Dawson County’s Board of Commissioners continued crafting new employee merit and longevity pay policies by voting on refined handbook changes this past Thursday.
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During their Dec. 15 voting session, the board unanimously approved a 2023 amendment to the previously-proposed changes so employees will receive merit increases in January and be eligible for longevity raises upon reaching their first-anniversary hire dates.
In 2024, employees will be eligible for both types of increases upon reaching their hire dates.
District 4 Commissioner Dooley and BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond pointed out that this approach would prove more helpful, with staff evaluations having recently been completed.
The board’s Dec. 15 vote follows their November approval of $1 million for merit increases in the FY2023 budget.
“We want to stay as close to that [previously-approved] million dollars as possible,” Thurmond said at the meeting.
Board members also approved a partial rezoning for one commercial portion of a forthcoming mixed-use development along the Ga. 400 corridor.
With the vote, 16.2 acres near the corner of Kilough Church Road and Ga. 400 has been rezoned from Commercial Highway Business (CHB) to Commercial Industrial Restricted (CIR)
The Dawson County Planning Commission previously recommended approval for the partial rezoning last month.
On Dec. 19, 2019, the BOC approved the rezonings for the development’s 78-acre residential and 40-acre commercial portions. Draft plans included specs for 331 homes and a 175,000-square-foot mix of retail, office and warehouse space.
Developer Kilough Ventures LLC requested a rezoning for land on the project’s south side to reauthorize uses that were once granted to the property, according to the BOC’s Dec. 15 agenda packet.
In 2019, stipulations placed on the project limited retail north of the power line in lieu of much lower-impact uses, while allowed uses for the southern side were uninhibited, according to the 2022 rezoning application.
Then in 2020, Dawson County created the narrower CIR zoning, under which the developer’s desired warehouse use was moved. Due to that, the developer couldn’t go forward with the planned commercial space without requesting another rezoning.
At the Dec. 15 meeting, developer consultant Jim King agreed to stipulations that commercial development must be phased and meet Ga. 400 Corridor Guidelines.
Planning and Development Director Sharon Farrell clarified that a 25-foot buffer can’t be maintained along the project’s border with Ga. 400 now, since trees have been cleared. So now, a six-foot buffer of trees will have to be planted along that side.
In terms of the overall development, suggested traffic fixes include dual left-cut turn lanes approaching and leaving the development and a light signal for U turns.
District 3 Commissioner Tim Satterfield asked King about interparcel connection, one of the other suggested fixes, and “allowing people to access the old Kroger shopping center and help that [to] revitalize.”
King said he’s “currently working on that agreement right now with the chamber.”
The Dawson County Chamber of Commerce stands near the project’s southern boundary.
During their meeting, the board also signed off on a formal approval of a $3 million pre-set budget for the county’s radio system upgrade project, which was bid out to Federal Engineering.
Dawson County commissioners likewise approved a $271,000 bid for the planned emergency operations (EOC) and E911 center.
Company Jericho Design Group’s EOC/E911 bid includes conceptual plans for the new building, stamped-and-sealed architectural and engineering plans, final designs and supervision of construction.
Both the radio and EOC/E911 projects will be paid for using funds collected for Dawson County’s seventh special purpose local option sales tax, which voters approved in March 2021. SPLOST VII included a planned $5.5 million for the EOC/E911 center and $3 million for the radio system upgrade, for a combined $8.5 million budget. These projects must be funded in full before any other initiative in the SPLOST project list.
As well, $172,650 in remaining SPLOST VI funds was authorized for several key safety fixes.
At the BOC’s Dec. 1 work session, Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Chief Troy Leist cited the need for a Lucas CPR device, staff vehicle for the department’s community risk reduction officer, battery-operated extrication equipment and three sets of air rescue lifting bags.
At that time, Leist also requested upgrades to Fire Station 1’s bathroom, which he said “needs some tender loving care” and multi-station security upgrades, like better-locking doors, for all eight of the county’s fire stations.
Additionally, DCFES got the thumbs up from the board to apply for the annual Emergency Management Performance Grant.
The grant would be a 50/50 match, with $7,784 coming from the funding and $7,784 coming from the county for a total of $15,568, according to the BOC’s Dec. 15 voting session agenda.
The 2023 grant will pay for Rave Mobile Safety, a mobile emergency alerting program for the community, and six portable radios.
Dawson County now has a new face handling its community outreach, Dahlonega Butterfly Farm owner Jo Ann Goldenburg.
Goldenburg was hired as the county’s public relations specialist and began working in the position last week.
Following Public Affairs Officer Laura Fulcher’s departure at the end of October, the county moved its PR position under the IT department and rebranded the job as a PR specialist position.
Fire Chief Troy Leist also announced the hiring of two division chiefs during the board’s Dec. 15 work session.
Prior DCFES employee and longtime firefighter Johnny Irvin has been named the Division Chief of Operations and Training.
Fire and EMS veteran Don Patterson was named the EMS division chief.
DCN will report on the newly-named division chiefs more in a future article.