to God, we can find money that can go to y’all,” Noblet stated.

One course of action to pay more police officers more would be raising taxes, but the council wants to review the budget first.


Hiawassee earns good opinion for 2020 audit

Hiawassee coronavirus

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Rushton and Associates gave the city of Hiawassee a clean or unmodified opinion for their 2020 audit. It’s the second year in a row that Hiawassee received this rating.

The 2020 audit showcased how city revenues dropped and expenditures increased for the year too. Revenues were down $55,012 (5.4 percent). Expenditures were up $73,922 (8.8 percent).

The following revenue areas decreased for the year:

  • Motor Vehicle Tax – $49,779
  • Franchise Tax – $12,447
  • Intergovernmental Revenues – $56,457

However, four departments increased revenue:

  • Property Tax – $13,360
  • Local Option Sales Tax – $10,402
  • Alcohol Beverage Tax – $6,296
  • Fines, Fees, and Forfeitures – $24,352

On the expenditure side, the administration increased by $82,997 due to capital outlay.

The unassigned fund balance grew from 2019 to 2020 to $389,653 or 47.6 percent of expenditures. The city has 5.1 months of operating expenses on hand in case of emergencies. It’s recommended to keep at least three months of expenditures stored away.

Copy of the Hiawassee general fund 2020 audit.

In 2020 the city also paid off one loan in the amount of $697,996 and paid $287,585 in principle on other loans. Since 2017, they reduced the debt by 41 percent. Currently, $2,694,778 in debt is still outstanding.

Hiawassee received $47,000 in CARES Act Funding, $3,000GMA Safety Grant from LGRMS, $68,000 USDA Rural Development Grant for the Paris Building, $17,000 LMIG grant from GDOT, and $8,000 mural grant.

Water and Sewer

The water and sewer operating revenue grew by $279,015 (14.4 percent).  $114,559 came from a payment made by the water treatment plant. According to Rushton and Associates CPA Chris Hollifield, the remaining amount, $164,456 came from revenue growth.

Operating expenses for 2020 increased by $69.352 (4.2 percent). From 2019 to 2020, operating income shot up by $209,663.

Water Treatment Plant

Revenue for the water treatment plant decreased by $12,211 (1.65 percent) and expenses increased by $192,110 (46.4 percent). The payment made to water and sewer accounted for the majority of the change. In 2019, the water treatment plant made $327,838 in income. In 2020, the plant’s income was $123,512.

Copy of 2020 water and sewerage fund audit.

Police Year in Review Report

In 2020, Hiawassee Police Department filed 274 reports, issued 308 warnings and 325 tickets. It made 75 arrests: 10 misdemeanor drug offenses, 18 felony drug offenses, 44 other misdemeanors, and 3 felonies.

Chairman challenges Sheriff’s need for additional staffing


Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. – Sheriff Jeff Johnson must have felt like he has walked into a minefield when he presented a request for more staffing during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners work session. He was met by a commission chairman, who not only questioned the need for additional staffing, but the overall efficiency of Johnson’s operation.

Chairman Billy Thurmond pointed out that Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office serves a larger population (Approx. 33,000) than Dawson with only 96 employees and a budget of $5.8 million. Pickens County serves a population of 32,591 with 94 employees and a budget of $7.6 million while the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office serves a smaller population (26,108) with 122 employees and a budget of $8.4 million.

Thurmond also pointed out that Dawson County spends more dollars per capita on law enforcement than even larger counties like Hall, Forsyth County and Cherokee. Dawson County citizens spend $324.86 per person compared to Hall $209.21, Forsyth 213.21 and Cherokee $183.41.

Johnson’s overall budget in 2017, his first year in office, was $7,687,803. The overall budget today including all phases of public safety is $10,245,376, an increase of 25 percent in four years.

Commissioner Tim Satterfield also questioned Johnson’s spending. “At the end of last year, you took $330,000 from your employees’ salaries and benefits and spent it on stuff when you could have put people on the roads.”

Sheriff Jeff Johnson

Johnson bristled at the push back he received and addressed the chairman, saying, “You refuse, you preach and you say time and time again that public safety is an obligation. It is number one. But you’re not proving it by your actions.”

Thurmond’s response: “To say that this Board has not taken on the primary responsibility of public safety is absolutely not a true statement and I won’t stand here and let you say that it is without challenging you on it.”

Also on Thursday’s work session agenda, Public Safety Director Danny Thompson provided a brief overview of the Local Emergency Operations Plan that outlines five emergency support functions. The plan must be updated every four years to remain in compliance with Georgia Emergency Management Agency regulations and to be eligible to receive grant funds.

BOC to discuss purchase of lightning detector for Baseball Complex

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WHITE COUNTY, Ga. — The White County Board of Commissioners will hold a combined work session and called meeting Monday Nov. 30 at 4:30 p.m. in the County Administration Building on Helen Hwy.

There are several New Business items on the agenda to be discussed, including:

  • The purchase of information technology back-up software the White County Network System;
  • Revisions to the Recreation Department Fee Schedule;
  • Purchase and installation of lightning detector for the Yonah Preserve Ballfield Complex;
  • Proposed improvements to the Health Department facilities;
  • Establishment of a compensation policy for members of boards, committees and authorities appointed and overseen by the Board of Commissioners;
  • Year-end appointments to many boards and committees;
  • Amendments to the employee retirement plan;
  • Development of a financial policy for White County Government.

There are also a number of zoning applications to be considered, including:

  • A land use application filed by Ed Maxwell to redistrict approximately nine acres located at 9648 Duncan Bridge Road in Cleveland from Community Commercial District Highway Business District;
  • A land use application filed by Glenn Walker to redistrict approximately three acres at 502 Duncan Bridge Road from Single Family District to Residential Seasonal District to be placed in the short-term rental program;
  •  A land use application filed by Bryan Lee to redistrict approximately 8.1 acres at 66 Lothridge Road in Cleveland from Community Commercial District to Highway Business District;
  • A land use application filed by Chad Knott on behalf of Diane Hutcherson to request a conditional use permit on 1.3 acres located at 213 Peppermint Drive in Sautee Nacoochee to be placed in the short-term rental program.

SPLOST Manager Kevin Hamby will present the SPLOST status report.

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 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



BOC nominates three for Development Authority

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Laura Semanson

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. – Three items on the Board of Commissioners work session produced lengthy discussions but none more than the upcoming appointments/reappointments to the Development Authority.

Chairwoman Laura Semanson expressed some frustration with the Authority because many meetings had been canceled due to a lack of business. “To me that says maybe we should meet and talk about why there is nothing going on,” she said.

The seven-member Authority has had no new appointments since 2017. “There are some members who would like to see some fresh blood, some changes,” she said.

Semanson proposed adding two new at-large positions but Commissioner Levent said, he doesn’t see the need to increase the number of members.

Molly Cooper

Four members’ terms will expire in December and three others by April, prompting Commissioner Molly Cooper to say, “We can’t keep kicking this can down the road. Time is up. We need to make a decision.”

Semanson nominated Larry Duckworth for reappointment, Levent nominated Joanne Tolleson and Cooper nominated Justin Hawkins. Those nominations must be ratified by a vote of the full Board.

Commissioner Cindy Mills deferred until the December meeting and Commissioner Dennis Brown who, who leaves the Board at the end of the year said he would prefer that his replacement Alfred Johns make the appointment.

Dennis Brown

In other votes, commissioners unanimously approved:

  • An increase in per diem for members of the Equalization Board to $125;
  • A memorandum of understanding with the University of Georgia regarding the Extension Service;
  • A list of county-owned surplus items to be sold;
  • An agreement to into an Inter Sub-Site Interface Connection Agreement with Motorola Solutions Inc. for the Public Safety Radio System to allow for interconnectivity with the Hall County system in the amount of $778,615;
  • The Interconnected Public Safety Radio System Intergovernmental Agreement between Forsyth County and Hall County – Director, Emergency Management Agency;
  • The reallocation of Tyler Technologies’ current Tyler Field Mobile Licensing Fees to Tyler Smartfile Licensing Fees and to provide professional services to make multiple Smartfile forms available for electronic filing for the Tax Assessors’ Office;
  • Award RFP 20-87-3340 for the printing and mailing of Water and Sewer Bills for the Department of Water and Sewer to Pinnacle Data Systems starting in calendar year 2021, budgeted amount $275,000;
  • To award Bid 20-121-1620 for Waste Collection Services for Various Forsyth County Buildings to overall low bidder Advanced Disposal Services, LLC in the amount of $110,828.28; 2021;
  • To award Bid 20-124-1620 for Building Cleaning Services for Various Forsyth County Buildings for the Calendar Year 2021 for the Department of Public Facilities the low bidder All Bright Janitorial Service in the amount of $194,000.00;
  • To award Bid 20-135-1590 to purchase one (1) new 2021 Ford F250 Truck with Animal Body Transport for Code Compliance to Prater Ford, Inc. in the amount of $53,297.20;
  • To award Bid 20-136-3120 for providing Installation and Repair of Guardrails as needed for the Forsyth County Department of Engineering Stembridge Custom Metals, Inc. in the not to exceed amount of $50,000.00;
  • To award Bid 20-140-5211 for providing Baled Hay Services at Eagles Beak for the Department of Parks and Recreation with no cost to the County;
  • To award Bid 20-169-3150 for the emergency replacement of a culvert at Two Mile Creek on Wallace Wood Road to The Dickerson Group in the amount of $384,807.80;


  • Ratification of the reappointment of Jerry Bowman as the Neutral Representative to the Forsyth County Civil Service Board to serve a four (4) year term beginning November 12, 2020 to November 11, 2024. Staff Recommendation: ratify the Civil Service Board’s reappointment – Risk and Safety Manager, Department of Risk Management
  • A request to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Georgia Department of Transportation to relocate water and sewer infrastructure for the SR 400 at McGinnis Ferry Road Widening and Auxiliary Lanes Project;
  • To formally name the area located in Sawnee Mountain Preserve – Phase 4, located north of Tower Road, and the previous location of the Barker House as Barker Overlook;
  • A request to apply for the FY 2022 Federal Transit Administration Section 5311 Transit Grant Program to aid in the operation of the Dial-A-Ride Program;
  • A BOC Policy that all developer-negotiated zoning conditions must be submitted to County staff no less than 48 hours prior to the Board meeting where final action is to be taken;
  • A County-Initiated Conditional Use Permit to conduct around the clock business hours for warehouses/offices on 32.452 acres currently zoned M1;
  • Adopt the 2021 Meeting Schedule;
  • Authorization for the county attorney to seek reimbursement for County incentives paid to Taubman Devlopment;
  • A Memorandum of Understanding with Seefried Industrial Properties, Inc. regarding CP200016 as it relates to design, acquisition, and construction for roundabout at Shiloh Road and Shiloh Road East;
  • Partnering with the GA Safe Routes to School Resource Center – County Attorney

Commissioners postponed any decision on the site master plan for Sawnee Mountain Preserve Phase IV.


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 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



BOC set to consider employee salary increase during Thursday work session

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DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. – The Board of Commissioners will consider a pay raise for county employees when it meets in a work session Thursday (June 17) at 4 p.m. in the County Administration building. Human Resources Director Brad Gould will report the increase in pay would impact 101 county employees and cost taxpayers $116,000.

In Jan. 2019, commissioners approved a year-long salary study that recommended a pay raise for county employees that would make the county more competitive in attracting a quality workforce. At the time, Gould was asked to present information in June 2020 to show what an increase of 105 percent of the study’s recommended salary would cost.

Gould will then report the county’s healthcare broker NFP has presented a health and wellness program designed to improve the health of county employees and reduce the high-dollar health claims. Gould said he is also looking at other plans and reviewing the spouse/family portion of the county’s existing coverage.

Gould will also present a review of the employees’ handbook relative to the paid time off policy.

Planning Director Jameson Kinley will a recommendation for an alcohol ordinance that will allow agri-businesses such as a wedding venue to sell and dispense alcohol with proper licensing. Currently only commercially zoned properties are  permitted to sell or dispense alcoholic beverages.

Kinley will also ask the Board to consider updating the Business License Ordinance to include Agri-Business. Commissioners would be required to advertise a public hearing before voting on the update.

During the work session, commissioners are expected to vote on:

  • A land use regulation update to the Residential Agriculture lot size requirement;
  • Moving forward with a public hearing on the minimum Standard Code amendment to include mobile/manufactured homes;
  • Appointment of the Building Official as Local Government Agent for the purpose defined in Abandoned Mobile Home Act;
  • Moving forward with a public hearing for updated Planning Commission terms;
  • Reappointment of Angelia Brown to Avita Community Partners and Tina Brady to the Department of Family and Children’s Services Board.



Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on 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

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