City of Hiawassee audited, multiple ordinances adopted

News, Politics
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council convened with an unlisted agenda visit from Ed Burton, an auditor with Strickland and Associates, during their regular monthly meeting March 6, 2018.

Citizen turnout was sparse in comparison to recently held sessions.

The audit examined the previous year’s finances, concluding June 30, 2017. Current Mayor Liz Ordiales, Anne Mitchell, and Kris Berrong served on the council during the examined fiscal frame. In addition, newly elected council members Amy Barrett, Nancy Noblet, and Patsy Owens were present at Tuesday’s assembly.

“Debt went up, but assets did too,” Burton announced during his presentation conducted while facing the council. The auditor proceeded to relay his findings before the elected officials, explaining they are based on government-wide standards. Burton noted the increase in assets were the result of grants and heightened service charges, in combination with increased fines and forfeitures.

The audit shows a $121,554 increase in water charges, coupled with an elevation of $54,860 in fines and forfeitures. Legal fees were significantly higher in the general fund, with total professional in general government up $59,144.

The audit states the city of Hiawassee should be vigilant in continuing to raise water rates as needed, while cutting expenses where possible.

Revenues expanded due to increased water charges, along with a $157,623 grant for forgiveness of debt on a project related to water meters. Liabilities rose due to the net Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan which replaced city water meters, while lessened as the result of a decrease in pension liability.

Burton specifically noted a department level “over-run” related to the purchase of a Hiawassee Police Department patrol vehicle. Although the city of Hiawassee had enough in the general fund to cover the expense, it was not allotted for public safety. Georgia law requires for budgets to be adopted at the department level, stating that expenditures must be spent in compliance.

As the accountant concluded his findings, Mayor Liz Ordiales, who was elected to the council in late 2015 and selected to serve as mayor pro-tem in early 2017, reminded the three newly elected council members that former Hiawassee Mayor Barbara Mathis and former Hiawassee City Manager Rick Stancil were also in office during the fiscal year in review.

The full council proceeded to sign the recently adopted “City of Ethics” resolution.

The motel-hotel mandate was unanimously favored, allotting Hiawassee with 60 percent of the tax revenue, which was once applied in its entirety to the Towns County Chamber of Commerce.

The Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) franchise ordinance passed unopposed with longtime proponent Anne Mitchell motioning, followed by newly sworn Patsy Owens seconding the decree.

A motion for a two-year landscape contract with Mountain Living was approved in the annual amount of $9,225. Out of seven bids, Mountain Living was cited as the lowest.

Although an executive session was listed on the agenda, Mayor Liz Ordiales opted out, stating it is systematically added under the advisement of City Attorney Thomas Mitchell. Attorney Mitchell was not in attendance at Tuesday’s session.

The meeting adjourned “in a record-breaking 22 minutes,” according to Mayor Ordiales.

The 2016-17 audit and city ordinances are available for public review in their entirety at Hiawassee City Hall.

Hiawassee City Council meets for their monthly work session on the last Monday of each month at 6 p.m. The regular sessions are conducted the following Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Both take place at Hiawassee City Hall and are open to the public.


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


Robin H. Webb

Ordiales sworn as Hiawassee mayor, Barrett sworn to council

News, Politics
Hiawassee mayor Liz Ordiales

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In spite of the bone-chilling weather, the atmosphere at the Jan. 2, 2018, Hiawassee City Council meeting was best described as celebratory as citizens gathered to witness the swearing in of newly elected Mayor Liz Ordiales and newcomer Councilwoman Amy Barrett at City Hall. An additional row of seating was added to compensate for the overflow of attendees, while still others stood, surrounding the room’s perimeter. Ordiales greeted her supporters with hugs as they arrived, one joyously expressing she had been “waiting for this day.”

Amy Barrett Hiawassee Council

Councilwoman Amy Barrett is sworn in by City Clerk Cenlya Galloway

Mayor Ordiales

Newly sworn Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

Patsy Owens, the victor of Post 5, did not attend the swearing in ceremony. Ordiales told FetchYourNews that Owens had traveled out of town and is expected to pledge at a later date.

Nancy Noblet was sworn into office during November’s meeting, filling the two-year seat vacated by Liz Ordiales.

Mayor Ordiales opened the January session with news that a $274,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture loan, dated 1984, had been discovered and paid off in its entirety by the city of Hiawassee, saving residents an estimated $50,000, and eliminating seven years of future payments. At the expense of taxpayers, $602,253 was paid toward the 8.375 percent interest rate loan over a 33-year period. A mere application of $135,000 had lowered the principle. Additional loans continue to be scrutinized. The city of Hiawassee discovered 37 open bank accounts, 20 of which have been closed at this time.

Upon motion, Mayor Ordiales was added to all bank accounts for signature, unanimously approved by council.

Also of note was disclosure that the Hotel-Motel agreement will allow Hiawassee to retain 60 percent of revenue derived from a soon-to-be-enacted ordinance. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) will receive the remaining 40 percent. Ordiales explained City Attorney Thomas Mitchell will draft a decree, and it is expected to reach the table in the next month or shortly thereafter.

The City Employee Health Benefits were renewed, obtained 50 percent cheaper at $50 a month, per employee.

Mayor Ordiales concluded the meeting by assuring citizens of her intentions to “make good things happen” while vowing to provide “transparency at it’s finest.”

Hiawassee City Council will meet on Monday, Jan. 29, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall for their monthly work session.


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






Robin H. Webb

Nancy Noblet sworn into Council, Hiawassee Franchise Ordinance Hearing takes place

News, Politics
Nacy Noblet Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Councilwoman Nancy Noblet was sworn into office on the evening of Nov. 27 at Hiawassee City Hall. Although inauguration will not arrive until Jan. 2 for the remaining elected officials, Noblet is filling vacated Post 5, relinquished by Mayor-Elect Liz Ordiales.

City Clerk Cenlya Galloway swears in Councilwoman Nancy Noblet

Noblet told Fetch Your News she is happy to take her seat on the council. “I know I will never make everyone happy,” Noblet said, “but I will always try to do what’s best for the city.”

Old business included the announcement of Light Up Hiawassee, a Christmas celebration on the City Square, and unanimous council approval to include the Towns County Water Authority contract on next week’s regular meeting agenda for voting.

New business involved a decision to delay the adoption of a Tree City ordinance until liability concerns are addressed. According to Mayor Pro-Tem Ann Mitchell, Hiawassee has unofficially been a Tree City for 22 years, but an ordinance is required. City Attorney Thomas Mitchell says the adoption is expected to take place prior to Arbor Day, which falls on Feb. 16, 2018.

The speed zone ordinance was briefly discussed, with confirmation the Department of Transportation will not allow Hiawassee to change the speed limit on city streets.

A University of Georgia Vinson Council Retreat is scheduled for March 2-3, 2018. Planning retreats focus on issues such as goal-setting, conflict resolution, relationship building and communication with the media and citizens.

Hiawassee Light Up

Light Up Hiawassee takes place on Dec. 2

A public hearing regarding the controversial adoption of the city’s Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) franchise ordinance immediately followed the council’s work session. The upstairs meeting area was standing-room only, filled with citizens on both sides of the issue.

“Let’s be nice, ” Mayor Pro-Tem Mitchell began. “That is my expectation, that everyone plays nice.”

Josh Alexander was the first citizen to speak, stating that everyone wants to see the city grow, and BRMEMC has the right to pass the fee along. “I don’t think it’s fair to impose hardships, but I don’t think a dollar a week will impose hardships,” Alexander explained.

An average increase of $55 per year is expected, based on 897-kilowatt hours per residence, according to BRMEMC Director Roy Perren.

“(The estimate) is skewed low because of part-time residents,” Perren advised during a meeting held on Oct. 27, 2017.

Charles Nicholson, an opponent of the ordinance, disclosed he believes the decree will burden the disadvantaged citizens of Hiawassee, specifically the elderly and disabled. Nicholson went on to say he feels the mandate will be a disincentive for the businesses the city hopes to attract.

Nicholson inquired whether an established list of priorities exist for the funds the ordnance expects to generate.

“Off the top of my head, no,” Mayor Pro-Tem Mitchell replied, stating the Council has been in suspended animation. “We have a lot of plans to go forward, but the answer is no.” Mitchell later reminded the citizens the infrastructure is of utmost concern.

Mayor-Elect Liz Ordiales interjected that a new revenue stream is necessary due to the loss of SPLOST funding, adding, “The general fund is never positive. Never.”

Councilwoman Nancy Noblet asked how Hiawassee has survived all these years without an increase, expressing concern for residents on a fixed income. “Yes, it will hurt them,” Noblet asserted.

Resident Vince Cooper countered that revenue must come from somewhere, saying, “We’re losing growth, not gaining ground.”

Chatuge Regional Hospital Chief Executive Officer Lewis Kelley requested to speak, estimating the ordinance will burden the hospital and nursing home with a raised cost of $9,686 per year, referring to the mandate as a tax before being corrected by acting-Mayor Mitchell. “It is a fee,” the Pro-Tem emended.

Lynn McPeak, owner of TATA on Main, offered an emotional stance, explaining there are programs available for people unable to afford the additional line item. “It’s time to step forward and begin to progress,” McPeak said.

City churches and county entities are not exempt from the ordinance. Concerns were raised as to whether the mandate will effect business prices, Ingles in particular.

L-R: Councilmembers Kris Berrong, Rayette Ross, Ann Mitchell and City Attorney Thomas Mitchell

L-R: Council members Kris Berrong, Rayette Ross, Ann Mitchell and City Attorney Thomas Mitchell

Mayor-Elect Liz Ordiales stated discussions with BRMEMC Director Jeremy Nelms are ongoing, saying she believes the company will accept the ordinance once it is rewritten to their satisfaction.

Nelms addressed the issue at the first open BRMEMC meeting on Nov. 16, maintaining his position will continue to stand that the decree is unenforceable. “EMC position remains that this ordinance is invalid since it requires the EMC to accept the terms and it also has the incorrect date,” the posted agenda read. Nelms said he has spoken with Ordiales, saying, “I’m sure she and I will spend more time discussing it.”

Hiawassee City Council convenes for their regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 6 p.m. at City Hall. All sessions are open to to the public, with the exception of executive meetings.

Fetch Your News has published the 2018 Meeting dates and City Holiday closings.


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




Robin H. Webb

Councilman Motions to Repeal Franchise Ordinance on Election Night

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council held their Regular Session shortly before the 2017 election polls closed on the evening of Nov. 7. A first reading to rescind the Franchise Ordinance, confirmed by Blue Ridge Mountain EMC to result in an additional line item on the future bills of Hiawassee citizens and businesses, was added to the agenda by Councilman Jay Chastain Jr.

The motion to repeal the controversial mandate was seconded by Councilwoman Rayette Ross.

Councilman Kris Berrong opposed the motion and declined a request for comment.

The motion passed 2-to-1.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ann Mitchell said in hindsight that she wishes the Council would have had more time to consider it.

The ordinance was adopted during Special Called Meetings held Aug. 8 to 11, 2017, less than a week after former Pro-Tem Liz Ordiales stepped down to run for Mayor.

“I’m really sorry this has become a community football,” Mayor Pro-Tem Mitchell told the community-packed room, “but it is a source of revenue that almost everyone in the state takes advantage of.” Mitchell suggested a public meeting to discuss the issue further, stating a second reading date is undetermined.

The crowd migrated to the Board of Elections building, located adjacent to City Hall, after the Council meeting adjourned to await the highly anticipated election results..

Liz Ordiales won the Mayoral post with a 70 percent lead over her opponent, Barry Keith Dearing. Ordiales’s crowd of supporters were overjoyed with the results, offering hugs of congratulations to Hiawassee’s newly elected Mayor.

Incumbent Councilman Jay Chastain Jr. lost his seat to Patsy Owens who garnered 62 percent of the votes.

“It is obvious the voters of the city of Hiawassee wanted a change,” Chastain said. “I wish the newly elected Council members the best. I want to thank the citizens for their 12 years of support.”

Nancy Noblet was elected to Post 5, securing her seat with a 55 percent lead over Anne Wedgewood.

Amy Barrett, the sole unopposed candidate in the race, will replace Post 1 Councilwoman Rayette Ross who chose to not seek re-election.

Liz Ordiales responded to FYN’s request for comment on her victory:

“Thank you for your support throughout this campaign,” Ordiales wrote. “It is a privilege and an honor to be a representative of our great city. I will not let you down and will always put Hiawassee first! Let’s get to work!”

Hiawassee City Council will be sworn into office on January 1, 2018.


Robin H. Webb

Hiawassee City Council Candidates Disqualified

News, Politics
Hiawassee Mayor

Hiawassee, GA – The City of Hiawassee election abruptly ended for two candidates who hoped to fill Council seats on November 7.

Rodney Terry, candidate for Post 1, and Myron Ketter, candidate for Post 5, have both been disqualified from the race.

A credible source tells Fetch Your News the disqualifications occurred because one candidate was not a registered voter in the city’s district, a requirement for candidacy in Georgia municipal elections.  The second disqualified candidate lives outside the city’s perimeter, close enough to lead him to presume he was a resident of Hiawassee.

The source believes it was an honest mistake on both candidates’ part.

Hiawassee City Hall declined to comment on the specific reasons leading to the disqualifications, stating only that the candidates failed to meet the requirements set forth by the City’s charter.

Amy Barrett is now unopposed for Post 1, the seat held by Councilwoman Rayette Ross. Ross is not seeking re-election.

Nancy Noblet and Ann Wedgewood are current candidates for Post 5, the seat vacated by Mayoral candidate Liz Ordiales.




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