Candidates Clash as BRMEMC Rejects City of Hiawassee Tax

News, Politics
Hiawassee election

Hiawassee, GA – In a letter addressed to Hiawassee City Council, Blue Ridge Mountain EMC reached a decision to reject the 4% Franchise Tax adopted by the City of Hiawassee during Special Called Council Meetings held between August 8-11, 2017.

BRMEMC General Manager Jeremy Nelms confirmed the assessment would be included as an additional line item on the future bills of customers had the ordinance been accepted, “paid solely by BRMEMC members residing within the City of Hiawassee.”

Mayor Candidate Barry Keith Dearing brought the recently passed ordinance to the public’s attention at the Hiawassee Council Forum on October 2, 2017, simply saying the ordinance was “an unclear thing that needs to be told.”

Former Hiawasee Mayor Pro-Tem candidate, Liz Ordiales, refuted Dearing’s claim, stating the ordinance was not a tax, defining it as a “fee” imposed on BRMEMC.

Ordiales accused Dearing of running a dishonest campaign in a social media rant on the morning of October 7, writing his allegation of taxation were “all lies,” adding if Dearing couldn’t win on his own merit, he shouldn’t “play the game.”

Mayor Candidate Ordiales responded to FYN’s request for additional comment the following day, “This is NOT a tax on the citizens of Hiawassee.  This is a fee that 524 out of 535 cities in Georgia collect from their utility company.  The fee is for the EMC to use City property to provide their services to our citizens,” Ordiales emphasized in an email.

The BRMEMC rejection, addressed to Councilman Kris Berrong on October 4, went on to explain the denial is due in part to the City’s desire to collect back “tax fees” from the start of the 2017 calendar year, 8-months prior the adoption of the Franchise Tax ordinance. BRMEMC also stated the fee amounts to double taxation as the facilities used to provide fiber and cable services to consumers are the same which supply electricity.

Mayor Candidate Dearing stated this evening, “Keep in mind, this was not BRMEMC’s idea. [The people] deserve to see the truth,” attached to a copy image of the letter issued by BRMEMC.

Despite a direct media request by Fetch Your News (FYN) to receive notification of Special Called and Emergency Meetings, FYN was unaware of the August 8-11 Franchise Tax motion and its subsequent approval. Government agencies are required by Georgia’s Open Meeting Act to provide advance notice to the public, as well as all requesting news outlets, specifically if their frequency of publication is above that of the legal organ.

Early voting for Hiawassee City Council begins next Monday, October 16.

The election will take place on Tuesday, November 7.

Updated information on the controversial ordinance is available.

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