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New city council members sworn in
Current council approves districts posts for upcoming elections
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New council members Stephen Tolson and Mark French, who begin their terms in January, voted on the decision to appoint the 2018 Mayor Pro Tem with council members Jason Power, Mike Eason and Caleb Phillips during the Dec. 18 meeting. - photo by Jessica Taylor

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City Attorney Dana Miles swore in new council member Stephen Tolson Dec. 18 - photo by Jessica Taylor
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City Attorney Dana Miles swore in new council member Mark French Dec. 18. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Newly-elected Dawsonville City Council members Stephen Tolson and Mark French were sworn in during Monday night’s meeting just prior to the currently seated council’s vote to create district posts for future elections.

The two will begin their terms in January, taking the reins from Mike Sosebee and Angie Smith respectfully.

Mayor Pro Tem Jason Power recognized Sosebee and Smith for their service on the council during the Dec. 18 meeting and presented each with a plaque.

Smith first gained a seat on the city council in 2012 and is finishing up her first elected term. Sosebee held a seat on city council from 1980 to 2001. He was re-elected for another term in 2004 and has served on the council since.

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Jason Power recognized Mike Sosebee’s years of service on the city council. His term as a councilmember ends Dec. 31. - photo by Jessica Taylor
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Jason Power recognized Angie Smith’s years of service on the city council. Her term as a council member ends Dec. 31. - photo by Jessica Taylor

The two incumbents were defeated in a November election when the two council seats were elected at large.

Elected at large means that the candidates were not vying for a particular seat, and the two with the most votes won the two open seats.

The current council, made up of Sosebee, Smith, Power and council member Caleb Phillips, voted Monday to change that and amend sections of the city charter to create district posts for council members.

This means that candidates will have to run for the seat that corresponds to the district where they live in the city, similar to the Dawson County Board of Commissioners.

According to the amendment, voting will be across all districts.

Precisely what the districts will look like is unknown: City Attorney Dana Miles called the vote the first step to creating the districts.

“The districts are created based on the census and of course they are revised every time a new census or they’re potentially revised when a new census comes out if there’s a population shift,” Miles said.

Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes, who lives in the city, spoke during the public hearing as a concerned citizen, and said she was neither for nor against the ordinance.

“I understand procedurally that you would have to do the districts after you pass this, but I would just pose to you all that citizens have had no time to look at what those districts might look like – and I understand that it might be state law as to go that way – but it’s really hard to figure out mentally just from reading the paper what those districts will look like, so that might be something to consider as you move forward,” Haynes said.

The charter amendment passed with Sosebee opposed.

The council also voted on a charter amendment to reduce the compensation for the mayor seat after the second of two public hearings.

Smith said before the vote that the 2017 Municipal Wage and Salary Survey conducted by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs shows how the mayor of Dawsonville’s annual salary compares to other cities in Georgia.

She said that according to the survey, the mayor of Dawsonville receives an annual salary of $24,000 for a population of 2,500 to 5,000 residents, putting Dawsonville at the top of the salary in its population division.

Other mayors in cities much larger than Dawsonville receive even less compensation.

Smith said that the city of Alpharetta has 65,000 residents and their mayor makes $30,000 per year, and that the city of Gainesville has 40,000 residents and the mayor makes $14,400 per year.

“In our opinion, we were on the top end of that scale so we wanted to balance that out,” Smith said.

The amendment to reduce the compensation to $600 a month, or $7,200 a year, was passed with Sosebee again opposed.

Council members are currently compensated $500 a month.

Tolson and French joined Power, Eason and council member Caleb Phillips in the meeting’s last order of business and the only item the two were allowed to vote on: the appointment of the mayor pro tem for 2018.  Jason Power was appointed unanimously.

Other business:

Comprehensive plan advisory board appointed

Planning Director Casey Majewski presented the council with a list of individuals to serve on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Board.

The board will help the city plan for the future and will have six meetings, about one a month between January and August 2018.

The vote was unanimous with Smith recusing herself from the vote, as she is among the list of names to serve on the committee.

Land purchased for water and sewer, farmer’s market

Following an executive session, the council voted unanimously to purchase both an easement along the Pigeon Creek subdivision for water and sewer as well as a parcel of land along Allen Street for a farmer’s market.

The city will purchase the easement at Pigeon Creek for $10,000 and have an option to purchase the surrounding 30 acres for $5,000 an acre, using SPLOST VI funds.

The city will also acquire the property at 82 Allen Street out of SPLOST funds, and pay $90,000.