White County welcomes new fire chief and county manager

News
White County Commissioners

WHITE COUNTY, Ga. – The White County Board of Commissioners said goodbye to two long time county employees then welcomed their replacements during a combined called meeting and work session Monday (Apr. 27).

County Manager Michael Melton is retiring at the end of this week and will be replaced by Jason Cobb. Also, Fire Chief Norman Alexander is retiring. He will be replaced by Seth Weaver.

Alexander retired after 15 years’ service to White County. Fire Services held a retirement celebration for him Monday morning. “It has been an honor to serve with Norman, a humble man with solid integrity, and professionalism,” said Public Safety Director David Murphy. “He is a good friend and I will certainly miss him being part of our team.” Weaver has been a full-time firefighter since 2014. Prior to that, he was a volunteer.

The Board voted unanimously to approve:

  • Adoption of a multi-county, all-hazard, all-emergency agreement with the Garrison at Fort Benning, Ga.
  • Purchase of a Ford Explorer for the Tax Assessor’s Office from Jacky Jones Ford for $28,991.14.
  • Writing a letter of request for the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission to assist White County in preparing an Appalachian Regional Commission grant application to the Appalachian Regional Commission to develop a strategic economic development plan.
  • Reappointment of John Zimmer to the Development Authority, Dustin Hulsey to fulfill an unexpired term on the Authority, Michael Yarbrough and Ridley Kimsey to six-year terms on the Authority.
  • To engage Carter & Sloop Engineering to develop design plans for re-provisioning Claude Sims Road.
  • A 60-day spending freeze on non-essential items due to the impact of the coronavirus.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

TMU asks commissioners to authorize tax exempt bond issuance

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CLEVELAND, Ga. – White County Commissioners heard a request from Truett McConnell University Vice President for Finance and Operations Jason Graffagnino at Monday’s work session to approve a bond issuance that would allow it to refinance its long term indebtedness at a considerable savings.

The issuance would be through the White County Development Authority and must be approved by the Board of Commissioners but it does not obligate county taxpayers.

“We are looking into refinancing long-term debt tied to a major project we did in 2011,” Graffagnino said. The project included construction of a new dormitory, expanding the dining hall and administration building and the addition of a new student wellness center.

Graffagnino said the current bond is being paid back at a rate of between 5.75 and 6.0 percent.

“In the current economic environment, we have done our due diligence and through a public bond offering, we are able to ascertain a long term rate for 30 years at 3.6 percent,” he said. “As Mr. Chairman (Travis Turner) said and Mr. Manager (Michael Melton) said, this does not encumber the citizens of White County or the citizens of Cleveland. The collateral is the University. We are taking financial responsibility It will be a tax-exempt offering. For that to be something the public can invest in, and buy tax exempt bonds, we need a government authority to be the issuer so that is why we are coming before you.”

The Board generally discusses issues during work sessions then votes on them at the next regular session.

Commissioners also discussed future options for the administration of county elections since Probate Judge Garrison Baker, who currently oversees elections, will retire at the end of 2020.

A number of agenda items were placed on the consent agenda for the next meeting, including:

A request by Director of Public Safety Director David Murphy to place some obsolete equipment belonging to his department to be sold as surplus;

Bids received for two certificates of deposits currently held by United Community Bank.

Most of the rezoning requests on Monday’s agenda also will be placed on the consent agenda.

Commissioners will place one request for annexation into the city of Cleveland and another by the City of Helen under New Business and vote on them separately at the next meeting.

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

BOC approves redistricting for 100-single family homes

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CLEVELAND, Ga. – The White County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the request by HG Acquisitions to redistrict 179 acres located at 1036 Duncan Bridge from A-1 Agriculture to R-1 Single-Family District for the purpose of the construction of a 100-home subdivision during Monday’s called meeting and work session.

Commissioners held the required public hearing on the request and nobody spoke in favor of or in opposition

Following a second public hearing, the Board also approved the land use application filed by Gary Hosemann to redistrict 8.28 acres at 4623 Hwy. 254 and Mossy Creek Road from C-1 Community Commercial to A-1 Agriculture Forestry District for the purpose of building his personal residence on the property. Again, there were no speakers in favor of or in objection to the proposal.

Kelli Withrow’s request to redistrict half acre at 2416 Westmoreland Rad from R-1 Residential Single Family to R-3 Residential District (Seasonal) was also approved unanimously.

Commissioners approved addenda No. 3 for the fiscal year 2019 contract with Legacy Link for funding of services provided to the senior center.

The Board also unanimously approved a request for SPLOST funding in the amount of $68,842.45 for a nine-month continuing agreement with ACS Landscape Management for installing and taking care of the ballfields at Yonah Preserve ballfields.

Commissioners did not vote on the on a proposal for architectural services with BCA Studio for the courthouse entryway and sally port project, but directed County Manager Michael Melton to gather more information on the project.

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

No bids received on rehabilitation of county bridges

News

CLEVELAND, Ga. – White County officials have hit a snag in their efforts to rehabilitate the two bridges on New Bridge Road.

County Manager Michael Melton said Tuesday that six contractors attended the pre-bid meeting but none submitted a bid. The reason: The county wanted to leave one lane open while the work was being done. Contractors wanted to close both lanes.

“Closing one lane at a time, they didn’t feel they could do a good job of traffic control,” Melton said. Contractors accept all the liability on these jobs and working on a narrow road like New Bridge where one lane remains open can be hazardous.

The county had hoped to leave one lane open to accommodate at least one family that owns farmland on both sides of the creek and travels back and forth daily to feed its livestock. Commissioner Edwin Nix said the family will have to drive nine or 10 miles around each day if both lanes are closed.

Nix said he would work with the family to see if something can be worked out to satisfy both parties.

Melton said it is likely that the project will have to be rebid.

Funding would come from 2017 and 2018 local maintenance improvement grants (LMIG) that total $795,548 and a 30 percent county match.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

White County commissioners grapple with short-term rental issues during Tuesday’s called meeting

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Short-term rentals have become a booming industry, forecast to reach $23 billion in the U.S. by 2022.  The rise in popularity has left governments struggling with how to regulate rentals, rental operators and neighborhood activists.

White County commissioners spent one hour in a special called meeting Tuesday morning, wrestling with what is a much more complex issue than it may seem on the surface. County staff is charged with drafting regulations for short-term rentals. Tuesday’s meeting was called so commissioners could provide some direction.

Commission Chairman Travis Turner expressed the difficulty of regulating short-term rentals, saying, “I’ve gone from one extreme to another trying to find a common-sense middle ground.”

On the one hand, those who would like to rent rooms in their home on a short-term basis argue they have a right to use their property as they see fit. On the other, their neighbors counter that kind of activity can affect security in the neighborhood as well as property values.

Commissioner Edwin Nix said, “I’ve probably put more thought into this than anything since we started land use. It is our responsibility and the citizens of this county are looking to us to protect their interests. One thing I would want if I lived in a subdivision is to know who my neighbor was each night. This commissioner would almost vote not to allow this in a subdivision. Period.”

Nix advised staff to pay attention to health issues in drafting regulations. “You’ve got health issues when drafting criteria,” he said “Are (rentals) on public water? Are they on well water? Is the sewage system designed to handle what they are doing?”

There are also licensing issues, insurance issues, parking issues and zoning issues to be addressed.

County Manager Michael Melton said, “What we need to know from the Board is do you want this regulated under land use or do you want it regulated under a permit system?”

Commissioner Terry Goodger pointed out that Hall County and the City of Savannah are struggling with the same issues and they have left it under land use.

Board voted unanimously to have staff draft a stand-alone ordinance and present it to the Board in two weeks for review.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

BOC holds first reading of fiscal year 2018-19 budget

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CLEVELAND, Ga. – White County Manager Michael Melton presented the proposed $23.7 million fiscal year 2018-19 budget to the Board of Commissioners Monday. The first reading was approved without any objection from the public.

Commissioners will vote to adopt the budget Monday, June 25 at 4:30 p.m.

Commissioners approved a request by Donald E. Almand to redistrict 2.806 acres of land from C-1 (Community Commercial District to C-2 (Highway Business District) for the purpose of construction of a mechanics garage with the entrance in Hwy. 115 East.

County officials estimated the damage to the county’s roads during the recent flash flooding at $201,085. One of the worst hit was Carolina Springs Road, a road that had just been paved. It was completely washed away. Damage to that road alone is estimated at $77,385. Commissioners agreed to let Square Deal Construction, the same company that just paved the road, to do the repair work.

Commissioners will apply for a local maintenance improvement grant (LMIG) to cover the cost. If an LMIG can’t be obtained, the repair work will be performed with funding from the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST).

Commissioners also formally approved the intergovernmental agreement with the cities of Cleveland and Helen that will award the county a 60-percent share of SPLOST proceeds, while the cities of Helen and Cleveland will receive 20 percent each.

Commissioners also unanimously approved spending $7,000 for striping Asbestos Road.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

John Sell to Join White County Staff

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John Sell will join White County staff.

John Sell will join White County Government as the Director of Community and Economic Development next week.

Sell will relocate to White County from Douglasville where he was a career employee of Georgia Power – having worked as an External Affairs, Area Manager and Media Relations Manager for over 19 years.

County Manager Michael Melton said Sell will work in the position of Director of Community & Economic Development. He will also oversee Planning, Building Inspections, Code Enforcement, and GIS.

“We are extremely pleased to have John Sell join our staff and believe he will be a welcome addition with his history of strong leadership, customer service, and community involvement,” Melton said.

An Angry Board of Commissioners Rejects Bids on Road Rehabilitation Projects

News

CLEVELAND, Ga. – When four contractors submitted bids for rehabilitation projects on Town Creek Road and two bridges on New Bridge Road, that were nearly triple what they had anticipated based on engineering estimates, White County Commissioners expressed their anger and unanimously rejected all four Monday.

County Manager Michael Melton said the lowest bid came in at $1.8 million. He recommended commissioners reject the bids and give staff a chance to rebid the projects or scale them down.

Chairman Travis Turner said, “We were looking at between $600,000 and $700,000 to do all three projects and we received bids that came in at three times that amount. So, it doesn’t take long to figure out we can’t afford that.”

Turner said the county has not given up on the projects but will be looking for more reasonable estimates.

The Carolina Springs Road improvement project will move forward with the full approval of the Board. The low bidder on the project is a local company, Square Deal Construction with a bid of $478,891. A Local Maintenance Improvement Grant (LMIG) will provide $358,000 for the project and a separate grant from Georgia Department of Transportation could provide up to $150,000.

Commissioners received an update during Monday’s meeting on the proposed Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail and a “thank you” plaque from the Chamber of Commerce for the support the county has provided for the organization.

City and county officials hope the $1.5 million Department of Natural Resources project will draw a large number of visitors and will be an important engine to drive economic development in the area.

Richard Riley told commissioners the 4,400-foot long concrete walkway that runs along the Chattahoochee River gives visitors a chance to breathe fresh, clean mountain air, hear the sounds of the rushing river and appreciate the natural beauty of the area. Signs along the trail paint a picture of the area’s history and no motorized vehicles are allowed that could disturb the tranquility.

The trail that will connect the City of Helen to the Hardman Farm Historic Site will be about 8 to 10-feet wide and feature an impressive natural stone entrance gate. Along the pathway, Riley said, are massive flat stone boulders that serve as benches for visitors to pause and enjoy nature.

The project is being designed by Marietta-based Freedman Engineering Group.  It is funded primarily by the state but Riley said he hope to convince local governments that it is a project worthy of their community’s investment.

Riley said the project could be completed as early as the end of this winter.

Commissioners approved several items under the Consent Agenda, including:

  • The assignment of a services agreement with Sentinel Offender Services and CSRA Probation Services related to probation services in White County;
  • Acceptance of a Jag Byrne Grant in the amount of $86,709 from Franklin County related to the absorption of the North Georgia Drug Task Force by the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office;
  • Renewal of the memorandum with the Enotah Judicial District circuit counties to conduct activities for the Enotah Judicial District’s Juvenile Justice project coordinated through Family Connections.

 

 

 

 

 

County Holds First Hearing on Millage Increase

News

CLEVELAND, Ga. — White County Commissioners held the first public hearing 2017 millage rate Monday morning and may have been surprised by what they heard from the lone public speaker.

To balance the FY 2017 budget, commissioners have proposed a millage increase of .83 mils TO 9.998 mils and a $590,000 reduction in the county’s reserves. That reduction will leave the county with a fund balance of only about 2.8 months to deal with emergencies. The Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) recommends that counties keep a minimum of three months in reserves.

Cleveland resident Jimmy O’Neill said three months of reserves is not enough and that the average Georgia county keeps 5-6 months in reserves. Therefore, he would like commissioners to consider a larger tax increase.

“I’m asking you to stick it to me,” O’Neill said, “Those who never want to raise the millage rate do not understand economics.” O’Neill, who said he has a background in economics, added, “Take the hit now because it’s going to be worse later.”

O’Neill said the Board is being penny-wise and pound foolish in not raising the millage rate more. “You either raise the millage rate to where it needs to be or screw over county employees who will leave and go where the pay is better.”
Speaking with reporters after the meeting, O’Neill said, it’s better to raise the millage rate and pay employees competitive wages than to train them and have them go to neighboring counties to work then have to train their replacements.

“Training employees, particularly those in the Sheriff’s Office, is very expensive,” he said.

Commissioner Terry Goodger proposed a slightly higher millage rate than 9.998 at the last meeting and was supported by Chairman Travis Turner, but the motion was defeated 2-3.

County Manager Michael Melton gave the millage rate presentation and pointed out the millage rate stayed at 9.19 mills from 2008 to 2014 and was lowered to 9.168 two years ago.

The increased millage rate means the owner of a $300,000 home would pay about $99.60 in increased taxes.

The next public hearing on the millage increase will be Thursday at 8 a.m. with the final hearing set for Aug. 8 at 6 p.m.

The Board also authorized the Fire Department to purchase a used tanker for $42,000.

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