A little over a month after Chairman Billy Thurmond’s initial proposed budget presentation, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last week to adopt the 2019 budget for all funds at $42,520,137.
The Nov. 1 vote followed a discussion and motion for several changes to the general fund budget, which comes in at a total of $27,170,235. There are 22 other funds including the capital projects fund and SPLOST funds making up the difference.
At Thurmond’s request commissioners added funds back to the Tax Commissioner’s Office for computers and supplies, added funds back to the planning and development department for software updates and allocated funds to the parks and recreation department for an increase in electricity costs.
Commissioners also voted in favor of District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix’s recommendation to allocate $66,426 to fund a public relations specialist position at the bequest of County Manager David Headley.
They also voted in favor of District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines’ proposal to remove a proposed full time fire training officer job and replaced it with overtime amounting to $15,000 for the emergency services department, resulting in a savings of around $46,000. The board also decreased the public works department’s asphalt budget by $25,000 and allocated $2,000 to the Good Shepherd Clinic.
Gaines had previously suggested the board look at increasing the county’s 401(k) match but said he would like to wait for more information to make sure that the increase would be equitable across the board and include pension employees.
Also approved was District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett’s recommendation of allocating $2,716 to the satellite library to be used to potentially keep the library open for more hours during the week.
The budget includes more new personnel than the county has seen in some time with approval of 23 of the 42 positions that the department heads requested during budget hearings in August at a cost of around $937,000.
The 2019 general fund budget is a $752,755 increase over the amended 2018 budget.
Capital improvement projects approved include $100,000 for audio visual replacements in the courthouse, $10,000 for cameras for the Tax Commissioner’s Office, $100,000 for paving the parking lot at the KH Long building, $31,071 to activate emergency call buttons for the sheriff’s office radios and $50,000 for new AC units for the sheriff’s office.
The SPLOST VI budget for 2019 is $7,500,000, and is earmarked for a new public works facility, a new fire station in the west side of the county, road paving and phase two of county-wide computer replacements.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to deny an alcohol license for a restaurant set to go in at the Publix shopping center.
Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ applied for a license to serve wine and beer by the drink and to have a wall of beer on tap for customers to sample a variety of craft beers.
According to the applicants, customers would receive reusable, prepaid wristbands that they would use to access the beer wall. Customers would hold their wristband up to the tap, which would activate it and allow beer to be poured. The tap would show how much was poured and how much was left of the customer’s initial purchase of up to 32 ounces.
Taylor Harper, who represented the applicant, said that customers who wanted to try different types of craft beer could get a two ounce pour rather than having to order a 16 ounce pint or 12 ounce glass before deciding if they liked it. State law prohibits bars and restaurants from providing samples of alcohol.
“It enables you to try a variety of products that otherwise you might not be able to do,” Harper said. Harper said that though there are no Crave restaurants currently operating in the state, other restaurants have adopted the same basic concept of a beer wall.
Commissioners were concerned that the wristbands took the “human element” out of the by-the-drink sales and could allow for customers to get over served as well as allow underage patrons to access the wall.
Harper explained that after the initial purchase of 32 ounces runs out, customers would have to go back to an employee who would assess the individual, who could then be approved to purchase an additional 24 ounces. Identification would also be scanned as opposed to just observed by employees to help root out fake IDs.
The restaurant owner, Robert Bibb, said that the cutoff would be determined per-person by the employees like at any restaurant or bar.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines questioned how effective the removable wristbands would be for preventing over consumption if so much of the typical interaction with an employee were removed.
The Dawsonville restaurant would be the first Crave restaurant in Georgia.
The board also voted to table a decision on providing funds to retrofit lighting to LED at the Dawson County Library until more quotes are received.
The BOC also voted to reallocate $10,200 within the public defender’s office, accepted a $750,000 grant for construction of the new senior center and voted to award new contracts for inmate food services and an external auditing firm.