Community concerned as Hiawassee Council maintains silence on questionable Ethics Board

News, Politics
Mayor Liz Ordiales

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Public comments were not offered from elected city officials at the Hiawassee Council regular session, held on Tuesday, Aug. 7, concerning the recent proposal of a citywide plastic bag ban-fee by Councilwoman Anne Mitchell, nor an alleged ethics ordinance breach by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales. Information on both controversial subjects can be found by clicking on the highlighted links.

Community concerns abound due to the mayor’s overriding action to solely appoint Board of Ethics members to serve as the city’s moral monitors, without directly seeking council input as prescribed by the city mandate, nor taking the matter to vote.

Remarks made by minutes-old appointee Leslie McPeak, comparing a recent Republican event to that of the Nazi Party, during the July 30 work session, is drawing shocked critique from local leaders, and countless conservative residents of Towns County.

McPeak did not attend Tuesday’s session.

The ordinance specifically states that of the three Ethics Board members, one individual is to be appointed by the mayor, one member by the city council, and the third in joint conjunction. Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), the entity whom awarded the recognition of city of ethics to Hiawassee, cites three alternative processes that may be taken in the induction of board appointees, all of which stipulate council approval.

In a recorded conversation with FYN, following the appointment of the board members, Ordiales defended her decision by stating that council members do not have an issue with the selection. This has proven to not be the case. Two of the five council members confided that they were never presented with an option.

In attendence at Tuesday’s council meeting were members of the local organization Mountain Movers and Shakers, and the Towns County GOP, along with other new faces. Prior to the commencement of the session, an attendee asked Mayor Ordiales if questions would be received, to which Ordiales replied, “Nope, not today.”

Ordiales explained at the opening of the meeting, proceeding a climate change tax motion, that work sessions are the proper place for the council and public to present inquiries and concerns, as those forums are “informal.” Ordiales went on to state that items listed on the agenda are not necessarily issues that the council hopes to enforce, nor support, rather that the listed items present an opportunity for the council to openly discuss the matter.

The climate change resolution, proposed by local environmentalist Vernon Dixon on July 30, was rejected by council members at the Aug. 7 session.

“I have no vote,” Ordiales reminded the council, “Even if I wanted to vote on something, I can’t.” Ordiales spoke in favor of the climate fee and dividend resolution during the conversation with FYN the previous week, although the mayor said she did not have the time nor the resources to personally pursue the matter.

It is unknown at the time of publication whether the bag ban-fee, or the ethics concern, will appear on the Aug. 27 work session agenda, but the latter is expected to be addressed as two sitting council members state that they were never given ample opportunity to approve nor veto the mayor’s ethics board appointees.

Despite Ordiales’ insistence that the matter had been previously decided, former city officials attest that a formal review of Board of Ethics applicants had never taken place during their administration, and in turn, that a decision had not been reached as to which applicants should serve on the board, once the original 2016 decree was adopted. Records showing that an approval had occurred could not be produced by City Hall.

Count on FYN to follow developments as the August work session approaches.

Information on the newly-rejected Climate Change Tax resolution is available.

Author

Robin H. Webb

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

Mayor overrides ethics ordinance, board member equates GOP with Nazi Party

Investigative Report, News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee formally received recognition as a “City of Ethics” at a Georgia Municiple Association (GMA) conference in late June, attended by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales and Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick. Shortly thereafter, FetchYourNews (FYN) reported on the city’s award, which stemmed from a 2016 ethics ordinance, and later adopted by current council.

Section 6 of the mandate states that a Board of Ethics shall be appointed, consisting of three individuals who will serve as overseers of the city’s ethical conduct. The ordinance requires that one member is to be appointed by the mayor, one by the council, and a third in joint agreement of both the mayor and city council.

Violations of the ordinance can result in public reprimand, or a request for resignation, according to the decree.

Remarks made by a member selected to serve on the Board of Ethics, in conjunction with an executive decision to override the stipulations of the ordinance itself, has raised community concerns.

Hiawassee ethics

Section 6 of the Ethics Ordinance

FYN learned that applications to serve on the Board of Ethics were submitted by local residents LaJean Turner, Susan Phillips, and Leslie McPeak the previous year.

In an email to FYN, dated July 10, Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick stated that Mayor Ordiales believed that the former mayor had appointed McPeak, and that Ordiales had voted for Phillips, although Kendrick stated that it was unclear if Phillips was the council vote, or a combined appointment from both mayor and council. “Now that we have the designation, we will need to go through that process of appointing the committee again from the beginning,” Kendrick concluded.

Kendrick could not produce meeting minutes showing approval of an ethics committee.

Former city officials later attested that apppointment of an ethics board had, in fact, not taken place during their administration, with the three applicants themselves confirming that appointment to the positions had not occurred.

During the July 30 work session, Mayor Ordiales briefly touched on an ethics agenda item, presenting her Board selection of the three board members as a statement, rather than as a consideration before the council.

As last Monday’s work session neared its end, freshly-selected Board of Ethics member Leslie McPeak publicly voiced complaint of recent Republican run-off campaign signage placed on Hiawassee Town Square, along with opposition to a rally held by the Towns County GOP in July at the same location. In objection to the square being used for religious and political events, McPeak stated, “Not only the Democrat Party, but the Nazi Party.” McPeak attempted clarification by adding, “The government needs to be bi-partisan at all times.”

The remark, along with previous statements publicly vocalized by McPeak, begged the question of whether council members believe McPeak is the right fit to oversee the city’s code of conduct. At a Town Hall meeting in June, McPeak drew critisism from conservatives when the outspoken local business owner proclaimed that shops should serve customers on Sundays, later adding that North Georgia should work toward removing its “Bible Belt stigma.”

FYN met with Mayor Ordiales on the morning of Thursday, Aug. 2, to gain further insight into her decision to select the chosen individuals to serve as the morality monitors of the city government

In a recorded conversation, Ordiales explained that the ethics ordinance was originally passed in 2016 by the former administration, and that the application for recognition through GMA had not been submitted at that time. “I wanted to start the process again because I believe in what (GMA) stands for, what we stand for, as being a City of Ethics is very important, and that we should absolutely try to enforce it,” Ordiales said, “Serve others and not themselves, put the citizens needs before anything, I mean, there’s a list of them.”

Hiawassee City Hall

Code of Ethics

FYN asked if the decision to appoint Turner, Phillips, and McPeak had been approved by the former council, in which Ordiales responded, “Absolutely.” After learning that former Hiawassee officials had no recollection of any agreement on ethics board appointees, Ordiales responded, “It was their administration, not mine. That’s on them.” Ordiales served as a council member during the period in question.

FYN pressed as to whether the mayor planned to seek approval from current council members on the individuals selected to serve on the ethics board, given the stipulations of the ordinance. “I think we’ve talked about it at work sessions, at city council meetings, and none of the current council has any problem with it. I’ve not been notified that they have an issue with it. Let’s rock on,” Ordiales asserted. FYN inquired as to whether the decree itself would be altered, considering that the terms of the committee appointment process were violated. “That’s pretty much a standard ordinance that GMA puts out, that you should follow. I don’t think you have the option of saying, ‘hey, we’re not going to do it.’ It’s their standard,” Ordiales contradicted.

FYN provided Mayor Ordiales with an additional opportunity to respond via email, along with council members, on Aug. 4.

“Since the paperwork and process was not followed by the prior leadership, we were never awarded the designation. When I took office, I wanted to ensure that we became a certified City of Ethics, and followed the proper processes,” Ordiales wrote, “The three previously selected individuals never got a chance to serve the community as they volunteered to do, since the designation was never awarded. I simply afforded them that opportunity. I presented to the council, and verified that these candidates were still, indeed, interested in being part of this process. The council is aware of these selections, and had no objection to these selections.”

In turn, Hiawassee Councilwoman Anne Mitchell responded by email to FYN’s request for comment.

“It was discussed in a council work session (when, I do not remember) and none of us had any issue with any of the three at that time,” Councilwoman Anne Mitchell emphasized, “THAT is direct input! Do you think it really makes a difference that an “appointed by” name wasn’t attached to each candidate? It might if there were twenty vying for the position, or if there was dissention among the council, but there wasn’t. It was brought up at the July 30 work session as a reminder that we ARE a city of ethics, and we DO have an ethics committee, and who those members are. Mrs. Turner, Ms. Phillips, and Ms. McPeak were agreed to, not by just the mayor, but by the council.”

Two additional council members replied to FYN’s request for clarity, stating that they had not been made aware of the the individuals who sought to serve upon the ethics board prior to Monday’s meeting, nor had they been given an option of favoring or opposing the mayor’s committee selection.

In understanding that the terms of the mandate had been breeched, the two responding council members avowed objection to the overriding measure taken. It is unknown at the time of publication where the two remaining council members stand on the issue.

The responding council members, nor the mayor, commented on McPeak’s remarks.

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to convene for their regular monthly session on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 6:00 p.m.

Author

Robin H. Webb

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

Hayesville Mayor Harry Baughn visits Hiawassee

News, Politics
Mayor Harry Baughn

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hayesville Mayor Harry Baughn was invited to address the Mountain Movers and Shakers on the morning of Friday, July 13, and the city official cited several similarities between Hayesviile and Hiawassee. Situated north of Towns County, Hayesville is the county seat of Clay County, North Carolina.

Elected in 2013, Baughn is serving his second-term in office, and says he believes he will be able to accomplish his goals within the next three-and-a-half years, with no plans to run for a third-term seat.

“Our towns are comparable,” Baughn began, “We each have our own specialties, and our own wonderful places to be. Hiawassee has Music on the Square one night, and we have Music on the Square another night, so we do have some similar things.”

Baughn said one of his proudest accomplishments since election was the construction of public restrooms. “One of the first things I did after taking office – and it’s probably going to be my legacy – was building a set of public restrooms. That has been a big deal in downtown Hayesville. It is right next door to town hall.” Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, who did not attend Friday’s forum, voiced ambition for public restrooms at a city council meeting months prior.

Baughn spoke of the importance of “walkability” in small towns, describing the placement of sidewalks in Hayesville, and the necessity of sufficient parking. Baughn said that an additional 24 parking spaces were recently added to downtown Hayesville, and the City of Hayesville partnered with business owners to replace worn awnings on storefronts to make the ambiance more appealing.

“Business development, the other important thing in small town survivalability,” Baughn stated, “We’ve been doing economic development during my administration, and we’ve gotten quite a number of new businesses downtown. If you’ve not been to the Valley River Brewery and Eatery, home of the famous wood-fired brick oven pizza, 15 craft brews – and right now is Wednesday, Wacky Wednesday – that you can get up to five toppings for $14.99, and I highly recommend the Mayor’s Pizza.” The crowd laughed in response.

Baughn continued, listing additional businesses that have opened in Hayesville within the past two years, such as a home décor shop, a children’s’ boutique, a computer repair store, a pet shop, and a tap house. The city official noted that Clay County Chamber of Commerce relocated to downtown Hayesville. Baughn included that a new Italian restaurant opened for business last week, and an additional restaurant and brewery plans to open its doors in August.

Baughn said that Hayesville hopes to gain an updated post office in the near future, which was a recent topic of discussion at a Hiawassee Town Hall meeting, designed for strategic city development planning. Baughn expressed hope of acquiring a recognizable “name brand hotel” in Clay County in order to to draw visitors to his town, claiming that many Hayesviile tourists choose to lodge in Hiawassee.

The mayor concluded by encouraging citizens to visit Clay County’s newly-renovated historic courthouse which towers above Hayesville’s town square. The majestic structure was originally constructed in 1888, and it functioned as the county courthouse until 2007. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 21.

“In addition to building the bathrooms, one of the things I’m proud of is wrestling (the courthouse) away from the county since they didn’t care about it,” Baughn revealed, “When they abandoned it, they needed to get rid of all of the wood in there because of the deterioration. When they took out the door frames and stuff, they weren’t really careful. I mean, they took sledgehammers, so basically there were round holes in the brick walls where there used to be doors. But at least they were willing. They deeded the courthouse and the square over to the town of Hayesville. It is leased to the CCCRA (Clay County Communities Revitalization Association) so that they could go after grant money.” Baughn explained the toiled effort involved in the restoration of the historic site, singing the praises of those who partook in process.

Hiawassee City Councilwoman Anne Mitchell, and Hiawssee Police Chief Paul Smith attended the Mountain Movers and Shakers meeting, held weekly at Sundance Grill.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

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

Hiawassee hosts back-to-back Moonshine Cruiz-In events

Feature News
Moonshine Cruiz-In

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Two pit stops occurred in the heart of Hiawassee during the 9th annual Georgia Mountain Moonshine Cruiz-In.

The first took place on the evening of Wednesday, July 11, as a fresh event was introduced to the itinerary:  A “drive-in” movie presentation of the 1978 classic hit, ‘Grease’, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Vehicles from different eras traveled from miles around to rest their engines on Hiawassee Square while their owners enjoyed a night on the town. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales graciously welcomed newcomers to the event as they arrived, taking their seats among the ever-growing crowd. A senior couple danced to aptly-themed music, entertaining bystanders before the main event began. Towns County High School football players sold beverages to fund the purchase of needed equipment. Towns County Library Branch Manager Debbie Phillips operated an old-fashion popcorn machine, and the smell of a vendor’s hot boiled peanuts tempted guests to snack as they watched the film.

The following day, Thursday, July 12, the owners of antique vehicles, along with appreciative spectators, flocked to the town square to participate in Hiawassee’s second annual Moonshine Cruiz-In Block Party. A parade of classic cars arrived on the square at noon, greeted by upbeat music streamed by “Soundman” Tim Massey. A sudden downpour of rain began to fall in unison as the cars roared in. Attendees sought shelter under the tents provided by United Community Bank, Hiawassee Police Department, and beneath nearby store-front awnings while they waited for the summer storm to pass. The clouds soon cleared, and visitors circled the square, stopping to converse with car owners while ogling a variety of vehicles from days gone by.

Hiawassee Block Party

Unique, antique truck attending the Moonshine Cruiz-In Block Party

“I think it’s great that Hiawassee added (these events) to the line-up,” Jerry Shook, a Habersham County resident and the proud owner of a pristine 1956 Ford Town Sedan, told FetchYourNews, “I attend every year, and it’s a nice to have even more to look forward to.”

Food vendors set up shop along Berrong Street, which was closed to traffic. Local restaurants Monte Alban, Sundance Grill, Asiano’s, and Hawgs & Dawgs BBQ offered a selection of festival-friendly fare. Cub Scouts Troop 407 supplied soft drinks to heat-parched guests. The event ran until 2:00 pm, and the classic cars and trucks proceeded to the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds to regroup for a sixty mile caravan cruise to Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia. The crew returned to the fairgrounds that evening to celebrate the Sour Mask Kickoff Bash, overlooking sparking Lake Chatuge.

The rally continued into the weekend at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, featuring music, food, vendors, and of course, plenty of hot rods.

(Feature Photo: Jerry Shook checks under the hood of his 1956 Ford Town Sedan)

Hawgs and Dawgs

Visitors were offered lunch options from five local vendors

 

 

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

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

Hiawassee approves water line mapping project, property risk insurance, brunch resolution

News, Politics

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council convened for their regular monthly session on Tuesday, July 10, unanimously approving motions to venture forth on a water line mapping project, acceptance of a quote for property risk insurance, and in favor of an alcohol brunch resolution.

Property risk insurance quotes were presented by Timothy Barrett, owner of local Barrett and Associates Insurance, during the June 26 work session. Barrett, a partner with Gainesville’s Norton Agency, recommended a $36,133 quote with a two-year guarantee from Georgia InterLocal Risk Management Agency (GIRMA). In comparison, Selective Insurance, the agency providing present coverage for the City of Hiawassee, offered a renewal rate in the amount of $42,796.

Council members Kris Berrong and Anne Mitchell

Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett, the wife of Timothy Barrett, avoided conflict of interest by exiting the session during the presentation and yesterday’s vote. Councilwoman Patsy Owens motioned, with Nancy Noblet seconding. Councilmembers Anne Mitchell and Kris Berrong voted in unified agreement.

Of note, Barrett and Associates were cited as selected several years prior to the election of Councilwoman Amy Barrett.

The water line mapping project was approved in the amount of $5,200. “It should be no more than $5,200,” Ordiales explained, “It was 44 (hundred dollars), but I forgot about the software that needs to be loaded into the computer so it will be no more than $5,200.”

Councilman Kris Berrong favored the motion, with Councilwoman Patsy Owens seconding. The three remaining council members unanimously supported the project.

A motion to approve the brunch resoluton which will permit residents to vote on November’s ballot as to whether to allow local establishments to serve alcohol on Sundays beginning at 11:30 a.m., rather than the current time of 12:30 p.m., was favored by the full Council. Councilwoman Anne Mitchell raised the motion, with Kris Berrong offering secondary approval.

Mayor Ordiales announced at the commencement of the session that she was proudly awarded “Citizen of the Year” by the Towns County-Lake Chatuge Rotary Club.

Old Business consisted of plans for the Moonshine Cruiz-In Festival “drive-in” movie presentation of the 1978 movie “Grease,” scheduled for Wednesday,  July 11, on Hiawassee Towns Square. The event will begin at 7:00 p.m. with a disc jockey providing music as the classic cars roll into town. The movie itself is scheduled for dusk.

The second annual Moonshine Cruiz-In Block Party luncheon will be held on Thursday, June 12, on the town square. Five food vendors are expected to participate, with local Cub Scouts selling beverages.

The Georgia Mountain Fair Parade float was briefly discussed, with Councilwoman Nancy Noblet offering to ride in the Saturday, July 21 procession as “Woodsy the Owl.”

Mayor Ordiales reminded that floor covering replacement is currently underway throughout the lower-level of Hiawassee City Hall, and proceeding on schedule.

Author

Robin H. Webb

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

Hiawassee strives to add liquor vote to November ballot

News, Politics
Hiawassee liquor

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council is in the process of introducing legislation related to alcohol sales, with an item appearing on the agenda of the monthly work session, held Tuesday, June 26. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales explained that local restaurants holding alcohol permits, such as Monte Alban and Sundance Grill, would like to offer the sale of alcoholic beverages to Sunday brunch clientele. In addition to allowing local restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 11:00 a.m., rather than the currently prescribed 12:30 p.m., the city strives to gain enough signatures to include a liquor package store vote on November’s General Primary ballot.

Attorney Thomas Mitchell

Hiawassee City Attorney Thomas Mitchell

In order for the referendum to appear, 35 percent of Hiawassee’s 714 voters who were registered in the November, 2017, election must pen their names to a nomination petition prior to August 8, the deadline for a Special Called Election. Hiawassee previously attempted to collect the necessary signatures, falling short, with an estimated 170 signatures gathered. Hiawassee City Attorney Thomas Mitchell advised including an additional ten percent “cushion” in the event a portion of the the signatures derive from ineligible individuals.

Concerns of tax revenue lost due to residents and tourists traveling to Clay County, North Carolina, to purchase liquor were addressed at a Towns County Civic Association meeting on Friday, June 22, and the notion drew no vocal opposition from residents at Tuesday’s work session at City Hall.

FetchYourNews met with Towns County Board of Elections Director Tonya Nichols on the morning of Wednesday, June 27, to learn the details of the endeavor. Local governments have broad powers, conferred by state law, to regulate the manufacturing, distributing, and selling of alcoholic beverages. Cities have the authority to determine whether the sale of distilled spirits may take place within the city limits, independent of whether the county in which the city is located has authorized sales. Liquor by the drink, which allows establishments to serve spirits, was adopted in Hiawassee in 2017, after receiving approval from the majority of voters the previous year.

The manner in which the petition will be circulated for signatures is undetermined at the time of publication.

In county news, Towns Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw plans to include a liquor by the drink referendum to the November ballot, keeping with his campaign promise. “We will put it on the ballot and let the voters decide,” Bradshaw said.

Author

Robin H. Webb

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

Hiawassee tree ordinance may cost private land owners

News
Hiawassee Tree Ordinance

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The City of Hiawassee has adopted yet another mandate, this time a tree ordinance which has the potential to impact the owners of private property. A “City Tree Board” has been appointed, and while the bulk of the responsibilities entrusted to the committee involves the cultivation and maintenance of trees located upon city property, the ordinance includes a clause pertaining to trees growing on privately-owned land.

Hiawassee town square

A maple tree, days before removal, which once stood on Hiawassee Square

The decree was brought to the attention of FetchYourNews (FYN) by a citizen at a recent town hall meeting. FYN filed an open record request with City Hall to review the ordinance, and spoke briefly with Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales on the morning of Thursday, June 21. Ordiales noted a massive, trimmed evergreen located on the county courthouse grounds as an example of the ordinance. “That’s what we don’t want,” Ordiales said, referring to resulting appearance from the tree-topping technique. While courthouse staff agreed the pine is unsightly, trimming was warranted years prior due to interference with overhanging electrical lines. A maple tree was recently removed from the southeast corner of Hiawassee Town Square after the tree was deemed dead, and according to Mayor Ordiales and Hiawassee Attorney Thomas Mitchell, allowing the tree to remain posed a liability risk to the city.

While the location of the removed maple was unquestionably on city grounds, listed among the regulations in the ordinance is a section entitled “Removal of Dead or Diseased Trees” which states:

“The city shall have the right to cause the removal of any dead or diseased trees on private property within the city, when such trees constitute a hazard to the persons and property, or harbor insects or disease which constitutes a potential threat to other trees within the city. The City Tree Board will notify in writing the owners of such trees. Removal shall be done by said owners at their own expense within sixty (60) days after the date of service of notice. In the event of failure of owners to comply with the provisions, the city shall have the authority to remove such trees and charge the cost of removal to the owners.”

The ordinance advances to declare that interference with the City Tree Board – on public or privately owned property – is unlawful, and violation of any provision within the mandate shall be subject to a fine “not to exceed one thousand dollars.”

Upkeep of trees on private property, which could endanger the public or impede access through city right-of-ways or streets, are listed in a separate segment of the decree.

The first reading of the ordinance was approved May 1, 2018, by Council members Anne Mitchell, Kris Berrong, Amy Barrett, and Nancy Noblet. Councilwoman Patsy Owens was absent from the meeting. “It basically says that we’ll have trees in Hiawassee, and that we’ll take care of them,” Mayor Ordiales alluded at the previous work session.

A finalized signature sheet is expected at the city’s monthly work session Tuesday, June 26, at 6:00 p.m. While said meetings typically fall on the last Monday of each month, the June session was rescheduled due to a training trip for city staff.

Meetings are open to the public.

Author

Robin H. Webb

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

Hiawassee holds Town Hall to strategically shape city’s future

News
Hiawassee City Hall

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.

HIawassee strategic planning

The community was divided into six groups

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

 

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

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

FetchYourNews.com - Dedicated to serve the needs of the community. Provide a source of real news-Dependable Information-Central to the growth and success of our Communities. Strive to encourage, uplift, warn, entertain, & enlighten our readers/viewers- Honest-Reliable-Informative.

News - Videos - TV - Marketing - Website Design - Commercial Production - Consultation

Search

FetchYourNews.com - Citizen Journalists - A place to share “Your” work. Send us “Your” information or tips - 706.276.NEWs (6397) 706.889.9700 chief@FetchYourNews.com

Back to Top