By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Dawson County library, parks, other offices request more staff for growth needs
Library
The Dawson County Library is requesting one part-time position in its 2023 budget so that the main campus can stay open until 7 p.m. two nights a week. - photo by Erica Jones

Many of the Dawson County offices that help residents plan their forever homes or offer children sports and other entertainment options have one thing in common. During the Board of Commissioners FY2023 budget meetings last week, these departments asked for more staff.

This story continues below.

Take, for example, the Dawson County Library, located at 342 Allen Street in Dawsonville, and its satellite campus at 145 Liberty Drive, next to Fire Station 2. 

During her Aug. 23 presentation, Chestatee Regional Library System Director Leslie Clark pointed to the uptick in people visiting the libraries since the initial COVID-19 shutdowns. 

Clark explained how 635 patrons of all ages came out to the main campus’ June reading and programming, exceeding the meeting room capacity of 85 at each event. 

In June, the main campus saw 4,377 patrons, and the satellite library saw 419, she said.

“I wanted to really just show you how this library is impacting our community and the service that it provides with the community being built up around it and then [in] the rest of the county,” Clark added. 

To alleviate overcrowding for the summer programs, Clark said the library system will have to book morning and afternoon performers, which would be an additional cost of $4,200. 

Clark requested a part-time staff position for $14,563 to allow the Dawson County Library to remain open until 7 p.m. two nights a week. 

In August, the library announced that from Sept. 6-Oct. 25, its hours at the main campus will be Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

Another request was $12,001 for 3% cost-of-living/merit increases for employees. 

Clark acknowledged that while library staff aren’t county employees, they are funded by the county, so without a budget increase, it would be “nearly impossible to give staff a raise.” 

Last year, the Dawson County Library had to close for two Saturdays due to a staffing shortage from employees leaving for positions that paid more.

While an increase is not a guarantee an employee would stay, it “goes a long way toward staff retention,” Clark said. 

A wage increase on the Dawson side would match an increase given to Lumpkin County library employees in that county’s recently-passed budget, she added. 


Parks and Rec director Matt Payne
Parks and Rec Director Matt Payne speaks to the board at the Aug. 23 budget hearing. - photo by Julia Fechter

Parks and Rec

During the Aug. 23 budget hearing, Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne requested a programs assistant position at $63,105, calling it “his priority.”

“We just need more nighttime coverage,” Payne said. “If you’ve been out to the parks anytime on a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday night, you’ll see that it is off the charts with the numbers of people there doing different programs.” 

Participation in longstanding rec programs is up 20-25 percent, and that’s before one considers 

the addition of programs such as lacrosse, high school basketball and others, Payne said. 


Marshal’s office 


On Aug. 25, the new head of the Marshal’s Office, Angela Byers, requested funds for two new positions. One would be an alcohol license administrator, a role worth $68,819.35 with benefits and equipment. She also asked for another code enforcement officer at a $41,246.40 base salary and $114,364.99 including benefits, a vehicle and equipment. 

In her presentation, Byers cited a growing number of animal control cases, sharing that most of the 24,000-plus people in Dawson County “have at least one pet.” 

Code cases require meticulous documentation and a minimum of three site visits, with five to seven done on average and even 20-plus visits for certain cases, Byers said. 

“We have 50% more code cases year to date than we had in 2021,” she added. 

Dawson County is on track to process over 500 alcohol licenses by the end of 2022, and her office is also responsible for reconciling what alcohol and vape stores have with what’s in the county database, Byers said. 

Byers pointed to an increase also in short-term rentals.

“We’ve had a 24% increase year to date in short term rentals, even with a change in the ordinance and going up on the [permit] price,” she said. 

The marshal’s office has had 50% turnover in “just this year,” Byers said, which limits them when people are out of the office or training. 

Currently, the office has a backlog of 63 cases. They are at a five-to-seven-day response time for cases instead of a more optimal three-to-four-day timeline, save for something like an emergency dog case that would require a more immediate response, Byers said. 

She explained that the additional staffing would allow them to get closer to a same-day response time, conduct more of those bi-annual alcohol and vape audits and get donation boxes under control.

“We all want to get there [to our goals] and we can get there,” said Byers, “but we’re going to need a little help on the employee side in order to get there.”


Planning

Planning and Development Director Sharon Farrell asked the board for a full-time inspector during her Aug. 25 presentation. This position would have a base salary of $41,248 and cost $117,256.79 with benefits, a vehicle and equipment. 

Farrell called the current inspection workload for her “unacceptable,” and explained that the 18-20 maximum daily inspections are rolling over and multiple staff are having to divvy up the additional workload. 

“We’ve had no luck with [filling] the part-time inspector position,” Farrell said. “It’s hard enough to get a full-time inspector.” 

She also explained that third-party inspectors “are not as popular up here” because the cost for those services is passed on to the homeowner, and county personnel would still have to go out and inspect their work. 

“Our customers pay for the service (with permit fees) and expect a level of service and the busier we get, that level of service is hard to maintain,” Farrell said. 

She reasoned the “pressure on single-family residential is likely to continue in the county, with 1,285 vacant plots with addresses and already platted ‘ready to go’.”

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines later asked Farrell for future insight with expected residential development. 

She explained the demand, albeit changed, is there for homes that perhaps have less bedrooms or are a remodeling project. 

“I think, even with higher interest rates, people need to find a home,” Farrell said. “As everyone says, this is a great place to be.”

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to hold a presentation on its FY2023 budget as a whole on Oct. 6, followed by a series of required hearings on Oct. 20 and Nov. 3.