BRMEMC’s General Manager Jeremy Nelms to resign in September

News
Nelms

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Blue Ridge Mountain EMC’s General Manager Jeremy Nelms announced on June 25 that
he will resign his position as General Manager in September 2020.

Nelms accepted the CEO position at Flint Energies in Reynolds, Georgia.  BRMEMC was sad to see him leave, but understand this is a great opportunity for him and his family.

Nelms began his career at Blue Ridge Mountain EMC in August 2016. He was hired as the seventh general
manager since the inception of BRMEMC in 1938. During Nelms’ four-year tenure, the EMC has seen a growth
in its Membership that now exceeds 54,000 meters, 46,791 members, and 6,200 miles of electric lines.

Board of Directors President Ray Cook said, “The Board is very grateful for Jeremy’s leadership over the last
four years. He and the employees have done an outstanding job serving our Membership and we know
without a doubt this exceptional service will continue. Jeremy leaves the EMC in very good fiscal health and a
great position for growth. We wish Jeremy and his family the best in this next phase of their lives and we
sincerely thank him for his service and dedication to BRMEMC.”

The BRMEMC Board of Directors will begin the search for a new general manager later this summer. They have not stated whether or not they plan to have a new general manager in place before Nelms leaves in September. As soon as that information becomes available, it will be released to BRMEMC members.

“Having the opportunity to work alongside some of the finest co-workers I’ve ever met has been both
rewarding and gratifying,” said Nelms. “I have made wonderful friendships over the last four years and I know
the EMC, its Board, and employees will continue to succeed and prosper for the benefit of the Membership. I
thank the Board for allowing me the opportunity to pursue and grow my career at BRMEMC over these last four years.”

Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation is a member-owned electric cooperative
headquartered in Young Harris, Georgia, serving nearly 47,000 members in Cherokee and Clay Counties in
Western North Carolina, and Towns, Union and Fannin Counties in Northeast Georgia. Organized locally in
1937, BRMEMC has invested well over $280 million in physical infrastructure in its mission to provide reliable
electric and broadband services to its members where those services would not otherwise have been
available. Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation is an equal opportunity provider, employer
, and lender

BRMEMC Opens Lobby to Public on May 18

Announcements, Press Release
lobby

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Blue Ridge Mountain EMC will open its lobby to the public on Monday, May 18 with modifications in doing business to keep the public and its employees safe and healthy.

Visitors to BRMEMC will see directional signs for entering and exiting the lobby; and floor markers to assist the flow of foot traffic for rendering services; all while abiding by state and federally-recommended social distancing guidelines. BRMEMC is suggesting that visitors consider wearing masks upon entry of the building, and if sick, to please not enter the building, but instead call our office at (706) 379-3121 for assistance over the phone.

BRMEMC will continue to provide excellent customer service and assist visitors to our lobby in the best manner possible. Employees will be wearing masks and adhering to social distancing of at least six feet from anyone they come in contact with. It is imperative that our employees remain as healthy as possible and able to perform their essential duties.

We appreciate your patience and cooperation during this time. For more information, visit brmemc.com or call (706) 379-3121.

Feature image courtesy of BRMEMC Facebook page.

Towns County Fire & Rescue respond to early morning fire

News
fire

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A structure fire occurred during the early morning hours of Monday, Oct. 14, at a residence off Bell Gap Road, north of Hiawassee. The call was dispatched to Towns County firefighters at approximately 3:30 a.m.

According to Towns County Fire and Rescue, responding units reported the fire as “fully involved” and spreading toward the wood line. Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) was contacted, notifying the fire department that there was no electricity connected to the residence. Apparatus from Towns County Fire and Rescue Station 1 and Station 4 responded in cooperation with mutual aid from Clay County Fire Department.

Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland stated that the residence was unoccupied at the time of the blaze with no injuries reported. The incident is currently under investigation.

Image by Towns County Fire and Rescue

Additional Towns County news

 

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Young Harris fire station nears completion

News
Young Harris Fire Station

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced the near-completion of the Young Harris fire station, a project that has been in the works for many months. Bradshaw expects the facility to be operational by November. According to the commissioner, the station will feature an additional landing pad for medical helicopters to transport critical patients for trauma care. Towns County currently has four designated landing sites for air transports, strategically located throughout the area.

The Young Harris fire station is located on State Route 66, approximately 1.25 miles from U.S. Highway 76. The current station is situated in the former Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) building, a few blocks west of Young Harris College.

“We’re very excited about it,” Bradshaw told FYN last week. “The new station’s location will also help the fire department’s ISO rating and homeowners’ insurance rates.” An ISO insurance rating, also referred to as a fire score or Public Protection Classification, is a score from 1 to 10 that indicates how well-protected a community is by the local fire department.

Commisioner Bradshaw announced in late December that $130,000 derived from the 2018 Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) fund would be applied to the construction of the Young Harris fire station. Detainee labor, which did not cost the taxpayers, contributed to a large portion of the labor involved

The project was originally expected to be completed this summer. It was temporarily delayed, however, due to sight plan issues that the Department of Transportation had with road entry placement. Additionally, wet, winter weather was responsible for an inability to properly grade the land.

 

Community action group to address BRMEMC rate adjustment

News
BRMEMC

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Families Against Inequitable Rates – FAIR – is a community action group formed to address Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation’s (BRMEMC) new pricing structure. FAIR will meet Thursday, Sept. 19, at 4 p.m. at the Mountain Regional Library in Young Harris.

Beginning Oct. 1, the BRMEMC’s new pricing structure will increase all residential customers’ charges by $1.54 per month, slightly reducing the electrical charge. Average-use customers of 907 kilowatt hours (kWh) each month will find that their bill remains the same.

Overall, this pricing structure, termed a “revenue-neutral rate adjustment” when approved in May by the BRMEMC board of directors, will not increase the amount of money that Blue Ridge Mountain EMC receives. It allows the electric company to have a steady revenue stream for its maintenance and infrastructure costs each month, FAIR stated.

The BRMEMC’s rate adjustment will go into effect Oct. 1 regardless of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s decision on Aug. 22 to not increase rates.

BRMEMC’s next monthly board meeting is Monday, Sept. 16, at 6 p.m.  FAIR encourages all BRMEMC members to go online at www.brmemc.com and complete the necessary paperwork to attend and/or speak at the monthly meeting. Members are also encouraged to atrend the annual meeting later in the month.  The EMC’s annual meeting is Thursday, Sept. 26, at 3 p.m. at the BRMEMC headquarters in Young Harris.

FAIR can be reached online at FAIR-BRMEMC.org or by email at mail@fair-brmemc.org.

 

Additional Towns County news

BRMEMC receives USDA loan to improve rural electric infrastructure

News

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley announced the USDA will provide $858 million in loans to upgrade rural electric systems in 17 states. USDA Rural Deveolpment provides loans and grants to assist in expanding economic opporuinities and employment in rural areas. The assistance supports infrastructure improvements, business development, housing, community facilities, public safety, health care, and high-speed internet access is rural locations. The funding included $64 million to finance smart grid technologies to improve system operations and monitor grid security.

“Investing in our nation’s electric infrastructure powers our economy, creates jobs, and helps deliver services such as education, training, and health care to build stronger rural communities,” Baxley said. “These loans will help rural electric cooperatives generate and distribute power to keep systems reliable and affordable for those who live and work in rural areas.”

Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) will receive $38,969,000 to build and improve 277 miles of line, connecting 2,370 customers. BRMEMC serves 52,759 cutomers with over 6.194 miles of line in Towns, Union, Fannin, and Gilmer counties in Georgia, and Clay and Cherokee counties in North Carolina.

TVA-BRMEMC rate increase soon to appear on bills

News
BRMEMC

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) announced the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) wholesale rate increase will appear on customers’ October bills, resulting in a 1.53 percent spike for residential consumers and a 1.64 percent raise for the smallest commercial (GSA1) customers. Demand and energy load characteristics will determine the impact on GSA2 and GSA3 consumers.

The passed-along-to-customers rate increase is the first in five years despite TVA’s implementation of a comparable raise over the four previous years. BRMEMC attests that the corporation is unable to absorb the heightened cost, while TVA states the increase is necessary to reduce incurred long-term debt and improve general financial conditions.

Jeremy Nelms BRMEMC

BRMEMC General Manager Jeremy Nelms

“TVA’s continued annual wholesale power cost increases have created challenges for our Members, as roughly 63% of each BRMEMC Member’s monthly electric bill is used to pay for wholesale power,” BRMEMC General Manager Jeremy Nelms stated, “BRMEMC works hard to keep distribution costs low, ranking in the lowest quartile among all Cooperatives in the U.S., but we also have to purchase all of the power we supply our Members. As our costs increase, we must pass theses costs through to our Members, It’s not something that we like to do…It is something that we must do to remain fiscally stable.”

The fixed cost portion of residential bills will rise from $19.53 to $21.27. GSA1 consumers should expect an increase from $20.86 to $22.39. BRMEMC advised that customer confusion may occur due to TVA’s billing methodology which will reallocate specific charges within BRMEMC rates. TVA rate increases are expected to climb for a minimum of an additional year.

According to BRMEMC, the corporation intends to advocate with TVA to limit further annual rate increases and vigilantly monitor the changes on behalf of its Members.

Questions or concerns should be directed toward BRMEMC at 1-800-292-6456.

 

Feature Photo: BRMEMC headquarters in Young Harris, GA

Tropical Storm Irma Topples Trees, Blocks Roadways

News
Irma Hiawassee

Hiawassee, GA – The remnants of Hurricane Irma toppled trees, restricted travel, and downed power lines throughout the mountains of North Georgia as the center of the storm made its way through the western portion of the state.

Heavy rainfall and strong wind gusts contributed to the damage.

Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) reported 200 power outages, affecting 8,505 customers, early Tuesday morning. Crews are continuing to work to restore electricity to the affected areas.

Several major roadways in Towns County were temporarily impassable due to fallen trees. Highway 75 South, which crosses Unicoi Gap, was blocked during the night as county employees cleared widespread debris.

Department of Transportation (DOT) crews arrived early Tuesday morning to assist with the clean up effort.

“Trees were falling faster than they could be removed,” a Towns County first responder tells Fetch Your News.

Fortunately, there were no reports of flooding or human injuries as a result of the storm.

Scattered showers remain in the forecast with clouds clearing in time for the weekend.

Mostly sunny skies are expected over Hiawassee on Saturday.

Hiawassee’s plans may encompass more than meets the eye

Opinion
Hiawassee tax

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – There is no denying that times are always changing, and the sleepy, little town of Hiawassee, Georgia, population 903, is on a fast track to follow suit. While transformation is inevitable and often welcomed with open arms, members from the community have begun voicing their views on what it could mean for the lower-income population, and ultimately, the indigenous culture that has inhabited Towns County for centuries.

The course of action that the city of Hiawassee plans to enact implores the question of whether gentrification is at play. While most people understand the process and effects of gentrification, many remain unaware that an actual term exists. Merriam-Webster defines gentrification as “the process of renewal and rebuilding, accompanying the influx of middle class or affluent people, into deteriorating areas that often results in the displacement of earlier, poorer residents.” In order for these areas to be revitalized, the areas must be essentially cleared out. This is achieved through the raising of taxes and service rates, often beyond the point of affordability.

During last year’s property tax increase hearings, Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett raised concern that senior residents on fixed-incomes are relocating due to heightened electricity costs, citing the city-imposed BRMEMC franchise “fee” as the reason given by the displaced. While the full council favored the franchise, the mayor’s proposal to reject the property tax rollback was ultimately defeated in a 3-2 vote.. On Jan. 28, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales divulged that a water rate increase is in the works, explaining that it has been six years since a spike last occurred.

On a cultural front, community concerns began to surface during a June town hall meeting, held in conjunction with the University of Georgia (UGA) Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which focused on a strategic, comprehensive project to sculpt the future of Hiawassee. While program participants overwhelmingly favored noble plans such as boosting tourism, advancing city beautification, and creating structured, economic growth, other suggestions raised eyebrows, particularly from the conservative population.Towns County news

Leslie McPeak – a vocal, local business owner who was later exalted to the city’s Board of Ethics by Mayor Ordiales – suggested deviation from long-held traditions, including a reduction in the amount of gospel and country concerts hosted in the area, determination that shops open their doors on Sundays to boost economic reward, and an assertion that the city should steer clear from the “Bible-Belt stigma” that has prevailed in Towns County since its foundation.

Months later, when the strategic plan was completed and introduced at Hiawassee City Hall, McPeak publicly inquired whether eminent domain, a highly-controversial practice in which the government expropriates private property for public use, was an option to abolish what McPeak considered an unattractive local business. A representative from the Carl Vinson Institute responded that grants, rather, may be available to encourage compliance with the city’s aesthetic vision. Additionally, McPeak drew media attention during a previous council session by harshly critizing a Republican election rally held last July on Hiawassee Town Square.

In recent events, Mayor Ordiales, who has been repeatedly praised as “progressive-minded” by supporters – in collaboration with newly-hired Economic Developer Denise McKay – stated during the council’s January work session that the city holds ambition for private land to be purchased by developers to construct “affordable” apartment housing in order to retain the local youth once they enter the workforce. The topic was broached when a citizen in attendance skeptically called into question the city’s goals for current residents and business owners. Ordiales replied that workers will be needed to fill certain positions, listing boat mechanics and hospitality workers as examples, due to a projected influx of a population which will require such services. Unprompted, Ordiales concluded that $800 a month in rent is considered reasonable, retracting the amount to $700 after the council and citizens failed to express a reaction to the mayor’s initial figure.

Upon query from FYN, Economic Developer McKay listed the inceptive phase of the project that Hiawassee intends to implement, and according to McKay that includes improving the appearance of the outdated post office and sprucing the entrance to Ingles while seeking a grant for artists to begin painting murals throughout the city.

It should be noted that the revitalization and preservation of historic structures is listed in the city’s five-year plan, with Mayor Ordiales often referencing the Old Rock Jail Museum as a point of reference, a site entrusted to the Towns County Historical Society by former Commissioner Bill Kendall. Ordiales stated to Mountain Movers and Shakers Jan. 25 that two developers have shown interest in the vacant row of buildings on Main Street, west of the town square, although the structure located next to where Delco once stood will be demolished when purchased. Ordiales recited significant achievements in lowering the city’s inherited debt, acquiring numerous grants, and engineering a plan to improve the infrastructure – all critical components in expanding Hiawassee’s development – during the Movers and Shakers’ forum.

While a range of participants took part in the creation of the strategic plan, the contributors represent a small fraction of the population. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government described the project as a stepping stone, however, rather than an endeavor set in stone.

In sum, while economic growth and positive innovation is widely supported, it is the opinion of the author that the effect of particular politics and policies, left unchecked, has the potential to deteriorate the backbone of conservative communities, both fiscally and culturally. This is especially true if the public whom it affects remains disengaged from local happenings, and apathetic to eventual outcomes.

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to convene on Tuesday, Feb. 5, for their regular meeting to adopt the city’s strategic plan, as well as hold a first reading to expedite future ordinances by consolidating readings into a single session.

Public comment is prohibited during regular meetings.

The next work session, which will allow citizen input, is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m.

In-depth information on the above, highlighted text can be found by clicking the links.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper-local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page.

 

 

Hiawassee Council repeals BRMEMC Franchise Ordinance 3-1

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – What began as a decree unanimously adopted in early August ended on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 5, during a regularly scheduled session of Hiawassee City Council.

A 3-1 vote in favor of the eradication of the controversial Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) Franchise Ordinance, adopted by the Board during special called meetings Aug. 8-11, 2017, took place before a full room of residents.

Outgoing Council members Jay Chastain Jr. and Rayette Ross repealed the mandate, followed by a veto from newly elected Councilwoman Nancy Noblet. Councilman Kris Berrong maintained his support of the ordinance, outnumbered by the majority. Mayor Pro-Tem Anne Mitchell, also a proponent of the bill which was initially brought to the table by former Councilwoman and soon-to-take-office Mayor-Elect Liz Ordiales, was not included in the vote per charter regulation.

The three opponents of the ordinance raised their concerns on past occasions regarding the effect the decree would impose on the taxpayers of Hiawassee. Although the city has the legal right to require a fee from BRMEMC for the usage of city land for power pole placement, council members Chastain and Ross retracted their approval once the realization of an additional line item, passed along on the bills of consumers, was confirmed by the electric company. Newcomer Noblet followed suit, rejecting the mandate.

Also on the December agenda was a recap of Light Up Hiawassee, a Christmas lighting event held on the Square on Dec. 2. A video presentation created by Chris Harvey, set to the tune of Winter Wonderland, was displayed and acting Mayor Mitchell expressed gratitude toward those who helped make the opening celebration possible. Nine golf carts participated in the first annual parade with first place for decor awarded to the shopkeepers of Always Christmas. The Red Cross provided cookies and hot chocolate, Ingles offered a cookie decorating booth, and Santa arrived via fire engine.

The discovery of a 1993 Tree City USA ordinance was brought to the public’s attention, dissolving the need for subsequent adoption.

Acting Mayor Mitchell recently attended a Small Cities Financial Conference in Cornelia, Georgia. Mitchell says the seminar provided “very, very good news” and hopes the Council takes advantage of future opportunities for learning.

Mitchell says she is happy to turn the reins back to Mayor-Elect Liz Ordiales in January, comparing the experience of leading the Council to “falling into a vat of boiling oil.”

Motions to approve the September financials, the 2018 holiday and meeting schedule, and the ratification of the Towns County Water and Sewer Authority contract were unanimously agreed upon by the Council.

Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith announced warrants have been issued for two individuals suspected in the armed robbery of Save-A-Lot on Thanksgiving Eve. A press release is expected once the arrests are secured.

The meeting adjourned without advancing to an executive session.

Hiawassee City Council meets for work sessions on the last Monday of each month with regular meetings held the following Tuesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

 

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 advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Tax or Fee? Conflict between Mayoral Candidates Heats Up

News, Politics
Hiawassee election

Hiawassee, GA – The race for Hiawassee’s next mayor took a turn toward “politics-as-usual” on Saturday, October 7, the result of a clash in mindset between the two candidates seeking the City’s highest post, Liz Ordiales and Barry Keith Dearing.

Liz Ordiales at the Candidate Forum on October 2.

Liz Ordiales responded to Barry Dearing’s published allegation of covert higher taxation on her social media page, expressing disappointment in her opponent.

Candidate Ordiales wrote, “The article [Dearing] ran in this week’s paper is all lies. If you can’t win on your own merit, don’t play the game.”

The conflict stems from a decision made during Special Called Council Meetings held on August 8 and August 11, concerning the adoption of the Franchise Tax.

Fetch Your News contacted the Mayoral candidates on Sunday, October 8, seeking comments regarding their division.

Candidate Ordiales refers to the passed ordinance as a fee, while Candidate Dearing insists it is a tax.

Ms. Ordiales responded, “As I explained at my first Meet and Greet on September 18, the Candidate Forum on October 2, and at the Mover & Shakers meeting this past Friday, 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 EMC to use City property to provide their services to our citizens.”

“The rate assigned was 4% which is the lowest possible, so on an electric bill of $100, that would be $4.00 that the EMC should be paying the City. Windstream has been paying this franchise fee for years and we must get ready for new companies entering our area to provide services,” Ordiales said.

Ms. Ordiales stressed the tax does not apply to Hiawassee citizens, adding, “If Mr. Dearing would have attended meetings prior to his announcement to run for Mayor, he would have been educated on this topic. This was discussed at two council meetings, had two readings – as it is an ordinance – and was approved by the entire council.”

Barry Keith Dearing at the Candidate Forum on October 2.

Ordiales went onto say Dearing’s accusation of support for higher taxation is untrue,  “I have had two opportunities to vote for higher tax increases and have not done so.”

Barry Keith Dearing views the Franchise Tax in a different light, claiming former Mayor Pro-Tem “passed the largest tax increase in the City’s history without public hearing or comment. The Franchise tax is directed against all City businesses and residents, and will appear on [their] power bill in the near future.”

If elected, Barry Keith Dearing intends to repeal what he considers a tax, vowing there will be no future increases.

Fetch Your News was unaware of the Special Called Meetings, a violation of State law, in which the motion in question was discussed and adopted.

Fetch Your News is awaiting a response from Blue Ridge Mountain EMC as to whether the ordinance will be passed along to customers in the form of higher bills.

Updated information is available.

 

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 advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

House challenger Mickey Cummings: ‘Public embarrassment, hostility toward leaders, wrong approach’

Election 2018, News, Politics
Mickey Cummings

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Local State House challenger Mickey Cummings made an appearance at Sundance Grill Friday, April 27, 2018, at the Mountain Movers & Shakers forum. While Cummings never mentioned his opponent, Representative Matt Gurtler, by name, insinuation was apparent.

“I believe that public embarrassment and hostility toward our leaders is the wrong approach. Sooner or later, we’re going to need those people to help us to solve our issues and our problems,” Cummings professed. “I don’t believe we should ever burn a bridge unless we absolutely have to.”

Matt Gurtler was elected to the Georgia State House in 2016, and throughout his first-term while representing District 8 – which includes Towns, Union, Rabun, and portions of White County – Gurtler maintained a reputation of boldly challenging the status quo in the minds of his supporters.

The self-professed, ultra-conservative incumbent – a steadfast proponent of limited government, and a stickler for what he considers responsible spending – has proven to be a thorn in the side of leadership, voting against the State House at a rate of 39 percent.

Cummings, who currently holds office as Chairman of Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC), believes other avenues of negotiation should be explored “before you drop the bomb.”

Candidate Cummings briefly described his method of approach, using a conflict between BRMEMC and another unnamed electric co-op as an example: “We talked about it, and talked about it, and nothing ever happened. We called out the gentleman publicly, and we got what we wanted.”

In addition, Chairman Cummings spoke of the success of BRMEMC, stating that equity has increased by 3 percent since serving on the Board of Directors, at a spike of 1 percent per year.

“That’s unheard of in the electric co-op business to do that much,” said Cummings.

“Our Board has also improved transparency by opening board meetings to our membership. We’ve also become more responsive to our members and their needs,” Cummings stated.

FetchYourNews (FYN) attended the initial BRMEMC session, held Nov. 6, 2017, and reported the requirements for public attendance.

“I’m not a politician. I never planned to be,” Cummings said. “I believe the office should seek the candidate, and with people across the district asking me to run, to provide the leadership they deserve, I felt called to do so.”

Cummings spent 33 years as a county agent, 26 of which were spent in the mountains “working with farmers and saving the lives of youth through 4-H.”

“I’ve also helped to develop our farmer’s market that has helped to revive our vegetable industry, not only in Union County, but in Towns County as well. In 1990, we had roughly 30-to-35 growers in our county, growing specific vegetables,” Cummings explained. “By 2000, that number had decreased to five. The cause of this decline was the death of older farmers, and their heirs found out that they could sell their property, develop the land, and make much more money than they could in farming.”

The creation of the Union County Farmers Market has allowed growers to profit locally, rather than venturing elsewhere to sell the fruits of their labor.

Along with continued support of agriculture, Cummings listed the establishment of widespread rural broadband internet access as a top issue he hopes to tackle if elected to represent District 8.

When the candidate was asked his position on the Second Amendment by a voter, Cummings divulged that he supports the right to bear arms, noting a history of gunsmiths in his ancestral lineage.

Incumbent Matt Gurtler is scheduled to address the Mountain Movers & Shakers in Hiawassee Friday, May 4.

Early voting begins Monday, April 30, with the primary election taking place May 22, 2018.

Count on FYN for continued coverage of District 8 State House race as the election approaches.

 

UPDATE:

FetchYourNews reported on incumbent Matt Gurtler the following week.

 

 

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 advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Hiawassee franchise ordinance scheduled for adoption

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council met for their monthly work session on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. All council members were in attendance with the exception of Anne Mitchell, who participated via teleconference. The second reading of the franchise ordinance advanced without opposition and the final adoption is anticipated to take place during Tuesday’s regular session.

According to the terms of the ordinance, Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) must pay the city of Hiawassee a 3 percent fee of the gross sales of electric energy provided to customers within Hiawassee city limits. A 5 percent fee will be imposed on cable and fiber optic services. Blue Ridge Mountain EMC has informed that the fee will be passed along to residents, businesses, and county agencies located within the city’s boundaries as an additional line item. FetchYourNews obtained copies of current BRMEMC bills issued to county entities, located within Hiawassee’s perimeter. Based solely on a single month’s calculation, the proposed ordinance could potentially increase county expenses in excess of $1,600 per year.

Hiawassee City Hall

Hiawassee City Hall

The ordinance reads that the city has determined it is in the best interest, and consistent with the convenience and necessity of the city, to grant the franchise to provide for the transmission and distribution of electricity, including cable and fiber optic, within the territorial boundaries of Hiawassee. The ordinance goes on to say the franchise fee enacted upon Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, for the use and occupation of city property, will promote the health, safety and welfare of the public, stimulate commerce, and otherwise serve the public interest.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced during a previous council session that a new form of revenue is necessary due to the loss of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funding. Mayor Ordiales says she spoke with representatives of the three largest Hiawassee establishments set to be impacted by the mandate: Chatuge Regional Hospital, Ingles grocery store, and McConnell Baptist Church. Mayor Ordiales relayed she received no opposition to the proposal. FetchYourNews (FYN) reached out to said establishments, seeking additional clarification on the once controversial issue. Ingles management declined to comment, Chatuge Regional Hospital did not respond to FYN’s request, and McConnell Baptist Church stated that while they neither endorse nor oppose the ordinance, there are concerns about the burden the hike may place on fixed and low-income residents.

The franchise ordinance was originally approved during a special-called meeting held in August of 2017. The decree was later repealed by now-former council members after local residents and business owners vocally rejected the mandate. A public hearing on the issue was held on Nov. 27, 2017. The ordinance was reintroduced to the city’s agenda in January, once newly-elected council members were sworn into office.

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to convene at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6, at City Hall.

 

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 advertise@FetchYourNews.com
 

BRMEMC Attendance and Petition to Present Policy Explained

News
BRMEMC

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga.- Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) held their first open meeting on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, in the boardroom of the Young Harris facility. Board members advised the public and the media of their policy for attending and presenting petitions at future meetings.

The policy establishes appropriate procedures to accommodate member requests to attend meetings and/or present information to the Board of Directors. Members must be in good standing and submit a written request of attendance at least 48 hours prior to the Board meeting, which will either be accepted or denied by BRMEMC. The Board of Directors reserves the right to determine the number of members allowed at meetings, giving consideration to available space, safety and security concerns and other issues deemed critical to the effective execution of the session. The cooperative explained they will take reasonable steps to notify members of request denials at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled meeting. The decision to allow or deny attendance by the Board of Directors for any reason is final. According to policy, the members must recognize they are observers only and must abide in good faith by the customary rules of decorum for professional meetings or risk removal from the session.

BRMEMC policy instructs members may not utilize any electronic devices to record, stream, post on social media or videotape the meetings unless expressly authorized by the Board of Directors at the beginning of the meeting. Written information and electronic communications will not be provided to members unless authorized by the Board of Directors on a case-by-case basis. The Board of Directors may make certain documents, such as the agenda, available to those in attendance via electronic media at the sole discretion of the Board.

Members may observe proceedings not otherwise considered privileged, confidential or of a personal nature. Such proceedings will be conducted in executive sessions according to policies approved by the Board of Directors.

A member in current good standing has the opportunity to make a reasonable request to present specific matters of concern, complaints and recommendations to the Board of Directors. If accepted to address, the Board will not respond to the issues directly during the meeting. An official response will be provided, in writing, by the general manager of the cooperative within ten business days of the presentation. Members are limited to three minutes of the Board of Directors time if their request is approved.

The member must complete, sign and submit a Petition to Present form which must be received by BRMEMC at least five days prior to the meeting. Members wishing to both attend and present at a Board Meeting must submit both the Intent to Attend and Petition to Present forms and be approved separately and governed under the specific provisions of each request.

Requests may be submitted by email to boardmeetings@brmemc.com, by fax to 706-379-4834, or by mail to attention of the executive assistant at 1360 Main St, Young Harris, GA 30582

BRMEMC is scheduled to meet for their second open session on Dec. 12, 2017, at 6:00 p.m. at the listed address.

 

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Liz Ordiales Defends City Ordinance, Jay Chastain Jr. Questions Decision

News, Politics
Hiawassee Mayor

HIAWASSEE, GA – In an appearance on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, at the Movers and Shakers, EMC Director Roy Perren confirmed BRMEMC is required by state law to accept the Franchise Ordinance approved by Hiawassee City Council during Special Called Meetings on Aug. 8 to 11, 2017.

Director Perren explained the controversial “tax versus fee” will be passed along to Hiawassee citizens in the form of an additional line item on future bills. Based on an average of 897 kilowatt-hours per residence, BRMEMC members can expect to see an increase of $55.00 per year in charges. Businesses within the city limits will also see their rates rise.

“[The estimate] is skewed low because of part-time residents,” Roy Perren said. The EMC Director referenced the City’s ordinance as a fee, not a tax enacted by the Council. BRMEMC will hold their first Open Meeting on Nov. 16 at 6:00 p.m. at their facility in Young Harris. A two-day notice of public attendance was stipulated by Mr. Perren.

Liz Ordiales Hiawassee

Liz Ordiales at October 2 Candidate Forum

“This ordinance was to impose a Franchise FEE to the BRMEMC for the use of our City Right of Ways. It is state law that municipalities can imposed this FEE.  Of the 535 cities in Georgia, 98 percent collect these fees,” Mayoral candidate Liz Ordiales maintains.

“This ordinance was passed by the entire City Council and was completed while I was not a part of the leadership of the city. Councilman Chastain DID vote for this ordinance to move forward,” Ordiales emphasized in an email sent to Fetch Your News on October 31.

The controversial ordinance was adopted less than a week after Ordiales stepped down as Hiawassee Mayor Pro-Tem, a decision made in order to seek election as the “City’s CEO.” Although no longer officially in office, Ordiales continued to volunteer her time steering the Council’s course.

Councilman Jay Chastain Jr. expressed regret toward approving the decree in numerous interviews conducted by Fetch Your News.

“The ordinance moved too fast during Special Called Meetings. I was under the impression it wouldn’t affect the citizens or business owners,” Chastain explained. “All I heard was how great this would be for Hiawassee, how the City would rake in fees from [BRMEMC] and it seemed like a good thing. Once I understood it would affect the people, I wished I had been given the time to look into the details beforehand. I voted yes, but knowing what I know now makes a world of difference.”

Jay Chastain Jr

Jay Chastain Jr. at October 2 Candidate Forum

Councilman Chastain says the ordinance played a role in his decision to endorse Ordiales’s opponent, Barry Keith Dearing.

“Barry wants to do the right thing. He wants to repeal it. Tax or fee, whatever you want to call it, at the end of the day it will cost the taxpayers,” Chastain says.

Fetch Your News was not notified, per law, of the Special Called Meetings in which the Franchise or Planning-Expansion Ordinances were adopted. Chastain voted no to the latter, but was outvoted by the Council.

Invitations to discuss the approaching Hiawassee City Council election were extended to all candidates by Fetch Your News.

Follow FYN for continued coverage of the 2017 election. Count on us to broadcast results on November 7.

 

 

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.

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