HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council met for their monthly work session on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. All council members were in attendance with the exception of Anne Mitchell, who participated via teleconference. The second reading of the franchise ordinance advanced without opposition and the final adoption is anticipated to take place during Tuesday’s regular session.
According to the terms of the ordinance, Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) must pay the city of Hiawassee a 3 percent fee of the gross sales of electric energy provided to customers within Hiawassee city limits. A 5 percent fee will be imposed on cable and fiber optic services. Blue Ridge Mountain EMC has informed that the fee will be passed along to residents, businesses, and county agencies located within the city’s boundaries as an additional line item. FetchYourNews obtained copies of current BRMEMC bills issued to county entities, located within Hiawassee’s perimeter. Based solely on a single month’s calculation, the proposed ordinance could potentially increase county expenses in excess of $1,600 per year.
The ordinance reads that the city has determined it is in the best interest, and consistent with the convenience and necessity of the city, to grant the franchise to provide for the transmission and distribution of electricity, including cable and fiber optic, within the territorial boundaries of Hiawassee. The ordinance goes on to say the franchise fee enacted upon Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, for the use and occupation of city property, will promote the health, safety and welfare of the public, stimulate commerce, and otherwise serve the public interest.
Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced during a previous council session that a new form of revenue is necessary due to the loss of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funding. Mayor Ordiales says she spoke with representatives of the three largest Hiawassee establishments set to be impacted by the mandate: Chatuge Regional Hospital, Ingles grocery store, and McConnell Baptist Church. Mayor Ordiales relayed she received no opposition to the proposal. FetchYourNews (FYN) reached out to said establishments, seeking additional clarification on the once controversial issue. Ingles management declined to comment, Chatuge Regional Hospital did not respond to FYN’s request, and McConnell Baptist Church stated that while they neither endorse nor oppose the ordinance, there are concerns about the burden the hike may place on fixed and low-income residents.
The franchise ordinance was originally approved during a special-called meeting held in August of 2017. The decree was later repealed by now-former council members after local residents and business owners vocally rejected the mandate. A public hearing on the issue was held on Nov. 27, 2017. The ordinance was reintroduced to the city’s agenda in January, once newly-elected council members were sworn into office.
Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to convene at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6, at City Hall.
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