9/11 Memorial Service to be held on Hiawassee Square

News
9/11

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – It has been nearly eighteen years since the infamous day that will eternally live in American minds –  Sept. 11, 2001. Towns County, along with the City of Hiawassee, plans to honor the terrorist attack victims on Patriot Day. Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, and Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland met Aug. 29 to finalize the details of a Wednesday, Sept. 11 public memorial. Hiawassee Town Square will be the site of the gathering, beginning at 9:45 a.m.

Mayor Ordiales will serve as the master of ceremonies, with Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby welcoming guests. Presentation of the Colors will be issued by North Georgia National Guard. Pastors Danny Byers, Wade Lott, and Donnie Jarrard will offer prayers and words of remembrance in honor of the lives lost. Chief Copeland is scheduled to speak on the meaning of 9/11, prior to ringing a bell to symbolize the fallen. Summer Rahn will sing the National Anthem. The program will end with “God Bless America.”

Chief Harold Copeland

Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland

Commissioner Bradshaw said that the idea to hold the memorial ceremony was presented by part-time Towns County resident Bob Fair. “I wish it was something that we had thought to do sooner,” Bradshaw said. Bradshaw added plans to make the service an annual event.

A total of 2,996 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, including the 19 terrorist hijackers aboard the four airplanes. Citizens of 78 countries died in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. At the World Trade Center, 2,763 died after the two planes slammed into the twin towers. That figure includes 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors.

At the Pentagon, 189 people were killed, including 64 on American Airlines Flight 77, the airliner that struck the building. On Flight 93, 44 people died when the plane crash-landed in Pennsylvania.

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.

Mayor Ordiales announces start of sewer plant expansion

News
Sewer

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced Aug. 26 that sewer expansion is in the process of advancement.

“The sewer plant expansion has finally begun. It’s only taken eight months, but look at us,” Mayor Ordiales said while displaying photographs of a construction site. “They’re tearing down trees, putting in walkways, but then of course there’s the inevitable surprise, the little spaghetti pipes we have going on. Nobody knew that pipe was there. It’s only one of the main ones. The lake is right here. It’s only one of the main ones that comes from one of these manhole and goes straight into the sewer plant. Oops. So we had to adjust a little and make changes, but the good thing is they’ve started and things are moving along nicely.”

Last year, the City of Hiawassee received an Appalachian Regional Commission Grant in the amount of $600,000 from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which administers the program on behalf of the Appalachian Regional Commission, for waste water expansion. SOL Construction, an Atlanta-based concrete contractor, was selected by bid to head the project.

Mayor Liz Ordiales

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

The mayor added that a lightning strike from a recent storm caused damage to the sewer plant. “It blew up the sewer plant bad. We had fried panels. We had all kinds of fuses that were out. It was a mess. So we had to start replacing things, and of course, our wonderful staff got on it and we didn’t miss a beat, but it was scary.”

FYN will continue to provide updates on the sewer expansion project.

Featured Image provided by City of Hiawassee.

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.

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

News, Politics

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

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

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

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

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

Anne Mitchell - City Council

Hiawassee Councilwoman Anne Mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

Feature Image: Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett

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.

Taser donated to Hiawassee Police Department by local veteran organizations

News
Towns County Veterans

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Members of five Towns County veteran organizations recently rallied behind supporting local
law enforcement. Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith was approached by a member of the VFW who expressed a desire to help the city police department.

“We have been in need of an additional Taser, but have had to put funds toward other projects,” Chief Smith explained. “For the past two years, we have been sharing Tasers between officers, which leaves some of us without the option of an effective midrange less-lethal weapon.”

Tasers are a brand of conducted electrical weapon that uses an electric current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles, causing temporary neuromuscular incapacitation. The use of conducted electrical weapons by law enforcement agencies has resulted in fewer injuries for both the officers and suspects. “Without the option of a Taser, an officer may be required to use hands-on physical force or an impact weapon like an expandable baton,” Chief Smith said. “These force-options can result in serious injuries to the suspect and officer. We are incredibly
grateful for the support and the donation made by our veteran organizations.”

“We feel a Taser is more effective and safer in apprehending a criminal,” said Mel Halfon, VFW Post 7807 Commander. “We expect a safe community where we can go about our daily activities in an environment without fear, risk of harm, or injury. Our veterans’ family is happy to support the Hiawassee Police Department and provide funding to purchase a Taser.”

Donations for the Taser were made by VFW Post 7807, VFW Auxiliary, The American Legion Post 23, The American Legion Auxiliary, and Sons of the American Legion.

“Our veterans are such an integral part of our community,” Mayor Liz Ordiales said. “We thank them for their service then, now, and always.”

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 Historical Society presents Hiawassee’s past and future plans

Community, News
Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- A large crowd of history lovers assembled at the Towns County Historical Society’s monthly meeting Aug. 12 to waltz down memory lane with local historians Mary Ann Miller and Jerry Taylor. Miller and Taylor displayed slideshow photographs of Hiawassee, past and present, describing the architectural changes that have taken place over the years. Miller shared memories of Hiawassee in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by Taylor presenting the original plans for the mountain settlement. Settled in 1820, Hiawassee became the designated seat of newly formed Towns County in 1856. Hiawassee was incorporated as a town in 1870, and as a city in 1916.

Mary Ann Miller

Membership Secretary Mary Ann Miller

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales addressed the crowd at the conclusion of the meeting, speaking on the future plans for the city. In 2018, the city of Hiawassee worked with the Carl Vinson Institute, a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia which assists state and local governments in achieving their goals. Hiawassee received a $21,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant in 2017 to assist with the funding of the strategic plan.

Steering committees were formed for the project, and seven focus groups were held to sculpt the formation of the plan. During the course of the study, community stakeholders listed what they felt was working well in Hiawassee, and what they believed could benefit from improvement. “We tried to get everyone involved as much as possible…,” Mayor Ordiales said at the meeting, assuring society members of historical preservation. “We’re tearing nothing down.”

View Hiawassee’s strategic plan

Towns County Historical Society meets on the second Monday of each month at 6 pm at the Towns County Civic Center while the society’s main site, located at the former recreation center, undergoes renovation. Meetings are open to the public.

Towns County Historical Society

Jerry Taylor entertained the crowd with stories of days gone by.

Banks County Courthouse

Based on historic blueprints, the Towns County Courthouse was intended to resemble the Banks County Courthouse, and sit upon the county-owned property of Hiawassee Town Square.

 

Feature Image: Hiawassee’s original Masonic Lodge, one of many historical photographs displayed at the meeting.

 

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 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

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.

Qualifying for Hiawassee City Council to take place in August

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Qualifying for seats on Hiawassee City Council will take place next month at Hiawassee City Hall from Wednesday, Aug. 21 through Friday, Aug. 23, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The qualifying fee is $45.00. Candidates must reside within Hiawassee city limits for a minimum of one-year prior to election day, and be over the age of 21. The election will be held Tuesday, Nov.5, with polling at the Towns County Board of Elections Office, adjacent to the Towns County Courthouse.

Posts currently filled by Anne Mitchell, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet could potentially face challengers, should the three council members choose to run for re-election. Noblet was elected to Post 5 in 2017, occupying the council seat left vacant by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, a former council member.

Posts filled by council members Amy Barrett and Patsy Owens, in addition to the mayor’s seat, will open for election in 2021.

Council members are empowered to make policy decisions and approve ordinances, resolutions, and other local legislation to govern the health, welfare, comfort, and safety of the city’s residents. City council sets policy guidelines for the administrative and fiscal operations of the city.

Hiawassee City Council meets for a monthly work session on the last Monday of each month at 6 pm. Citizens are invited to voice their views at the work sessions. A regular session, at which voting occurs, takes place the following week on the first Tuesday of the month at 6 pm. All meetings, with the exception of executive sessions, are held at Hiawassee City Hall and open to the public.

Feature Image: (L-R) Council members Patsy Owens, Nany Noblet, Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, Anne Mitchell, Mayor Liz Ordiales, City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick

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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