Hiawassee’s strategic plan moves forward, sign ordinance discussion continues

News, Politics
Hiawassee economy

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Slightly more citizens than usual turned out at the council’s regular session at Hiawassee City Hall Tuesday, Feb. 5, to hear the five elected officials’ verdict on several issues, including the wastewater expansion bid, a pending sign ordinance, the city’s five-year strategic plan, and a proposal to expedite the adoption of future mandates.

Mayor Liz Ordiales opened the session by reminding the public that comments are not permitted during regular sessions, rather work meetings are the proper time to offer citizen input as they are “informal” gatherings. “That is the place for all kinds of public input,” the mayor said.

Concerning the sign ordinance, council dialogue revolved primarily around banner advertising. After lengthy discussion, the council resolved to amend the tenative ordinance, eliminating a $15.00 fee for businesses to hang banners, and removing the verbage pertaining to the amount of banners a business is permitted to display annually. A single banner, not to exceed 60 square feet in diminsion, is expected to remain in the decree. The council agreed that banners should be kept in presentable condition. An extended sign permit moratorium remains in place while the council reconstructs the ordinance.

Liz Ordiales

Mayor Liz Ordiales outlining the strategic plan before the Mountain Movers and Shakers Jan. 25

Later in the session, Hiawassee City Council unanimously adopted the city’s 2019-2024 revitalization plan. Upon motion from Councilwoman Anne Mitchell and a second from Patsy Owens, Councilman Kris Berrong initiated discussion, explaining that he, along with community members, harbor hestitation. “Concerns of a few that have the strategic plan, and me, personally, I think that we need to talk about it a little bit more. I’m for a lot of it, but we kind of went over it one time with (Georgia Municiple Association) and that was about it,” Berrong relayed.

“But you have a copy,” Councilwoman Anne Mitchell interjected. “I do,” Berrong replied, adding that he was not confident in exactly what might occur when Mitchell pressed. Council members Amy Barrett and Nancy Noblet offered that they had spoken with business owners who had voiced similar concerns.

“This would serve as a document for us to use as a guideline for what we want to do in the city,” Mayor Ordiales said, “This was not our input; this was not the University of Georgia’s input. These are the people in the city who came to our focus groups, who came to the one-on-one interviews, who came to the town hall meetings.”

When a local business owner’s concerns were specifically outlined by Council member Amy Barrett during the session, Mayor Ordiales stated that the owner in question was invited to participate in the focus groups and declined the offer. FYN contacted the business owner the following day and was surprised to learn that the owner had, in fact, attended a focus group, but did not recall receiving any type of follow-up initiated by the city of Hiawassee.

Prior to the council vote, Noblet asked Economic Developer Denise McKay what the initial stage of the comprehensive plan will involve. McKay responded that “basic landscaping and hopefully painting” the post office, beautifying the entrance to Ingles with foliage, and improving the town square are the city’s starting points, explaining that the projects are “fairly easy and inexpensive to do.”

During the council’s work session the week prior, McKay listed public art in the form of murals as the third project, rather than the town square, when FYN publicly inquired into the initial three-fold plan.

A resolution to award the wastewater expansion project to SOL Construction, the lowest bidder, was approved by the full council during the meeting. Mayor Ordiales projected completion by fall of this year.

The session concluded with 3-2 rejection of the mayor’s proposal to enact single-session ordinances. Additional information on the issue is available by clicking this link.

Hiawassee City Council assembles for their monthly work session Monday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Council votes 3-2, rejecting expedited ordinance adoptions

News, Politics

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In a 3-2 vote, Hiawassee City Council rejected a proposal by Mayor Liz Ordiales to consolidate readings in order to adopt future ordinances in a single session.

Had the agenda item passed, expedited adoptions would have essentially reduced the time in which the council could research and contemplate decisions, additionally limiting the length of time that the public had an opportunity to react, to a mere week rather than the month-long process currently in effect.

Hiawassee City Council

Hiawassee City Council during a previous session (L-R) Patsy Owens, Nancy Noblet, Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, Anne Mitchell, Mayor Liz Ordiales, and City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick

Council members Anne Mitchell and Patsy Owens favored the fast-tracked measure. Council members Amy Barret, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet voted in opposition, defeating the proposal.

Mayor Ordiales stated prior to the council vote that the purpose of the decree was to speed up unanimously agreed upon ordinances, using the citizen-supported “Brunch Bill” resolution which appeared on last November’s general ballot as an example. Likewise, Ordiales swayed that issues such as the council’s monthly compensation could have passed had the ordinance been in place prior. The window to increase compensation was lost due to the mayor’s inaction to introduce the item in a timely matter, as no adequate lapse was provided between the two, required readings. Ordiales explained that if the council was not in full agreement at a reading, a subsequent reading would have continued to be held.

FYN previously reported on the matter.

Hiawassee to expedite future ordinance adoptions, limiting time for citizen involvement

 

Information on the city’s strategic plan and sign ordinance is available by clicking this link.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee’s plans may encompass more than meets the eye

Business
Hiawassee tax

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – There is no denying that times are always changing, and the sleepy, little town of Hiawassee, Georgia, population 903, is on a fast track to follow suit. While transformation is inevitable and often welcomed with open arms, members from the community have begun voicing their views on what it could mean for the lower-income population, and ultimately, the indigenous culture that has inhabited Towns County for centuries.

The course of action that the city of Hiawassee plans to enact implores the question of whether gentrification is at play. While most people understand the process and effects of gentrification, many remain unaware that an actual term exists. Merriam-Webster defines gentrification as “the process of renewal and rebuilding, accompanying the influx of middle class or affluent people, into deteriorating areas that often results in the displacement of earlier, poorer residents.” In order for these areas to be revitalized, the areas must be essentially cleared out. This is achieved through the raising of taxes and service rates, often beyond the point of affordability.

During last year’s property tax increase hearings, Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett raised issue that senior residents on fixed-incomes are relocating due to heightened electricity costs, citing the city-imposed BRMEMC francise “fee” as the reason given by the displaced. While the full council favored the franchise, the mayor’s proposal to reject the property tax rollback was ultimately defeated in a 3-2 vote.. On Jan. 28, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales divulged that a water rate increase is in the works, explaining that it has been six years since a spike last occurred.

On a cultural front, community concerns began to surface during a June town hall meeting, held in conjunction with the University of Georgia (UGA) Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which focused on a strategic, comprehensive project to sculpt the future of Hiawassee. While program participants overwhelmingly favored noble plans such as boosting tourism, advancing city beautification, and creating structured, economic growth, other suggestions raised eyebrows, particularly from the conservative population.

Leslie McPeak – a vocal, local business owner who was later exhalted to the city’s Board of Ethics by Mayor Ordiales – suggested deviation from long-held traditions, including a reduction in the amount of gospel and country concerts hosted in the area, determination that shops open their doors on Sundays to boost economic reward, and an assertion that the city should steer clear from the “Bible-Belt stigma” that has prevailed in Towns County since its foundation.

Months later, when the strategic plan was completed and introduced at Hiawassee City Hall, McPeak publicly inquired whether eminent domain, a highly-controversial practice in which the government expropiates private property for public use, was an option to abolish what McPeak considered an unattractive local business. A representative from the Carl Vinson Institute responded that grants, rather, may be available to encourage compliance with the city’s aesthetic vision. Additionally, McPeak drew media attention during a previous council session by harshly critizing a Republican election rally held last July on Hiawassee Town Square.

In recent events, Mayor Ordiales, who has been repeatedly praised as “progressive-minded” by supporters – in collaboration with newly-hired Economic Developer Denise McKay – stated during the council’s January work session that the city holds ambition for private land to be purchased by developers to construct “affordable” apartment housing in order to retain the local youth once they enter the work force. The topic was broached when a citizen in attendance skeptically called into question the city’s goals for current residents and business owners. Ordiales replied that workers will be needed to fill certain positions, listing boat mechanics and hospitality workers as examples, due to a projected influx of a population which will require such services. Unprompted, Ordiales concluded that $800 a month in rent is considered reasonable, retracting the amount to $700 after the council and citizens failed to express a reaction to the mayor’s initial figure.

Upon query from FYN, Economic Developer McKay listed the inceptive phase of the project that Hiawassee intends to implement, and according to McKay that includes improving the appearance of the outdated post office and sprucing the entrance to Ingles while seeking a grant for artists to begin painting murals throughout the city.

It should be noted that the revitalization and preservation of historic structures is listed in the city’s five year plan, with Mayor Ordiales often referencing the Old Rock Jail museum as a point of reference, a site entrusted to the Towns County Historical Society by former Commissioner Bill Kendall. Ordiales stated to Mountain Movers and Shakers Jan. 25 that two developers have shown interest in the vacant row of buildings on Main Street, west of the town square, although the structure located next to where Delco once stood will be demolished when purchased. Ordiales recited significant achievements in lowering the city’s inherited debt, acquiring numerous grants, and engineering a plan to improve the infrastructure – all critical components in expanding Hiawassee’s development – during the Movers and Shakers’ forum.

While a range of participants took part in the creation of the strategic plan, the contributors represent a small fraction of the population. The Carl Vinson Institute of Goverment described the project as a stepping stone, however, rather than an endeavor set in stone.

In sum, while economic growth and positive innovation is widely supported, it is the opinion of the author that the effect of particular politics and policies, left unchecked, has the potential to deteriorate the backbone of conservative communities, both fiscally and culturally. This is especially true if the public whom it affects remains disengaged from local happenings, and apathetic to eventual outcomes.

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to convene on Tuesday, Feb. 5, for their regular meeting to adopt the city’s strategic plan, as well as hold a first reading to expedite future ordinances by consolidating readings into a single session.

Public comment is prohibited during regular meetings.

The next work session, which will allow citizen input, is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m.

In-depth information on the above, highlighted texts can be found by clicking the links.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page.

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee to expedite future ordinance adoptions, limiting time for citizen involvement

News, Politics
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales proposed the dismissal of requiring the first and second readings of city ordinances to be spaced a month apart, listing the item as new business on the city council’s Jan. 28 work session agenda.

Mayor Ordiales explained that the change would “speed things up” by allowing both the first and second readings to take place at a single meeting – thus enabling an ordinance to become finalized during the solitary session – should the five council members vote unanimously.

While the process of ordinance adoption would indeed turn expedited, the change would drastically reduce the amount of time for citizen input to a mere week rather than the full month currently prescribed by the city charter.

Given the fact that citizens are prohibited from imparting comments, concerns, or complaints during regular council sessions, the new structure would prevent citizens from publicly speaking if they were absent from the work session when an ordinance was introduced and discussed.

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to vote on the consolidation of ordinance readings on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Mayor Ordiales recognized at Annual Mayors’ Day Conference

News, Politics
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales received the Certificate of Recognition from the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute during the Georgia Municipal Association’s (GMA) Annual Mayors’ Day Conference in Atlanta on Sunday, Jan. 27.

The Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute, a cooperative effort of GMA and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, provides a nationally recognized series of training opportunities for city officials. To receive a Certificate of Recognition, a city official must complete a minimum of 42 units of credit, including at least 18 hours from a list of required classes. The training program consists of a series of more than 60 courses.

 “This is an outstanding achievement,” GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson said, “We commend Mayor Ordiales for this accomplishment and for the dedication she’s shown in using this valuable resource to become a more effective city official.”

Pictured with Mayor Ordiales is Dr. Laura Meadows, Director of the UGA Vincent Institute of Government, Linda Blechinger, President of Georgia Municipal Association and Larry Hanson.

Based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, research, training, employee benefit and technical consulting services to its 538 member cities.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Commissioner, mayors, economic developer meet to discuss joint plan

News
Towns County economy

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FetchYourNews (FYN) met with Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, and Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby, along with newly-hired Economic Development Director Denise McKay, on the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 8, for an inquiry session pertaining to goals, and information on how sharing a single developer will work.

Towns County, the city of Hiawassee, and the city of Young Harris entered into a joint contract to share the expense and the fruits of McKay’s labor in expectation of bolstering area commerce. Funding will be divided equally between the county and dual municipalities, estimated at $20,000 per governmental entity, for a total amount of approximately $60,000.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales explained that implementing the UGA-Carl Vinson Institute of Government strategic plan is Hiawassee’s top priority.

“We’ve been talking about this for several years, and we feel that since we’re so small, all three of us, the county is not that big, the city of Hiawassee and Young Harris are about the same size, and it’s all small so there’s no need to have three different efforts going on at the same time,” Mayor Ordiales said, “So if we combine our efforts, and you know, go toward the same goal, and I think we all have the same goal. My plan to to take the strategic plan that you’ve all seen and go, execute. Check, check, check. (Young Harris) of course has different needs, the county has different needs, and I realize that this is a big strategic plan, that we’re not going to be able to do it all in a year. I get it. But the ones that we can do, we’ll do, and whatever (McKay) can do for my partners (Towns County, Young Harris) here, that’s the way we’ll rock on with that.”

FYN questioned whether the endeavor is associated with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Due to stipulations set forth by the state, Ordiales confirmed that a current affiliation does not exist.

“We’re going to try to pursue Main Street designation, and you know, do the easy stuff first,” Ordiales explained, “If we grow into a DDA, great. If we never get to a DDA, okay.

Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby offered input from her mutual standpoint.

“I don’t see (McKay) as the economic development person just for the county, (or) just for us” Mayor Gibby imparted, “So I see her as one person that we are all funding, right? For different needs. It was tossed around at one point, like, (Mayor Ordiales) and I tried, we wanted to have a joint development authority. Because of the way the rules are written in the state – and you all can get all of the rules – we couldn’t do that. Because we wanted to share, we wanted it to be informal sharing, but we can’t do that. So then in asking a lot more questions of people in the state, we just decided along with some advice, that because we are small, because none of us can’t afford one person per city-county, right? Then we can share the cost of one person who can help us achieve goals, right? So while we all have similar things that we need done, we can share.”

Gibby went on to explain that while McKay’s efforts will be divided, there will be times when concentration is focused specifically on the development of Hiawassee or Young Harris, relaying that due to updated infrastructure, the time is right for her city to set plans into action. “We’re at the place where we’re ready to bring people back together, bring the town back together, and we’re going to do that in the next couple of months, and kind of dust this off, update it, and get some priorities in place, and (McKay) is going to kind of help us with that piece, and what are our priorities, and what do we need to do.”

Economic Developer McKay voiced optimism in taking on the work necessary to serve the lofty mission.

In turn, Commissioner Bradshaw shared approval in the stated goals of the project.

“What is so neat about this, as (Mayor Gibby and Mayor Ordiales) said, is that it is a joint effort. It’s a partnership, and I’m so glad that we have the relationships that we can do that,” Commissioner Bradshaw added, “So if (McKay) lands a business to come into the city of Young Harris, I’m as excited as if it were coming outside of the city limits of Hiawassee and Young Harris. It doesn’t matter to me. It all benefits Towns County.” Bradshaw explained that he is looking at the big picture, leading to the decision to partner with the cities.

 

Feature Photo: (L-R) Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Economic Development Director Denise McKay, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Santa Claus was back in town for second annual “Light Up Hiawassee”

Community, News
HIawassee Police DEpartment

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Jolly old Saint Nick took time out of his busy holiday schedule to make an appearance at “Light Up Hiawassee” on Thursday, Dec. 6, arriving on town square in style by fire engine, escorted by Towns County Fire and Rescue, and Hiawassee Police Department.

The festivities began at 4 p.m. with cookie decorating and rock painting activities for the children, followed by a golf cart parade, as merry music set the mood of the season. Towns County Red Cross volunteers served coffee and hot chocolate, and VFW Post 7807 offered hot dogs, refreshments, and select merchandise.

Nancy Noblet

Hiawassee Councilwoman and event organizer Nancy Noblet poses with Santa

Luminary candles bordered the sidewalks in honor of the local children assisted by the Enotah CASA program throughout the year, with CASA Chair Liz Ruf briefly addressing the crowd.

A mailbox for letters to Santa sat center on Hiawassee Square, at the ready to accept requests from wishful children. Hamilton Gardens extended a host of pointsettia plants for purchase.

Light Up Hiawassee

A young boy decorates a cookie during the event

Shortly before Santa’s arrival at dusk, Mayor Liz Ordiales counted down the illumination of the square, and the heart of Hiawassee magically transformed into a winter wonderland at the flick of the switch.

The event was originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1, postponed due to unfavorable weather.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee counties in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. 

For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee extends sign moratorium; 3-2 split on ethics board designation

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council conducted their monthly regular session on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 4, approving several items discussed during the workshop meeting held the previous week. Several motions were unequivocally favored by the five council members with the exception of an ethics board committee member assignment.

Council members Anne Mitchell and Patsy Owens preferred retainment of Susan Phillips, with Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet overriding the decision with a 3-2 vote in favor of Sue Scott. The joint ethics appointee, upon agreement of both city council and mayor, was granted to LaJean Turner.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales solely selected Leslie McPeak to remain on the ethics board committee. The three members were subsequently sworn-in at City Hall.

Hiawassee Patsy Owens

(L-R) Hiawassee Council Patsy Owens and Mayor Liz Ordiales at a Town Hall meeting in June

Furthermore, the council agreed to extend the city’s sign permit moratorium for an additional 60-days, affording the elected officials ample time to review changes, if any, that should be made to the existing ordinance.

Mayor Liz Ordiales listed a proposal on last week’s work agenda, petitioning council members to consider allowing a Main Street billboard owner to transform a dual-directional, double-tiered, static billboard into a digital, multi-message variant. Terry Poteete, the owner of the billboard in question, addressed the council upon referral of the mayor Nov. 26. Ordiales previously stated that her office was forced to deny the renovation request in February due to the current ordinance restrictions. Discussion on the particular billboard did not resume at Tuesday’s meeting, and it is unknown at the time of publication whether the seemingly council-contested topic will reoccur.

The city unanimously approved several additional matters, including an updated version of the city’s employee insurance plan with Blue Cross-Blue Shield, a contract related to the Watershed Protection Plan, eleven alcohol license renewals, and the second reading of the alcohol ordinance which accommodates the newly-passed “brunch bill”

In addition, Mayor Ordiales relayed that the City of Hiawassee ordinance listings are now available online through the city’s website.. “Every single ordinance we have is there,” Ordiales said. According to the mayor, the process of transferring the extensive data took approximately two years to complete.

Follow FYN for upcoming information regarding the University of Georgia-Carl Vinson Institute’s five-year plan for Hiawassee’s future, revealed in a town hall meeting following the adjournment of last night’s council session.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page.

For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

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