Dawson County Board of Commissioner Chair Mike Berg has one strong recommendation for the community - be positive.
We are who we think we are, Berg told community members who came to hear his state-of-the-county speech Thursday at Peach Brandy Cottage. If youre positive about your community, then the people around you will be positive, then business will come and the people will come. Weve got a very good community.
Berg had four topics he focused on in his address during the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon: local economy, county government, SPLOST, and communication.
Although Berg said unemployment was slightly higher this month, this past May, Dawson had the lowest unemployment of the 13-county Georgia Mountain Regional Commission. We are one of the better counties as far as workforce is concerned, he said.
And the county is showing signs of growth, as well. Building permits are up and housing permits are up 31 percent, he said.
But it is commercial property projects having the most growth. We are going to be a magnet on the commercial end of building for the next few years, he said.
Berg referred to two major developments getting ready to break ground near Ga. 400. What has been dubbed the Blanchard property, a power center to be located at Ga. 400 and Dawson Forest Road unofficially has six businesses signed on to open, three of them restaurants.
But Berg was tight-lipped on what those businesses might be. Dont ask which ones they are because we cant tell you, he said. He did say, however, that the process on those developments could begin sometime early 2015.
Berg also referenced the Shiery property, across from Arbys on Ga. 400.
That location is being considered for a retail center, a retail store one of five in the area like it.
Berg said growth looks good in the county. ...We have good growth in this county.
Berg addressed the increase in property tax many residents faced when property values were assessed at a higher rate this year. Because the county did not roll back its millage rate so that property taxes would match the previous year, many residents will pay more in taxes this year. It will give us about $700,000 more than weve had in the past, Berg said.
But the amount doesnt come close to the $3.6 million the county has lost due to declining property values over the last six years, he said.
Of that $700,000, Berg estimates about $235,000 will need to be put toward getting county employees up to the minimum salary range per the results of a recent salary study. Another $285,000 will need to be set aside for an emergency health insurance fund since, due to increasing insurance costs, the county elected to be partially self-insured.
The county will collect Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax through June of 2015. By the time SPLOST 5 has wrapped up, the county will be able to pay off its courthouse. Well have the debt of two fire trucks and sprayfields. Outside of those, we will be debt-free, Berg said.
In November, Dawson County voters will decide if they want to continue the special tax, with SPLOST 6. If approved, Berg said about 60 to 70 percent of the funds collected will go to various road projects in the county. The rest will be spent on recreation and protective services. The city of Dawsonville will receive 15 percent of the SPLOST collected and its top project is a park at the corner of Main Street and Memory Lane.
Berg shared with the group that about 80 percent of the money collected is paid for outside the county.
Berg encouraged the luncheon attendees to stay informed so you can respond to folks when they bring things up. One way the community can learn more about the county government is to attend the Citizens Government Academy.
The 10-week course will meet once a week on Tuesday evenings and explore all the departments of Dawson County government. Berg encouraged the crowd to take advantage of the class that begins Sept. 2. For more information, you may call 706-344-3501