Two readings, one meeting: Mayor looks to speed up city business

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Hiawassee City Hall
Liz Ordiales Mayor

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

The Hiawassee City Council is considering a proposal that would allow two readings at one meeting before voting on matters. Mayor Liz Ordiales stressed this would make “given” matters more efficient and effective to implement. Those “given” matters would be routine business the city and not issues that require a public hearing.

“This option originally came up during the acceptance of the Brunch bill,” said Ordiales, adding several communities are already doing this.

The Brunch Bill or SB 17, passed in 2018 and allowed communities to choose if they wanted to change the time restaurants could start selling alcohol on Sunday to 11 a.m. from 12:30.

“In this case, the legislature approved the Brunch bill, it was put to a vote by the citizens, it was approved handedly, yet we had to wait two months to pass this in the City,” she said.

READ THE ARREST REPORTS FOR TOWNS COUNTY.

The ultimate effect was restaurants were “on hold for two months while the council approved the ordinance, which requires two readings,” she said.

hiawassee

The Brunch Bill, passed in 2018, took two months for the City of Hiawassee to have two readings and take a vote on implementing it. Mayor Liz Ordiales hopes to change that wait time by letting the city council to have two readings at one meeting, then voting.

“Another example is the technology fee we have been discussing for two months.  That could have been approved in one meeting and implementation moved forward.”

Ordiales added that while this would save a lot of time on certain things, it could not take the place of required public hearings like tax rates. She also pointed out that the process had several rules to prevent it from being abused.

GACITIES.COM EXPLAINS THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MEETINGS

“There are many stipulations for this to be enacted,” she said.

The entire council must be present in-person. The entire council must agree and if there is any doubt, the option is taken off the table, she said.

Ordiales stressed that the city council wants public input.

“We have a work session to discuss issues at hand and always welcome public input,” she said.

And even though Covid-19 has forced everything to go virtual, she stressed the meetings were still a forum for getting input from the public.

The Hiwassee City Council holds a work session on the last Tuesday of the month then a regular session eight days later on the first Tuesday, giving council members to receive input and determine if they will vote on the matter.

Hiawassee City Council considers ways to get resident input on budget

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hiawassee

The Hiawassee City Council considered different ways to get public input about the budget.

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.

 

Hiawassee, Young Harris approve JDA; Towns County to follow

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Anne Mitchell - Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council unanimously approved the municipality’s Joint Development Authority (JDA) agreement last week, following a motion made by Councilmember Nancy Noblet, and seconded by Councilmember Patsy Owens, to “remove Manny Carrion and replace Joe Ruf.” The City of Young Harris activated its JDA on Feb. 4, with Councilmember John Kelley making a motion to approve the resolution creating the JDA, seconded by Councilmember Matt Miller, and approved unanimously.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw told FYN last week that county attorney Robb Kiker is reviewing its portion of the JDA, and adoption is expected to take place at the February commissioner’s meeting.

Each jurisdiction is allotted three board members, for a total of nine JDA directors.

Patsy Owens- Hiawassee City Council

Hiawassee Councilmember Patsy Owens at the Jan. 27 work session.

“It is hereby declared that there is a need for a joint development authority to function in and throughout Towns County, in the City of Young Harris and the City of Hiawassee, which county and municipalities are herein called Participating Jurisdictions,” the resolution reads. “Pursuant to the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 36-62-5.1, such joint development authority is hereby created and activated. Such joint development authority shall be known as the ‘Joint Development Authority of Towns County and the Cities of Young Harris and Hiawassee’ (the ‘Authority’). The Authority shall transact business pursuant to and exercise the powers provided by, the provisions of, the Development Authorities Law, codified in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated Title 36, Chapter 62, as the same now exists and as it may be hereafter amended. Section 2.”

According to the resolution, each of the members appointed shall serve an initial term commencing on the date of the creation of the Authority and expiring as set forth in two-to-six-year increments. After expiration of the initial term of each such appointed member, the terms of office of his or her respective successor shall be terms of four (4) calendar years and each such term of office shall be filled by appointment of the governing body that appointed the member whose term expired in accordance with the above requirements. If at the end of any term of any such appointed member, a successor to such member has not been appointed, the member whose term of office has expired shall continue to hold office until his or her successor is appointed, which appointment shall be for the balance of the term being filled. If a vacancy occurs in the case of any such appointed member, the governing body of the Participating Jurisdiction that appointed such member shall appoint a successor to serve for the balance of the term being filled in accordance with the requirements.

Development Authorities have a range of powers which include: developing and promoting downtowns; making long-range plans or proposals for downtowns; financing (by loan, grant, lease, borrow or otherwise) projects for the public good; executing contracts and agreements;  purchasing, leasing or selling property; and issuing revenue bonds and notes.

Featured Image: Hiawassee Councilmember and Mayor Pro-Tem Anne Mitchell at the council’s January work session.

Joint Development agreement to move before Hiawassee City Council

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Amy Barrett - Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on  Joint Development Authority (JDA) activation, an intergovernmental agreement which is comprised of a total of nine members: three members each from the City of Hiawassee, the City of Young Harris, and Towns County. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales selected the following individuals to serve on the economic development board: Joseph Ruf, Joshua Alexander, and Eurydice V. Constantinides.

Listed on the resolution is Towns County’s JDA member selection: Stephanie McConnell, H. Daniel Burch, and Dwayne Anthony Phillips. It is undetermined at the time of publication when Towns County anticipates activating its agreement.

The City of Young Harris has yet to appoint members to the board. “As was stated previously, the council has not chosen anyone,” Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby told FYN. “The council also has not formally approved the JDA. That will probably happen at the next meeting.” Young Harris City Council meets Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m.

The members of the JDA will receive no compensation for their service other than reimbursement for actual expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.

Hiawassee City Council

Hiawassee City Council agenda for Feb. 4, 2020.

“It is hereby declared that there is a need for a joint development authority to function in and throughout Towns County, in the City of Young Harris and the City of Hiawassee, which county and municipalities are herein called Participating Jurisdictions,” the resolution reads. “Pursuant to the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 36-62-5.1, such joint development authority is hereby created and activated. Such joint development authority shall be known as the “Joint Development Authority of Towns County and the Cities of Young Harris and Hiawassee” (the “Authority”). The Authority shall transact business pursuant to and exercise the powers provided by, the provisions of, the Development Authorities Law, codified in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated Title 36, Chapter 62, as the same now exists and as it may be hereafter amended. Section 2.”

According to the resolution, each of the members appointed shall serve an initial term commencing on the date of the creation of the Authority and expiring as set forth in two-to-six-year increments. After expiration of the initial term of each such appointed member, the terms of office of his or her respective successor shall be terms of four (4) calendar years and each such term of office shall be filled by appointment of the governing body that appointed the member whose term expired in accordance with the above requirements. If at the end of any term of any such appointed member, a successor to such member has not been appointed, the member whose term of office has expired shall continue to hold office until his or her successor is appointed, which appointment shall be for the balance of the term being filled. If a vacancy occurs in the case of any such appointed member, the governing body of the Participating Jurisdiction that appointed such member shall appoint a successor to serve for the balance of the term being filled in accordance with the requirements.

Hiawassee City Council will meet for its regular session, Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m. at Hiawassee City Hall.

Feature Image: Hiawassee City Councilwoman Amy Barrett

Council sworn-in at Hiawassee City Hall

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – City of Hiawassee Councilmembers Jay Chastain Jr., Anne Mitchell, and Nancy Noblet were sworn into office by Hiawassee Clerk Bonnie Kendrick during a ceremony at Hiawassee City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020.

Chastain, Mitchell, and Noblet each swore to the following oath in unison:

“I will well and truly perform the duties of City Councilmember of the City of Hiawassee, Georgia, that I will faithfully enforce the law of this City, that I will support and defend the Charter thereof as well as the Constitution and laws of the State of Georgia and the United States of America, and that I will do all in my power to promote the general welfare of the inhabitants of the City of Hiawassee, and the common interest thereof.

“I do further solemnly swear and affirm that I am not the holder of any unaccounted for public money due this State or any political subdivision or authority thereof; that I am not the holder of any office of trust under the government of the United States, any other state, or any foreign state which, by the laws of the State of Georgia I am prohibited from holding; that I am otherwise qualified to hold said office, according to the Constitution and Laws of Georgia.
So help me God.”

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales indicated at the ceremony that she had met with returning Councilman Jay Chastain Jr. earlier in the day to discuss subjects that have “been lingering for a while that (Chastain) has history for.” Chastain nodded in agreement with the mayor’s announcement.

Mayor Ordiales additionally announced that the Department of Transportation has agreed to install a crosswalk on State Route 76, leading across from Chatuge Regional Hospital. The mayor said that the hospital will fund their side of the roadway, with the city funding the southern side to ensure that the curb is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ordiales estimated the cost to the city at approximately $3,000.

Hiawassee City Council will meet for its work session on Monday, Jan. 27, at 6 pm in the upstairs training room at city hall. Mayor Ordiales is expected to present the City of Hiawassee’s 2019 “Year-in-Review” at that time.

Meetings are open to the public.

Featured Image: Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick swearing-in Councilmembers (L-R) Anne Mitchell, Nancy Noblet, and Jay Chastain Jr.

Related Archive:

Outspoken councilman returns to Hiawassee City Hall

 

Outspoken councilman returns to Hiawassee City Hall

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Jay Chastain Jr

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Hall is prepared to swear-in three council members next week; unchallenged incumbents Anne Mitchell and Nancy Noblet, along with returning councilman Jay “Junior” Chastain. Chastain served 12 years on Hiawassee City Council prior to being unseated by current Councilwoman Patsy Owens in 2017. Chastain, who secured an unchallenged seat on the council earlier this year, will replace Councilman Kris Berrong, who did not seek an additional term.

FYN asked Chastain what prompted his decision to regain his seat on the city government. “I want to help the local population, the landowners, and give the citizens a voice on the issues that matter,” Chastain said. “I’m a big supporter of property rights, of the rights of the people in general, and I want to preserve that.” Chastain, who was often at odds with now-Mayor Liz Ordiales on issues, stressed that he is not returning with a “vendetta” and plans to keep an open mind.

Chastain, an area paramedic, drew media attention in 2017 due in part to his feisty repeal of the later re-enacted, controversial BRMEMC franchise tax. Chastain shared an interview conducted during his 2005 campaign, stating that his words continue to hold true. “I feel that the mayor and the council have to work together for the benefit of our community. Too much growth, as well as too little growth, will not be of benefit,” the Hiawassee native said, adding that he fulfilled his original campaign promises while in office. “The council has an obligation to keep the best interest of this community at heart.”

The self-proclaimed Republican councilman did not mince words, however, and stated that he would continue to oppose proposals that he believes are not favorable for the citizens that he vows to represent.

Chastain listed the problems that the City of Hiawassee has encountered with the sewer system as a top concern, stating that cooperation is necessary between the city and county departments. “There needs to be some agreement between Hiawassee and Towns County Water Authority,” the returning councilman said. “The sewer situation needs to be fixed.”

Chastain will reclaim his seat on Hiawassee City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 6 p.m. Meetings are open to the public.

 

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City of Hiawassee to discuss contract with Georgia Mural Trail

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Georgia Mural Trail

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to discuss a potential contract with Georgia Mural Trail at the monthly work session, Monday, Nov. 25, at city hall. “The Georgia Mural Trail was created by John W. Christian from the Go Georgia Arts,” Georgia Mural Trail explains. “Our studio is located in Hapeville, Ga. The Georgia Mural trail started as a five years commitment to paint fifty murals in fifty cities in five years. We focus is on smaller cities under 10,000 people. We also have a program for larger cities under 50,000 people. Our goal is to get other artists, organizations, and sponsors on board to help with the painting, funding, and marketing of the trail.”

Georgia Mountain Trail states its mission is “to create great art and help others create great art, one person or city at a time.” The goal is to link public artwork via a “trail” near welcome centers throughout Georgia, hugging the state’s border. The company says that while the design process involves months of planning, murals are typically completed within two weeks to a month of application.

Hiawassee strategic plan.

A portion of Hiawassee’s strategic plan includes adding public artwork in the city.

“The Georgia Mural Trail first mural city was the city of Cave Spring. Even though there are hundreds of murals in the state. Our focus are smaller cities. We have painted murals in many other cities this one was the first under the mural trail concept. The mural trail concept is fluid and always changing and growing. We are always adding ideas to the trail. One thing you will notice is that the murals are getting much larger and more complex.”

Hiawassee’s Joint Economic Developer Denise McKay hinted at October’s Downtown Development Authority meeting that two location sites for murals had been tentatively identified, one being that of the building of the former “$2 store.”

Hiawassee City Council assembles for work sessions at 6 p.m. on the last Monday of each month.

Meetings are open to the public.

Feature Image: Georgia Mural Trail’s debut mural in Cave Spring, GA, created by a team of artists.

Hiawassee disconnects multiple businesses from sewer system

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Hiawassee sewer disconnected from businesses

HIAWASSEE, GA. – Numerous businesses and residences in Towns County are left without a previous means of wastewater disposal following an alleged “unilateral decision” by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales to discontinue the use of a city sewer lift station known as “Roadrunner” on State  Highway 76. Wastewater lift stations are used for pumping wastewater or sewage from a lower to higher elevation, particularly where the elevation of the source is not sufficient for gravity flow.

Ken and Dana Merritt – stakeholders concerned with the affected businesses and residences – contacted FetchYourNews (FYN) following reported attempts to remedy the foreboding situation through Mayor Ordiales, and subsequently, members of Hiawassee City Council whom purportedly suggested a lawsuit against the municipality.

“We have multiple business interests in the Ridges area of Towns County….” Ken Merritt began. “The mayor of Hiawassee has disconnected all of these entities from the sewer system and sewage has been seen overflowing from the lift station which has been in operation since early 2000. The sewer system was designed by the city’s engineer, approved by the city council, and has worked well since it was completed. The mayor decided arbitrarily without engineering council that she would shut down an adjacent lift station because of the electrical cost. Consequently, the lift station in front of Sand Bar was left to move the flow of sewage three-and-one-half miles to the sewer plant. It was never designed for that purpose and the sewage has backed up into the vault and overflowed onto the grounds. It makes no difference to the mayor that countless people and businesses that pay a monthly sewer bill are just a day or two away from having their toilets overflow.”

Merritt stated that he has hired a septic service to remove and dispose of the waste from the sewage vault at a rate of 3-to-4 times per day, following the City of Hiawassee’s cessation of the Roadrunner lift station. Merritt explained that failure to remove the waste would result in above ground seepage, forcing connected businesses to close their doors. Furthermore, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division (EPD), issued a warning that a civil penalty of up to $50,000 per day could be imposed due to the proximity of the Merritt’s waste system to Lake Chatuge.

“The City is constantly striving to run a more efficient and effective operation,” Mayor Ordiales responded. “In review of the current sewer system and with the impending expansion, the decision to by-pass the road runner lift station was made in December of 2018. This by-pass addresses several issues that have been long-standing; the odor from that area has been an issue for over 13 years, the need for weekly maintenance to that lift station, the need to have utilities present, both water and electricity, the maintenance and repairs of two large pumps valued at over $15,000 each, and the maintenance of a large electric panel to operate that lift station. The City consulted with City engineers and electricians prior to making the final decision to decommission the Roadrunner lift station.

“The lift station that is failing is not a City-owned and operated lift station,” Hiawassee’s mayor continued. “It is privately owned by Dana and Ken Merritt.  That lift station was installed over 17 years ago and it was accepted by (the) City for use by the businesses that were operable at that time.  Since then, there have been many new businesses added to that area that utilize that lift station.  The area has simply outgrown that lift station.  The City has been working with the Merritts since March of 2019 to correct the issues on that privately-owned lift station.  The city will not spend taxpayer money on privately-owned property.  The Merritts have been notified many months ago as to the replacement pumps needed to properly operate that lift station but have not been responsible in taking care of their property.  There have been several letters, meetings at City Hall, telephone communications to no avail.  It is very disappointing that they have put the businesses that are served by that lift station in peril of closing and more importantly putting our most valuable resource, Lake Chatuge, in danger.  The failing lift station serves only the area of the Sand Bar, Moondance complex, El Cancun, and Dogwood St area. The City has contacted EPD and they, in turn, have written a letter to the Merritts earlier this year informing them of the consequences of their irresponsibility.”

Mayor Ordiales stated that the solution to the problem includes the installation of proper pumps that would handle the volume of sewage flowing through it.

The Merritts expressed that they believe that a portion of a 2018 grant accepted by the City of Hiawassee should be used to remedy the situation.

Click to read City of Hiawassee receives $600,000 grant for wastewater improvement

Additionally, the Merritts stated that reverse pressure from the inoperative Roadrunner lift station has caused damage to the private sewer system, forcing repairs. In an Aug. 26 letter addressed to the EPD by the Merritt’s attorney, the couple’s legal counsel responded that the “unilateral decision of the City of Hiawassee to discontinue the use of and the bypass of the Roadrunner lift station” has harmed the Merritt’s system due to excessive reverse pressure on the system. “The City of Hiawassee has continuously charged a monthly sewer service bill to each property owner connected to and using the sanitary sewer extension,” the attorney added.

“If the system ceases to function properly there will be irreparable damage to the environment and businesses,” Dana Merritt said. “It will not only (destroy) several lift station pumps but also close businesses not limited to but including the jail, recreation center, Ridges Resort, Watercrest Condos, several restaurants, Cinema 6, and other private businesses.”

FYN intends to follow developments as they occur.

Feature Image: Sewer station in question, located near Sand Bar and Grille on State Highway 76, west of Hiawassee.

Hiawassee City Council passes Lake Chatuge erosion ordinance

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Lake Chatuge erosion

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council unanimously voted in favor of enacting an EPD anti-erosion and sediment ordinance Nov. 5 in an effort to protect Lake Chatuge. Western Regional Director Callie Moore of Mountain True – an environmental organization that merged with the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition earlier this year – attended the city hall meeting in vocal support of the measure.

Having local authority means that the city of Hiawassee can issue local permits for erosion and sediment control, Moore explained. “But beyond that, you have a person who’s actually here to help people with erosion and sediment control. And because Towns County is not an issuing authority either, anyone around here who’s doing any kind of construction, if there was any problem with it, or they had any questions, or just to get the permit, they would have to apply to the state and the person who comes out here would have to come from Cartersville which is two hours, two and a half hours…

“The 2007 Lake Chatuge Watershed action plan – I can’t believe how long ago that was – had a list of recommendations for all kinds of stakeholders in the watershed, and local governments was one of them, and there was a whole list of local government action items – and then there were some specific ones for different cities, counties, entities, whatever in the watershed – and the last one that the city of Hiawassee has not done is the local sediment erosion control plan so this completes the checklist for protection of Lake Chatuge and it’s very exciting for me that this is happening.”

Patsy Owens

Hiawassee Councilwoman Patsy Owens at the Nov. 5 session.

Portions of the extensive ordinance reads as follows:

“No person shall conduct any land-disturbing activity within the jurisdictional boundaries of the City of Hiawassee
without first obtaining a permit from the City of Hiawassee Issuing Authority to perform such activity and providing a copy of Notice of Intent submitted to EPD, if applicable. The application for a permit shall be submitted to the City of Hiawassee and must include the applicant’s erosion, sedimentation and pollution control plan with supporting data, as necessary.”

“If any person commences any land-disturbing activity requiring a land-disturbing permit as prescribed in this ordinance without first obtaining said permit, the person shall be subject to revocation of his business license, work permit or other authorization for the conduct of a business and associated work.”

“When a violation in the form of taking action without a permit, failure to maintain a stream buffer, or significant
amounts of sediment, as determined by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee, have been or are being discharged into state waters and where best management practices have not been properly designed, installed, and maintained, a stop-work order shall be issued by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee. All such stop-work orders shall be effective immediately upon issuance and shall be in effect until the necessary corrective action or mitigation has occurred.”

“Any person who violates any provisions of this ordinance, or any permit condition or limitation established pursuant to this ordinance, or who negligently or intentionally fails or refuses to comply with any final or emergency order of the Director issued as provided in this ordinance shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500.00 per day.”

The newly-enacted ordinance was initially brought before Hiawassee City Council as “new business” on Sept. 23, 2019.

Feature Image:  Mountain True Western Regional Director Callie Moore

Hiawassee on track to renew emergency flight coverage

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LifeForce

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The City of Hiawassee is on track to renew its emergency medical flight coverage with AirMed at the 2018 rate of $4,900. The item is listed as “new business” on the council’s Oct. 28 agenda.

Towns County citizens are automatically enrolled in coverage, at no charge, through AirMethods – also known as Air Life – an air ambulance service that transports urgent care patients to trauma centers. Residents within the city limits of Hiawassee are dually covered through an additional air flight insurance program with AirMed.

The secondary flight insurance granted to Hiawassee citizens, thanks to the past initiative of Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, is available for a fee to county residents seeking increased peace of mind. In the event that AirMethods is engaged in service, or grounded due to maintenance, AirMed is dispatched to one of the four landing zones within the county’s perimeter. The cost to those lacking insurance can reach in excess of $30,000 for a single life-saving transport. Additionally, if multiple accident victims are simultaneously in need of advanced medical care, the helicopters are limited to one patient per flight.

The air ambulance is staffed with a pilot, a flight paramedic, and a flight nurse, with the level of service provided equating to that of a portable emergency room. Furthermore, insurance members who have ventured outside the confines of the area are likewise covered if airlifted by an ambulance flight provider.

 

 

Hiawassee on track to enact erosion control ordinance

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erosion

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – An “Issuing Authority Ordinance” was listed as new business on the Sept. 23 agenda of Hiawassee City Council. The purpose of teh decree is to enact “sound conservation and engineering practices to prevent and minimize erosion and resultant sedimentation” within the city limits. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales described the mandate as a standard environmental Protection Division (EPD) ordinance, typically updated every five years.

“EPD mandates that whenever you have any type of construction, somebody comes out and checks it, and makes sure you’re not doing anything to harm the environment,” Mayor Ordiales explained, using “run-off” into Lake Chatuge as an example. “In the past we haven’t had anybody do it, so we had to sort of wait, and when somebody called and said, ‘Hey, there’s about 300 pounds of soot going into the lake, you might want to address it’ then we have to call EPD, and EPD would come out and do it. They have this ordinance in place, and we have our building inspector, Randy Day, that does this for us. He’s certified, he’s licensed, he’s insured, he’s ready to go. But since we’ve never had this, we have to put this ordinance in place for him to do it.”

Hiawassee Mayor

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales at the Sept. 23 city council meeting.

Portions of the extensive ordinance read as follows:

“No person shall conduct any land-disturbing activity within the jurisdictional boundaries of the City of Hiawassee
without first obtaining a permit from the City of Hiawassee Issuing Authority to perform such activity and providing a copy of Notice of Intent submitted to EPD, if applicable. The application for a permit shall be submitted to the City of Hiawassee and must include the applicant’s erosion, sedimentation and pollution control plan with supporting data, as necessary.”

“If any person commences any land-disturbing activity requiring a land-disturbing permit as prescribed in this ordinance without first obtaining said permit, the person shall be subject to revocation of his business license, work permit or other authorization for the conduct of a business and associated work.”

“When a violation in the form of taking action without a permit, failure to maintain a stream buffer, or significant
amounts of sediment, as determined by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee, have been or are being discharged into state waters and where best management practices have not been properly designed, installed, and maintained, a stop work order shall be issued by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee. All such stop work orders shall be effective immediately upon issuance and shall be in effect until the necessary corrective action or mitigation has occurred.”

“Any person who violates any provisions of this ordinance, or any permit condition or limitation established pursuant to this ordinance, or who negligently or intentionally fails or refuses to comply with any final or emergency order of the Director issued as provided in this ordinance shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500.00 per day.”

Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett questioned whether violation fines incurred would revert to the City of Hiawassee. Mayor Ordiales replied that it would be the case. The ordinance is expected to reach Hiawassee City Council for adoption Nov. 5, 2019.

 

Additional Towns County news

 

 

City of Hiawassee approves first reading of small cell ordinance

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cell

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council held the first reading of a “Small Cell Ordinance” Sept. 3, gaining  unanimous approval. On April 26, Governor Brian Kemp signed into law the Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act. The law is scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1.

The legislature is designed to make it simplier for wireless broadband antennas to be installed along public right-of-ways. The law requires wireless companies to seek approval from cities before being allowed to affiix them. The act is designed to help pave the way for the implementation of 5G wireless communication networks in the future. Additional antennas will be necessary to transmit the amount of data that a network will require. According to the wireless organization Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, these transmitters will also capable of supporting mid-band and high-band spectrum frequencies, in addition to the more traditional low-band spectrum frequencies. As mid- and high-band waves cannot travel as far as low-band waves, a need will arise to place the antennas more densely than the large towers currently forming the backbone of wireless networks.

cell

Small cellular network transmitters can range in size.

“Over the last few years, the wireless industry has actively pursued state legislation enacted to constrain the broad authority of local governments over the deployment of wireless small cell equipment in public right-of-way,” National Law Review explains. “These state laws usually limit the authority of local governments to decide where wireless small cell equipment can be installed in the right-of-way; limit the time for action on applications to install small cell equipment; and limit the amounts that can be charged for applications and use of the right-of-way,”

The second reading and adoption of the Small Cell Ordinance, along with a second reading of an UNITI Registration Ordinance which also deals with the city right-of-ways, is expected prior to Oct. 1.

Feature Image: (L-R) Hiawassee City Council members Patsy Owens, Nancy Noblet, Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, and Anne Mitchell.

 

Barrett rejects Mitchell’s term limit proposal for Hiawassee City Council

News, Politics

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A proposal to pursue a maximum of two term limits, amounting to eight years, for elected council members was raised Monday, Aug. 26, by Councilwoman Anne Mitchell at Hiawassee City Hall. The agenda item was quickly rejected by Councilwoman Amy Barrett, preventing the measure from advancing to state legislature.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales explained during the work session that in order for the proposal to proceed, the council must be in unanimous agreement on the issue. The matter was broached in previous years, Ordiales reminded, with term limits solely rejected by returning-former Councilman Jay Chastain Jr.

“I like term limits,” Mitchell said. “I really do. It’s kind of like draining the lake every year or flushing your toilet. You get something new, and people don’t get stale, and they do get stale in this job. We know that from the last 20 years.”

Barrett objected to Mitchell’s position, “Just because there’s change doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. I think the people should have a choice…I understand there have been bad experiences, but we as a public who vote, we as the voters are responsible for electing these people, and we could have voted them out. They did have people run against them. It is what it is.” Barrett countered, later including, “If you don’t like the job we’re doing, people can stand up and run against us or vote us out. Or if they like the job we’re doing, hey, vote us in.”

Mitchell interjected during the forum that voter apathy is a problem in the area, and that increased voter activity, along with a greater amount of council candidates, is needed.

Anne Mitchell - City Council

Hiawassee Councilwoman Anne Mitchell

Councilwoman Nancy Noblet entered the discussion. “The big question is why. Why will the people not run for office? If you want to see your city do good things, if you want to see the county do good things, why do you not run? There were three seats up,” Noblet asked, later adding, “We’ve got a lot people that have a lot of opinions, ‘Well, I would do this or I would do that or I would do this,’ but guess what, when it comes time to step your foot down, to do it or not to do it, where are they at?” Noblet ended by stating that her stance on eight year term limits was “up in the air.”

Councilwoman Patsy Owens briefly weighed in, favoring term limits, stating that long-term incumbents discourage candidates from entering the race, based on a presumption that the effort is a losing battle. Councilman Kris Berrong remained silent on the issue.

Citizens in attendance voiced a desire to see a younger generation become involved in city politics.

“The term limit situation, unless it is unanimous it won’t pass, so let’s drop that, and we can certainly talk about it again in a couple of months if you guys want, and when the new council member is in, we can discuss it again,” Mayor Ordiales concluded. “(Jay Chastain Jr.) was the only one who did not vote last time for it so I doubt seriously that he will vote this time for it.”

Chastain automatically secured Councilman Berrong’s seat last Friday, Aug. 23, due to uncontested candidate qualification for Post 3. Chastain will return to city office January 2020.

Feature Image: Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett

City of Hiawassee plans public DDA meet and greet

News
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Seven directors were recently selected to serve on Hiawassee’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA), and the city has planned a public meet and greet with the appointed board members tomorrow evening, prior to the council’s 6 p.m. work session.

“On Monday, Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m. there will be a special meeting (meet and greet) with the members of the newly formed Downtown Development Authority and the City Council of Hiawassee in the Council Chambers at City Hall,” City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick said. “Refreshments will be served.  At 6 p.m. the DDA will be presented with their information packages and date of first official regular meeting, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019 at 6 p.m. at Hiawassee City Hall.”

The DDA board of directors are:

Herb Bruce

Judith Wieble

Tamela Cooper

Lindie Wright

Theresa Andrett

Maggie Oliver

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

According to the Georgia Municiple Association, DDAs and their appointed boards are created to revitalize and redevelop the central business districts of cities in Georgia. DDA training provides local leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to ensure a healthy, vibrant downtown.

DDAs have a range of powers which include: developing and promoting downtowns; making long-range plans or proposals for downtowns; financing (by loan, grant, lease, borrow or otherwise) projects for the public good; executing contracts and agreements;  purchasing, leasing or selling property; and issuing revenue bonds and notes.

 

Chastain to replace Berrong on Hiawassee City Council

News, Politics
Jay Chastain Jr

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Qualifying for Hiawassee City Council ended at 4 pm, Friday, Aug. 23, and the three open seats have been determined. Incumbents Anne Mitchell, Post 4, and Nancy Noblet, Post 5, qualified unchallenged for four year terms.

Anne Mitchell

Hiawassee Councilwoman Anne Mitchell

Post 3 Councilman Kris Berrong opted not to re-qualify, with former Hiawassee Councilman Jay “Junior” Chastain automatically securing the seat that Berrong will vacate in January 2020. Chastain, a paramedic for Towns County and Cherokee County, NC, was unseated by sitting Councilwoman Patsy Owens in 2017.

Nancy Noblet

Hiawassee Councilwoman Nancy Noblet

Due to no challengers in the race, an election will not be held in November.

Feature Image: Jay Chastain Jr.

Hiawassee’s Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors Selected

News
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Board members for the recently created Hiawassee Downtown Development Authority (DDA) were named per open records request sent last week to the city of Hiawassee by FetchYourNews (FYN), following activation of the DDA by Hiawassee City Council Tuesday, Aug. 6. A list of the individuals selected to serve on the authority was delivered to FYN by Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick via Joint Economic Developer Denise McKay.

The appointed DDA board of directors are as follows:

Herb Bruce

Judith Wieble

Tamela Cooper

Lindie Wright

Theresa Andrett

Maggie Oliver

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

According to Georgia Municiple Association (GMA), DDAs and their appointed boards are created to revitalize and redevelop the central business districts of cities in Georgia. DDA training provides local leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to ensure a healthy, vibrant downtown. According to the University of Georgia, DDAs have a range of powers which include: developing and promoting downtowns; making long-range plans or proposals for downtowns; financing (by loan, grant, lease, borrow or otherwise) projects for the public good; executing contracts and agreements;  purchasing, leasing or selling property; and issuing revenue bonds and notes.

Denise McKay

Joint Economic Developer Denise McKay serves Hiawassee, Young Harris, and Towns County

The DDA consists of a board of seven directors appointed by the municipal governing authority to serve four-year terms. Directors are appointed by the governing body, and must be taxpayers who live in the city and/or owners or operators of businesses located within the downtown development area and who are taxpayers residing in the county in which the municipal corporation is located, except that one director may reside outside the county if he/she owns a business within the downtown development area and is a resident of the State of Georgia. One director may be a member of the governing body of the municipal corporation. No less than four of the directors must be persons who either have or represent a party who has an economic interest in the redevelopment and revitalization of the downtown development area. Directors receive no compensation other than reimbursement for actual expenses incurred in performing their duties (O.C.G.A. § 36-42-7). All members of the board of directors, except for the director who is also a member of the city’s governing body, must complete at least eight hours of DDA training within the first 12 months of appointment to the DDA.

Advantages of creating an authority include:

  • the ability of the municipal government to delegate responsibility
  • to have a body that will assist in developing and operating a single purpose facility (such as water and sewer, parking facility, etc.)
  • carrying out a focused public purpose, such as economic development
  • financing a project through revenue bonds
  • creates a way to have ongoing oversight of operations after initial development is completed
  • their activities may be less influenced by politics
  • there is some distance between the city and the authority, which is helpful if controversies arise.

Disadvantages to creating authorities include:

  • authorities can become overly independent
  • authority boards are often appointed to terms longer than those of the elected officials who appointed them
  • they can become financially self-sufficient from the city from operations of the facilities they develop
  • they are likely to be less responsive to public opinion and to local governments.

Despite the level of independence of authorities, municipal governing bodies do have oversight powers and controls, GMA explains. For example, the boards of all municipal authorities are comprised of members appointed by the city’s governing authority. For many authorities, a certain number of city officials are either required to serve or may be appointed to serve on the board. The activities of authorities must be consistent with those described in the local Service Delivery Strategy. The enabling legislation for some authorities specifically states that board members serve at the pleasure of the governing authority. Authorities typically have bylaws that govern their activities and describe their organization. Additionally, authorities are subject to open meetings and open records laws set forth by the state of Georgia.

FYN will continue to follow developments related to the newly-formed DDA. A meet-and-greet to provide an introduction between council members and the selected board was suggested by Mayor Ordiales at the Aug. 6 regular session, prompting FYN to request information on the assembly.

“A meet and greet has not been scheduled as this request and the meeting date, location and times have not been determined as of this request,” Economic Developer McKay responded via email. “When the DDA meets for the first time all this will be considered and on the published agenda.  Proper notification will be given to the legal organization for publishing the meeting and agendas will be posted as required.”

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