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County commission approves budget for legal representation
Staff negotiating contract extension with Cumming law firm
FB DCN Government County

The Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last week to move funds within the budget to pay for interim legal representation following the resignation of the former county attorney in December.

Purchasing Director Melissa Hawk asked the board during a work session Jan. 24 to allocate a budget in order to pay Cumming Law Firm Jarrard & Davis for work performed over the 60 day interim period that was approved by the board Dec. 27.

Hawk went before the board because County Manager David Headley only has approval to spend up to $25,000 in expenses not previously budgeted.

“We’re nowhere near this $25,000 now, but there’s multiple attorneys working on multiple things and it could come in pretty quickly at one time, and I just want to get us ready for that,” Hawk said Jan. 24.

The board voted unanimously to move $106,385 from the line items associated with salary and benefits for the former in-house counsel to the professional services line item so that Headley could pay the firm when necessary. A budget amendment from the board will be necessary if the spending is to exceed that amount.

County staff is also currently working with Jarrard & Davis on a contract to extend the time frame the county will retain the firm.

Angela Davis of Jarrard & Davis said in January that because there had been some issues that were left unattended, it would take a few months for the county’s legal matters to be stabilized.

“It appears to us that a lot of things had been sitting idle for a while so we’ve really tried to prioritize,” she said. “I would hope that we will make great strides in the next few months...I think end of first quarter we should be in a pretty good place, where there may be some ongoing issues but they will be stabilized. I’m hopeful.”

If the contract is extended, the board will have more time to decide if they want to hire another in-house attorney or continue contracting with a firm.

In other business:

Board could reconsider alcohol license

Davis, acting as interim county attorney, told the board that they would have an opportunity at the Feb. 14 meeting to consider rescinding their Nov. 1 decision to deny an alcohol license to a new restaurant, Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ.

The restaurant 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.

Commissioners denied the license because they 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.

Capital Improvements Element approved

The board unanimously approved sending an updated Capital Improvements Element, or CIE, to the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission for review.

The CIE must be adopted as a chapter of the comprehensive plan, which was approved by the board Jan. 24, and is a wish list of projects and shows how impact fees will be earmarked and utilized to pay for capital improvements.

The CIE was last updated in July 2018, before the board voted to reinstate impact fees in August, and must now be updated annually.

Projects that the fees will be used to fund include seven new fire stations, a new branch library, an additional 200 acres of park space and improvements to heavily-trafficked county roads including Lumpkin Campground Road.

Resolution on grant procedures approved

The board also voted unanimously to approve a resolution that will speed up the process of applying for grants for department heads.

The new resolution makes it so that department heads can apply for grants without having to go before the board as long as the grants do not require a match from the county.

Grant applications can now be approved in writing by the county manager, but grants must come before the board to be accepted as has been the case.

Also during the meeting, Kristen Cloud was unanimously re-appointed to her position as county clerk.