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