HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw opened his monthly meeting, Tuesday, June 18, with an update on the county’s financial health. “Right now, the sales tax collections are up around $28,000 from what they were this time last year, so we’re very thankful for that. We give that to a good economy. We give it to many people trying to do many things to promote our county, have events, and bring people here, and they spend money, and have a great time. They leave and then it’s longing to come back here again, and they do, and a lot of them come back and build a house or buy a house, and that’s what it’s all about, so were very thankful.”
Commissioner Bradshaw noted the proven economic contributions of Candace Lee of the Towns County Chamber of Commerce, who was in attendance, and officially introduced Denise McKay, who serves as the economic developer for Hiawassee, Young Harris, and Towns County as a whole, praising McKay’s initial efforts.
“Jobs are very important and this is the whole plan…,” Commissioner Bradshaw went on to say, emphasizing the appeal of a “small town” essence, including a desire to deter younger generations from relocating from the area due a lack of employment options. “But I do feel like it is our job as county government to try to promote businesses, and try to promote some growth so that we can provide job opportunities, and that’s what Denise is here for. However, and she understands, and she likes it here, that’s why she moved here, but we don’t want to lose the small town feeling.” The commissioner concluded that his pressing goal is to fill vacant buildings and empty lots within the county with economic opportunities, beneficial to all.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council convened for March’s work session on Monday to discuss numerous topics. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales opened with a monthly report, including an update on city loan repayments. Mayor Ordiales announced that yet another Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan has been repaid, saving taxpayers $50,543 in interest. The payoff amount was listed at $191,312. While $3.8 million remains in city debt, a total amount of $823,684 has been paid to date, the mayor said. Three United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans loom, totaling $2.3 million, with the highest interest fixed at 4.375 percent. “I would love to take care of that one, but that’s a $700,000 loan so we’ll figure a way to get to that one later,” Ordiales explained. Four GEFA loans remain, amounting to $1.7 million, with the highest interest set at 3.81 percent. “I’ve got my eyes on two of those. The highest one will probably be gone in a couple months, so we’re moving in the right direction with that,” Ordiales said. The mayor reminded that designation as a PlanFirst community offers a half percent credit on GEFA loans, and such will be applied toward water treatment plant funding.
Mayor Ordiales reported that maintenance on the million gallon water tank was completed, as well as the “green tank” that serves as storage, and that a derelict home on River Street was demolished in accordance with the city’s five-year strategic plan. Revitization on the post office began the weekend prior, with pressure washing taking place. At the conclusion of the meeting, citizens were invited to cast votes for the future color scheme of the post office by dropping play money into buckets. The mayor proposed purchasing Galaxy Samsung 32GB tablets for the council to receive official emails, at a cost of $188.84 per tablet. The council remained silent on the issue, opting to discuss the matter at a later date. The mayor informed that students on spring break from Grand Rapids, MI, visited Hiawassee, removing kudzu vines from an area behind McDonald’s. Ordiales relayed that the city purchased lunch for the volunteers.
New business included a screw press declaration pertaining to the water treatment plant. The “sludge remover” will cost approximately $384,000, the mayor said, adding that the current belt is 35 years old, costing $15,000 in repair each time that it malfunctions. Debt collection through Georgia Municiple Association (GMA) was noted, with the service retaining 17.5 percent of collected funds. The first reading of a defined benefit resolution ordinance was held, transfering management from GMA to One America. The city matches up to 3 percent of city staff contributions, and the mayor reported that 12 government employess have signed up for the program thus far.
A University of North Carolina water study was announced by Ordiales which will increase residents’ water rates from the current amount of $19.27 to $42.25 over a five-year span. FYN requested additional information from the city clerk on the increase, and an in-depth article explaining the process – including the potential addition of fluoride to the local water supply – will follow. Economic Developer Denise McKay addressed the citizens as the meeting concluded, briefly explaining the implementation as a Main Street Affiliate through the Department of Community Affairs, which McKay said will open resources, and a Rural Zone Designation program, an endeavor that McKay described as a labor-intense project that will focus on the downtown area, defining physical boundaries. Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith recounted the donation of a patrol vehicle and speed detector devices from a generous law enforcement agency in Sunny Isle Beach, FL.
Elijah Moody, a student from Eastgate Life Academy, opened the meeting with a lively speech on the future of artificial intelligence. Rotary Club Public Image Chair Bonny Herman provided information on an Earth Day event, scheduled for April 13 on Hiawassee Square. Additionally listed on the agenda, City Councilwoman Nancy Noblet resigned from organizing future square activities, explaining that the task has become challenging. Noblet volunteered for square event oversight three years prior.
Hiawassee City Council will meet for their regular session Tuesday, April 2, at 6 p.m. A public hearing on the city’s 2019-2020 proposed budget is scheduled for Thursday, April 18, at 6 p.m.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The City of Hiawassee, in cooperation with the City of Young Harris, and Towns County as a whole, arrived at a unified decision to employ an economic developer to assist in the creation and retainment of business-related endeavors in the area. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales introduced Denise McKay to the community during a town hall meeting on Dec. 4. The announcement corresponded with the revelation of a five-year tentative plan for Hiawassee’s future, designed from input from citizens and local leaders by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
McKay holds a decade of experience as the Main Street Manager of Commerce, Georgia, and Economic Development and Main Street Director of Hampton, Georgia. McKay graduated from Upper Iowa University in 2012, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw addressed the joint initiative on Dec. 18. “The county is doing this as a pilot program,” Bradshaw explained, “We’re going to do this for one year to see how this lady works out for the county, and to see, to put it in simple terms, to see if we get our money’s worth.” Bradshaw quoted the cost to county taxpayers at roughly $20,000. Acquiring grants will be an additional task delegated to McKay.
Bradshaw stressed that his main objective is to provide ample economic opportunities for local youth who wish to remain in Towns County once they have entered the job market.
The commissioner plans to invite McKay to address residents and business owners during a public meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 5:30 p.m. at the Towns County Courthouse.
Feature Photo Credit: City of Hiawassee