Sunday, August 06, 2023

Oconee County Commissioners Name Planned New Park After Wendell And Betty Dawson

***Cite Service Of Couple To Nation, State, And County***

Oconee County’s planned new park on the 246 acre Land Application System site on Rocky Branch Road will be named the Wendell and Betty Dawson Park following action taken by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night.

The Board passed a resolution naming the future park for the Dawsons early in the meeting, citing Wendell Dawson’s service to “his country, state and county in a long and honorable career” and stating that “his wife Betty Dawson has been a constant support and help in all of his service.”

Dawson’s career included serving as a member of the Board of Commissioners from 1973 to 1976 and as Commission Chair from 1989 to 2000.

The park is several years from being realized, as the Land Application System cannot be decommissioned until the expansion of the Calls Creek Wastewater is completed.

When operational, the new park will be the second largest in the county system behind Heritage Park and will include, based on the recently approved master plan, multi-use fields, lacrosse fields, soccer fields, indoor basketball facilities, biking and hiking trails, a playground, and a dog park.

In other action on Tuesday night, the Board approved the sale of $12.5 million in revenue bonds to cover Oconee County’s contribution to the planned construction of a water treatment plant and distribution system for the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in Walton County. Oconee County is the junior partner in the reservoir project.

The Board agreed to change the conditions of an earlier rezone for 2.1 acres on Jamestown Road off Hog Mountain Road west of Butler’s Crossing to allow for an office building and a gymnasium.

The Board also approved the request by Prince Avenue Baptist Church to change the conditions of a prior special use to construct a gymnasium and associated parking on land currently zoned for agriculture.

Dawson Park

Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell asked Commissioner Amrey Harden to read the resolution honoring the Dawsons.

(Back Row, L-R) Daniell, Commissioners Chuck Horton,
Mark Thomas, Harden, Mark Saxon.
Betty And Wendell Dawson (County Photo)

“It is certainly an honor to have been asked to read this resolution,” Harden said. “I want to thank Wendell and Betty for your friendship over these many years.”

“You were very kind to me, affording me a lot of opportunity during my career,” he said. “I appreciate that very much, both you and Betty–what you all have done for this community and for me personally.”

The resolution cited Wendell Dawson’s service in the armed forces and to the state through the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the North Georgia Regional Development Commission, state of Georgia advisory boards, and the Upper Oconee Water Basin Authority.

Wendell Dawson served as the attorney for the City of Watkinsville for 10 years, for Oconee County Schools for 18 years, and for Oconee County for 10 years.

“Wendell Dawson possessed vision, drive and passion for making Oconee County second to no other place, understanding when the county needed to commit to regional efforts and when it should go its own way,” the resolution states.

“Chairman Dawson consolidated the County’s water and sewer infrastructure under county control and took the important steps necessary to provide for the growth coming to the county and to use that infrastructure to channel and manage that growth,” the resolution reads.

The resolution cites Wendel’ Dawson for committing county “resources to the development of the Epps Bridge Road and Oconee Connector area, securing donations of property for right of way, state grants and developer assistance to spark the retail growth” in that area.

LAS Site

The resolution states that “Betty Dawson has been involved and active in supporting Wendell Dawson throughout his professional and service careers as his constant companion, advisor and supporter.”

Because the county, under Wendell Dawson’s leadership, acquired the property now used for the Rocky Branch LAS site and because the county plans call for development of that site as a park “it is fitting and proper to honor Wendell and Betty Dawson for these and all of their other contributions to our County, State and Country,” according to the resolution.

To recognize the contributions of the Dawsons, the resolution states, the new park facility will be named the Wendell and Betty Dawson Park.

Both Betty and Wendell Dawson were present and were presented with the resolution, but neither of them spoke.

In an email message on Aug. 4, County Administrator Justin Kirouac said the actual decommissioning of the LAS site will take place with completion of the expansion of the Calls Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant from 1.5 million gallons per day to 3.0 million gallons per day.

This is expected in approximately 18 months, Kirouac said.

In the interim, Kirouac said, the county will begin design work on the Dawson Park and on a new Field Services Building that will use part of the available land.

Bond Sales

The Board on Tuesday also approved the sale $5,070,000 in bonds maturing in 2043 and $7,425,000 in bonds maturing in 2047, for a total of $12,495,000.

Interest rate for both bonds is 4.0 percent.

Oconee County has informed Walton County that it is willing to pay only $12 million toward construction of the water treatment plant and initial phase of the transmission line.

Oconee County’s share should be $20.8 million, based on the agreement between the two counties that dictates that Oconee County is responsible for 28.8 percent of the costs of the project in return for receiving that same amount of the treated water.

Oconee County does not need the water from the reservoir.

Moody’s Upgrade

Andrew Tritt with Stifel Investment Service in Atlanta told the Board on Tuesday that “We had a wonderful day in the bond market.”

“What really enabled us to do that was that you were upgraded to Aaa,” he said.

The Oconee County Government received a bond rating upgrade from Aa1 to Aaa, the highest rating, from Moody’s Investors Service in a report dated July 12, 2023, the county announced on July 13.

Oconee County is the second smallest county, by population, in the nation to receive the Aaa bond rating and one of seven counties in the state with that rating. The state also is rated Aaa.

“That really just goes to show you that you are doing things right,” Tritt said.


The Board of Commissioners approved a request by Core Blend Training LLC to change the conditions of an earlier rezone for 2.1 acres on Jamestown Road off Hog Mountain Road west of Butler’s Crossing to allow for an office building and a gymnasium.

The previous rezone had been for a retail strip center.

“The chances of retail coming to the property are pretty slim,” Frank Pittman, representing the buyer of the property, CloverLeaf Construction of Athens, told the commissioners.

No one spoke in favor of the request other than Pittman, and no one spoke in opposition.

The Board of Commissioners approved the request without any discussion.

The Board also approved the request of Prince Avenue Baptist Church and School on Ruth Jackson Road to change conditions on a prior special use to allow for construction of a gymnasium and associated parking on land currently zoned for agriculture.

The previous concept plan did not show the gymnasium.

No one other than a representative of Carter Engineering spoke in favor of the proposal, and no one spoke against.

Jeff Carter had told the Planning Commission that the new gymnasium was needed because of increased demand for that facility at the school.

The Board approved the request without discussion.

Other Action

The Board on Tuesday approved a request by Ryan Hammock to be allowed to add a second driveway to service a proposed accessory building on 6.06 acres he owns at 1400 Dove Creek Road in the far northwest of the county.

Hammock, who is a member of the Oconee County Board of Education, told the commissioners the driveway will allow access to a “barn-like structure.”

The Board of Commissioners approved the request without discussion after no one other than Hammock spoke either for or against the request.

Coincidentally, County Administrator Kirouac presented to the Board later in the meeting the request from Oconee County School Superintendent Jason Branch that the Board of Commissioners confirm the millage rate of 15.0 for Oconee County Schools.

The Board of Education had set the millage rate for school property taxes at a meeting on July 31.

The Board of Commissioners confirmed the rate without discussion.


The county recorded only the audio of the meeting on Tuesday.

Normally, videos of Board of Commissioners meetings are recorded and placed on YouTube.

That audio of the Tuesday meeting is available on the county’s YouTube channel.

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