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Mayor authorizes fee reductions without council approval
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City council on Monday voted to deny a request from a group of Gold Creek residents that filed applications to annex their property into the city at a reduced annexation fee.

Eighteen homeowners in the subdivision asked to be annexed into the city in a letter dated Feb. 10, and prematurely paid an annexation fee of $250 each as opposed to the $500 fee that is outlined in the city ordinances.

Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan brought the application before the council on March 6, stating that several other Gold Creek homeowners had been allowed to annex into the city at a reduced fee in the past and that these homeowners wished to do the same.

When Council Member Angie Smith asked if the reduced fee for those annexations had been voted on by the council, the answer was no.

"We voted to approve the annexations, the mayor approved the reduced cost," said City Clerk Bonnie Warne.

According to the clerk, four applicants had previously been charged at a lower rate, and those were approved by Grogan in December 2013 and August 2014.

Grogan said he didn't remember personally approving the reduced fees, and said that back when the late Joe Lane Cox was mayor prior to April 2012, the city annexed property and didn't charge anything.

City Attorney Dana Miles said that he did not participate in any decision to reduce the fee.

"It was not done correctly," Miles said. "The annexation amount is set by [city] ordinance in accordance with [the city] fee schedule and approved by council by a vote. If someone is allowed to annex at a lower rate, then that would be subject to approval by the council."

Council Member Mike Sosebee made a motion to approve the reduced fee for the 18 new applicants "because we've already took the money and told them we'd do it."

The motion was not seconded and died.

Smith told Grogan she thought he set a bad precedent, and made a motion to keep the annexation fee at $500 for everyone.

"We've done several annexations since I've been on council and we've never had anybody ask for a reduced fee, or it's just never made it to us," Smith said. "I would have a really hard time looking at people and having a straight face and saying well we did it for some, but you're just one person ... I just don't think that's fair and I don't think that's right."

Council Member Caleb Phillips seconded Smith's motion and it was approved 3-1, with Sosebee dissenting.

"It's just hard to let others have [to pay in full]," Phillips said. "Like Pigeon Creek, they put their money in and even though they didn't get [annexed], they had to pay the whole fee."