Changes to City of Blue Ridge alcohol ordinance

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Alcohol sales could be allowed until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays in the City of Blue Ridge, and area establishments could begin to offer drink specials.

These are just a few of the changes seen to the Blue Ridge City Alcohol Ordinance, which had its first reading at the July 10 Blue Ridge City Council meeting.

After months of discussion and special committee findings and recommendations several changes have been introduced into the amended ordinance.
Beyond the later time for alcohol sales on Fridays and Saturdays, new holidays have been added to the list for late night transactions. Previously, New Years Eve was the only noted day for an exemption to the 11:30 p.m. rule, but if passed, patrons can also enjoy a later drink on Labor Day, Memorial Day, and July 4.

An updated conflict of interest section now allows for city officials to own establishments that participate in alcohol sales. These officials, however, will have to abstain from voting on any matter that directly affects their business holdings.

Also new to the amended ordinance will be the ability for establishments to offer “reasonable drink specials” with specific guidelines that must be adhered to in order to offer these specials.

The Blue Ridge City Council is expected to hold the second reading of the amended alcohol ordinance at their Aug. 14 regularly scheduled meeting.

Below is the amendments to the alcohol ordinance as read at the July 10 meeting:

 

AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND AND REPEAL CERTAIN PORTIONS OF THE CITY OF BLUE RIDGE, GEORGIA REGULATION OF ALCOHOL ORDINANCES RELATING TO CONFIRMATION OF RATIO COMPLIANCE; TO THE EXPIRATION DATE OF EMPLOYEE PERMITS; TO OWNERSHIP AND CONFLICT OF INTERESTS BY COUNCIL MEMBERS AND OTHER OFFICERS; TO CHANGE THE FEE CHARGED FOR SPECIAL TEMPORARY LICENSES; TO MAKE CERTAIN CHANGES TO HOURS OF OPERATION; TO UPDATE ARTICLE VII DEALING WITH BONA FIDE NON-PROFIT CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS SO AS TO ALLOW FOR IDENTICAL RESTRICTIONS ON SUNDAY SALES AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, has previously adopted ordinance number 4.12.11 (as amended) as an alcoholic beverage ordinance for the purposes of regulating of the sale of alcoholic beverages including, but not limited to, related fees and taxes (collectively “Alcohol Ordinance”); and

WHEREAS, City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, finds that the certain changes set forth herein will be not be detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Blue Ridge, Georgia and will actually be the economic benefit of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, and its citizens,; and

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, desires to continue to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages as provided in the Alcohol

Ordinance subject to the changes and/or additional regulations contained within this ordinance;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDERED, AND IT IS HEREBY ORDAINED by the Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, as authorized by the City Charter and general law, as follows:

SECTION 1.
The Alcohol Ordinance is hereby amended by modifying, deleting and adopting the following provisions.

SECTION 110.45-3
This Section is hereby amended by inserting an additional sentence and the end of the Paragraph which reads “In addition to any other requirements set forth in this Ordinance, the City of Blue Ridge may annually require any license holder subject to a ratio requirement to produce a statement prepared by a certified public account setting forth proof of compliance with the ratio and that consumable items are at least fifty percent (50%) of a licensee’s business volume.”

SECTION 110.45-34(f)
Section 110.45-34(f) entitled “Employee permits” is hereby amended by deleting the previous subsection (6) in its entirety and the new Section 110.45-34(f)(6) shall read as follows:

“An employee permit shall be valid for one year from the date of issue. The employee permit may be renewed upon the submission of a renewal application, the payment of the appropriate renewal fee, and upon a determination that such individual remains qualified for said permit under this Ordinance. The fee for renewal of an employee permit shall be no less than $30.00.” 110.45-34(f)(6).

SECTION 110.45-14
Section 110.45-14 entitled “Sale, Distribution and other dealing in alcoholic beverages within the City by officials and employees: exemptions”, subsection (a) is hereby amended by deleting the previous subsection (a) in its entirety and the new Section 110.45-14(a) shall read as follows:
No member of the City Council who holds any interest, directly or indirectly, in any establishment licensed by the City to sell, distribute or otherwise deal in alcoholic beverages shall vote on any matter involving or relating to said establishment. For purposes of this subsection, a member shall be deemed to have or hold a beneficial interest if the license is issued in the name of the person’s spouse, child, parent or sibling, or in a partnership or corporation or limited liability company in which such persons owns more than ten percent (10%) controlling interest.

SECTION 110.45-23 (Fees)
The fee schedule is hereby amended to state the charge for a temporary special event license permit shall be $150 per permit.

SECTION 110.45-35 (Days and Hours of Operation)
Subsection (a) and (b) is amended to change any reference to “after 11:30 p.m.” on Fridays and Saturdays to “after 12:00 a.m.”

Subsection (a) is amended to remove the parenthetical (but which must end at 9:00 p.m.).

Subsection (b) is amended by changing the sentence “except on New Year’s Eve (December 31), and sales shall be allowed until 11:59” to read “except on Labor Day, Memorial Day, July 4 and New Years’ Eve and sales shall be allowed until 12:00 a.m. the following day.”

A new Subsection (c) is added which reads “any person or entity holding a temporary special event license shall be allowed to furnish, sell or offer for sale alcoholic beverages until 12:00 a.m. on the day following the event.”

SECTION 110.45-50(b)(2)(H)
Subsection (H)’s introductory paragraph shall be amended to read as follows: As to any retail consumption dealer, reasonable drink specials may be allowed, provided, however, that no licensee, in connection with the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises shall:

Subsection (H)(4) shall be amended to read [No licensee shall] “sale, offer to sell, or deliver to any person or group of persons any alcoholic beverage at a price less than the less than the price regularly charged for such alcoholic beverage during the same calendar week, except reasonable drink specials which are clearly identified as to price and quantity and licensed catered functions pursuant to an issued City permit and not open to the public shall be allowed.”;

SECTION 110.45-52(c)
Subsection (c) is hereby updated and amended to make non-profit organizations subject to the same Sunday sales rules (Section 110.45-35) which apply to all other persons, entities and organizations by deleting the parenthetical “(which cannot include any Sunday of the year).”

SECTION 2:
REPEAL OF CONFLICTING ORDINANCES TO REMOVE CONFLICT

All parts of ordinances in conflict with the terms of this ordinance are hereby repealed to the extent of the conflict, but it is hereby provided that any ordinance or law which may be applicable hereto and aid in carrying out and making effective the intent, purpose and provisions hereof, is hereby adopted as a part hereof and shall be legally construed to be in favor of upholding this Ordinance on behalf of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia.

SECTION 3.
SEVERABILITY

If any paragraph, subparagraph, sentence, clause, phrase or any other portion of this Ordinance should be declared invalid or unconstitutional by any Court of competent jurisdiction or if the provisions of any part of this Ordinance as applied to any particular person, situation or set of circumstances is declared invalid or unconstitutional, such invalidity shall not be construed to affect the provisions of this Ordinance not so held to be invalid, or the application of this Ordinance to other circumstances not so held to be invalid. It is hereby declared to be the legislative intent of the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia to provide for separate and divisible parts and it does hereby adopt any and all parts hereof as may not be held invalid for any reason.

SECTION 4.
EFFECTIVE DATE

The effective date of this Ordinance shall be immediately upon its passage by the City Council and execution by the Mayor or upon fifteen (15) days expiring from the date of its passage without a veto of said Ordinance by the Mayor as set forth in the City Charter at Section 3.23(b).

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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City of Blue Ridge spending comes into question

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – A large bill for the Blue Ridge City Pool and a final amendment to the City of Blue Ridge 2017 budget left new council members questioning the accountability and practices of the city when it comes to spending.

At the June Blue Ridge City Council meeting funds and lack thereof was a topic that was revisited throughout the evening. Blue Ridge Business Association President Cesar Martinez urged the council to take steps to acquire the funding needed for city improvements.

“You were all aware of the important issues facing the city, as you voiced your convictions towards better infrastructure, better parking solutions, and better bathroom facilities for our city and its visitors,” Martinez addressed the council reading from a prepared statement.

“Six months down the road and where are we?” Martinez questioned. “This city needs solutions now. Inaction is unacceptable.”

Martinez acknowledged shortfalls in trying to seek funding for these projects stating that grants could take months even years to come through.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis, Rhonda Haight, Harold Herndon, Robbie Cornelius, Blue Ridge Business Association, President, Cesar Martinez, Recreonics Inc, Spending, Budget, SPLOST, pool, paint, Downtown Development Authority

Blue Ridge Business Association President Cesar Martinez addresses the council about forming a Downtown Development Authority to help seek funding for the city.

Mayor Donna Whitener added to this that grants often have to be matched by city money.

Offering a possible solution to the lack of funding Martinez urged the council to established a Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Through a DDA the possibility of more funding opens up, funding which the city itself is ineligible to apply for.

Martinez cited that there are already 470 registered DDAs in the state of Georgia, and that the city is missing out on opportunities by not establishing a DDA of their own.

Council member Kenneth Gaddis thanked Martinez for addressing the council and questioned the city’s lack of focus on infrastructure.

“We’ve actually done about $800,000 in infrastructure this year,” Whitener responded to Gaddis, “$500,000 in one area and another 300 and something thousand.”

“We’re always spending money on infrastructure. We can’t keep up,” Whitener added.

Council member Nathan Fitts stated about funding issues, “A lot of what we were told as far as funding didn’t come through.”

Later an amendment to the city’s 2017 budget revealed that the previous council had already spent a large portion of projected revenue for 2018.

The previous council had approved for many of the city streets to be repaved in 2017, but the funding was not budgeted. To acquire the funds necessary the council then approved borrowing from the general fund and the Hotel/Motel tax account.

The general fund has now been paid back through the use of 2018 SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) collections, and the money borrowed from the Hotel/Motel account, in the amount of approximately $135,000, will not be reimbursed.

Gaddis showed surprise at this revelation: “So the previous council voted to use-”

“General fund money into your year,” Whitener quickly responded, “Into your term.”

Whitener went on to explain, “When I say we don’t have a lot of SPLOST money it’s because we’ve been paying SPLOST back from last term.”

With this revelation and the lack of funding for city projects, such as infrastructure and parking, Council member Nathan Fitts expressed his detestation when asked to approve a check in the amount of $9,608.04 for paint for the city’s pool.

According to Whitener the specialized paint is very costly, some of it being up to $263.00 for five gallons.

This invoice from Recreonics Inc. coupled with approximately $5,000 already spent on parts to fix the pool, brings the total amount well over the original $5,000 approved by the council earlier this year.

“So now we’ve spent triple,” Fitts said about the new invoice, “Did we get estimates on what paint was going to be before we bought it?”

Gaddis backed Fitts and questioned how the department got approval to spend this amount.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis, Rhonda Haight, Harold Herndon, Robbie Cornelius, Blue Ridge Business Association, President, Cesar Martinez, Recreonics Inc, Spending, Budget, SPLOST, pool, paint, Downtown Development Authority

Costly paint for the city pool led council to question if estimates were given before purchase.

Whitener simply answered, “They didn’t.”

“I think these department heads need to submit these estimates and bids ahead of time for approval,” Fitts went on.

Whitener, who agreed with this sentiment, stated of the department head, “I don’t think she realized how much paint it would take to paint the pool.”

“That’s why we get estimates,” Fitts replied explaining that there is no excuse. “That is unacceptable.”

Since the pool had already been painted the council had no choice but to approve to pay this debt.

“I don’t think we should have painted it period, but its been painted,” Whitener expressed her opinion.

Fitts added, “I think we should tell that department head, they better get out there and start marketing that pool to bring more revenue in.”

The Blue Ridge City Council will hold their next regular monthly meeting on Tue. July 10 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Blue Ridge Alcohol Committee continues ordinance discussion

Business, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The topics of possibility extending weekend drinking hours for restaurants and the future of employee permits headlined the discussion at the third Blue Ridge Alcohol Committee meeting Tuesday, May 29.

The meeting consisted of an informal round-table discussion that included the committee, which consists of city council members Robbie Cornelius and Harold Herndon, city residents David Gray (absent from the meeting) and Larry Versyn, and local business owners Stuart Arp and Ken Brenneman, as well as Mayor Donna Whitener, Police Chief Johnny Scearce, city supervisor of tax and licensing Sally Smith, and local business owners Brendan Doyle and Scott Peters.

The idea of extending hours during which establishments are allowed to serve alcohol was originally proposed by Arp, owner of Chester Brunnemeyer’s Bar and Grill, at the first Alcohol Committee meeting April 11. Arp suggested extending the cut off time for alcohol service from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Arp stressed to the committee and attendees that he felt businesses are losing tourist dollars from visitors who are unaware of the 11:30 p.m. cut off time and do not begin to arrive in the downtown area until 9:30 or 10 p.m.

“It would be a good thing to give us the option, whether (business owners) implement it or not,” said Doyle, owner of The Boro Inn, of the possibility of extending the cut off time on weekends.

In addition, Arp stated he would like to amend the beginning of alcohol service from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Brenneman, owner of Blue Jeans Pizza and Pasta, objected to the idea of modifying the morning start time for alcohol sales. “We have places of business that serve breakfast, and if they want to serve a mimosa, they ought to be able to serve a mimosa. Just like you ought to be able, or you guys are pushing, to serve liquor at 1 a.m. in the morning,” Brenneman stated to Arp.

To this, Arp clarified his proposal was for a 12:30 a.m. cut off with all patrons to be vacated from establishments by 1 a.m.

“There are events that drive people in here that are looking to go out late,” Arp stated. “Even some of the employees, there’s no place for them to go (after work) because (businesses are) already closed. I don’t think 12:30 a.m. is egregious by any means … and I’m only saying for two nights a week.”

Concerning the potential 12:30 a.m. cut off, Versyn stated he believed it was “not unreasonable.”

Mayor Whitener also mentioned she felt a later cut off could possibly attract local residents who work until 6 or 7 p.m. or even later to come out who normally would not.

Regarding employee serving permits, the committee revisited the proposed ordinance amendment from January, which would require employees to reapply for a new permit every year at a cost of $30 instead of once every three years.

When Cornelius asked the business owners present where they stood on the proposal, Arp, Doyle and Peters all felt the change would be too much of a hardship for employees. Brenneman, however, favored the change to one year.

Offering an explanation for the proposed change, Smith told the committee of a local bartender who had recently received two DUIs (driving under the influence) in the time following the issuance of his serving permit. “We never knew about it (and) he’s not supposed to have that,” Smith said, referring to the serving permit.

“I can understand both sides; I’d split the difference (and) go two years,” Chief Scearce said. “You’re right on some points and you’re right on your points, but what I’m saying is this … say someone got out there and got popped in Atlanta at a concert with a bag of dope in their pocket … We’d never know about it till we run (a check).”

The committee also discussed the legality of “sip and shop” events at downtown businesses.

At the May 2 meeting, Versyn stated he had heard of retail establishments serving alcohol to patrons after hours while they shopped, and he expressed a concern over this.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Chief Scearce explained business owners cannot serve or sell alcohol to customers either privately or after hours, but business owners themselves are allowed to consume alcohol in their place of business after hours.

“You’re saying it’s still okay to lock the doors and then drink all night long in their establishment as long as they’re not selling it?” Versyn asked Scearce.

Again, Scearce stressed to Versyn business owners are not allowed to serve customers, but “if these (owners) want to sit in their business after it’s closed and sit there all night long and get drunk off their hind end, I could care less. But when they come out on that road, they’re mine.”

Also, in the January ordinance amendments, which passed a first public hearing by the city council but was never adopted, a provision was proposed for the mayor and/or council members who hold a 10 percent or higher ownership in an establishment to recuse him or herself from voting on any matter that would involve said establishment.

The Alcohol Committee appeared in agreement that this amendment should be approved as originally presented.

Moving forward, City Attorney James Balli is expected to draft a new proposal for amendments to the alcohol ordinance based on the recommendations and discussions of the Alcohol Committee over the past two months and present them to the city council at a future meeting.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

City boards restructuring draws criticism

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – An ordinance to restructure the city’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals was approved by the Blue Ridge City Council during its May 8 meeting Tuesday.

Last month, a first reading of the ordinance was presented during the council meeting. As explained then by City Attorney James Balli, the ordinance would condense both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the city Planning Commission from seven members to five members each. Balli further explained each city council member would appoint one member to serve on each board and appointees would be allowed to serve on both boards, if the council member so desired. According to Balli, the ordinance would amend an already established city ordinance to be compliant with the City Charter and state law.

After a second reading this month, the ordinance was approved unanimously. According to Balli, the council’s appointments are Gene Holcombe to serve as Councilwoman Robbie Cornelius’ appointment to both the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, Cindy Trimble to serve as Councilwoman Rhonda Haight’s appointment on both boards, Mark Engledow and Angelina Powell to serve as Councilman Harold Herndon’s appointments to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, respectively, Rick Skelton to serve as Councilman Nathan Fitts’ appointment to both boards, and Thomas Kay and Michael Eaton to serve as Councilman Ken Gaddis’ appointments to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, respectively.

At the end of the meeting, Eaton, existing chairman of city Zoning Board of Appeals, spoke to the council concerning the changes to the two boards.

“What I have a problem with is we’ve basically eliminated three positions on the Zoning Board of Appeals tonight for three different people who have put in a lot of time and effort for their part and were not contacted or told any of this was going to happen,” Eaton stated.

“John Soave, Ralph Garner, Brendan Doyle – when are their terms up?” Eaton asked.

To this, Mayor Donna Whitener responded, “Their terms are up as of today.”

“I feel like we’ve all been left in the dark. This has been done very disrespectfully,” Eaton added, saying he was only contacted by Gaddis who notified Eaton he would be the councilman’s appointment. “I think it’s been done very poorly.”

A second reading for an Illumination Ordinance amendment was also presented and approved at this month’s meeting. The ordinance, according to its wording, makes it “unlawful for any person, organization of persons, or entity to willfully tamper with, illegally project light upon, mutilate or deface any City personal or real property, including, without limitation, trees, other plants, buildings, drive-in theaters screens, vehicles or other equipment for lighting, firefighting, police protection or water and sewer installation and maintenance.” First-time violators of the ordinance now face a civil fine of at least $500 and subsequent violations are punishable by a civil fine of at least $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

An amendment to change the rules of procedure at council meetings to allow for more public commentary on action items was approved unanimously by the council. As explained by Balli, the amendment will now allow five sections of public commentary at two minutes per person on a first come, first serve basis for any item requiring a vote from the council. Following the end of the public commentary, the council would then vote on the item. The amendment also allows for individuals to speak on any late additions to the agenda without having to request ahead of time to be on the agenda to speak themselves.

Jeff Stewart, city zoning supervisor, presented bids and estimates for repairs to the roof at City Hall. The council unanimously approved and awarded two bids: one from GoCo for $6,650 for the demolition and removal of the bank drive-through and another from Trademark Coatings for $35,427.50 for the repair of the main roof of the building. According to Trademark’s estimate and scope of work, the cost will include pressure washing and reuse of the existing shingles, which were deemed to still be in good condition, and application of a urethane foam base coat, which is designed to create a seamless roofing system.

The city received $20,165.00 in insurance claims for damage sustained to city hall during a storm in the spring of 2017.

The council unanimously approved an allotment of up to $10,000 for remodel of the city police department building on Church Street. In February, the council approved a previous amount up to $10,000 for needed repairs and renovation of the police department. Mayor Whitener explained after initial work to the building began, further problems and issues were also revealed, but she anticipated that the further work should cost under the additional $10,000.

Police Chief Johnny Scearce stated further repairs and upgrades to the building, built in 1936, will include repairs to a corner of the roof, replacement of gutters and fascia boards, and upgrades to the lights and electrical wiring system. “One thing led into another,” Chief Scearce said of the building renovation.

Replacement of the slide deck at the city pool was discussed after the city received a quote from Miracle Recreation Equipment Company in the amount of $6,009.86 to replace the slide. Councilwoman Rhonda Haight questioned the decision to replace the slide considering the uncertain future of the city pool and potential liability issues with the slide.

“Considering we don’t really know the future of the pool, do we just take it down for right now or spend $6,000?” Haight said. “I would suggest just take the slide out, (because) first of all, (it is) a liability, and second, because we don’t know (the pool’s) future.”

Whitener stated parts to repair the pool thus far for the upcoming season have amounted to under $5,000, which was considerably less than originally anticipated. The mayor seemly advocated for the replacement of the slide stating the slide is heavily used by children at the pool and removal of the slide would require additional concrete work.

“Well, I would have to agree with Rhonda,” Councilman Nathan Fitts said. “To keep spending money with the unknown future of the pool, to me, doesn’t make financial sense.”

After further discussion, the council approved for the slide to be taken down.

In public commentary, Gene Holcombe spoke on behalf of the Blue Ridge Business Association and inquired of the city’s progress with adding downtown public restrooms and parking space. Mayor Whitener told Holcombe Councilman Herndon had recently suggested the idea of building a small restroom unit near the large public parking lot off of Mountain Street as early as this summer using detainee labor and engineering assistance from Councilman Gaddis’ All Choice Plumbing company. As for the parking situation, Whitener told Holcombe the parking study, which was approved in the council’s April meeting, was still in the process of being completed.

After an executive session, Councilwoman Haight made a motion to “resolve a claim involving 0.03 acres with Campbell Camp Investments LLC and to give the mayor authority to sign a quick claim for that property.” After a second from Gaddis, the motion passed unanimously.

The council approved three invoices from the city’s water system engineering firm, Carter & Sloope:

  • In the amount of $13,092.50 for various engineering services, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) permitting for water line work on state Route 515 near BB&T bank and on state Route 60 in Mineral Bluff and plan reviews of the Fannin County Agriculture and Public Safety Complex buildings;
  • In the amount of $11,639.10 for continued monitoring of metals and temperature at the city’s wastewater treatment facility; and
  • In the amount of $11,363.75 for providing preliminary cost estimates to GDOT for proposed utility relocation along state Route 5 as part of the forthcoming highway expansion.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

News from Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Business, Community
Fannin County Chamber of Commerce  eNewsletter
May 2018
News for Members
Fannin Co. Chamber Logo

Leading the way to economic vitality and quality of life in Blue Ridge, McCaysville, Morganton and all of beautiful Fannin County, Georgia.

Two Great Business After Hours In May!

_________________________________

Member News and Events

Don’t Forget to Vote!
Early Voting has started. The primary election is May 22.
 
 
Welcome to the Georgia Rural Development Council
The Georgia Rural Development Council will come to Blue Ridge to meet regarding Equitable Use & Compensation of Right of Way Usage for
Emerging Communications Technologies on May 15 & 16. The meetings will be at Bear Claw Vineyards from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on May 15 and  8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on May 16.

Fannin Regional Hospital presents 
“Dinner with the Doctor” 

Dinner with the Doctor will feature Dr. Kevin Bunn, Orthopedic Surgeon. The dinner is this afternoon at Willow Creek Falls at 5:30. Learn more about the doctor and there will also be a question and answer opportunity. Reservations are required. Contact Susan Kiker at (706) 964-2730.
Fannin County Host to Georgia Outdoor Writers Association
We were pleased to have Fannin County chosen as the host community for the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association’s Annual Conference. We had approximately 30 writers in the area for 4 days.  Thank you to all of our wonderful partners who worked with us and made this a successful event. They had a great time, experienced many of the wonderful things that our community has to offer and they are looking forward to a return visit.

Thank You Golf Tournament Sponsors!
The Spring Golf Tournament is happening May 22 at Old Toccoa Farm. Good luck golfers and thank you to all those who sponsored this event!
Title Sponsor – ETC Communications
Lunch Sponsor – Mountain Valley Community Bank
Putting Contest Sponsor – Mountain Gateway Appraisal
Teams – Ace Hardware, Appalachian Insurance & Financial Services, Blue Ridge Pharmacy, Copper Basin Federal Credit Union, Georgia Mountain Cabin Rentals, Keel Properties, Kevin Panter Insurance, Lifeforce, Mountain Valley Motors, NGYOA, North Georgia Sports Zone, Summit Inspections, Temple Baptist Church, Trane Rental Services, UNG, United Community Bank

Welcome New Members!

Allstar Photo Service

McCaysville, GA, 30555
(706) 455-0912
Jerry Daves
Allstar Photo Services specializes in special events, team sports, custom portraits and posters.
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Daffodil Hill Romantic Carriage House Suite
(706) 851-4430
Barbara Noyes
Daffodil Hill Romantic Carriage House Suite is a custom built suite perfect for those wanting to spend their honeymoon in Blue Ridge, GA. Enjoy a heated Whirlpool Jacuzzi in bedroom with king size bed, a separate large bathroom/dressing room, marble heart sinks and a double shower in this 2,200 square foot custom designed suite for two. The large gourmet kitchen is equipped with all the essentials and guests will have a supply of farm fresh eggs, homemade bread, bacon and waffle mix. The bottom floor houses their beautiful horses and three replica 1800’s carriages available for rides or learning to drive while enjoying your stay. Please call owners for rental availability.
 
 
Delivery Dudes
(706) 760-6857
Louis Brian
Delivery Dudes is a full delivery company delivering food, groceries, etc. Whether you are in-town or out in a cabin Delivery Dudes will deliver to you! Riding the train? Delivery Dudes will have your picnic lunch waiting for you to enjoy when you arrive in McCaysville. Enjoy your lunch by the beautiful Toccoa River!
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Ed’s Supply Company
Rodney Hayes
Ed’s Supply Company offers HVAC/R wholesale.
Flying Trout Restaurant
Blairsville, GA, 30512
(706) 745-8000
Michelle Evans
Flying Trout Restaurant offers seasonal “soul satisfying” southern favorites featuring only the finest ingredients. Setting out to be the best food in the South, their culinary team rocks a menu of classics. Always fresh, always new, always comfort food with attitude made just for you. 
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Marketplace Ministries
Mineral Bluff, GA, 30559
(404)323-2074
Steve Brown
Marketplace Ministries is a non-profit faith based Georgia corporation formed to share Jesus with business leaders.
 
Southern Comfort Cabin Downtown Blue Ridge Rentals
240 West Main St.
Blue Ridge, GA, 30513
(706) 258-3737
CJ Stam

Southern Comfort Cabin Downtown Blue Ridge Rentals features vacation rentals and lodging options in downtown Blue Ridge, GA. Convenient to all the shopping, dining, galleries and the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
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The Martyn House

912 Flat Branch Rd.
Ellijay, GA, 30540
(706) 635-4759
https://themartynhouse.com/the-farm/

JoAnn Antonelli

The Martyn House Farm is a circa 1930’s Homestead located in Gilmer County on 18 beautiful acres and is home to Glamping.Their unique lodging consists of 3 Luxury Sleeping Tents, The Studio, The Cottage and The Millhouse. Guests can embrace the peace and quiet of nature, while still enjoying all the comforts of home. The Martyn House offers seasonal Farm to Table dinners, Second Saturday Workshops, Retreats and is an Artist Residency. 
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Ribbon Cuttings, Congratulations!
April 24 was the ribbon cutting for Viking Outdoor. Viking Outdoor proudly provides custom lighting, sound systems and water features for the mountain community. With over 20 years in the industry, the Viking can create the right system for you – call today! 404-952-3542
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________________________________________________
April 25 was the ribbon cutting for High Country Pest Control. High Country Pest Control offers structural pest control; termite, carpenter bees, etc.
(706) 455-8672
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Chamber Member Anniversaries!
 

El Rio Mexican Restaurant

 
Aska Lodge B&B, LLC
Huck’s General Store
Noontootla Creek Farms
Walhala Ridge Furnishings
 

Appalachian Beverage
Blue Ridge Fry Shop
Blue Ridge iClinic
Blue Ridge Medical Group – Dr. Clifford Thompson, F.A.C.S., Dr. Jonathan Bloch, F.A.C.S. and Dr. Nathan Kincaid General Surgery
Blue Ridge Medical Group – Dr. Emily Sue Burnham, Internal Medicine
Blue Ridge Mountain Trail Rides at Hells Hollow
Copper Basin Federal Credit Union
Eagles Rest
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Goodspeed Architects, Inc.
Grumpy Old Men Brewing, LLC
King Heating & Air
MotoXAdventures
Papa’s Pizza To Go
Ray Gaines
Real Estate Around the Mountains
The Farnham Law Firm

May Community Events Calendar
 
April 27 – May 5 – The Art of Larry Smith, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association
May 4 – Veterans Fishing Rodeo, Chattahoochee Fish Hatchery
May 4 – Stand-Up Comedy with the Geico Caveman John Lehr, Grumpy Old Men Brewing
May 5 – Meet the cast of the TV show “Quick Draw”, Firefly Music Private Cabin
May 5-6 – Georgia Apple Blossom Festival, Ellijay
May 5 – Awake the Grapes, Serenberry Vineyards
May 5– Kentucky Derby Party, Blue Ridge Lake Front Address
May 5 – Fred Johnson Jazz Musician, Blue Ridge Community Theater
May 10 –   SAAG Spring Art Show, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association
May 12 – Georgia Mountain Classic Car Show, Downtown Blue Ridge
May 12 – Master Gardeners Plant Sale, United Community Bank Pavilion
May 17 – June 3 – Murder Room – Comedy, Blue Ridge Community Theater
May 17 – Jane the Move, The Swan Drive-In
May 18 – Endangered Species Scavenger Hunt, Downtown Blue Ridge
May 19-20 – Discovery Days, Project Chimps
May 25 – Georgia Mountain Classics Cruise In, Dairy Queen
May 26-27 – 43rd Annual Spring Arts in the Park, Downtown Blue Ridge
May 26 – All Star Monster Trucks, Blue Ridge Motorsports Park
 
Recurring Events
Tuesday
* Trivia Tuesdays, Fightingtown Tavern
Wednesday
*Visitor Time, 10:00 a.m. – Noon, Tri-State Model Railroaders, Mineral Bluff Historic Depot
Thursday 

 
Bingo, Kiwanis Fairgrounds
* Trivia Night! Fannin Brewing Company
* Brewery Tours & Tastings:
Thursday through Saturday’s at  Fannin Brewing Company and Grumpy Old Men.
* Swan Drive-in –Now Playing
FOR THE FULL CALENDAR –Click Here

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In This Issue
Business After Hours
Candidate Forum
Member News & Events
Golf Tournament Sponsors
Welcome New Members!
Ribbon Cuttings
Chamber Member Anniversaries
Community Events Calendar

Chamber Calendar of Events
May 1 – Ribbon Cutting for Blue Ridge Bird Seed Co., 611 East Main St., Blue Ridge
11:00 a.m.
May 2 – Lunch N Leads, Blue Jeans Pizza and Pasta Factory
12:00 p.m.
May 3 – Candidate Forum, Blue Ridge Community Theater, 2591 East 1st St., Blue Ridge
5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
May 3 – Leadership Fannin, Economic Development, Fannin County Chamber
9:00 a.m.
May 4 – Ribbon Cutting for Blue Ridge Motorsports Park, 2252 Sugar Creek Rd., Blue Ridge
10:00 a.m.
May 4 – Ribbon Cutting for Blue Ridge Adventure Gear, 342 East Main St., Blue Ridge
4:00 p.m.
May 11 – Leadership Fannin, Tourism, Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association
9:00 a.m.
May 15 – Business After Hours, Fannin Regional Hospital at Riverstone Medical Campus, 101 Riverstone Vista, Blue Ridge
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
May 16 – Ribbon Cutting for Vacasa, 21 High Park Dr., Ste. 7, Blue Ridge
11:30 a.m.
May 16 – Golf Committee Meeting at the Chamber
12:00 p.m.
May 17 – Leadership Fannin Graduation
May 18 – Ribbon Cutting for State Farm Insurance/Charles Edmondson, 154 Orvin Lance Connector, Blue Ridge
2:00 p.m.
May 22 – 2nd Annual Spring Golf Tournament at Old Toccoa Farm
9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Tee Off
May 23 – Ribbon Cutting for Downtown Accommodations by Mountain Top Cabin Rentals, 224 West Main St., Blue Ridge
10:00 a.m.
May 23 – Board of Directors Meeting, Chamber Board Room, Executive Committee at 11:00 a.m, Board of Directors
12:00 p.m.
May 24 – Ambassador Lunch at Masseria, 67 Roberts Way, Blue Ridge
12:00 p.m.
May 29 – Business After Hours, Tri-State Model Railroad, 150 Railroad Ave., Mineral Bluff
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
____________________
Member Renewals
 
Allen Construction
Appalachian Beverage
Appalachian Insurance & Financial Services
Aska Lodge B&B, LLC
Assist Homecare Services
Automated Creations, Inc.
B.R. Fitness
Best Western Mountain View Inn
Blue Ridge Adventure Wear
Blue Ridge Bird Seed Company
Blue Ridge Fry Shop
Blue Ridge Heights, LLC
Blue Ridge Lodging Association
Blue Ridge Medical Group – Dr. Dillon Miller, Family Practice
Blue Ridge Medical Group – Dr. Emily Sue Burnham, Internal Medicine
Blue Ridge Mountain Canopy Adventure at Hells Hollow
Blue Ridge Mountain Trail Rides at Hells Hollow
Blue Ridge Olive Oil Company
Boat Dock Bar and Grill at Lake Blue Ridge Marina
Broken Bull
Brookstone Apartments
Chick-fil-A
Complete Home Services
Coosa Creek Marketing Products
Cucina Rustica
Duplicating Products, Inc.
Eagles Perch Lodge
Eagles Rest
Edwin C. Pound, III, MD, PC
El Rio Mexican Restaurant
Faith Presbyterian Church, USA
Fannin County Board of Education
Gene Rutkowski, Mountain Place Realty
Georgia Mountains Hospice
Grandaddy Mimm’s Distillery
Green Leaf Lawn & Ornamental, LLC
Grumpy Old Men Brewing
Harry Norman, REALTORS
Heartwood Health, Art and Yoga
Hometown Foods IGA
Huck’s General Store
Humane Society of Blue Ridge
Iron Bridge General Store & Cafe
Jan Kantor
Janken Daniels – BHGRE Metro Brokers
John M. Hicks
John Soave Custom Home Builders
King Heating & Air
Lisa Affordable Websites
Maureen Roeland
MotoXAdventures
Mountain Education Charter High School
Mountain Emergency Animal Center (MEAC)
Mountain Gateway Appraisal
Noontootla Creek Farms
North Georgia Cabins & Land, LLC
North Georgia Spas
Ocoee Adventure Center
Old Toccoa Farm
Papa’s Pizza To Go
Pedego Electric Bikes
Perfect Word Data Services
Persimmon Creek Campground,Trout Pond & Gem Mine
Roper’s Heating and Air Service
Satterwhite Log Homes
Scott Nichols, Coldwell Banker High Country Realty
Stonehenge Senior Living
TANK TOWN USA
Teatrees Boutique Spa
Terry L. Wilson, LLC
The Cleaning Booth
The Diamond Center
The Last Stop Grill
The Toccoa Lodge
TRC Hauling & Paving, Inc.
Van Zandt’s Riverwalk Grill & Grocery
Vista Scapes
Wilderness Creek Falls & Ridge Brook of Blue Ridge
Willow Creek Falls and Vineyard
_____________
Member Events

Committee reviews city alcohol ordinance, discusses enforcement needs

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – An Alcohol Committee has been formed at the request of the Blue Ridge City Council and Mayor Donna Whitener to review the city’s alcohol ordinance. On Wednesday, April 11, the committee held its first meeting and discussed proposed amendments to the ordinance as well as other possible changes seen as needed.

The committee is composed of six members, including city council members Robbie Cornelius and Harold Herndon, city residents David Gray and Larry Versyn, and downtown restaurateurs Stuart Arp and Ken Brenneman.

At a Jan. 25 special called meeting, a first reading of an amendment to the alcohol ordinance was conducted. In that amendment, three distinct changes to the ordinance, which was first enacted in April 2011, were presented to the council. The first change in Section 110.45-34(f)(6) would change the valid time span for employee serving permits from three years to one year.

Another change in Section 110.45-14 (a) would change the wording of the conflict of interest statement for the city council to disallow a member of the council with more than a 10 percent controlling interest of an establishment licensed to sell, distribute, or deal alcohol from a “vote on any matter involving or relating to said establishment.” Previously, the ordinance required a council member holding such a controlling interest in an establishment to “divest himself thereof within 60 days” of election or appointment to office.

The third change in Section 110.45-50 (b)(2)(H) would allow for “reasonable drink specials” for regular establishments and for “licensed catered functions pursuant to an issued City permit.”

The committee discussed and reviewed these changes as well as addressed several other possible changes to the ordinance. Herndon noted that the conflict of interest section of the ordinance did not contain specific wording to include the mayor.

“That might be something we need to add,” Cornelius stated.

Versyn did point out the heading of the section included the words “officials and employees,” but also brought attention to another subsection, which reads “The Mayor, upon advice and consent of the City Council, may exempt officers and employees of the City from the provisions of this section.”

“If that’s the case, how can the mayor exempt herself?” Versysn asked. “So, that has to somehow be changed.”

Later, the conversation included other slight adjustments to the ordinance and enforcement of laws already in place. Brenneman, owner of Blue Jeans Pizza & Pasta, questioned the feasibility of the ordinance’s requirement for any front-of-the-house employee to have an alcohol serving license. He stated, to his understanding, the ordinance even requires all non-serving, front-of-the-house positions, such as a hostess, food-runner or busser, to be permitted.

“It seems to me (the ordinance) should actually be constrained to those who are actually serving,” Brenneman stated.

Arp, owner of Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar & Grill, stated he would like to see better enforcement of the alcohol ordinance, particularly in regard to the 50/50 food-to-alcohol sales ratio and the hours of operation for establishments serving alcohol. Currently, the ordinance requires at least one-half of the total sales of any establishment serving alcohol to be food sales. The ordinance also prohibits the sale of alcohol after 11:30 p.m.

Arp said the lack of enforcement of these policies are benefiting establishments that either are ignoring or are unaware of the policies and hurting establishments that are following the law.

“A lot of the problem is that people don’t even know the laws,” Arp stated. “I think our mission is to clean (the ordinance) up, make recommendations about if we think the hours are wrong … and then enforcement is one thing … I don’t think a mayor or a city council person should have an interest because they control recommending suspensions of licenses, approving of licenses … It’s problematic for me as a business owner (for city officials) to have that kind of power and they’re my competitor … I don’t think (the ordinance) has to be blown up. I just think it has to get tweaked.”

As for the 50/50 food-to-alcohol ratio, Arp stated he agreed with the ordinance in that regard and said his restaurant consistently produces a monthly ration of 65/35. Brenneman stated his restaurant consistently produces a 90/10 food-to-alcohol ratio. Versyn, however, stated he would like to see a less stringent ratio of 40/60 in an effort to increase business in downtown Blue Ridge.

“Right now, (patrons) leave these restaurants at 8 p.m. at night, for the most part, and they head to Ellijay where they can go drink,” Versyn said. “What I’m saying is let’s keep people in Blue Ridge, in this city, a little longer than what they’re doing now.”

To this, Cornelius stated she did not like the idea of increasing the alcohol percentage. Gray agreed with Cornelius and said, “My feeling is that there are kids on the road, my kids, and when you start serving more alcohol, that puts more risk for more accidents.”

The committee also felt the 50/50 ratio should apply to breweries and wineries in the same manner as it does to restaurants.

“I can’t tell you how many people I get coming into my restaurant at 5 p.m. on Saturday and they’re intoxicated because they’ve been drinking $15 beer tastings all day long and now I have to deal with it,” Arp said.

When Cornelius mentioned the ordinance currently places a 24-ounce limit on tastings at breweries and wineries, the issue again returned to enforcement.

“I see it every night starting at about 11 p.m., the cops start cruising,” Arp said, “and we do a great job of harassing our tourists and pulling them over, but (police officers) are not going into the places that are breaking the law that are serving them.”

Later, Arp suggested the idea of extending the hours of operation for alcohol establishments from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights in an effort to increase business from tourists who may not be aware of the 11:30 p.m. cut-off time. “(Tourists) are used to going out later and staying out later,” Arp explained.

“As a resident, I think we do enough catering to tourists,” Gray responded.

“Like it or not, for better or worse, Blue Ridge is a tourist town,” Versyn told Gray. “If we do not cater to tourists, we will become a ghost town.”

To this, Gray told Versyn he understood but also held concern for younger drivers coming home at the same time patrons are leaving downtown restaurants. Again, the conversation returned to enforcement, and Versyn stated that restaurants are prohibited from serving anyone who is intoxicated no matter what the time.

“If we can do the enforcement, if the enforcement can be done, I have no problem with it,” Versyn stated of the 12:30 a.m. cut-off of alcohol sales, “but if we’re going to rely on the Blue Ridge City Police Department, escorting their favorites home at night instead of arresting them like they should … that is not what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Following this, Cornelius instructed the committee to continue to review the ordinance and begin an email conversation with suggestions for amendments and revisions. A second meeting was then scheduled for Wednesday, May 2, at 5:30 p.m. to finalize changes to present to the city council at the May 8 council meeting.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Finances discussed, ‘interim’ tag removed from Chief Scearce at city council meeting

News

[Featured image: The Blue Ridge City Council welcomed Richie Walker, territory sales manager for Advanced Disposal, to its April meeting. Advanced Disposal will be donating two dumpsters to be used during Georgia Cities Week April 21 through 27 during which the city will be sponsoring a city-wide clean-up where residents are encouraged to dispose of yard trash at one of two dumpsters located at City Hall and the Farmer’s Market. Seen here are, from left to right, front: Councilwoman Robbie Cornelius, Councilwoman Rhonda Haight, Walker, Mayor Donna Whitener; back: Councilman Nathan Fitts and Councilman Ken Gaddis.]

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council addressed potential projects and city finances as well as removed the “interim” tag from Police Chief Johnny Scearce at their Tuesday, April 10, meeting.

Alicia Stewart, city finance director, presented an extensive break-down of the city’s finances along with current projects being undertaken by the city during a capital planning session. The purpose of the session, as explained by Mayor Donna Whitener, was to develop 12 to 18-month plan for the city.

Stewart began by addressing the city water fund and announced the amounts of revenue versus the cost of current projects, such as the current Community Development Block Grant project match ($79,244.46), phase II of the East Main Street project ($372,243.41), and a payoff for a 2015 Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan ($108,000) among others. All told, the city has approximately $884,780.81 in cash available remaining in the water fund balance, according to Stewart.

However, also in her presentation, Stewart presented the council with a list of prioritized water infrastructure needs anticipated for the city over the next five years. Among those needed projects are an over $2 million line relocation project for water lines required by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) for the forthcoming state Route 5 highway expansion, a $500,000 upgrade project to the Aska Road sewer substation and a projected $640,000 for phases III and IV of a meter replacement project.

“Bottom line is we have $884,000 in spendable money, and we’ve got about $4 million in projects,” Whitener said. “So the next time somebody says, ‘Oh, we’ve got all these projects,’ we don’t have money … and these are projects that really can’t stay on the back burner too much longer.”

As far as this year’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue, Whitener suggested two road projects: a turning lane for Blue Ridge Elementary School and a repaving project on West First Street. The mayor stated after those projects and factoring a negative balance of $46,707 from last year’s SPLOST, about $50,000 will remain in SPLOST funds this year.

Stewart also explained there is an amount of $320,523.09 in cash available from the general fund and close to $584,000 in reserves, which is $400,000 from the sale of the marina property and a $183,000 cd (certificate of deposit).

“Those two together put us just right at the $600,000-ish that would be needed to meet our policy of holding 25 percent of our budget as reserve,” Stewart explained. “So, if we dip into that, we’re not reserving according to our policy.”

Whitener then announced a list of potential projects and the ensuing costs she told the council to consider, including approximately $100,000 for repairs to the city hall roof, $75,000 to $100,000 for stormwater run-off projects, up to $300,000 for a grant match for downtown bathrooms, $350,000 to $400,000 for major upgrades and renovations of the city pool, and undetermined amounts for potential renovations of the farmer’s market, renovations of the deck at the depot and several street projects.

“I need you all to be thinking about this before the next meeting because you are going to have to make some decisions,” Whitener told the council.

Later in the meeting, Councilwoman Rhonda Haight proposed the idea of hiring an independent contractor to conduct a comprehensive parking study for the city. Haight explained that she and Councilman Nathan Fitts had recently participated in several meetings in an effort to obtain grants for enhancing downtown parking and installing downtown public restrooms.

“Everybody we’ve met with so far they’ve asked do we have a comprehensive parking study in place,” Haight said, “and pretty much, for us to get any money, if we even can with grants or even a loan, we’re going to have to have a comprehensive parking study.”

Haight also stated the city, last year, had received an estimate for a parking study that would cost $28,000 to $30,000.

Concerning the requirement of the study to apply for grants, Fitts added, “We’ve been sitting down at a lot of these meetings and the requirements to even apply for grants and get grants is more comprehensive than I ever even realized, so we’re going to have to have this regardless.”

After this, Haight made a motion to proceed with steps to conduct the study, which was followed by a second from Fitts with the provision for the city to receive estimates for the study. Initially, the vote was stalled when Fitts and Haight voted in favor of the study, but council members Robbie Cornelius, Ken Gaddis and Harold Herndon all delayed in voting. Cornelius and Gaddis both questioned the financing of the study.

“One of reasons I asked Alicia (Stewart) to look at doing as much as she did on the (capital planning information) you got today is so you understood where the money is and where it will have to come from, so therefore, if you approve up to $30,000 for this study, remember that you’re pushing something else (another project) down the road,” Whitener told the council.

Another vote was taken with Fitts and Haight again voting in favor, Cornelius and Gaddis voting against and Herndon abstaining. After consulting with City Attorney James Balli as to the nature of the vote, Mayor Whitener voted in favor of the parking study to break the tie, allowing for the city to proceed with the study as proposed.

In other items, the council also unanimously voted to appoint Johnny Scearce as the Blue Ridge City Police chief without the attached tag of “interim”. At the first city council meeting of the the new year and new administration Jan.9, the council voted unanimously to add the title of “interim” to Scearce’s role as police chief until such time as another permanent police chief could be installed to replace Scearce. At this month’s meeting, the decision to remove the “interim” tag was made without discussion or explanation as to the council’s reasoning behind the move.

First readings for two city ordinances were given at the meeting. The first ordinance, as explained by City Attorney James Balli, would condense both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the city Planning Commission from seven members to five members each. Balli further explained each city council member would appoint one member to serve on each board and appointees would be allowed to serve on both boards. According to Balli, the ordinance, if passed, would amend an already established city ordinance to be compliant with the City Charter and state law.

The other ordinance, termed an Illumination Ordinance, would, according to the wording, make it “unlawful for any person, organization of persons, or entity to willfully tamper with, illegally project light upon, mutilate or deface any City personal or real property, including, without limitation, trees, other plants, buildings, drive-in theaters screens, vehicles or other equipment for lighting, firefighting, police protection or water and sewer installation and
maintenance.” First-time violators of the ordinance would face a civil fine of at least $500 and subsequent violations would be punishable by a civil fine of at least $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

The council voted to increase water rates for wholesale users from $3.25 per 1,000 gallons to $4.25 per 1,000 gallons. Becky Harkins, city utilities director, explained that the cost to the city to produce and provide water to wholesale users has recently increased to $3.75 per 1,000 gallons. Harkins also added that, if approved, the rate increase would take effect in 90 days, beginning with the July billing cycle. After Mayor Whitener asked Anita Weaver, chairwoman of the Fannin County Water Authority (FCWA), about the fairness of the 90-day advance notice to the FCWA, Weaver stated the Authority, one of the wholesale users that would be affected by the increase, would prefer a six-month notice. As a compromise, the council approved the rate increase, which will take effect in 120 days as opposed to 90.

In a follow-up discussion from the March 13 meeting, Councilman Gaddis stated that steps are being taken by the council in coordination with City Clerk Kelsey Ledford and City Attorney Balli to amend the city council’s rules of procedures for meetings to allow for more public commentary on action items before a final vote is taken. Gaddis explained he would like to see speakers be given a chance to address the council in an open-mic forum. He also added he did not want to place a limit on the number of speakers allowed to speak. However, Haight suggested setting a time limit for speakers, and Fitts suggested only allowing one person from a given organization or group to speak on a particular action item. Balli stated drafts of the amended rules of procedures are being composed, and Gaddis said he would like for the issue to come to a vote at the May meeting.

The future of the farmer’s market property was again addressed by the council. Haight stated she had received some feedback from two different groups interested in using the farmer’s market in some capacity. Gaddis said he personally had received no interest from anyone.

“If we don’t have anything by the next meeting, I would ask that we maybe could open this up for leasing options,” Gaddis said. “Obviously, strict leasing options to preserve the farmer’s market and everything about the history of the farmer’s market.”

After a brief executive session, the council reconvened and approved two personnel decisions. The council approved Chief Scearce to hire Ricky Henry as an officer starting at a rate of $16 an hour. Also, the hiring of Mark Patterson as water treatment plant supervisor was approved at the rate of $21.50 an hour.

 

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Multiple topics addressed at Blue Ridge town hall meeting

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The future of the farmer’s market property and the city pool stood out among five main topics of conversation addressed by the Blue Ridge City Council as well as dozens of attending citizens in a town hall meeting Tuesday, March 27.

In the February and March council meetings, the council discussed options for either selling, leasing or renovating the farmer’s market property off of Summit Street. At the most recent meeting, Jim Sisson, owner of Sisson Log Homes, expressed his desire to either buy or lease the property as an overflow space to use for drying materials for his business.

While the council members seemingly agreed in the past meetings in their desire to renovate the property and to reopen it as an arts and/or entertainment destination in an ideal scenario, the podium was opened to the audience at the town hall meeting for direct input from citizens to gauge the consensus of residents.

Accepting the invitation was Joe Webb, of Dial, who explained that while he lives outside the city limits, he does have an interest in the city, working with the Blue Ridge Community Theater. Among the suggestions put forth by Webb were to use the property as a centralized location for a stand-alone public library or to simply sell the property to the highest bidder in an effort to establish “hotel and some retail density in that area.”

Webb went on to admit while there is some sentimental value attributed to the property, “economically, it’s literally a relic of the past.”

Another citizen, Larry Bersyn, asked about the amount of income the farmer’s market property was contributing to the city.

“It has zero income, right now, just expenses,” Mayor Donna Whitener answered, referring to utility costs.

“So, why do we still have it?” Bersyn asked.

Councilwoman Rhonda Haight explained the farmer’s market is a unique property that the city owns. “It could become a really neat art district, which we don’t have,” Haight added, also stating she would like to see the property double as an event center.

Councilman Nathan Fitts stated he liked the idea of converting the area into an arts and cultural center but was concerned about the cost to renovate.

“We do have somebody who would like to lease it,” Whitener reminded the council, likely referring to Sisson. “So until we we come up with a plan, why do we not consider leasing it out? At least it stops our bleeding.”

Whitener also explained Sisson would be willing to temporarily lease the property and move off the property once the city did produce a long-term plan for the property as long as he was given a 30 to 60-day notice to vacant.

Another citizen pointed out that an arts and cultural district would mostly benefit tourists but selling the property to make way for a stand-alone library would benefit the working people of the community.

Brian Pritchard, publisher of FetchYourNews, pleaded with the council to lease the property to Sisson, a 17-year local business owner, until a long-term plan was established. “Make a long-term plan, but maybe in the short-term, lease it to Mr. Sisson and say, ‘Thank you for being a business owner in the city for 17 years,'” Pritchard said.

Ultimately, Mayor Whitener agreed this was the best option for the city.

Tony Byrd, left, discusses repairs to the city pool with the Blue Ridge City Council.

Tony Byrd, city street superintendent and shop mechanic, was on hand at the meeting to discuss maintenance issues with the city pool. Whitener explained the pool has a leak in the main drain and needs replacement of internal filters, manifold gaskets and valves. She also stated there was possible leak in the skimmer system.

Byrd stated to repair the aforementioned issues, the estimate would be between $5,000 and $10,000. If there is a leak in the skimmer system, Whitener stated it would be “many tens of thousands” of dollars to repair. The mayor also said she asked Byrd to present a definite amount to the council by the April meeting for the costs to repair the smaller issues to open it for this summer and then the city would look to the 2019 pool season to have the more expensive issues resolved.

Whitener also stated 1,429 people used the pool in 2017, which amounted to just under $6,000 in revenue.

In addition to repairing the pool, the council discussed ideas for constructing a city splash pad and Whitener suggested forming a committee to look for grants and/or create a campaign to generate funds to pay for these projects.

When Haight asked the audience for input, Bersyn said, “Sell the farmer’s market, use the money from the farmer’s market to pay for the pool (and) we have a new pool next year … And stop wasting the city’s money.”

Joe Webb, left, talks with the Blue Ridge City Council about the possibility of working with the county to build an indoor pool facility.

Webb also spoke on the issue and mentioned that the county was studying the prospect of creating an indoor pool at the Tom Boyd Recreation Center. Webb stated he would rather see an indoor pool located more centrally and within the city.

Council members Nathan Fitts and Haight agreed to meet with the county in the near future about the possibility of forming a joint venture to build an indoor pool.

 

The upcoming Georgia Cities Week, which will take place April 22 to 28 in Blue Ridge, was discussed by the council. Georgia Cities Week is a week-long celebration sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA). GMA is a non-profit legal advocacy organization, of which Blue Ridge is a municipality member, that offers consulting services to its member cities.

During the week, Blue Ridge will be coordinating a city-wide litter clean-up campaign in which residents and organizations are asked to dispose of accumulated litter in two dumpsters donated by Advanced Disposal that will be situated at locations within the city limits. Possible dumpster locations discussed by council included the farmer’s market property on Summit Street, near the Co-Op store on East Main Street and possibly at the Kiwanis Fairgrounds.

In the same vein, Council Members Ken Gaddis and Rhonda Haight put forth the idea of the city beginning to conduct a regular small brush pick-up twice in the month of April and again during the fall after leaves have fallen in an effort to keep gutters and storm drains clear of debris.

The city will also conduct a Mayor’s Essay Contest during the week, which will be open to all elementary, middle, high school or home school students. Those participating in the essay contest should compose a 150 to 300-word essay centered around the topic of “If I were mayor, I would …”

Other discussed ideas for Georgia Cities Week included reaching out to Red Cross, the Humane Society of Blue Ridge, and Georgia Mountains Health about possibly conducting a blood drive, animal adoption fair and health fair, respectively.

Mayor Donna Whitener stated she had recently spoken to representatives from the local chapter of Future Farmers of America (FFA) who expressed interest in participating in a beautification project for the downtown area, which would include situating planters along the sidewalks near downtown businesses. Whitener explained the city would be responsible for the purchase of the planters and plants and “they (FFA) will put (the planters) together for us.”

When the mayor asked local business owner and President of the Blue Ridge Business Association (BRBA) Cesar Martinez of the number of planters he thought would be needed, Martinez said he felt 30 planters would be sufficient.

Regarding another area of downtown beautification, Martinez spoke to the council about the possibility of erecting standards along streets to display small flags or banners. Martinez stated several different types of banners could be produced displaying the various downtown events, such as Fire & Ice or Trout Fest, that take place throughout the year. He added if the city paid for the standards, the Chamber of Commerce and the BRBA would be willing to split costs with the city to produce the banners. Whitener stated she thought the standards ran around $25 a piece and Pam Fink, of the BRBA, said the cost to produce the flags would be around $35 per flag.

Martinez was told to put together a definite proposal to present to the council at a later date.

An update on the current Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) project near Orchard Boulevard was given. The mayor stated the water infrastructure improvement project was scheduled to begin April 5. The council spoke of what to consider for the next CDBG project, and it was agreed that addressing the flooding issues near Ada Street should be the next project.

At the March 13 council meeting, Ben and Natalie Kissel, city residents who live in the Ada Street flood plain, talked with the council about recent flooding problems in that neighborhood. Gaddis reported that he along with a representative from Carter & Sloope, the city’s contracted engineering firm, visited the area Wednesday, March 21, to study the issue.

“There are some serious issues we’re having in flooding areas and we put together a pretty good game plan,” Gaddis explained. He added that surveyors from Carter & Sloope would be examining the area to determine which property owners would need to provide the city with easements to allow the city to move forward with a long-term improvement project. In the short-term, Gaddis stated the city could install storm culverts and water bumper rails to help direct water flow away from owners’ properties.

Whitener also mentioned the city could receive additional state funding assistance by pursuing a WaterFirst Community designation. The mayor said this application process typically takes about six to eight months. The designation is awarded to municipalities demonstrating a strong commitment to water resource stewardship by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

A project to construct a two, or possibly three, story downtown restroom facility near the depot was also discussed. According to Whitener, the existing plan to build a two-story facility would cost $450,000 and the city has already been approved for a $300,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant, leaving the city to pay the remaining $150,000. Fitts reported he had heard the cost would be in the range of $750,000.

After Martinez asked about a target date for finalizing plans for the restrooms, Mayor Whitener stated the city would know more after its meeting with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs Wednesday about options for the ARC grant.

 

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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