Hiawassee City Council hears proposal for townhomes

Community, News
townhomes

HIAWASSEE, Ga – New townhomes project would require a change to existing the city ordinance for it to proceed.

Celtic Management presented the Mountain View Townhomes project during the March Hiawassee City Council work session.

Mountain View Townhomes would be built on two acres off Hwy. 76 across from the Taco Bell and next to Georgia Mountain Vision Center. The proposal included a total of 16 townhomes. 10 two-bedrooms at 1,960 square feet for $230,000 and up. 6 three-bedroom units at 2,300 square feet for $280,000 and up.

The issue with the ordinance arises with the number of units per acreage. Currently, Hiawassee permits four units per acre and Mountain View Townhomes asks for 16 units across two acres.

Mayor Liz Ordiales stressed that a potential ordinance change needed to be handled the right way and to “think about this a little more.”

Proposed Townhome plot.

She asked about putting together a subcommittee to address the existing ordinance, and the city attorney stated it depends on how extensive a change is necessary.

Some councilmembers were on board with changing the ordinance to provide more living areas downtown.

“I don’t have any problem with tweaking the ordinance,” Councilmember Anne Mitchell said. She advocated for more density in the downtown area.

Councilmember Amy Barrett agreed with her stating the city needs more population and families. She added that younger families and young people, in general, would be attracted to the proposed townhomes.

The units would be three stories with a garage on the first level, kitchen, dining, and living on the second, and bedrooms and bathroom on the third floor. The deck would be located on the front of the building to take advantage of the views.

An HOA would be instituted for maintenance at around $100 a month. Currently, community amenities aren’t planned but that could change later.

Celtic Management would complete the townhomes in phases, so once the first building went up for sale, the construction on the second one would start. The company’s not in favor of adding a low-cost housing option because of past experiences.

The company representative Aaron Lawson said they try to hire local labor first for construction projects, but with the current hot market, it’s likely some bigger subcontractors would be brought in.

$50,000 approved for new water department building

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water department

HIAWASSEE, Ga – The new water department building was approved by the Hiawassee City Council. They budgeted $50,000 for the entire project. The current building flood every time it rains and water must be pushed out. The new building will be divided to include an office on one side and then a wall would divide it from the maintenance area.

Councilmember Amy Barrett asked if the panels were going to be horizontal or vertical. Mayor Liz Ordiales confirmed they would be vertical. It was unanimously approved.

Perspective views of the new water department building.

City hall repairs were approved including lights on the square, roof, painting, and cracks along the building. The lights will be two bulbs, 12 feet off the ground, and new lights over by the stairs. $60,000 was previously budgeted for city hall repairs. Three bids came in for the new lights. City Plumbing presented $14,220. Wisconsin Lighting stated it could do the job at $11,611, and LED Pros Worldwide came in at $11,465. All the polls will be replaced and bollards along the sides of the stairs.

Water leaking from the city hall roof.

COVID-19 Update

Ordiales provided a COVID-19 update. As of March 1, Towns County had administered 4,383 vaccines, 2,923 first doses, and 1,463 second doses. 49 new cases in the past week and the positivity rate dropped to six percent. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine should be available sometime in March. It’s unclear when Towns County will receive the one-shot vaccine. Starting March 8, Georgia educators became available to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

City Insurance

City Council approved Barrett and Associates insurance for another year. Councilmember Barrett stepped outside for the vote. At the work session, they discussed the company options which included Blue Cross Blue Shield Anthem, United Health Care, Humana, and Cigna. Hiawassee’s on a Chamber of Commerce plan to gather a large enough pool of people. Of the companies that still offer Chamber plans, the rates bounced around all over the place. Hiawassee saw one of the best rate increases at a .74 percent increase. It breaks down to around a $5 increase per person for Blue Cross Blue Shield. The total cost per person was $796.86 with a $1,500 deductible, 0 co-insurance, and $3,000 out of pocket. The other monthly cost options ranged from $978 to $1,188. Dental, vision, and life insurance did not change.

Presented insurance company rate breakdowns.

“Our total investment in our employees is $867 a month so about $433 per pay period. It’s pretty strong,” Ordiales explained. “When you start talking about your total compensation which every year, I give them a breakdown. It’s not just $15 an hour. It’s $15 per hour plus all this which gets you to $21 or whatever it happens to be. Everyone is of course different.”

Other Business

The city’s asking residents to set up ACH for online monthly bills since the mail has been arriving late.

After auctioning off older cars, the council approved the purchase of a newer used 2018 police car from Jackie Jones. The city must pay out $1,400 aside from the auction funds.

$43,000 went toward the generator at the State Farm Lift Station.

EPD monitoring contract was renewed for $21,173.

Hiawassee City Council issued the first reading of the business license ordinance for workflow purposes. The dates are the only change.

Six buoys were approved by TVA for Lloyd’s Landing and five around the city water intake in an effort to slow boats down.

Thirteen sewer alarms needed upgrading at $1,224 apiece because they weren’t compatible with 5G.

Paris Business Center’s grants take center stage

Community, News
Downtown Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Restoring the Paris Business Center and associated grant costs became the main subject of discussion during the February city council meeting.

Hiawassee City Council and downtown development authority (DDA) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for management of the Paris Business Center.

In other words, the DDA operates the Paris Business Center, but the city owns the building. By approving the MoU, they can proceed forward with the ARC grant application for $600,000.

If approved, the city would match 30 percent of the $600,000, approximately $180,000.The buildings’ appraisal was set at $135,000, Mayor Ordiales said on November 25, 2020, although $36,000 was “donated to the city” by Dan Paris, reducing the city’s cost to $99,000. Through additional architecture and environmental studies, the remaining match around is around $60,000. 

USDA Rural Development Grant issued Hiawassee a roof and stabilization grant for $68,000.

“We’ve got that money. I’ve been working very hard… who’s going to turn down $180,000 to get $600,000 for free,” Mayor Liz Ordiales explained.

Mayor Liz Ordiales

Mayor Liz Ordiales

The overall project is estimated to be $1.2 million, and the DDA set a fundraising goal of $1.5 million. They also hired a consulting coach to help them raise the money for the Paris building renovations. It’s not their intention to leave the city holding the bag if they can’t raise funds.

At the end of 2020, the DDA raised $7,600 for the project within three weeks. They also have a fundraising workshop planned for February.

The DDA can’t apply for grants. If they see an applicable grant, it must be presented to the council and approved as a resolution.

The fee schedule for the alcohol ordinance was also approved; nothing changed cost-wise.

Also, the cars were approved for the February 20 auction: Crown Victoria, Toyota Camry, and Ford 150. They also discussed adding the Dodge Charger to the list because of the cost associated with fixing it. In the future, the city and police department plan to return to Ford Explorers. They’ve experienced too many issues with Dodge Chargers, but if they don’t receive enough money from the sale, they won’t purchase a new car.

COVID-19 Update

The seven-day update for Towns went up 50 percent with 36 news cases, and the positivity rate came in at 23 percent. COVID-19 testing went down 20 percent of all the hospital beds are COVID-19 related with eight new hospitalizations.

The health department offers vaccinations when available at the recreation center. Patients must make appointments beforehand.

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

News
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.

 

 

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.

 

Hiawassee Council tables $25K ice machine purchase for Mayors’ Park

News, Politics
Hiawassee Mayor

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council tabled an agenda item Aug. 6, proposed by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, to purchase a used ice vending machine, not to exceed $25,000, for Mayors’ Park, located east of the city limits on State Route 76. The popular city park offers boating access to Lake Chatuge. Council members opposed taking action on the purchase at this time, citing concerns such as the high-dollar cost, maintenance upkeep, fear of vandalism, and the fishing season coming to a close as reasons to delay a decision until spring of next year.

“It was just brought to me as a good idea and a potential to get that ice machine,” Mayor Ordiales replied, adding that the cost of a new machine was estimated at $60,000. “We don’t have to get it now, but you know, it seems there might be an nice machine available for that amount of money. If we don’t want to do it, I’m okay with that. I don’t think the city is going to make any money off of it. It would just be a good service for the people who launch their boats there to get their ice there.” Ordiales included that although the potential purchase was not intended to be a money maker, the mayor believes the city would recuperate the cost of the vending machine within a year or two.

Hiawassee City Council approved a grease trap training and inspection contract for $5,500, updated utility billing and accounting software with Black Mountain Software which is not to exceed $25,000, Intercity Fund Debt Forgiveness for water treatment in the amount of $583,861, an extension of the Towns County Water Authority Service Agreement to begin billing additional water consumers for sewer usage, and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Activation.

FetchYourNews is awaiting a returned records request from city hall containing the names of the members selected to serve on the DDA board.

Feature Photo: Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

Residential areas on Hiawassee’s wish list for commercial development

News
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As the City of Hiawassee continues its pursuit to activate and institute a Downtown Development Authority (DDA), establishing a geographical Rural Zone Designation for economic development is a key factor in the process. FetchYourNews filed an open records request with the City of Hiawassee following a public announcement by Economic Developer Director Denise McKay stating that 209 properties had been identified by the city government as potential redevelopment sites.

The properties on the City of Hiawassee’s list of proposed locations include numerous occupied buildings and several residential homes in the area. A full copy of the properties is available: Rural Zone  (Click to view document)

The DDA is primarily a policy-making and major decision-making entity that plans and manages the downtown area. The DDA is a corporate body recognized by state law, and it is eligible to receive certain grant funding, whereas, a local business or merchants association may not qualify. From an Internal Revenue perspective the DDA is considered to be governmental tax-exempt. The DDA can utilize a variety of financing tools outlined in the Official Code of Georgia. Funding created from the implementation of the measures can be used in a number of ways to bring about revitalization and economic development of the central business district.

Hiawassee City Hall

Hiawassee City Hall

The DDA can work with volunteers from the local business association, citizens, the city and county to
bring about the revitalization of the downtown area, or depending upon a set of criteria for qualification, a
DDA may choose to initiate a Main Steet Affiliate, as the City of Hiawassee has opted, or a Better Home Town Redevelopment Program.

The DDA must be activated by the city government prior to functioning. This is accomplished by first designating the downtown area boundaries with the city; appointing the initial directors of the authority; creating a resolution which also declares that there is a need for such an authority; pass the resolution, and file copies of the resolution with the Secretary of State and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The DDA law states that the authority shall consist of a board of seven directors. The directors must be taxpayers residing in the county in which the authority is located. At least four of the directors must also be owners or operators of downtown businesses. Directors of authorities created under the DDA law are appointed by the governing body of the municipality. Directors will be required to attend and complete at least eight hours of training on downtown development and redevelopment programs.

Hiawassee City Council members are currently in the process of selecting and submitting their choice of board appointees to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales. Once the body is formed, the authority can undertake commercial, business, office, industrial, parking, or public projects if it claims to benefit the downtown district.

The following are powers that are specifically provided to the DDA created under the Downtown Development Authorities Law of 1981:

1. To sue and be sued.
2. To adopt and to change, as necessary, a corporate seal.
3. To make and execute contracts and other agreements, such as contracts for construction, lease or
sale of projects or agreements to finance projects.
4. To purchase and own property, real or personal, and to sell or otherwise dispose of property, lease or rent property. The authority’s property is tax-exempt.
5. To finance projects by loan, grant, lease or otherwise.
6. To finance projects using revenue bonds or other obligations of authority.

The establishment of Hiawassee’s Rural Zone Designation is expected in October. Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to adopt the Downtown Development Activation Resolution Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 6 pm at city hall.

Rural Zone  

Feature Photo Credit: City of Hiawassee/Strategic Plan

 

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