Hiawassee’s DDA schedules inaugural session

News
DDA

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Directors of Hiawassee’s newly-formed Downtown Development Authority (DDA) gathered for a meet and greet with Hiawassee City Council Monday, Aug. 26. The DDA received information packets from Economic Developer Denise McKay, prior to the inaugural committee session scheduled for Monday, Sept. 16 at 6 pm at Hiawassee City Hall.

The selected 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.”

DDA

A proposed concept for a vacant building on Main Street in Hiawassee’s strategic plan.

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.

The inaugural meeting will consist of the election of a DDA chairperson, co-chairperson, and a secretary-treasurer. New business will include a review, discussion, and tentative modification of the authority’s bylaws, enactment of the DDA contract, and the establishment of the committee’s future meeting dates and order of business. In addition, a directors’ update will take place with discussion of Hiawassee’s strategic plan and upcoming DDA member training.

DDA

DDA directors (pictured left) met with Hiawassee City Council and Economic Developer Denise McKay (pictured far right)

According to the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the agency that assisted in formulating the city’s strategic plan, DDA training involves discussion of the responsibilities of development authority boards and the role that authorities serve within the local economic development process.

Basic training topics are listed as:

  • legal issues
  • ethics
  • conflicts of interest
  • open records and open meetings requirements
  • the basics of financing development authority operations
  • incentives
  • bonds
  • strategic planning in community development
  • project development and management
  • emerging issues that affect development authorities

Building upon fundemental knowledge provided by basic training, an advanced course allows board members to refine their skills while executing the comprehensive plan of action for the community.

Hiawassee DDA meetings, as well as Hiawassee council sessions, are open to the public.

Feature Image: A portion of Hiawassee’s Strategic Plan is to revitalize commercial real estate.

Credit: City of Hiawassee/Carl Vinson Institute of Government

 

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

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

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Hiawassee scheduled to activate Downtown Development Authority

News
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council, in cooperation with Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales and Economic Developer Denise McKay, are scheduled to activate the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) during their regular session, Tuesday, June 4, at Hiawassee City Hall.

According to FYN’s research into DDA board member training, the governing body of the city “activates” the DDA via an “activating resolution.” The General Assembly has already created a DDA for each Georgia municipality, although the DDA cannot transact any business, nor exercise any powers, until the city activates it. In the activating resolution, the city must designate the city’s downtown development area – which consists of the geographical jurisdiction of the DDA –  and appoint initial directors.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have every, single storefront filled? That’s my target,” stated Mayor Ordiales last week at the “Eggs & Issues” breakfast meeting.

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

Furthermore, a “Broadband Ready” ordinance is scheduled to go before the council Tuesday evening.

Hiawassee City Council convenes on the last Monday of each month for work sessions, followed by regular sessions the following Tuesday, at 6 p.m. Meetings are open to the public.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Hiawassee Work Session Agenda – April 29th

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE WORK SESSION AGENDA
April 29th, 2019

The April Work Session Meeting will be held at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, Upstairs Training Room

1. Call to order
1.1 Invocation – Anne Mitchell
1.2 Pledge of Allegiance
1.3 Mayor’s Introductions of Guests and Announcements
1.3.1 Samantha Church
1.3.2 If I were Mayor Essay winner – Jaden Taylor
1.4 Motion to Adopt Final Agenda as Distributed

2. Old Business
2.1 Mayor’s Report
2.2 Terry Poteete – Visual Outdoor Advertising
2.3 Water Rates – Resolution on May 7th for changes on June 2019 bill
2.4 Budget – Adoption and 2nd Reading May 7th
2.5 Defined Benefit Plan – 2nd Reading May 7th
2.6 Defined Benefit Plan Adoption – 2nd Reading – May 7th

3. New Business
3.1 Mural Project Plan
3.2 Personnel Policy handling
3.3 Police Department ATV
3.4 Surplus Sale of:
3.4.1 Old Chairs
3.4.2 Vehicles
3.4.3 Dining Table – Conference Room\
3.4.4 Old Computers
3.4.5 Old Furniture
3.5 January and February Financials
3.6 Consent Agenda for May 7th
3.6.1 January & February Financials
3.6.2 April 2nd City Council Meeting minutes
3.6.3 Budget Public Hearing minutes
3.6.4 April 29th Work Session Minutes

4. Police Report

5. Economic Development Report

6. Adjournment

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Hiawassee Police Department asks for community’s help with Yellow Dot Program

News
Hiawassee Police Department

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith is asking for the public’s assistance in fostering a program proven to save lives. Georgia’s Yellow Dot program offers an envelope packet to citizens over the age of 55, free of charge, for residents to list basic information that may be critical for first responders in the event of a medical emergency,

The Yellow Dot program is a partnership between the Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Aging Services. The program will initially supply 1500 packets, in increments of 500, to the City of Hiawassee for if the community shows increasing interest in the initiative.

Hiawassee Police Chief

Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith

Chief Smith is asking for local businesses, civic organizations, and area churches to partner with Hiawassee Police Department in the life-saving project. While the amount of envelopes offered may seem like enough to provide for seniors, Smith explained that it is recommended that residents place one packet in their home, and another in the glove box of their vehicle.

The packet includes a form to add important information, such as medical conditions, medications, and emergency contacts. A bright, yellow sticker is included to affix to the outside of homes and vehicles to alert first responders that the information is available.

Community members interested in partnering with the Hiawassee Police Department can receive additional information from Hiawassee City Hall.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Towns County native delivers passionate speech at Hiawassee City Hall

News
Becky Landress

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council held their monthly work session Feb. 25, 2019, and Hiawassee City Hall was filled to rare capacity with citizens invested in the county seat’s future. Following the business portion of the meeting, public comments were accepted.

What follows is a speech, in its entirety, delivered by Towns County resident Becky Landress. FYN tracked Landress after the meeting to request a copy. The public address followed an article published by FYN earlier this month.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Council and Ms. Mayor;
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Becky Landress. I am a resident of this county and have been my entire life. Despite what a lot of progressive, move in residents feel, I am not uneducated, nor have I been sheltered by small town life. I have a background in journalism and the reason I have stayed in Towns County has much to do with a lot of what has been mentioned as a potential for change. My family is one of the main components, which is not on the table of change, thankfully; although the rest may be.

“My roots run deep. I am proud to know many of the families that make up my community. Families I went to school with, or that taught me, or that have children that have grown up along side my own children. Although finding a job in this area that would fulfill my family’s needs was near impossible, my husband and I made it work for the other benefits. He drove back and forth from Gainesville for over seventeen years to provide for us. He would leave before daylight and often get home well after. We still chose to stay put for the benefit of our children; a good school system, recreation for our children, small town feel, and a value system that mimicked those of our neighbors. Today, I don’t believe we would make that same decision.

“Families are moving away, and others are not moving in. Jobs are still scarce and now recreation programs are almost non existent for children. Our surrounding communities still have recreation programs for children running full force and most importantly, no one is questioning their “Bible Belt stigma”.

“Our traditional values are being questioned by business owners that moved to our area, with those very values in play. Those “progressive” business owners somehow have a voice with this council although they were not elected by anyone in the area. They want to change our “Bible belt stigma” and even want to dictate what music should be welcomed by our area. I’m sorry, but as a native of this area, I find these voices have no business being heard by those of us that were here long before them and didn’t ask their opinion, although this is the make up of your “ethics” board. Really? Calling a political party names and associating them with one of the most horrific groups in history is not someone I would nominate to divise up any board with the word ethical in the description.

“Ms. Mayor and members of this council, I don’t reside within the city limits of Hiawassee but I should, along with every tax paying citizen in this county, have a voice. When people were invited to help divise the five year strategic plan, and boards were made up, they were a make up of a small amount of people that actually represent the vision of most residents. I realize you are a City Council and those that do not live within city limits don’t have a vote, but we should have a voice. No one can live in this county and not have a vested interest in the happenings within Hiawassee. This is where we do our grocery shopping, school clothes shopping with our children and main street is the road we travel to take our children to school everyday, or better yet, church on Sunday. It is the road I travel down to arrive at our small business on the outskirts of town.

“Let’s be honest here, if a five year strategic plan is in place, an aesthetic vision should be one of the components, but not the main component. When hiring an economic developer, as we have, we should feel in line with the words of our county commissioner, “we will try it for one year”. He also has a vision focused on families, instead of primarily community beautification.

“Ms. Webb’s article brought my attention to a lot of things I was unaware of beforehand. I believe many residents weren’t aware of most of the things addressed in her article. Since the article, I have been to the City’s website and studied each slide in the newly adopted strategic plan. I have read about all the previous meetings leading up to that point and I have gained much respect for three members of this council for representing the districts that appointed you.

“The mayor reached out to me through a message and asked me to meet with her to discuss my concerns after me and many others read the article covering last month’s council meeting, and we expressed our ill feelings of many things, most of which was said by a member of the ethics board. We didn’t appoint her to anything and she wasn’t elected by the voters of this City. If she feels the Bible Belt stigma is not her thing, Highway 76 will take her to a city on either side of Hiawassee. Let’s see if that proposition would hold water in either of those communities.

“Honestly, I had never heard of the term “gentrification” before Ms. Webb’s coverage, but I have studied the strategic plan, read about proposed water bill increases, additional proposed taxes and much more. I also have come to the conclusion that gentrification is at play.

“Ms. Mayor, please take note of the wishes of the community you moved in to. The community that welcomed you and even elected you to office. Look back over our history and listen to families. We are not worried about which bag we need to carry out of Ingles. We know our post office is outdated and we also see way too many vacant buildings. Know that many of us remember when those buildings were full. We remember in the late 80’s and early 90’s when there were several stores for ladies to shop for a new purse at. There was one for several decades right here in the center of town and another about a mile down the road, also in city limits, as well as one where those unsightly vacant buildings are across from the grocery store. We remember when restaurants were jumping in the summer and still able to keep their doors open in the winter. A face lift on the post office would be nice but that isn’t as pressing as many of our concerns.

“Focus on a future. Please, focus on getting families here. Possibly incorporate a small playground on your strategic plan. That would look great on the square, near the gazebo. It would work wonderfully with a bunch of new retail stores and restaurants all along the square. We are the only City in our area that doesn’t have shopping and dining around our square. Instead we have insurance and financial. Look into getting stores and restaurants around the square. There are plenty of open spaces and where they are not, try to open up the right businessess in the right spot. If you can accomplish that, families would have a reason to park and walk around Hiawassee, like the visual slides of the strategic plan. If not, there is no reason for additional parking or crosswalks. If you can do that, families would not only fall in love with Hiawassee for the beauty of our lake and mountains and our nice new post office and lovely trees, but they would know we aren’t a retirement ghost town, unwelcoming to families and their needs. They would have no reason to feel Blairsville or Rabun County would be better suited for them because their are more recreation programs for their children and places to dine and shop. With families, comes jobs.

“We can all agree tourism dollars are vital for our area but it’s time we all also agree that our future should not be geared toward retirees moving in. We need to be diverse. We need to bring back the necessities that those that are still working, paying bills, shopping and raising children need. The thoughts and feelings of a select few you have heard over the past few months is not the voice of this community as a whole. I feel you know that. You must know that. Since we can’t vote in city elections without being a resident within city limits, you may be finding an influx of residents moving into city limits and I promise you, it won’t be for the lovely new murals.

Thank you for your time.”

Emotions ran high following Landress’ passionate speech, and Hiawassee Councilwoman Patsy Owens reacted to the speaker’s remark pertaining to respect for unnamed council members. Owens expressed heated dissatisfaction with FYN’s reporting, with Councilwoman Nancy Noblet soon thereafter publicly stating that she did not appreciate Owens referring to the council woman in an alleged, offensive term. Noblet later said that she respects Owens and her fellow council, and while they may not always agree, she will continue to support the mayor and council members when she believes that they are doing the right thing for the citizens. Noblet stressed that she ran for a seat on the city council to serve the people. “I don’t go to any other council member and say ‘This is how I’m going to vote. You need to vote this way.’ I don’t do that. I’ve got a conscience of my own.” Noblet referenced her strong Christian faith, and said that she publicized the meeting on social media beforehand to encourage the high turnout.

Additional citizens voiced their views on varied subjects, ranging from hope for additional youth recreational activities, a desire for a local dog park, and the group seemingly agreed that more economic opportunities are important for the area.

Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett thanked everyone who attended, saying, “We’re a community. We’re a diverse community. We need everybody involved.” Council members Ann Mitchell and Kris Berrong were present, although they did not offer input during the public portion of the forum.

Following Landress’ speech, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales invited the Towns County native to meet privately in order to discuss concerns, and the mayor encouraged the public to attend future meetings so that their voices can be heard. Mayor Ordiales stated that she has an open door policy, and that has proven to be the case throughout her term, according to citizens’ reports and FYN access. Additionally, Ordiales relayed earlier in the meeting that she is making a steady effort to visit local business owners to become better acquainted.

One regular attendee shared that the City of Hiawassee as a whole has positively advanced in recent years, with another citizen saying that she “sleeps better at night” knowing that Mayor Ordiales is in office.

Mayor Ordiales remarked throughout the forum, reiterating that she believes that everyone is moving in the same direction. “I think it’s clear that everybody wants to do the right thing for the city,” the mayor said at one point, asking for the public’s patience. As the meeting adjouned, Mayor Ordiales invited the public to return to “hear the truth.”

A summary of the business portion of the Hiawassee City Council work session will soon follow this release, with a hyperlink added once it becomes available.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Hiawassee to expedite future ordinance adoptions, limiting time for citizen involvement

News, Politics
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales proposed the dismissal of requiring the first and second readings of city ordinances to be spaced a month apart, listing the item as new business on the city council’s Jan. 28 work session agenda.

Mayor Ordiales explained that the change would “speed things up” by allowing both the first and second readings to take place at a single meeting – thus enabling an ordinance to become finalized during the solitary session – should the five council members vote unanimously.

While the process of ordinance adoption would indeed turn expedited, the change would drastically reduce the amount of time for citizen input to a mere week rather than the full month currently prescribed by the city charter.

Given the fact that citizens are prohibited from imparting comments, concerns, or complaints during regular council sessions, the new structure would prevent citizens from publicly speaking if they were absent from the work session when an ordinance was introduced and discussed.

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to vote on the consolidation of ordinance readings on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Ethics Committee Assignments listed on Hiawassee Council agenda

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Five months following Hiawassee’s official designation as a “City of Ethics” by the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), Hiawassee Council plans to begin the process of properly assigning committee members to serve as the city’s moral monitors.

Three Hiawassee residents will be selected to volunteer as ethics board members – The first appointed by Mayor Liz Ordiales, a second chosen by Hiawassee City Council, and the third in agreed conjunction of both mayor and council.

The ethics ordinance itself states that elected and appointed city officials must abide by high ethical standards of conduct, with a requirement of disclosure of private financial or other conflicting interest matters. The mandate serves as a basis for disciplinary action for violations.

Hiawassee City Council

Hiawassee City Council agenda – click to enlarge

Listed among expectations are selfless servitude toward others, responsible use of public resources, fair treatment of all persons, proper application of power for the well-being of constituents, and maintenance of an environment which encourages honesty, openness, and integrity.

According to the decree, complaints of violations must be signed under oath, and filed with Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick at City Hall. Copies of the complaint will then be submitted to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee City Council, and the Board of Ethics within seven days. In addition, a copy will be delivered to the alleged offender. The Board of Ethics is authorized to investigate the complaint, gather evidence, and hold hearings on the matter. The Board of Ethics will determine whether the complaint is justified or unsubstantiated. Should the process proceed, Hiawassee City Council, along with the ethics board, will conduct a hearing within 60 days of the validated complaint.

Public reprimand or a request for resignation may be issued. An appeal may be filed for judicial review with Towns County Superior Court within 30 days after the ruling by the Board of Ethics.

The decision to list the item on the agenda followed community concerns that the previous appointment of ethics committee members were invalid due to the council not having a choice as to whom served.

Hiawassee City Council convenes for their monthly work session on Monday, Nov. 26, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Meetings are open to the public.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

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