HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Council held a special-called meeting on the evening of Monday, Dec. 17, to approve the purchase of two needed copier machines for City Hall. Council members Anne Mitchell, Amy Barrett, Nancy Noblet, and Pasty Owens were in attendance. Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick explained that the copy machines that are currently in use are past their prime, with one unit manufactured in 1994. Kendrick relayed that the machines have suffered significant decline from years of heavy use. “We’ve known this was coming,” Kendrick said.
Hiawassee Council unanimously voted to allow for the purchase of two Cannon copier machines from Duplicating Products. The company employs a service technician in Young Harris, providing a quick turnover time should issues arise. The total cost of the two units amounts t0 $11,278. One of the machines will be put to use by Hiawassee Police Department.
In addition to the business matter, the council voted to meet for a Christmas dinner at a local restaurant on Wednesday evening.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Weeks after a 45-day sign permit moratorium was enacted in Hiawassee, Mayor Liz Ordiales proposed the notion of allowing a digital LED billboard to be erected within the city limits. The multi-message sign would flash advertising promotions at eight-second intervals, intended for installation near the intersection of Main Street and Bell Creek Road.
The early November decision to temporarily halt permits within the city followed an amended ordinance by Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, banning additional billboards from entering the area. On Oct. 29, Mayor Ordiales stated during the city’s work session, “It doesn’t make sense for the county to do one thing and (the city) to do another,” suggesting that Hiawassee would review the current sign mandate, inferring potential revision of the ordinance to coincide with county regulations.
The mayor’s proposal to permit a multi-message, digital billboard, however, is in direct contrast with the county’s mandate. Towns County strictly prohibits the signage in question, as does the City of Hiawassee ordinance, which is currently in effect.
Upon invitation by Ordiales, Terry Poteete – a Gwinnett County resident with Affordable Outdoor Advertising Solutions, and the owner of 85 billboards strewn throughout seven counties, including the 55-foot tall, four-faced billboard located across from McDonalds in Hiawassee – addressed the full council during Monday’s work session. Ordiales divulged that Poteete had broached replacement of the static billboard with a digital version in February, though due to the current ordinance restriction, the request was denied. Poteete purchased the existing billboards in 2012.
The overwhelming consenus from the numerous citizens in attendance at City Hall revealed blunt opposition to the concept. Residents expressed strong distaste by describing digital billboards with adjectives ranging from “annoying” to “hideous.”
The possibility of removing exisiting billboards to allow for the digital version was mentioned by Hiawassee City Attorney Thomas Mitchell. According to Mitchell, the Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines list that digital billboards must be spaced further than 5000-feet apart in distance. State law allows for a second digital sign to be installed on the opposite side of the street, however.
Hiawassee City Council expressed conflicting opinions on the matter, with Nancy Noblet clearly favoring the idea from the councilwoman’s subjective standpoint. Anne Mitchell and Amy Barrett voiced sturdy opposition, with Barrett stating that digital billboards “degrade the integrity of the mountains.” True to form, council members Kris Berrong and Patsy Owens remained relatively silent on the issue.
A Town Hall meeting was suggested by Hiawassee City Council, aimed to gain additional resident input prior to taking the matter to vote, with no known date scheduled at the time of publication.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Five months following Hiawassee’s official designation as a “City of Ethics” by the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), Hiawassee Council plans to begin the process of properly assigning committee members to serve as the city’s moral monitors.
Three Hiawassee residents will be selected to volunteer as ethics board members – The first appointed by Mayor Liz Ordiales, a second chosen by Hiawassee City Council, and the third in agreed conjunction of both mayor and council.
The ethics ordinance itself states that elected and appointed city officials must abide by high ethical standards of conduct, with a requirement of disclosure of private financial or other conflicting interest matters. The mandate serves as a basis for disciplinary action for violations.
Listed among expectations are selfless servitude toward others, responsible use of public resources, fair treatment of all persons, proper application of power for the well-being of constituents, and maintenance of an environment which encourages honesty, openness, and integrity.
According to the decree, complaints of violations must be signed under oath, and filed with Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick at City Hall. Copies of the complaint will then be submitted to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee City Council, and the Board of Ethics within seven days. In addition, a copy will be delivered to the alleged offender. The Board of Ethics is authorized to investigate the complaint, gather evidence, and hold hearings on the matter. The Board of Ethics will determine whether the complaint is justified or unsubstantiated. Should the process proceed, Hiawassee City Council, along with the ethics board, will conduct a hearing within 60 days of the validated complaint.
Public reprimand or a request for resignation may be issued. An appeal may be filed for judicial review with Towns County Superior Court within 30 days after the ruling by the Board of Ethics.
The decision to list the item on the agenda followed community concerns that the previous appointment of ethics committee members were invalid due to the council not having a choice as to whom served.
Hiawassee City Council convenes for their monthly work session on Monday, Nov. 26, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Meetings are open to the public.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council met for their regular session on Tuesday, Nov. 6, reaching a decision to instill a 45-day sign permit moratorium. The unopposed council vote was reached eight days after Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw finalized the county’s “billboard ban” which imposes regulations on advertising signage within the county’s border.
Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced that the moratorium would appear on the city’s agenda during the council’s work session held the week prior. Ordiales explained that the city should consider similar measures in order to potentially follow the county revision. The moratorium will allow time for the council to review and discuss the county mandate.
The 45-day moratorium temporarily freezes the issuance of sign permits within Hiawassee.
The final reading of the Municode Digital Listing ordinance was unanimously adopted by HIawassee City Council. Municode Digital Listing is a process which will transfer the city’s mandates from printed documents to an online venue. The ordinances were housed in a series of binders prior.
The annual Halloween in Hiawassee event was discussed and deemed a success by the elected officials.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A delayed council vote on the potential adoption of the proposed City of Hiawassee 2018-2019 budget was announced at the regular session held Tuesday, Oct. 2, at City Hall. Mayor Liz Ordiales recognized that the final reading is required to be publicly advertised prior to adoption, a measure that was overlooked. The final reading was rescheduled for Monday, Oct. 28, during the council’s work session.
Prior to a motion to adjourn, Councilwoman Amy Barrett inquired as to whether the previous budget would remain in effect until the second reading takes place. Mayor Ordiales stated that it would remain fixed until the 2018-2019 budget adoption.
Minutes regarding the numerous millage rate meetings and September sessions were approved without opposition.
The first reading of an ordinance to enact Municode Digital Listing, a process which will transfer city mandates from printed documents to an online venue, was unanimously favored by council. The ordinances were solely housed in a series of binders prior.
The annual Halloween event was discussed, with plans to relocate the festivities from Hiawassee Square to the Towns County Courthouse grounds confirmed. The Old Rock Jail will transform into a haunted house attraction and candy booths for trick-or-treaters will surround the courthouse porch. The event is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 31.
Scarecrows are beginning to appear on Hiawassee Town Square, a new addition to the city’s fall tradition, with Mayor Ordiales acknowledging the creativity of participants.
Hiawassee City Council meetings are open to the public. Questions and concerns from citizens are addressed at work sessions, the last Monday of each month.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales proudly announced PlanFirst Community designation by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) at September’s month work session at City Hall. Hiawassee was chosen to participate in the program for a three year span, beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The announcment came weeks after the mayor took PlanFirst committee members on a tour of Bell Mountain Park, Hamilton Gardens, Mayors’ Park, and the Old Rock Jail Museum.
According to the DCA website, PlanFirst is a program which recognizes and rewards communities that clearly demonstrate an established pattern of successfully implementing their Local Comprehensive Plan. Any size community is encouraged to apply, provided it has a history of public involvement with development of the plan, active engagement in plan implementation, and proven progress in achieving the community’s stated vision or goals. PlanFirst designation is awarded to local governments on an individual basis. DCA encourages joint local planning; however, each government is responsible for achieving the activities in its community-specific work program.
The designation will be formally announced at an awards dinner at the DCA Fall Conference on Oct. 1o, in LaGrange, GA. In addition, a formal ceremony will take place at the State Capitol in Atlanta in early 2019.
Along with recognition, PlanFirst designation will provide reduced interest rates on certain Georgia Environmental Financing Authority (GEFA) state loans.
“The City of Hiawassee will be recognized across the State of Georgia as a community that has created a robust vision of its future and maintains an active strategy for implementing that vision,” DCA Director Ken Hood stated in a letter to Mayor Ordiales, “This is a well-deserved acknowledgement of successful planning, and we look forward to working with you going forward.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Council is due to vote on the City’s 2018-2019 budget Tuesday, Oct. 2, following a public hearing held Monday, Sept. 24.
Preceding a line-by-line discussion of the proposed budget, Hiawassee City Council adopted the rollback rate of 2.170 mills in a 3-1 vote. Council members Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet favored the rollback, with Councilwoman Anne Mitchell solely opposing the reduced tax.
Councilwoman Patsy Owens was absent from the meeting, reported by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales to be traveling.
Owens, however, along with Mitchell, rejected the property tax rollback earlier this month, favoring what would have amounted to a tax increase for city property owners.
Concerning the budget, generated revenue applied toward the General Fund is expected to amount to $798,830, an increase of slightly over $33,300 from the previous fiscal year. The rise is due in part to the collection of an anticipated $70,000 in franchise fees imposed on Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation, which in turn has been passed along to customers.
General Expenses are expected to total $544,780, leaving the General Fund with a surplus in excess of $254,000.
Income derived from the Hotel-Motel Tax is listed at $85,000, with outgoing expenses to Towns County Chamber of Commerce, the Tax Commissioner, and local tourism payments, setting that particular budget flush.
SPLOST income is null as it it is non-existent.
The Sewer and Water Treatment Funds are expected to break even at $721,650 for Sewer, and $860,345 for Water Treatment.
Income toward the Water Fund is listed at $1,679,000, with expenses totaling $1,154,470. “This fund has a little bit more money so it’s not so bad,” Mayor Ordiales stated.
Funding for Hiawassee Police Department, however, is scant, with slightly over $177,000 anticipated in income, compared to $431,000 in necessary expenses. A citizen in attendance questioned Mayor Ordiales’ figures in relation to the surplus of finances applied to the General Fund. “You don’t want to use up that surplus,” Ordiales retorted, “What if something goes wrong?”
A total of $12,000 is listed for General Education and Training of City staff, a stark increase of $10,000 above the 2017-2018 initial proposal. Additional training for City Council remains fixed at $5,000.
Councilwoman Amy Barrett countered that line items within the budget were “freed up” the previous year, such as cuts to employee benefits, along with the addition of revenue derived from the franchise fee.
Furthermore, Barrett inquired into the $17,000 applied to City Hall communications, a $7,000 increase from the 2017-2018 initial budget proposal, separate from the mere $3,000 allotted for Hiawassee Police Department’s communication needs.
“We’re not here to argue,” Ordiales interjected, “It is what it is.”
Barrett noted the $9,000 listed to fund election costs, reminding that other than the Brunch Resolution set to appear on November’s ballot, an actual election is not scheduled to take place in 2018. Ordiales replied that it is wise to have a cushion in the event that a special election is necessary, should a council member decide to “quit.”
Hiawassee Council is scheduled to convene at City Hall at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, to accept or reject the mayor’s proposed budget.
Meetings are open to the public.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced that Halloween on Hiawassee Square may be relocated to the Towns County Courthouse grounds in order to feature a new addition to the well-loved annual event: A haunted house attraction at the historic Old Rock Jail.
Ordiales revealed that the City of Hiawassee is collaborating with Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Towns County Historical Society President Sandra Green on the notion. The festivities are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 31.
Traditionally, the event has taken place on town square. Hiawassee City Council, along with Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, voiced agreement with the slight shift in venue due in part to parking issues. The relocation will free the parking spaces surrounding the square that were dedicated to candy booths in years’ past, potentially reducing the swarm of trick-or-treaters trekking across Main Street from business parking lots.
While the plans for the haunted house and venue change were not firmly solidified by Mayor Ordiales as of Monday, Sept. 24, Commissioner Bradshaw stated no objection to to the plans.
The Old Rock Jail is located adjacent to the Towns County Courthouse, with renovation to the 1936 stone jail recently completed through the efforts of the Towns County Historical Society. The two-story site serves as a museum, featuring artifacts and photographs, and is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment.
Scarecrows, created by area businesses, are set to begin “invading” Hiawassee Town Square on Oct.1, staked thoughout the month.
A list of autumn activites in the Hiawassee area is available from FetchYourNews.com