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Residents raise fuss over utility tower
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Residents of a gated subdivision in southeastern Dawson County are angry about a utility tower recently erected without warning near their homes.

"Would you like to have that tower next your home? I want you to be honest with me. Would you want that in your backyard?" Ivan Ruiz asked representatives of Etowah Water and Sewer Authority last week.

Ruiz's garage is within 30 feet of the nearly 130 feet tower, which was built to transmit water use readings to the authority.

Doris Cook, the authority's resource manager, said the tower was set up to meet a federal mandate requiring all public utilities to have a leak detection program in place by January.

Friday afternoon, she told about a dozen property owners from the Summit Overlook neighborhood that a study had determined the Blue Ridge Overlook property was the most appropriate site.

Factors given included the elevation of the spot and its central location in authority's service area.

"If we didn't put this one tower here, we'd have to put four or five other towers in other areas," Cook said.

Charles Mears, whose horse farm and home also adjoin the .19-acre authority site, was away on business when the tower went up.

"I didn't tell him," his wife Dolores said. "I knew he'd flip his lid."

The Mears bought the home about 18 months ago, planning for their retirement in the north Georgia mountains.

"We looked at a lot of different states and properties ... and this is what we chose, because we love Dawsonville and Dawson County, the people and the view," Dolores Mears said.

"I never in a million years would have bought this house if this tower was here," her husband said.

Ruiz said he was shocked to see a tower going up "without any notification from anybody - no calls, no letters, nothing."

According to Dawson County Planning Director David McKee, neither the authority nor the county, which issued the building permits, is required to post notice for a public utility tower.

Public notification, however, would have been required if the structure were permitted for public use, such as a cell phone tower, McKee said.

"This is strictly for government use," he said.

In addition to the authority's purposes, Dawson County 911 will also use the tower.

"That way I think we're taking care of two important things at once, which is a benefit to the citizens," Cook said.

She asked the homeowners group to submit a list of specific questions to the authority about the tower's placement and construction, which she promised would be addressed.

In the meantime, residents are determined to have the tower moved.

"Here's what I want you to work on - moving it," Ruiz told Cook. "That thing went up in two or three days. I know it can be moved in the same."