Audit reveals Towns County in good financial shape

Towns County audit

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County received the findings of the 2017 financial audit, and all is going according to plan. “As far as the financials of the county, we’re doing really well. I’m very excited things are going really good. Knock on wood that we don’t have any catastrophes,” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw said, referencing the devastation to the eastern states caused by Hurricane Florence’s wrath, grateful that the county was spared damage, “But the financials are good. The reserve is in place. Everything is like it should be. We’re on track.”

Towns County maintains an impressive $3.1 million reserve.

Towns County Courthouse

Towns County Courthouse

Commissioner Bradshaw announced that year-to-date, the county has seen an approximate $30,000 increase in sales tax collection. “That means the economy is doing good, and we’re so thankful for that,” Bradshaw explained, adding appreciation for Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee’s dedication and contribution to the tourism boom. Bradshaw reminded that the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament begins this week on Lake Chatuge, and that events such as the fishing competition put the county on the map. “That’s folks spending money in Towns County. That’s what it’s all about.”

The 2017 audit is housed in the Commissioner’s office at the Towns County Courthouse, available for public review. By week’s end, the audit is expected to be posted on the Towns County Commissioner’s website 

15,000+ expected to attend Bassmaster Elite Tournament

Bassmaster Lake Chatuge

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Towns County first responders met with Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee on Friday to put plans in place for the upcoming Bassmaster Angler of the Year tournament, set to kick off Thursday, Sept. 20.

According to the Towns County Chamber, the event is bound to draw between 15,000 – 18,000 visitors to the area. Participants and spectators are expected to begin arriving days prior to the official start of the tournament, with weekend traffic anticipated to become sporadically congested in Hiawassee at times. First responders intend to reduce incoming Georgia Mountain Fairground traffic to a single turning lane during peak hours.

While no specific instructions were issued to the public, emergency crews ask motorists to use caution while traveling due to the population influx. The actual number of visitors may fluctuate, depending on the weather forecast.

Towns County 911

First responders met with Commissioner Bradshaw (left) and Chamber President Lee (middle) to discuss traffic concerns

“We are excited to be hosting this event,” Candace Lee said, “The cooperation between the county and the city has been fantastic. I hope everyone has a great time and returns for a future visit.”

Fifty fishermen will vye for the coveted title of Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

Fishing competitors are scheduled to launch onto Lake Chatuge at 7 a.m. on Thursday, with daily weigh-ins at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds at 3:45 p.m. The tournament runs through Sunday, Sept. 23. Saturday is an “off” day with no competition scheduled.

Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoor Expo and Bassmaster University will take place at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds on Saturday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept, 23, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. Sunday.

Public launch viewing is available during the competition days – Thursday, Friday, and Sunday – at 7 a.m. from the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds at 1311 Music Hall Rd. in Hiawassee.

The boat ramps will be closed to the public from 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 19, through Sunday, Sept. 23 until 3 p.m.

For additional information, contact Towns County Chamber of Commerce at 706-896-4966


Towns County Chamber of Commerce: “This county is booming”

Towns County tourism

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The 2017 tourism figures have been calculated, and Towns County’s direct tourism spending increased by nearly $3 million dollars in a single year. Data revealed that $51.71 million dollars were the result of local tourism in 2017, relieving individual taxpayers of an annual $840 average.

Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee stated that although Towns is one of the smallest counties in Georgia, the chamber has reached an impressive 417 members. Lee shared data, confirming the high level of interest in the area through the chamber’s website.

Candace Lee - Chamber of Commerce
Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee

“Last year we had 320,000 member views,” Lee said. “That means 320,000 people went to members’ websites. Out of that, we also had 1,869 people that clicked on the job tab on our website, 60,000 people looked the calendar, and then from our social media, which is probably Facebook because Crystal (Fairless Wagner) does a fantastic job with our Facebook page, we had 157,000 people who went from our Facebook page directly to our website. We are proud about that. We are a small chamber. We compete with a lot of the bigger guys.”

Lee informed that out of 17 counties in northeast Georgia, Towns County ranked the eighth highest in tourism. “We’re busy,” Lee said, “This county is booming

Last year, Towns County Chamber of Commerce fulfilled leads by delivering 1,549 informational packets, 187 packets on area relocation, and 667 visitor packets during the month of December alone.

Lee listed exciting, upcoming events, including a Bass Nation tour which will lure 120 boats to Lake Chatuge in late September, following an invitational fishing tournament that will coincide with the final days of Georgia Mountain Fair in July – both positive effects of the wildly popular Bassmaster Tournament hosted last fall – as well as the second annual Made in Georgia expo, scheduled for the weekend before the Fourth of July, and a new event, Rust and Roses, which will feature an array of antique and vintage clothing vendors in early September.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw praised the dedication of Chamber President Lee, General Manager Hilda Thomason of the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, and Chair of Hamilton Gardens, Grace Howard, for their hard work in increasing the county’s economy through tourism.

“The more people we bring here, the easier. It lightens the load on us who live here every day. They spend their money. The more people who come here, my belief is, the more people who’s going to come back, buy a lot, build a house, hopefully maybe buy a commercial lot and build a business or start a business,” Commissioner Bradshaw explained. “I have many goals, but this is one of the bigger ones.”

Towns County tourism steadily soars

Community, News
Lake Chatuge

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Tourism is on the rise throughout the Georgia mountains, and Towns County has seen a steady increase in the past several years.

Out of 17 counties reviewed, Towns County placed second in terms of growth in 2016, when the study was last conducted. Research reveals an 8.9 percent increase in domestic tourism expenditures in Towns County since 2007. Only Dawson County exceeded Towns, at an increase of 12.7 percent. Overall, the northeast Georgia mountains experienced 5 percent total growth in tourism in the past decade.

“I am very excited to see the numbers continue to climb, and I am looking forward to seeing last year’s,” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw told FetchYourNews. “Tourism is our bread and butter as a community. Studies show that households taxes would need to increase $798 per year in order to replace the taxes generated by tourism alone. It’s a win-win situation for both the visitors, who are able to enjoy the beauty of our lake and mountains, and it benefits the residents who live here as well.”

In 2016, tourism supported 4,533 jobs in Towns County, generating $11.37 million dollars in payroll. Local tax revenues amounted to $1.33 million dollars.

Commissioner Bradshaw works in unison with Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee, and Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds Manager Hilda Thomson, to bring revenue-generating events to Towns County.

The recent “Get Outdoors!” expo drew over 2,800 attendees, many of whom traveled to Towns County from surrounding areas.

“Made in Georgia” will make its debut on June 30 through July 1, offering products made, grown, brewed, crafted, stitched, and harvested throughout the state. The event will feature an array of vendors, demos, and samples of local products. The event will be held at the Towns County Recreation Center in Young Harris.

The 2018 Bass Elite tournament series, scheduled for Sept. 20 through 23, is sure to draw a crowd as well.

“We are excited to be hosting a tournament of this caliber, and we look forward to showcasing the beauty of our small mountain community to people from all over the world,” said Candace Lee, president of the Towns County Chamber of Commerce. “We want to put Lake Chatuge on the map as one of the best fishing lakes in the southeast, as well as the most beautiful.”

Information on upcoming events in Towns County can be found at

Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw updates Towns County, Coach Jimmy Smith retires

Coach Jimmy Smith

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced several community updates and plans at his monthly meeting at the Towns County Courthouse on the evening of Nov. 21, 2017, before a large turnout of citizens.

Commissioner Bradshaw explained the county is in the process of completing the 2018 budget, and it will read similar to the 2017 quota, with expectations of ultimately landing below budget.

Towns County is set to host the Bassmaster Elite Tournament in September 2018, and the event expects to add an estimated $1 million to $2 million dollars to the local economy. “This is a huge thing for our county,” Commissioner Bradshaw divulged. “Towns County will feel the effects for many years.” The Bassmaster Elite is the highest level of professional bass fishing tournaments offered.

Three detainee road crews completed upkeep on the fire tower located on High Tower, which involved pressure washing the structure and replacing the roof, among other repairs.

The fire department sign on Highway 76, one of the first signs seen when traveling west into Towns County, was replaced with a more appealing version, and the parking lot at Fire Station 1 in Hiawassee was repaved.

Towns County Daycare installed a code pad at their entrance for security purposes. Parents will receive a code, and a doorbell system was added for vendors.

The Georgia Mountain Fair “Mountain Country Christmas in Lights” will open on Thanksgiving night. Commissioner Bradshaw praised the fair’s General Manager, Hilda Thomason: “Hilda has done a great job to grow it each year.”

Approval of the 2018/2019 Federal Transit Grant Application took place. The application amounted to $96,900, half of which will be matched by Towns County. The actual amount awarded may be less as it is dependent on operational costs and based on expenditures for the year. Towns County Transit operates Monday through Friday and provides transportation for residents without vehicles.

A resolution approving the purchase of state-mandated Firefighter Cancer Insurance was read and signed by Commissioner Bradshaw. The insurance was purchased through the ACCG program. Newly elected Hiawassee City Councilwoman Amy Barrett inquired whether future coverage could be acquired locally. The Commissioner replied that the concept is worth exploring.

An application for a grant to fund the development of ADA projects at the Highway 288 Lake Chatuge Recreational property was read and signed by the Commissioner. Handicap ramps, renovation of the parking lot, accessibility for kayaks and canoes and a water trail are expected to be completed. Towns County is requesting $200,000 in funding, but less is anticipated for approval. Towns County will be reimbursed for 80 percent of the total cost and detainee labor will be used accordingly.

Towns County Courthouse

Towns County Courthouse

Last on the new business agenda was approval of the Towns County Sheriff’s Office policy on the implementation and regulation of credit cards for deputies to purchase fuel while transporting inmates out of county. Sheriff Chris Clinton explained the deputies were paying the cost out of pocket, then receiving county reimbursement, prior to the policy’s adoption. Each card is assigned to the transport vehicle’s VIN number. The policy will save the taxpayers the cost of federal and state taxes that were included in out-of-pocket purchases.

The final segment of the commissioner’s meeting was dedicated to the recognition of Towns County Youth Program Coach Jimmy Smith, who is retiring after 21 years of service.

“It is amazing what this man has done,” Commissioner Bradshaw said as he presented the coach with an award. “I can’t say enough. You don’t know the impact you have made on the county and kids.”

“He’s not made a dime to do this. We would not have Little League football if not for Jimmy Smith,” the Commissioner expressed, defining the retiring coach’s love and compassion for children.

Commissioner Bradshaw holds his monthly briefing on the third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. in the courtroom of the Towns County Courthouse. Public comments and questions are welcome as the meeting concludes. Several citizens praised the commisioner’s efforts in the community as the November session adjourned.

Featured Image: Commissioner Bradshaw presents award of recognition to Coach Smith

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