HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The City of Hiawassee, in cooperation with the City of Young Harris, and Towns County as a whole, arrived at a unified decision to employ an economic developer to assist in the creation and retainment of business-related endeavors in the area. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales introduced Denise McKay to the community during a town hall meeting on Dec. 4. The announcement corresponded with the revelation of a five-year tentative plan for Hiawassee’s future, designed from input from citizens and local leaders by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
McKay holds a decade of experience as the Main Street Manager of Commerce, Georgia, and Economic Development and Main Street Director of Hampton, Georgia. McKay graduated from Upper Iowa University in 2012, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw addressed the joint initiative on Dec. 18. “The county is doing this as a pilot program,” Bradshaw explained, “We’re going to do this for one year to see how this lady works out for the county, and to see, to put it in simple terms, to see if we get our money’s worth.” Bradshaw quoted the cost to county taxpayers at roughly $20,000. Acquiring grants will be an additional task delegated to McKay.
Bradshaw stressed that his main objective is to provide ample economic opportunities for local youth who wish to remain in Towns County once they have entered the job market.
The commissioner plans to invite McKay to address residents and business owners during a public meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 5:30 p.m. at the Towns County Courthouse.
Feature Photo Credit: City of Hiawassee
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – After many months of detailed research, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government revealed a five-year strategic plan for Hiawassee’s future on Tuesday, Dec. 4, during a Town Hall meeting. The procedure of envisioned development was the result of numerous studies conducted between the institute and local leaders, business owners, and residents.
The City of Hiawassee worked with the Carl Vinson Institute, a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia, which assists state and local governments in achieving their goals. Hiawassee received a $21,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant in 2017 to assist in the funding of the study. Steering committees were formed for the endeavor, and interviews and focus groups were held to sculpt the formation of the plan.
During the course of the study, community stakeholders listed what they felt was working well in Hiawassee, and what they believed could benefit from improvement. Positive aspects included the strong sense of community with a “small town feel”, town square, and the location itself, brimming with natural amenities. Feedback into areas that could prosper from improvement consisted of advanced beautification efforts, occupation of vacant buildings and lots, improved traffic and transportation, and the promotion of a mixture of businesses.
The Carl Vinson Institute presented a slideshow of suggestions, adding that the plan is not set in stone, and should rather serve as a community stepping stone.
The proposed, comprehensive plan is available in its entirety on the City of Hiawasee website.
(Images: City of Hiawassee/Carl Vinson Institute of Government)
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council is on track to approve a long-term contract with Engineering Management Inc. (EMI), in order to comply with the Environmental Protection Division (EPD), in accordance with the city’s Watershed Protection Plan (WPP).
Fletcher Holliday, Vice President of EMI, addressed Hiawassee City Council on Nov. 26.
EMI is currently completing Hiawassee’s WWP, tasked with long-term monitoring and reporting to EPD for several municipalities throughout North Georgia. For that reason, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales explained to city council members that the contract was not placed out for bid. Ordiales stated that testing will be conducted at the water plant in Hiawassee, rather than an off-site laboratory, in order to reduce the overall cost.
According to Holliday, EPD requested that the City of Hiawassee complete a partial quality assestment during the months of November and December, 2018, with full-monitoring to begin next year. The City of Hiawassee received EPD approval in late summer of 2018.
The funding for the 2018 partial project is expected to amount to $8678. Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to vote on the agenda item on Tuesday, Dec. 4, during the city’s regular session. If approved, the cost of the 2019 project was estimated at $16,000.
“The objective of the Long-Term monitoring is to monitor the water quality of the waters within the watershed protection area and determine whether or not they are improving or declining by utilizing the data from the original Watershed Assestment document as a baseline of watershed conditions,” Holliday wrote in a letter addressed to Ordiales in October.
Future water-quality monitoring will be conducted at four local sites, with one sampling gathered during what EMI refers to as “critical conditions,” where the waterway is experiencing low flow and high temperatures. Three dry weather, and one wet weather chemical samplings will be collected annually. E. coli and fecal coliform samples will be taken eight times per year regardless of weather conditions. A total of nearly two dozen tests will be administered and reported to EPD by EMI.
EMI states that significant activity discovered in the watershed will be noted. “This may include, but is not limited to, algal blooms, dry weather runoff, leaking pipes, oil spills, presence of animals, and odors, foam or algal blooms pertaining to the condition of the waterbody,” Holliday explained.
Monitoring reports will be submitted to EPD annually in June, according to EMI.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Weeks after a 45-day sign permit moratorium was enacted in Hiawassee, Mayor Liz Ordiales proposed the notion of allowing a digital LED billboard to be erected within the city limits. The multi-message sign would flash advertising promotions at eight-second intervals, intended for installation near the intersection of Main Street and Bell Creek Road.
The early November decision to temporarily halt permits within the city followed an amended ordinance by Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, banning additional billboards from entering the area. On Oct. 29, Mayor Ordiales stated during the city’s work session, “It doesn’t make sense for the county to do one thing and (the city) to do another,” suggesting that Hiawassee would review the current sign mandate, inferring potential revision of the ordinance to coincide with county regulations.
The mayor’s proposal to permit a multi-message, digital billboard, however, is in direct contrast with the county’s mandate. Towns County strictly prohibits the signage in question, as does the City of Hiawassee ordinance, which is currently in effect.
Upon invitation by Ordiales, Terry Poteete – a Gwinnett County resident with Affordable Outdoor Advertising Solutions, and the owner of 85 billboards strewn throughout seven counties, including the 55-foot tall, four-faced billboard located across from McDonalds in Hiawassee – addressed the full council during Monday’s work session. Ordiales divulged that Poteete had broached replacement of the static billboard with a digital version in February, though due to the current ordinance restriction, the request was denied. Poteete purchased the existing billboards in 2012.
The overwhelming consenus from the numerous citizens in attendance at City Hall revealed blunt opposition to the concept. Residents expressed strong distaste by describing digital billboards with adjectives ranging from “annoying” to “hideous.”
The possibility of removing exisiting billboards to allow for the digital version was mentioned by Hiawassee City Attorney Thomas Mitchell. According to Mitchell, the Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines list that digital billboards must be spaced further than 5000-feet apart in distance. State law allows for a second digital sign to be installed on the opposite side of the street, however.
Hiawassee City Council expressed conflicting opinions on the matter, with Nancy Noblet clearly favoring the idea from the councilwoman’s subjective standpoint. Anne Mitchell and Amy Barrett voiced sturdy opposition, with Barrett stating that digital billboards “degrade the integrity of the mountains.” True to form, council members Kris Berrong and Patsy Owens remained relatively silent on the issue.
A Town Hall meeting was suggested by Hiawassee City Council, aimed to gain additional resident input prior to taking the matter to vote, with no known date scheduled at the time of publication.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The City of Hiawassee has received an Appalachian Regional Commission Grant in the amount of $600,000 from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which administers the program on behalf of the Appalachian Regional Commission, a partnership of 13 states.
“Strong and prosperous communities help attract businesses and jobs,” said DCA Commissioner Christopher Nunn, “Projects like the one in Hiawassee help stimulate economic development and enhance the quality of life for the whole community.”
The Appalachian Regional Commission provides financial investment and technical assistance to eligible applicants in support of community and economic development in Georgia’s 37 county Appalachian region.
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government. Established by an act of Congress in 1965, ARC is composed of the governors of the 13 Appalachian states and a federal co-chair, who is appointed by the president.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Light Up Hiawassee, an annual luminary celebration on town square which sets the Christmas season into motion, is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1, and Event Coordinator Nancy Noblet hopes to see vendors and volunteers join in the merry-making event.
“Anybody and everybody, please come out and help,” Noblet asked.
The holiday light decorating date has been set for Saturday, Nov. 17, at 9 am, on Hiawassee Town Square, and volunteers are needed to assist in the efforts. The event will be delayed in the event of inclement weather. Additional information is available through Nancy Noblet at 706-897-1779.
Spaces are available for vendors during the Light Up Hiawassee celebration, with applications available at Hiawassee City Hall. A check for $50.00 should be made payable to the “City of Hiawassee.” According to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, vendor application proceeds will be directed toward flower purchases to beautify Hiawassee Town Square in the spring. Spaces are limited, and vendors must provide their own equipment, tent, tables, chairs, electrical extension cords, etc. Electrical outlets will be available on a first come, first serve basis. The event will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, with vendors permitted to set up as early as 9 a.m.
There will be no vendor charge for non-profit organizations wishing to participate.
The deadline for application submission is Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.
The schedule of events for Light Up Hiawassee is as follows:
4:00 p.m. – Children’s Activities
5:30 p.m. – Golf Cart Parade
6:00 p.m. – CASA Luminaries
6:15 p.m. – Light Up Hiawassee
6:30 p.m. – Welcome Santa
7:00 p.m. – Christmas Carols
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The 2018-2019 Hiawassee budget was unanimously approved by city council members during the Oct. 29 monthly work session. The motion was raised by Councilwoman Anne Mitchell, and seconded by Councilwoman Patsy Owens. Councilwoman Nancy Noblest asked for the names of staff employed within the city’s sewer, water, and water treatment departments, in quest of a better understanding of the breakdown in employee pay, prior to the budget vote.
Ebony Simpson, a coordinator with the PlanFirst program, addressed the council and citizens, following the adjournment of the brief budget segment. Simpson commended Hiawassee on becoming a designated PlanFirst city, explaining the incentives offered as a result, one of which will result in a half-percent interest rate reduction on the $1.8 million GEFA loan extended to the City of Hiawassee.
According to Simpson, Hiawassee will receive official PlanFirst recognition during a state ceremony in either January or February, 2019, once Georgia’s soon-to-be-elected governor takes office.
In other news, a 45-day sign permit moratorium is scheduled to appear on next week’s regular council agenda, coinciding with the county’s recent decision to amend the sign ordinance, which will allow the city to consider similar measures.
Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced that the December council work session, and the January regular meeting, will not be held due to the former falling on Christmas Eve, and the latter scheduled for New Year’s Day.
The upcoming Halloween event and the “Light Up Hiawassee” Christmas celebration were discussed, with interest as to whether a lighted “Merry Christmas” sign would be displayed on Hiawassee Town Square, in addition to the “Happy Holidays” sign planned to be installed. In response, Mayor Ordiales revealed a photograph of an eight foot wooden cut-out, spelling the sentiment “JOY”, with a compact nativity scene cast between the second letter. A lighted “Merry Christmas” greeting was purchased by the former City of Hiawassee administration, with two current council members vocalizing support of its future use. Ordiales stated that a printed banner, rather, with the words “Merry Christmas” will be hung on the town square.
The work session ended with Councilwoman Amy Barrett questioning the necessary process for applicants whom are interested in serving on the Hiawassee Ethics Board. Mayor Ordiales replied that while citizens can submit an application to City Hall, only one candidate has expressed interest to date. Councilman Kris Berrong interjected that he had knowledge of interested individuals. Mayor Ordiales asserted that applicants whom do not regularly attend city meetings will not be approved by the joint vote needed from both council and mayor, a requirement for one-of-the-three appointed board members.
Background information on the above highlighted texts is available by clicking the supplied links.
Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to convene for a regular monthly session at 6 pm, Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Meetings are open to the public.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales proudly announced PlanFirst Community designation by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) at September’s month work session at City Hall. Hiawassee was chosen to participate in the program for a three year span, beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The announcment came weeks after the mayor took PlanFirst committee members on a tour of Bell Mountain Park, Hamilton Gardens, Mayors’ Park, and the Old Rock Jail Museum.
According to the DCA website, PlanFirst is a program which recognizes and rewards communities that clearly demonstrate an established pattern of successfully implementing their Local Comprehensive Plan. Any size community is encouraged to apply, provided it has a history of public involvement with development of the plan, active engagement in plan implementation, and proven progress in achieving the community’s stated vision or goals. PlanFirst designation is awarded to local governments on an individual basis. DCA encourages joint local planning; however, each government is responsible for achieving the activities in its community-specific work program.
The designation will be formally announced at an awards dinner at the DCA Fall Conference on Oct. 1o, in LaGrange, GA. In addition, a formal ceremony will take place at the State Capitol in Atlanta in early 2019.
Along with recognition, PlanFirst designation will provide reduced interest rates on certain Georgia Environmental Financing Authority (GEFA) state loans.
“The City of Hiawassee will be recognized across the State of Georgia as a community that has created a robust vision of its future and maintains an active strategy for implementing that vision,” DCA Director Ken Hood stated in a letter to Mayor Ordiales, “This is a well-deserved acknowledgement of successful planning, and we look forward to working with you going forward.”