HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Georgia State Senators John Wilkinson and Steve Gooch were invited to address the Towns County Republican Party Thursday, Aug. 15, at Daniel’s Steakhouse in Hiawassee. The evening began with acoustic entertainment by student Summer Rahn, who later led the National Anthem. followed by a well-received rendition of two classic county songs. Student Gabe Moody delivered a powerful speech on the importance of gratefulness in America, speaking favorably toward President Donald Trump and the sacrifice of the U.S. military. Chrissy Figg informed the community on the benefits of the local 4-H extension program, and student Samatha Church proudly introduced the state senators.
Senator Steve Gooch was the initial keynote speaker, touching on numerous topics of interest, including strong support for the enacted “heartbeat bill” which prohibits abortion in Georgia once a heartbeat is detected in the womb, the need for broadband internet options, the ongoing process of medical marijuana cultivation, and the upcoming change in voting machine procedures. Senator Gooch was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 2010. Gooch is a Republican representing the 51st District, which includes Fannin, Union, Gilmer, Lumpkin, White, Dawson and parts of Pickens and Forsyth counties. Gooch was elected as the Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus in 2014. The senator spoke on the importance of voting in upcoming elections in order to keep Republicans in office, not only on a national level, but state and local as well. Gooch warned that the State House could lose its majority if Republicans fail to vote. “If the Democrats take the House, game over,” Gooch said.
Senator John Wilkinson mirrored Gooch’s position on the heartbeat bill, medical marijuana, and support for voter turnout at the polls. Wilkinson spoke with pride on the state’s decision to award individual Georgia schools with $30,000 funding for upgraded security, and favorably of Georgia’s $2.5 billion reserve and Triple A bond rating. Senator Wilkinson, a Republican from Toccoa, was first elected to the State Senate for Georgia’s 50th District during a special election in 2011 and has been reelected to serve in three subsequent elections. Senator Wilkinson represents Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Rabun, Towns, Stephens and portions of Hall and Jackson counties.
Ninth District Republican Chairwoman Rebecca Yardley additionally stressed the importance of voting in local elections, stating that 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has specifically targeted the highly-conservative Ninth District in an attempt to flip it from a Republican to Democratic hold.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw delivered the invocation at the beginning of the program, speaking briefly on the positive state of the county as the forum commenced. Towns County Republican Chairwoman Betsy Young led the meeting’s agenda. Hiawassee Councilwoman Anne Mitchell and Towns County Fire Chief-Coroner Harold Copeland attended the popular event.
Towns County Republican Party is scheduled to meet Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6 pm at the Towns County Civic Center. Meetings are open to the public.
Feature Image: State Senators Steve Gooch (left) and John Wilkinson speak with Towns County citizens.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council held its second reading of a broadband ready ordinance Tuesday, July 9, unanimously adopting the decree. All political subdivisions in Georgia pursuing improved broadband access are eligible for the Broadband Ready Community Certification if the following criteria is met. A unit may be certified as a Broadband Ready Community by completing an online application form, demonstrating compliance with the adoption of a Comprehensive Plan inclusive of the promotion of the deployment broadband services, and demonstrating compliance with the adoption of a Broadband Model Ordinance.
Additionally, the council voted in favor of moving personnel ordinances to resolutions, adopting the measure. Councilwoman Ann Mitchell said that the mandate will make future processes “more flexible.” Mitchell stood in for Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, who is scheduled to return to city hall Monday, July 15, following a Spain excursion.
Ordinances differ from resolutions. “They are two significantly distinct government actions,” the website USLegal explained. “The term ordinance means something more than a mere verbal motion or resolution. It must be carried out with the formalities, solemnities, and characteristics of an ordinance, as distinguished from a simple motion or resolution. Whereas, a resolution encompasses all actions of the municipal body other than ordinances. A resolution deals with matters of a special or temporary character and an ordinance prescribes some permanent rule of conduct or government to continue in force until the ordinance is repealed. An ordinance is a legislative act and a resolution is an expression of opinion or mind or policy concerning some particular item of business coming within the legislative body’s official cognizance. It is to be noted that an ordinance can be repealed only by another ordinance and not by resolution.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council rejected the proposal of a digital billboard that would have been placed on West Main Street, near the Tater Ridge Plaza. Terry Poteete, the owner of the current billboards at the location in question, revisited the council at the Monday, April 29 work session. Poteete announced that he was granted permission via an application to erect the digital advertising device, following a previous report on the issue by FYN. The billboard owner took the community’s wishes into consideration, however, and returned to City Hall to appear before the council. Council members Amy Barrett, Nancy Noblet, and Anne Mitchell offered input, explaining that they did not believe that a digital billboard was the correct option for the small town of Hiawassee. Councilwoman Barrett expressed appreciation at Poteete’s offer to take the issue “off-the-table” given the council and community’s negative reponse. Poteete appealed that digital signage is the “future of advertising” to which Councilwoman Anne Mitchell cheerfully replied, “Maybe we’re just not there yet.” Council members Kris Berrong and Patsy Owens were present at the meeting.
Of other interest, Mayor Liz Ordiales announced that the residential water rate resolution is due before the council at the May 7 regular session. The proposal was discussed during a prior session, following a study by the University of North Carolina. The paced resolution would more than double water rates for Hiawassee consumers by 2023. Mayor Ordiales reminded that a rate increase has not occurred in the past six years, and that water revenue is running at a deficit. Councilwoman Anne Mitchell was the sole official to comment on the matter, noting that the icreased rates may “begin to make a dent” in the debt. Business customers will not be affected by the rate hike, nor will North Carolina citizens who receive water from the City of Hiawassee. Sewer rates will remain stable, unaffected by the increase. A minimum base charge will be set at 1,200 gallons should the resolution pass favorably through the majority of the council next week.
FEATURE PHOTO: (L-R) Hiawassee Councilwomen Patsy Owens and Nancy Noblet
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.
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.
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.
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.
Information on the city’s strategic plan and sign ordinance is available by clicking this link.
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HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Council is due to vote on the City’s 2018-2019 budget Tuesday, Oct. 2, following a public hearing held Monday, Sept. 24.
Preceding a line-by-line discussion of the proposed budget, Hiawassee City Council adopted the rollback rate of 2.170 mills in a 3-1 vote. Council members Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet favored the rollback, with Councilwoman Anne Mitchell solely opposing the reduced tax.
Councilwoman Patsy Owens was absent from the meeting, reported by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales to be traveling.
Owens, however, along with Mitchell, rejected the property tax rollback earlier this month, favoring what would have amounted to a tax increase for city property owners.
Concerning the budget, generated revenue applied toward the General Fund is expected to amount to $798,830, an increase of slightly over $33,300 from the previous fiscal year. The rise is due in part to the collection of an anticipated $70,000 in franchise fees imposed on Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation, which in turn has been passed along to customers.
General Expenses are expected to total $544,780, leaving the General Fund with a surplus in excess of $254,000.
Income derived from the Hotel-Motel Tax is listed at $85,000, with outgoing expenses to Towns County Chamber of Commerce, the Tax Commissioner, and local tourism payments, setting that particular budget flush.
SPLOST income is null as it it is non-existent.
The Sewer and Water Treatment Funds are expected to break even at $721,650 for Sewer, and $860,345 for Water Treatment.
Income toward the Water Fund is listed at $1,679,000, with expenses totaling $1,154,470. “This fund has a little bit more money so it’s not so bad,” Mayor Ordiales stated.
Funding for Hiawassee Police Department, however, is scant, with slightly over $177,000 anticipated in income, compared to $431,000 in necessary expenses. A citizen in attendance questioned Mayor Ordiales’ figures in relation to the surplus of finances applied to the General Fund. “You don’t want to use up that surplus,” Ordiales retorted, “What if something goes wrong?”
A total of $12,000 is listed for General Education and Training of City staff, a stark increase of $10,000 above the 2017-2018 initial proposal. Additional training for City Council remains fixed at $5,000.
Councilwoman Amy Barrett countered that line items within the budget were “freed up” the previous year, such as cuts to employee benefits, along with the addition of revenue derived from the franchise fee.
Furthermore, Barrett inquired into the $17,000 applied to City Hall communications, a $7,000 increase from the 2017-2018 initial budget proposal, separate from the mere $3,000 allotted for Hiawassee Police Department’s communication needs.
“We’re not here to argue,” Ordiales interjected, “It is what it is.”
Barrett noted the $9,000 listed to fund election costs, reminding that other than the Brunch Resolution set to appear on November’s ballot, an actual election is not scheduled to take place in 2018. Ordiales replied that it is wise to have a cushion in the event that a special election is necessary, should a council member decide to “quit.”
Hiawassee Council is scheduled to convene at City Hall at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, to accept or reject the mayor’s proposed budget.
Meetings are open to the public.