UPDATE: Commissioners table vote on Iron Mountain Park

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Following a marathon four-hour public hearing in front of a standing-room-only audience, the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners tabled a vote on a special land use application (SLUA) for Iron Mountain Park Tuesday.

The hearing was intended to address only the ATV, motocross and amphitheater venues. But property owner Craig Stansberry opened the meeting with an elaborate display, outlining those venues plus his future plans that include 1,000 treehouse-style short term rental cabins, hotel, equestrian facility and a massive headquarters office for the 4,300-acre property that spans two counties.

About half a dozen area residents spoke in favor of the project, but there was overwhelming opposition. Those who did not want the project cited many reasons, including watershed issues, increased traffic, insufficient law enforcement, reduction in property values and environmental impact. But the most common objection was the project would destroy the quality of life.

One man summed up the issue when he said, “I like what we’ve got here. I don’t want to lose it.”

Attorney Kasey Sturm addresses commissioners

Kasey Sturm, an Atlanta attorney who represents an area homeowner, said if the project is approved, it would likely be overturned in court because it does not comply with the agricultural district for which it is being proposed.

“We believe the proposed uses for this project are of a scale and magnitude that go beyond what is authorized in that agriculture designation,” she said.

Sturm pointed out the property is full of natural resources. “There are water resources, designated trout streams, non-designated trout streams. Under state and local law those must be protected. There are two watershed lakes that are in place, designed to control water that is coming down now. They are not designed to be water retention for the proposed development. One of the biggest things we see with large scale developments like this is adverse water quality and water quantity impact. Those water quantity impacts can be devastating to downstream property owners.”

Commission Chairman Chris Dockery reminded those in attendance the SLUA process was only intended to address three uses – ATV trails, motocross and the amphitheater.

“This isn’t like a carte blanche process to approve anything Mr. Stansberry wants to do,” he said. “Each one of those things would have to be submitted and go through a review process just like any other development. There has been no site plan submitted for anything.”

Despite criticism from one or two speakers, it should be noted that commissioners repeatedly encouraged citizens to express their opinion, listened carefully for nearly four hours, interrupted infrequently and, in the end, wanted time to consider the public’s comments.

 

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BOC honors first responders for Clay Creek rescue

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. –Tuesday’s Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners meeting started with a heartfelt tribute to the county’s first responders who saved the lives of a woman and her baby in a dramatic swift-water rescue from the flood-swollen waters of Clay Creek in December.

Commission Chairman Chris Dockery read a resolution in honor of their professionalism and bravery of EMS employees David McWhorter, Daniel Morris, Chris Maloney, Jason Edwards, Derrick Haynie, Josh Hunter, Keith Gilreath, Ryan Leach, Laura Coleman, Lola Gipson and Ransom Ash and Sheriff’s Office employees Danny Rider, Mark Sutton, Kyle Nix, Alex Blaisdell, Isaac Fortner, Jacob Wise and Dianne Kimmel.

Their action attracted national attention. The woman’s Ford Ranger splashed into Clay Creek and rising flood water nearly submerged the vehicle but first responders worked together to extend a ladder to the bed of the truck and bring the woman and her child to safety.

Each commissioner offered their personal appreciation.

Commissioner Jeff Moran, a retired U.S. Army major and combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, said, “I want to publicly thank you for the incredible service you provide each and every day. I’m retired military and really the military receives glory when we are overseas but you are in harm’s way every single day when you respond to a fire or pull a car over. You never know what you are going to come upon. You did a great job. It was incredible watching the video and incredible that it made national news. You made us all proud.”

In other business, the Board:

  • Appointed Elizabeth Curley, Allen Storey, R. Ridge Rairigh Jr., Lewis Houser Bruce Hoffman and Damien Vanlaningham to the Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee;
  • Appointed Melanie Taylor to the Board of Health;
  • Approved a resolution authorizing the TSPLOST General Obligation Debt Intergovernmental Agreement;
  • Accepted Hannah’s Crossing Subdivision Road into county maintenance program;
  • Approved a resolution revising and adopting the Land Use Code;
  • Approved a contract with North Georgia Network (NGN) to provide phone and internet service to county government;
  • Approved a revision to the State Fire Marshal agreement;
  • Renewed the lease agreement with Canoe Georgia (Commissioner Rhett Stringer recused);
  • Elected Commissioner Stringer vice chairman;
  • Approved an alcohol beverage license application for VAHO Enterprise, LLC;
  • Approved the naming of certain library facility rooms the David and JoAnn Luke Tutor Room.

 

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

 

 

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Commissioners discuss road maintenance improvement tax during Tuesday work session

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Lumpkin County Manager Stan Kelley outlined some of the possibilities of a road maintenance and improvement tax city and county officials are considering during Tuesday’s work session.

City and county officials held a joint meeting last week to discuss placing the tax on the March Primary ballot. The tax is similar to a special purpose local option sales tax in that each time a sale is made in Lumpkin County up to one cent per dollar is placed in a fund dedicated solely to improving roads, sidewalks, bridges, trails and culverts in the city and county.

Kelley estimated the tax — collected over a five-year period — could generate $15 million and he recommended a 20 percent split with the City of Dahlonega.

The city would have to agree to that split then both the city and county would sign an intergovernmental agreement and establish a priority list of road projects before going to the voters.

One project that tops the list for both is the intersection of Oak Grove Road and Highway 19. It has been in need of safety measures for years, but the Georgia Department of Transportation has not placed it on its project list.

Public Works Director Larry Reiter estimated that project alone would cost about $4 million. Road paving projects could cost another $6 million.

Other issues discussed at Tuesday’s work session included:

  • An amendment to the county’s hotel-motel tax ordinance that allows filers to remit taxes on a quarterly basis rather than monthly if the filer also remits quarterly sales taxes to the state. The proposed revision to the ordinance also addresses the civil penalties to make the language more streamlined and addresses the criminal penalties to bring the county ordinance in line with state law;
  • A resolution to update 9-1-1 charges on telephone services and wireless enhanced services to $1.50 per month and prepaid wireless services to $1.50 per retail transaction;
  • Renewal of the agreement with Mobile Communications for phone and radio service that covers all parts and labor (excluding batteries and antennas) and has been in place for several years. Staff says the company has provided excellent service and 24/7 priority response;
  • Agreement to lease J.B. Jones Preschool building on Mechanicsville Road to Ninth District Opportunity (NDO) to operate its Head Start Program from Oct. 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019 at no charge as an in-kind contribution valued at $152,900. NDO is a private non-profit organization required to match 20 percent of its federal funding with cash or in-kind contribution;
  • The appointment of Chairman Chris Dockery as the voting delegate to the Legislative Leadership Conference.
  • Rebidding a lease contract with Mark Robinson for operation of the county transfer station;
  • Acceptance of the SAFER grant that will allow the county’s emergency services to staff two more fire station and add a fourth ambulance;
  • Special event permit for the Hemlock Fest scheduled Nov. 2 through Nov. 4;
  • Alcohol beverage license and tasting room for Red, Wine and Blue Vineyard at 400 Blueberry Hill.

 

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

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Lumpkin County employees get new insurance plan

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. — In a called meeting Monday, the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to replace Humana as the county’s healthcare provider with United Healthcare.

Gainesville-based Turner, Wood and Smith (TWS), an independent insurance broker, conducted a review for the county to identify the best, most cost effective healthcare provider. Company vice president Brett Fowler presented his findings to the board.

“After looking at a number of cares and going back and forth on them, we believe the best option is to change to United Healthcare,” Fowler said. “Not only do they offer the best price option, they are also able to deliver a wellness option.”

To continue its coverage with Humana, the county was looking at an increased cost of approximately 19.8 percent, or $364,000.

TWS will serve as the employee benefits consultant for Lumpkin County. The change allows the county to move from a broker model to a consultant model. TWS will be compensated on a fee basis rather than a commission basis and will not benefit from large increases in the medical plan.

The new plan will take effect July 1. The cost to county employees will remain the same until Jan. 1. Even then, Commission Chairman Chris Dockery said, there would be no change in premium for 85 county employees under the new plan. However, the cost for other employees who include a spouse on their coverage will increase by $35 per pay period. The cost for employee plus children will increase by $25 per pay period.

The increase in dental coverage with Humana would have been 5.02 percent. Lincoln Financial will now provide coverage at an increased cost of 1.3 percent. The new plan will be enhanced with the addition of orthodontia coverage and a two-year rate guarantee.

The increase in vision coverage with Humana would have been 5.89 percent. Under the new plan, VSP will provide vision coverage at no increased cost and a locked-in rate for four years.

The United Healthcare program allows wellness program participants on a Health Savings Account to earn $1,095 and those on Health Reimbursement Arrangement to earn $1,260 per year.

 

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

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City/County Officials Host GMRC at Camp Merrill

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City/county officials from all across north Georgia attended the GMRC meeting at Camp Frank D. Merrill last week.

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners and the City of Dahlonega hosted the monthly meeting of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission (GMRC) Thursday in the dining facility at Camp Frank D. Merrill, the US Army Ranger facility.

The GMRC serves local governments of the Georgia mountains region by improving the quality of life through economic development, community planning, information technology, and workforce development to support and enhance the region’s prosperity.

Named for the famous Ranger General of World War II in the Burma Campaign, Camp Merrill is the home of the US Army’s 5th Ranger Training Battalion, where Ranger candidates receive mountain warfare training.

Lumpkin County staff and elected officials attend GMRC meeting.

Lumpkin County Commission Chairman Chris Dockery welcomed city and county officials from all across north Georgia. County Manager Stan Kelley, a former Army Ranger, Commissioners Bob Pullen, David Miller, Rhett Stringer and Bobby Mayfield attended along with Fire Chief David Wimpy and Public Works Director Larry Reiter.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Michael Hack briefed the audience on the rigorous training regimen ranger candidates undergo in order to accomplish their mission of providing logistical support, training, mobilization, deployment, supporting, sustaining and reconstituting forces.

Roseann Kent, director of the Appalachian Studies Center at the University of North Georgia, explained how the center provides students with a unique opportunity to discover the arts, history, music and nature of southern Appalachia through community engagement, service learning, undergraduate research and creative activities. The center is located on the Dahlonega campus across the street from Price Memorial Hall in the Historic Vickery House.

Lumpkin County Mayoral candidate Sam Norton (right) receives recognition during Small Business Week for his Picnic Cafe.

Dahlonega City Councilman Sam Norton, who is running for mayor in the Nov. 7 election, was given special recognition by Congressman Doug Collins’ office for during Small Business Week for the small business he started in Dahlonega called Picnic Café.

The GMRC also held a Workforce Development Board Meeting in the second floor conference room of the Lumpkin County Administrative Building in Dahlonega.

 

 

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. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Library Will Celebrate Centennial in November

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Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The Lumpkin County Library will celebrate its 100th anniversary in November. The library was opened by the Ladies of Lumpkin County Home and School Improvement (now the Woman’s Club) with the generous donation of a book collection by the Matthew F. Stephenson family.

In recognition of the date, Dahlonega Mayor Gary McCullough and Lumpkin County Commission Chairman Chris Dockery have proclaimed Nov. 4 as Lumpkin Library Centennial Day.

Commissioners passed a series of resolutions at Tuesday’s meeting, including one that authorized the sale of  several items, including a 2010 Ford E-350 van, 1995 Ford F-350 pickup truck, a 500-gallon water tank and a John Deere Model 350C as surplus items and provided for their sale on govdeals.com.

Other resolutions passed include:

  • An amendment to change the fees charged for various services, including administrative, buildings and building regulations, animals and foul, parks and recreation and ambulance. The new fees will become effective Jan. 1, 2018;
  • An amendments to the county sign ordinance;
  • Introduction of legislation in the 2018 session of the Georgia General Assembly to create a Lumpkin County Airport Authority;
  • An amendment to the county alcohol ordinance that grants any person who has been issued a State license to manufacture and/or sell distilled spirits the right to manufacture and/or sell distilled spirits in the county until such time as it is determined the county has such authority.

Commissioners also approved the following:

  • An amendment to the contract with Legacy Link approved in May 2017 to include an allocation of funding to Lumpkin County of $8, 272 for operation of the Senior Center as well as congregate and home-served meals. No county match is required;
  • A contract with Parker Traffic Markings for an Off System Safety Project that includes striping and signage in the amount of $76,156. GDOT will provide 70 percent of the funding and the remainder ($22,846) would be funded out of SPLOST funds;
  • Renewal of a one-year contract with Mark Robinson Hauling to operate the transfer station for a fee of $16,200;
  • Renewal of a lease that allows Ninth District Opportunity to operate a Head Start Program at the J.B. Jones Pre-School, a county-owned facility. In exchange for providing the facility at no charge the county receives credit for an in-kind contribution valued at $152,900.

Lumpkin County Finance Director Allison Martin reported to commissioners that all Title III funds received under the federal Secure Rural Schools Act since 2009 ($126,131.80) have been spent.

The county decided that 15% of the funds received would be used for Firewise Community activities in and the remaining 85% would be used on road improvement projects. Martin reported the funds were spent on Firewise education classes and advertisements, Firewise educational materials, Firewise trailer, tent, computer, projector, display boards, search and rescue operations on National Forest Land, Neighborhood cleanup days and a county-wide fire survey.

 

 

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. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Windstream Announces Major Upgrade in North Ga.

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Windstream President Jarrod Berkshire cuts the ribbon at the Dahlonega today to announce a major upgrade in service to 100 Mbps.

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Windstream today announced that it has completed a major upgrade of its cable TV network in Dahlonega, delivering up to 100-mega-bits per second (Mbps) internet speeds to about 6,400 homes and businesses.

The announcement came at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Windstream office in Dahlonega that was attended by State Sen. Steve Gooch and Lumpkin County Commission Chairman Chris Dockery.

Jarrod Berkshire, president of operations in Georgia for Windstream, said, “I’m proud to announce we’re going to be able to offer ups 100Mbps to over 6,400 homes in Dahlonega and 67,000 across all of north Georgia. Business used to be brick and mortar. Today, it’s beyond that. You have to have connectivity to the rest of the world. This is a great day for Windstream and it’s a great day for our community.”

Citizens in Dahlonega whose homes or businesses are passed by Windstream’s cable TV network are eligible for 100Mbps service. To inquire about service, call 877-894-6391 or visit the Windstream retail store at 340 Walmart Way in Dahlonega.

State Senator Steve Gooch

Gooch who has worked on bringing broadband internet to rural areas of Georgia for several years said, “This is an issue that has been near and dear to my heart for several years. The internet system is somewhat like the interstate system in America that was created in the ‘50s. That was the thing that really connected America. Today the superhighway is no longer the interstate system. It’s the internet. People like Amazon are coming to Georgia to create thousands and thousands of jobs.”

Gooch said there are bills pending in Atlanta that will help incentivize companies like Windstream, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter to partner with Lumpkin County and all these development authorities to bring good internet to our communities.

Commission Chairman Chris Dockery

Dockery called today’s announcement a “big step forward.” He added that the Association County Commissioners of Georgia has identified the internet as the No. 1 priority for the upcoming legislative session. “I commend Sen. Gooch for all the time and work he has put into trying to find solutions to the internet issue and Windstream for their commitment to our community.”

The upgrade plan that was announce late last year will provide 100Mbps service to more than 67,000 locations in 13 counties, including Dawsonville, Helen and Cleveland.

 

 

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. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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Lumpkin Commissioners Table Tree Ordinance

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. — The Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners was prepared to pass a Timber Ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting until property owners Kathy Norris and Kenneth Beasley raised a few questions about who the ordinance would impact.

Their public comments demonstrated the importance of citizens attending commission meetings and the commissioners’ decision to table the issue until the ordinance could be more clearly defined demonstrated their willingness to listen to the citizens.

Commissioner Bobby Mayfield thanked Norris and Beasley for their comments and Commissioner Rhett Stringer’s motion to table the issue until the next meeting was unanimously approved.then Chairman Chris Dockery said he would work with City Manager Stan Kelley on a clarification.

The purpose of the ordinance is to protect the public, roads and environment from companies engaged in timber operations in the unincorporated area of Lumpkin County. It is specifically aimed at timber operators engaged in buying, harvesting or hauling timber in the county for commercial or profit-making purposes.

The Board honored the Lumpkin County Parks and Recreation 12 and under girls basketball team which became the first Lumpkin County in history team to win the state championship.

April was proclaimed to be LifeLink Donate Life month and Child Abuse Awareness month.

The Board also approved:

⦁ The 2017 Comprehensive Plan and dissolved the Comprehensive Plan Committee;
⦁ Appointment of Steven Ferguson and Jim Curtis to the Development Authority;
⦁ Appointment of John Gerheim to the Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee;
⦁ A low bid of $679,175.78 by Colditz Trucking to resurface 6.55 miles of county roads under the Local Maintenance Improvement Grant (LMIG);
⦁ A low bid by Townley Construction for tree removal project at Wimpy Airport;
⦁ A low bid of $390,000 by Mobil Communications to install a digital radio system for the Sheriff’s Office and Public Safety;
⦁ The submission of a Local Government Scrap Tire Abatement Reimbursement Application;
⦁ An agreement with Greg Amos to operate the Parks and Recreation Concession Program;
⦁ Starting the process of the abandonment of Wimpy Road;
⦁ Execution of a Quit Claim or Abandonment of Wilson Drive;
⦁ A Hazardous Waste Trust Fund;
⦁ A letter of support to Georgia Department of Transportation for the replacement of the Roy Grindle Bridge;
⦁ Revenue Audits;
⦁ A bid by Quinn Design and Concepts of $21,000 to design plans for Fire Station 7 at Frogtown;
⦁ The work plan for the 2014 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST);
⦁ Issuance of an alcohol beverage license to Robert Warner, doing business as White Oaks Bistro.

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