The Hiawassee City Council discussed ways to allow resident input amid Governor Brian Kemp’s continued shelter in place on the proposed budget at Monday’s city council meeting. The regular city council meetings have been held via Facebook live since the shelter in place order went into effect.
“We’re looking for ways to present the budget and maintain social distancing,” said Liz Ordiales, mayor of Hiawassee on Wednesday, via phone. She said their meetings are generally heavily attended, prompting the concerns.
She said while they are looking at all options presented at the meeting, they are leaning toward Facebook live and allowing time for residents to give their input.
Legally, municipalities must present the proposed budget in public meetings at least twice before voting on it. With social distancing in place, fulfilling the obligation is difficult.
“We’re talking with the city attorney and with the Georgia Municipal Association to see how we can best do this,” said Ordiales.
“What concerns me,” said one member, “is that a public hearing implies there should be interaction.”
A couple of options were considered for further review, including admitting Facebook comments into the minutes of the meeting and allow an extra week for people to email comments.
Another option is to limit the attendance to stay in the guidelines of six-feet of distance. People can sign up for the meeting and those owning property would be given first option.
A third option was to move the meeting outside to allow ample room for attendance. Such a move would require a three-week notice.
In other Hiawassee news:
- Clerk of Court Jennifer Garner sent out 76 letters to residents owing property taxes. The city has received eight payments totaling more than $6,500 with more coming into the county tax office.
- The sewer plan expansion is two days from being complete. It includes brand new pumps to replace those that were no longer working.
- Code enforcement had a derelict building torn down.
- Considered using funds from WTP to pay part of a GEFA loan. The outstanding amount is $678,813.71 on a GEFA loan for $1.9 million at three-percent interest. The board considered taking 35-percent from WTP, or $237,585 to apply toward the balance. The money wa used for a million-gallon tank and water distribution enhancements.
- Approved GIRMA Property Insurance for the city. The cost was $39,996, up slightly from last year. It includes liability at $700,000 per building, including two new buildings.
- Showed off the senior banners the city will hang up to honor the class of 2020.
- Approved a contract with Colditz for Lloyd’s Landing In/Out and hospital crosswalk. The company quoted the project at $45,715.21, but the city approved up to $53,000 to cover incidentals. The money will come from the city’s SPLOST.
- Saw the mural design that is on the east side of the Eagle Mountain Archery featuring lake, mountains, and hanggliders to welcome people into the city.
- The city hall will remain closed until at least June 1, 2020. They will allow occasional face-to-face meetings adhering to the safety guidelines.
See Towns County’s latest COVID-19 statistics here.