HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Dozens of community members and government officials gathered at the Towns County Civic Center on the evening of Tuesday, June 12, to discuss their visions for Hiawassee’s future. The City of Hiawassee has been working closely with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia, which assists state and local governments in achieving goals. Hiawassee received a $30,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant in 2017 to fund the study. Steering committees were chosen for the strategic planning endeavor, and previous meetings took place to gain insight.
Correction: While the City of Hiawassee quoted a flat “$30,000” when asked the ARC amount, FYN learned post-publication that $21,000 was awarded, with an additional $9,000 matched locally, for a grand total of $30,000.
“When we first got the grant, the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute was not available, and I really wanted to use the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute because these guys are masters,” Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales said, “They know how to do this, they’ve done this in a million different cities. They know what’s going on, and the intent of this is for us, and you more than anything, to define what we want our city to look like. We don’t want it to be Helen. We don’t want it to be any city in Florida. We don’t want it to be Asheville. We don’t want it to be anything but Hiawassee, but we don’t know what that is. So that’s what this strategic plan is all about.”
Many in attendence praised Mayor Ordiales, with some referring to the elected offical as “progressive-minded.”
Table-top discussion groups were formed prior to the start of the meeting, and ideas were projected onto a screen from laptop computers.
Listed among what is “working” in Hiawassee’s favor was appreciation for local shops, commendation of Hiawassee Police Department, the seasonal events on town square, access to reliable contractors, and the overall “quality of life” in the mountains.
Suggested improvements included an updated courthouse and post office, extended beautification efforts, the need for year-round activities, the creation of a city that will beckon visitors, a liquor store to raise revenue, the necessity for affordable housing, activities geared toward youth, improved public parking, and easily accessible recycling areas.
City annexation was noted, as well as hope for increased cultural diversity, public art displays, replacement of “tacky signs” to give the city a uniformed appearance, and a desire to deviate from a “Bible-Belt” stigma.
When asked to describe Hiawassee, some chose adjectives such as “quiet,” “charming,” and “quaint” while others described the city as “outdated” and “stuck.”
Hiawassee Councilwoman Nancy Noblet said she hopes the city will grow to become more than a retirement community. Councilwoman Amy Barrett expressed appreciation for tradition. Councilwoman Anne Mitchell used the word “bustling” to invoke her vision for the city’s future.
Carl Vinson Project Manager Jessica Varsa led the meeting, with the assistance of colleauges from the institute. Varsa relayed that another forum may take place next month, with efforts expected to wrap up in November.
“I want to see the city grow, but I also want it to remain a small-town because it’s home,” said Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, a planning committee member.
Hiawassee Council members Patsy Owens and Kris Berrong attended the forum.
Feature Photo: (L-R) Hiawassee Councilwoman Patsy Owens and Mayor Liz Ordiales
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw held a special called meeting Friday, June 1, to announce the acceptance of a certificate of deposit (CD) bid from United Community Bank in Hiawassee.
“One of our CDs was coming up for renewal, so we bid it out between South State Bank and United Community Bank,” Bradshaw explained. “United Community won the bid with a higher interest rate. We did two CDs for a million dollars at $500,000 each.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Animal control was the topic of spirited discussion at Mountain Movers & Shakers Friday, May 18, 2018.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, and representatives from the Mountain Shelter Human Society spoke on the subject.
Many residents were unaware of how to handle stray or problematic animals in the area, and those in the know set out to clear the confusion.
A dangerous dog ordinance was in place when Commissioner Bradshaw was elected to office in 2016, with the issue recently being turned over to the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to 2018, the sheriff’s office was not actively involved and could only take reports. Commissioner Bradshaw said there have been two calls pertaining to the mandate this year.
“There’s a lot that needs to be talked about, and there’s always room for improvement. I realize this, as the county grows,” Commissioner Bradshaw began. “Where I live, it’s no problem. We’ve got elbow-room, my neighbors have elbow-room, and in most places in the county, that is the case, right? It is a fact. But there are neighborhoods, and pockets of neighborhoods that maybe you need some more animal control than what the county’s got. That’s entirely up to your homeowners association, and if you want to have stronger rules or regulations, or leash laws, then I would say go for it. But I’m going to tell you that where I live, I’m not going to tie up my dogs. I’m just not going to do it, but I’m a responsible dog owner, and that’s where the problem comes in.”
“As far as a leash law goes, I understand animal control,” Bradshaw continued. “I’ve talked to (Union County Commissioner) Lamar Paris about it. People say, ‘Union County has leash laws,’ and they do. I’ve read it. But a lot of times there’s just no teeth in it. I’m just going to be honest with you. What about barking? A dog barking all night, keeping the neighbors up? We’re still a small area, and I’ve had this happen twice. I called the neighbor with a barking dog, and I talked to them, and I asked them to help me. I said I need your help, and they did. We got it taken care of. I’m not saying everything we’re doing is perfect, but I’m saying much more than we are doing now, I don’t see it. In time, as the population grows, I can definitely see more ordinances, and leash laws, but I just don’t think the county is there yet. Your neighborhood may be, but the county as a whole is not.”
Sheriff Chris Clinton spoke on Title 4, a state law requiring the sheriff’s office to respond to animal complaints. Sheriff Clinton noted that it is a crime to abandon pets. Roaming livestock falls under the responsibility of the sheriff’s office as well.
“There is a leash law in the city,” Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith said. “It applies to city property. If you have a domestic animal on the sidewalk, the square, or Mayors’ Park – city property or city streets – then it’s supposed to be restrained. It doesn’t apply to personal property or your neighbor’s property, but it does apply to city streets. There’s also an ordinance that discusses loud noises, the barking and howling from animals. I’ll echo the commissioner’s sentiment from earlier. The best method is to call your neighbor and say your dog is annoying me. We can address it from an ordinance perspective if it’s something that goes on and on. As far as strays in general that don’t have an owner that we can contact, I think that’s something that the council and mayor will need to address.”
Mountain Humane Society Board President Bob Levy said that the shelter has improved considerably in recent years. “We have a facility, and our facility continuously grows, based on the donations that we get,” Levy said. “We adopt out a tremendous amount of animals every year. We try to take in every animal that we possibly can. It’s difficult for us to take in sick animals because it can affect the entire operation, but we do have a quarantine area.”
Mountain Shelter Humane Society is a no-kill shelter, and the organizations accepts as many well-disposition, healthy animals that are suitable for adoption as their facility can accommodate. “We are limited on our funds, but we are trying our best to take in animals with minor illness and injuries,” Lisa Collins, the executive director of the shelter explained.
According to Board President Bob Levy, an average of $200 to $500 is spent on each animal housed at Mountain Shelter.
Pit bulls, due to workman’s compensation and liability insurance, and feral cats, because of their wild nature and sparse adoption rate, are not accepted at the shelter.
While Mountain Shelter Humane Society cannot pick up animals, strays can be taken to their facility, provided space is available, at 129 Bowling Dr. in Blairsville.
Mountain Shelter Humane Society can be reached at 706-781-3843.
Bill and Lynn Hall, founders of Katz n Dawgs Helping Hands, a local 501(C)(3) non-profit animal rescue organization, provided contact information. Katz n Dawgs Helping Hands can be reached at 706-896-7931 or email@example.com.
FetchYourNews will include information on additional area resources should they become available.
In summary, the course of action is to contact Towns County Sheriff’s Office for issues related to animal aggression or general animal control. Towns County Sheriff’s Office can be contacted by dialing 911 or 706-896-4444.
In addition, Commissioner Bradshaw can be reached at 706-896-2267.
HIAWASSEE, Ga.- On the evening of May 15, Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced a resolution to amend the 2018 budget, per abidance of Georgia Law, O.C.G.A. 36-81-3, which requires each unit of government to operate under an annual balanced budget, adopted by ordinance or resolution. The resolution includes a $22,152 shift in revenue, transferred from the Towns County Board of Education, into Towns County Sheriff’s Office capital expenditures. The amendment is the result of a Board of Education reimbursement of 75 percent, calculated from the cost of a patrol car purchased for the county’s school resource officer. Towns County Sheriff’s Office absorbed 25 percent of the expense.
“Donnie Jarrard, the DARE officer at the school, needed a new vehicle. He follows the ball teams – you know, baseball, basketball, football – all over the state of Georgia. When they play in Athens, (or) Monroe, he gets home at one, two, sometimes as late as three o’clock in the morning, unfortunately at times,” Bradshaw explained, “His car was starting to get a lot of problems, and it had a lot of miles on it, so I called the (Towns County School) Superintendent Darren Berrong.” Bradshaw went on to say that the cost of the new vehicle was discussed with Berrong, and a decision to divide the expense was agreed upon, based on the 75/25 ratio that the school board and sheriff’s office expend to employ the school resource officer. “We didn’t have to add any money,” Bradshaw continued, “The money was already there in their budget, so it was a no-brainer.”
In addition, Commissioner Bradshaw authorized the opening of an investigation financial account for Towns County Sheriff’s Office. The resolution states that the Towns County Sheriff’s Office at times has “need of access to operational funds” in order to assist the department with law enforcement and investigative services, benefiting the citizens of Towns County in the most efficient manner. The investigation account will be opened at South State Bank, with Towns County Sheriff’s Office Administrator Vicki Ellis, and Towns County Sheriff’s Captain James Baldwin, listed as authorized signers.
“This money that they are going to put into this account is exactly what it says,” Bradshaw said, “It’s an investigation account. They use the money for certain things, to get the bad guys off the streets, and that’s what they’re doing.”
“We don’t want to go too far into detail, you know, and let the bad guys know what they’re doing,” Bradshaw stated.
Commissioner Bradshaw reminded that there will not be a county meeting held in June, as the commissioner will be out-of-town on the scheduled date, with the next session occurring on July 17, at 5:30 p.m. at the Towns County Courthouse.
Bradshaw also noted an increase in residential building permits, elevated from 17 to 31, in comparison to the same time-period last year. Permits for additions rose from 20 to 42 in the similar time frame. Bradshaw believes the spike is a positive indicator of an improving economy.
The commissioner ended the meeting by reminding the public that his door is “always open” to receiving input from the community.
YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – A new fire station is in the future for Towns County Fire and Rescue in Young Harris, with a bid package offered on the project as of today.
“We’re going to build a firehouse in Young Harris,” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw stated. “Originally, I wanted to use detainee labor to build it complete, everything. We can’t do that.”
Bradshaw explained that after consulting with Towns County Building Inspector John Paul Peoples, the commissioner learned that 17-foot high walls, and 14-foot doors, are necessary for construction. The initial construction will involve professionals, with detainees joining in the effort thereafter.
“What we are going to do is put a bid package together,” Bradshaw explained. “We’re going to put a metal building out for bid. Not the slab, not the plumbing right now, because we’re going to contract most of that out ourselves to try and save money. Then, of course, we’ll take the best bid when the bids come in, to see who’s most qualified, learn their history.
“Then after that, we will use detainee labor to go in and frame the walls for the bathroom, the front office, and then we are going to have like a day-room,” Bradshaw continued. “We are going to build the building with the future in mind that if we ever had a full-time fire department that there would be a shower there with a bathroom, and then a room with a bed, and stuff like that. It’s a lot cheaper to try and do it now than add on later.”
Commissioner Bradshaw said the county has yet to set a due date for placed bids, but hopes to announce the bids at his July 17 meeting.
“This fire house is going to be a drive-through. It will have two bay doors on the back, big garage doors, and two on the front so that you can drive all the way through. The fire trucks will sit in there bumper-to-bumper, and in case of an emergency, they just hit the button, raise the door, and out they go,” Bradshaw added.
The Young Harris fire station will be built on state Route 66, approximately 1.25 miles from U.S. Highway 76. The current station is located in the former Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) building, a few blocks west of Young Harris College.
YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Clean Sweep week proved to be a success, resulting in a cleaner environment for Towns County. The annual event took place from April 16 through 21, corresponding with Earth Day.
Volunteers donated their time by clearing the roadways of litter and attending a gratitude dinner hosted by Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw April 24, 2018, at the Towns County Recreation Center. Pizza and soft drinks were served, complements of the commission’s office.
J.C. Berrong promoted and organized the Clean Sweep week. Commissioner Bradshaw honored Berrong with a certificate of appreciation for his dedicated service.
Cash prizes of $200 were awarded in three categories for the most trash collected by an individual, a church or business, and a club or organization.
Henry Chambers, who yielded the largest amount in the individual category, along with the City of Hiawassee, who joined in effort with Hamilton Gardens, donated their prizes to the local Boy Scouts.
Featured photo: J.C. Berrong
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HIAWASSEE, Ga. – May 5 has been officially proclaimed Wildfire Preparation Day in Towns County, and an event promoting the Firewise program will be held on Hiawassee Town Square this Saturday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw signed the proclamation April 17, 2018, during his monthly meeting at the Towns County courthouse.
Towns County Firewise Citizen Coalition Chair Marsha Elliot, along with Chestatee-Chatahoochee RC & D Council Executive Director Frank Riley and members of the Firewise Coalition, spoke with citizens at the commissioner’s session.
“Firewise organizations and other community agencies come together to promote this Firewise program, and we’re going to do such in Towns County on May 5,” Marsha Elliot announced. “We’re inviting the public to join us on the square in Hiawassee on that day between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to see just exactly what resources are available here in our county.”
“All of our fire equipment and fire personnel are going to be there, with all of their bells and whistles, toys and trucks, and what have you, and letting the community see just what kind of equipment and personnel we have to help us here,” Elliot explained.
There are 21 Firewise communities in Towns County and a total of 93 statewide.
Frank Riley considers that a tribute to the people, and he is thankful. “You can’t beat that we’ve got 21 out of 93 in Towns County, Firewise communities recognized nationally, with the national program services,” Riley said.
Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, a Firewise coalition member, explained that there is no charge for residents to have their property assessed for fire hazards by members of the Firewise committee.
Firewise members Ann Atchison and Michael Courney attended the signing of the proclamation.
Towns County Fire and Rescue crews said they look forward to participating in Wildfire Preparation Day, meeting with the community, and displaying department resources.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Tourism is on the rise throughout the Georgia mountains, and Towns County has seen a steady increase in the past several years.
Out of 17 counties reviewed, Towns County placed second in terms of growth in 2016, when the study was last conducted. Research reveals an 8.9 percent increase in domestic tourism expenditures in Towns County since 2007. Only Dawson County exceeded Towns, at an increase of 12.7 percent. Overall, the northeast Georgia mountains experienced 5 percent total growth in tourism in the past decade.
“I am very excited to see the numbers continue to climb, and I am looking forward to seeing last year’s,” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw told FetchYourNews. “Tourism is our bread and butter as a community. Studies show that households taxes would need to increase $798 per year in order to replace the taxes generated by tourism alone. It’s a win-win situation for both the visitors, who are able to enjoy the beauty of our lake and mountains, and it benefits the residents who live here as well.”
In 2016, tourism supported 4,533 jobs in Towns County, generating $11.37 million dollars in payroll. Local tax revenues amounted to $1.33 million dollars.
Commissioner Bradshaw works in unison with Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee, and Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds Manager Hilda Thomson, to bring revenue-generating events to Towns County.
The recent “Get Outdoors!” expo drew over 2,800 attendees, many of whom traveled to Towns County from surrounding areas.
“Made in Georgia” will make its debut on June 30 through July 1, offering products made, grown, brewed, crafted, stitched, and harvested throughout the state. The event will feature an array of vendors, demos, and samples of local products. The event will be held at the Towns County Recreation Center in Young Harris.
The 2018 Bass Elite tournament series, scheduled for Sept. 20 through 23, is sure to draw a crowd as well.
“We are excited to be hosting a tournament of this caliber, and we look forward to showcasing the beauty of our small mountain community to people from all over the world,” said Candace Lee, president of the Towns County Chamber of Commerce. “We want to put Lake Chatuge on the map as one of the best fishing lakes in the southeast, as well as the most beautiful.”
Information on upcoming events in Towns County can be found at GoLakeChatuge.com