Hiawassee Council discusses hiring economic development role

economic development

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Hiawassee City Council tabled the discussion of a new economic development role exclusively for the city.

If ultimately approved, the position would be part-time, three days a week at $20 per hour. The role would be around $24,000 a year. Hiawassee wants someone with experience in a similar role. The council moved to table the role until more information was available and the entire board was present.

“This is more economic development work. Not as far along as Denise [McKay] is. Denise has all kinds of certifications, but someone who has a little bit more economic development background. I think’s going to take her a long time to find that especially since we’re only doing three days a week at that pay scale,” Mayor Liz Ordiales explained.

Hiawassee in conjunction with Towns County and Young Harris hired McKay to execute economic development projects across the three communities. If Hiawassee hired a separate, economic development individual, they would only take care of Hiawassee projects.

Hiawassee has several projects in process such as downtown development, rural zone, plan first, and Main Street.

Councilmember Anne Mitchell was in favor of moving forward with the position to help keep Hiawassee progressing forward. Councilmembers Patsy Owens, Nancy Noblet, and Amy Barrett had questions and concerns before moving forward with the position.

Some of the salary money would come from the hotel/motel tax. The taxes can also be included in the general fund for advertising or events in the city. The last state legislative session included a law that rental properties such as AirBnB needed to pay rental tax in the city limits.

However, Ordiales is comfortable in hiring the position and that Hiawassee can cover the cost without the updated hotel/motel tax law. She stated she wouldn’t have presented it otherwise.

Union County has an Economic Director for the county and a Downtown Development Director for Blairsville.

“If you don’t want it that’s fine. We’ll just have to ease up on all these projects we’ve got going on because it’s impossible for one person to do it. I mean that’s basically where we’re at,” Ordiales added. “We’ll just have to figure out what to back away from.”

Ordiales added that ideally the person would probably be retired with experience in economic development, but they didn’t need benefits. She also said she hadn’t spoken with anyone about the job.

City council will continue to learn more about land use options

land use

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Hiawassee City Council agreed to move forward with learning more about land use and potentially zoning options for the city.

After attending a planning and land use class to learn more about the options on the table for cities, the council wanted more information before making any lasting decisions.

“It was a very good class. It was a lot of information poured out very quickly and it’s hard to digest all the information very quickly,” said Councilmember Jay Chastain.

Councilmember Anne Mitchell added she thought it provided the opportunity to “correct some of the growth” and was excited about the opportunity.

Chastain and Mitchell also agreed it would take a lot of discussion before putting anything into place.

Chastain thought the best plan would be if the city ever decided to move forward with more planning, zoning, or land use procedure, then it should be placed on the ballot as a referendum for the people to decide.

The city attorney explained that several cities have placed referendums on the ballot, not related to statutes like alcohol. So, he wasn’t going to advise that a referendum wasn’t a possibility.

“We’ve got to do lots of prepping beforehand,” Chastain stated. “We’ve got to draft what we’re going to attempt to do.”

Currently, the council is just discussing whether they want to move forward with the discussion or drop it entirely.

“I agree with Jay. It’s going to take a lot more community involvement, educating, and research before we decide to go down this direction,” Councilmember Amy Barrett commented.

Mitchell asked for information about how long the process would take and offered to attend as many informational sessions as she can to gain a better handle on the issue.

Young Harris has a zoning policy in effect.

The biggest area in Hiawassee that could benefit from a planning or zoning policy would be the business district. The measure could potentially prevent storage units from being developed along Hwy. 76. However, all of Hiawassee would be zoned either as a business district, residential district, or commercial/industrial. It must be a continuous area for the entire city limits. In some cases, a mixed-use area can be acceptable.

Towns County unincorporated isn’t currently considering a zoning policy. Most residents are against any zoning or planning ordinances.

“I don’t want people telling me what I can do or what I can’t do on my property is what people’s biggest concerns are,” Councilmember Nancy Noblet explained.

They all agreed that they wanted to learn more before implementing or dropping the planning and zoning discussion.

Salaries are an issue for public safety

Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith explained it’s becoming difficult to find individuals to fill officer positions. The main reason for this difficulty is pay.

“There’s a couple of officers I’ve spoken to, trying to get them to leave their current department to come work here, but we’ve had trouble so far,” Smith explained. “The ones I’ve spoken to we can’t match their pay.”

Neighboring departments are paying $4 more an hour. The starting pay for an officer with no experience is $14.26. They are looking for an overnight officer, so the pay is slightly more. Towns County deputies are paid around $3 more an hour.

Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith

Hiawassee Police Department does include a benefits package too.

Smith added that the police training conference he recently attended said this is an issue across the state.

Chastain said it might be time to look at the pay scale for public safety officials.

“I hate that these guys and girls have to put their life on the life for me. It breaks my heart that we’re all about this other stuff, but when it comes to our police department, I feel like that somewhere in the budget. It may not be water or sewer but somewhere in that budget surely to God, we can find money that can go to y’all,” Noblet stated.

One course of action to pay more police officers more would be raising taxes, but the council wants to review the budget first.


Referendum for package stores will appear on November ballot

package liquor store

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Hiawassee City Council approved an alcohol referendum on the package sale of spirits to appear on the November ballot for city residents.

The measure will read “shall the issuance of licenses for package sale of spirits be approved? Yes or no?”

Previously, the state of Georgia required signatures to be presented before an alcohol referendum could appear on the ballot. However, the General Assembly removed that requirement, and the city council has opted to let citizens vote on the issue.

Hiawassee already has an extensive alcohol ordinance in place which includes provisions for stores, such as it must be a 2,000 square foot building, 300 feet away from a church, and have $300,000 worth of inventory on hand.

If passed in November, the liquor stores could only go inside city limits since this is a city referendum. It doesn’t apply to Towns County unincorporated.

The council unanimously approved placing the referendum on the ballot at their June 1 meeting.

Planning Ordinance change public hearing scheduled

LIz Ordiales Towns Covid-19

HIAWASSEE, GA – After passing its first reading, the public heading for the change to the planning and development ordinance will take place on May 24 before the work session.

The new language affects Section 26A of the ordinance. If adopted into law, any parcels of land one acre or larger will be allowed to build 10 units per acre in no more than four structures. The height of these structures is not to exceed 35 feet.

Currently, Hiawassee permits four units per acre and Mountain View Townhomes asks for 16 units across two acres.

The change does not apply to parcels of land less than one acre. The two-story provision for height constraints was also removed in favor of the 35 feet limit.

Mayor Liz Ordiales added that Hiawassee has some bigger pieces of property up for sale and the council needs to add a unit cap. She proposed a cap of 40 units per parcel.

“So, we don’t have 140 units in a 14-acre spot,” Ordiales commented.

Council member Anne Mitchell brought up the Mountain Protection Plan and that it sets a height limit at 30 feet. It includes mountains 2,200 feet and higher.

Ordiales believed the protected mountains had to have names as well. She added that the city needs to create a document to properly address the issue.

“I think that map has to be documented,” Ordiales said. “I think it has to be documented and done right…maybe we just need to create a map that says these are the mountains in our Mountain Protection Act for this area.”

Mitchell also asked Mountain View Tops Project Lead Lawson if he knew about the springs and fill dirt in the area. He knew and told his architects. The property is still under contract.

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.


Proposed mock-up of Mountain View Townhomes

Mitchell stood in lone opposition to the ordinance changes.

Kendrick recognized as part of Municipal Clerks Week

Municipal Clerks Week

HIAWASSEE, GA – Hiawassee City Council recognized City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick and all her hard work as part of Professional Municipal Clerks Week.

Mayor Liz Ordiales presented a proclamation to Kendrick and thanked her for everything she does for the city. A clerk serves as the professional link between the citizens, the local governing bodies and agencies of government at other levels.

Professional Municipal Clerks Week runs from May 2 to May 8. 2021 is its 52nd anniversary. It began in 1969 by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and endorsed across the United States, Canada, and 15 other countries.

President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation in 1984 declaring the first week of May as Municipal Clerks Week. President Bill Clinton continued the practice.

“There are many responsibilities of the Municipal and Deputy Clerk that the public takes for granted, such as keeping the council advised of legislation that affects them,” said IIMC President Mary Johnston, MMC, and Clerk of Council for the City of Westerville, Ohio. “Yet, if Clerks are inattentive in their duties, then the efficient operation of our local government is greatly affected.

“The functions of the Clerk necessitate a thorough knowledge of law procedure, administration, and interpersonal relations. To keep up with the consistent transformation in local government, many Clerks participate in continuing education and seminars and attending Clerk Institutes,” said Johnston.

Ordiales announced that Kendrick would also be serving as the court clerk for the time being. The city’s in search of the right person for the role.

New language for planning ordinance decided on

townhomes six units

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Hiawassee City Council will be lessening the acreage requirements for the number of units with a new ordinance change.

Though not officially part of the code yet, the council is moving forward with adjusting the planning ordinance language to state: “lots one acre or larger shall be limited to 12 living units per acre, constructed in no fewer than two structures and no more than four structures.”

Developers could build in duos, quads, or tris with the new wording, along with more units.

The adjustment will allow a new townhome development to build within city limits. Mountain Top Views wants to build on the back two acres next to the Georgia Vision Center. However, the ordinance limited construction to four units per acre, and the project needed at least six acres.

Proposed layout. However, adjustments are still necessary even with an ordinance change.

One council member Anne Mitchell opposed the ordinance change stating the way the council’s currently considering development is “kind of like the tail wagging the dog.” She wants Hiawassee to have a plan concerning the city’s future. Also, Mitchell stressed the need for affordable housing for low-income families in Hiawassee.

The comprehensive plan of Hiawassee will be updated this year and the City Attorney Thomas Mitchell advocated for considering how to properly handle affordable housing then.

Mitchell broached the subject of zoning suggesting it would give the city the flexibility to designate specific areas for commercial or residential development.

“I’m not sure I know the definition of zoning but from what I understand it gives us the ability to do things in small packages…and it protects us rather than harms us,” Mitchell commented. “If we want to declare a certain amount of area as a high density area with a zoning law, we could do that I think.”

City Attorney Thomas Mitchell confirmed the council could have a zoning ordinance just for the main street but didn’t recommend it because the county and city residents are strongly against it.

“If you did have a zoning ordinance, you would give a whole lot more flexibility as to what you could or couldn’t do,” Mitchell explained. “You could actually allow higher density residential by what’s called conditional use permits. You could decide whether that type of development was appropriate for a particular location.”

A conditional use permit is only possible with zoning and not a general planning ordinance.

Council member Amy Barrett expressed her support for the townhome idea as an affordable housing option for a two-income family.

“I like the fact that Hiawassee is appealing to my idea but different ideas of what home, community, and family is,” Barrett stated. “If I have a physician assistant or a dental hygienist and a physician assistant that are married, they can afford [the proposed townhomes]. I’m not saying it hits everything, but for me, it hits a niche that we don’t have.”  $350,000 and down good for a family…’

Council member Nancy Noblet added that she’s “hoping for the youth” and the future of Hiawassee with these townhomes. $350,000 or less in her opinion is a good deal for a middle class family looking for a home within city limits.

Council member Jay Chastain was absent at this meeting.

The first reading will take place during the May City Council meeting.

Hiawassee City Council hears proposal for townhomes

Community, News
townhomes six units

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

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

Feature News, News
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.


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


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.


“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


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

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

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.

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Outspoken councilman returns to Hiawassee City Hall

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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Hiawassee disconnects multiple businesses from sewer system

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.

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