Does Downtown Blue Ridge Have a One-Way Street on the Horizon?

Community, Feature News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga.—Oct. 9 Blue Ridge City Council members gathered to review their latest agenda. One item stood out to the board—traffic signs and a one-way street.

The Fannin County Accident Review Board encouraged the Fannin County Sheriff’s office to petition the Blue Ridge City Council to change the two-way road behind the courthouse—between Church St. and Summit St.—to a one-way street going northbound. It’s also been recommended that the speed limit be lowered on that section of road on West First Street.

As citizens of Blue Ridge may know from experience, there’s a lot of traffic on that section of road as far as people commuting through town, people parking to go into the courthouse or county jail. Often, the amount of traffic makes it hard to park, pull out, and overall navigate that stretch of road.

Council member Rhonda Haight stated, “Sheriff Kirby called me and said that they have had numerous accidents there and…at first he suggested a four-way stop and I think after looking at it, they may be thinking now maybe just a one-way street there.”

Mayor Donna Whitener responded, “I think with a four-way stop because they’re backing out into the road I think you’re going to still see people backing into the cars that are coming from the lower street.”

Council member Nathan Fitz asked, “So, come up the hill to the jail there’s only going to be one-way. So, when you come to the stop sign, turning right only, not turning left?”

Mayor Whitener, “Yes, they want the one-way to go back towards [Highway] 515.”

Fitz responded, “So, how do we reroute traffic coming down West First Street for people who need to go to Doss & Associates or any of those places?”

Council member Robbie Cornelius replied, “Just go straight.”

Mayor Whitener added, “Go down and then back up.”

Fitz confirmed, “So, you’d have to go down by the courthouse and then back up the hill?”

Council member Ken Gaddis asked, “What about school bus routes?”

Mayor Whitener replied, “They’ll have to do the same thing.”

Fitz stated, “I personally feel like I need a little more time with this to research it. I say we table it.”

Haight responded, “You can also get with Sheriff Kirby and he can go over the accident reports with you.”

Fitz made the motion that the council ‘table’ the petition for the one-way street until next month so that the members have time to think it over and research options Gaddis seconded the motion.

Will there be a one-way section of street on West First Street by the county jail? Stay tuned until the next council meeting.

A Change in Blue Ridge’s Propane Provider and Rate

Community, Feature News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga.—Oct. 9 Blue Ridge City Council came together Tuesday evening to vote on the approval of a new bid for propane gas.

During last month’s meeting, council members Nathan Fitz and Ken Gaddis questioned the propane bid from Appalachian Propane. The council chose to open the bid and read a price of $1.44 per gallon.

At that time, discussion between the council members and Mayor Donna Whitener, led to Council Member Fitz making the motion that they ‘table’ the propane bid for the next meeting.

After putting out another bid for propane rates, the city of Blue Ridge received one more bid from Ford Mountain Propane for a rate of $1.09 per gallon.

Council member Gaddis commented, “This is the gas company that the school board uses. They’ve used [them] over the last 3 years.”

Mayor Whitener responded, “And I did call Appalachian Propane because I was asked to do that to see if they could match [the price] and because Japan is getting all the excess gas—they think they’re even going to have a shortage of gas—they couldn’t match the price. I just hope the other company makes sure they have enough gas for us, if they reserve enough.”

Council member Robbie Cornelius responds, “[They] never got to my house to install it…in over 9 or 10 months. I called 7 or 8 times and so I’m not really happy with them.”

Mayor Whitener, “Do I have a motion?”

Council member Cornelius, “And the school board uses this propane now?”

Mayor Whitener responded, “That’s what Ken said.”

Council member Fitz asked, “So, the school board uses them and everything’s fine?”

Council member Gaddis responded, “Yes. They [the school board] just renewed their contract with them [Ford Mountain Propane].”

Council member Gaddis made the motion that the board accept Ford Mountain’s bid and council member Fitz seconded the motion.

Budget: Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Statements Audit

Community, News

The city of Blue Ridge audit has been reviewed by Welch, Walker & Associates and they found no issues or changes needed to be made in the report. This information is summed up from December 31, 2017. The audit was finished in June of 2018 and has been approved with no changes.

The auditors are looking at items like capital projects, funding, big downtown projects, and new water rates. The auditors judge the financial reports based on a three-tier system: the highest level is 3) Material Weakness (most serious issues), 2) Significant Deficiencies and the lowest level is 1) Management Comments—these aren’t even shared in the report as they are minute.

Findings found in the Blue Ridge financial report that are tested. There were three Significant Deficiencies findings within the Blue Ridge audit.

2015-01: “Lack of segregation of duties” and this is a very common finding in a ‘small-town’ community.  This just means that there’s only one person working in a position where mistakes can be made and there’s no additional person to go back and check over reports, data entry, etc.

2015-02: “Lack of contract for revenue transactions” a few years ago it was spotted that the franchise tax agreement between the tri-state EMC and the city of Blue Ridge is outdated and it’s not been renewed officially on paper. There are a few things that need to be updated within the contract and it needs to be signed by Tri-State EMC. This has been addressed and is something the city of Blue Ridge has been working on.

2017-01: “Rates were not calculating properly in the software” this is a new finding but has already been addressed and fixed. For the new water bills in 2017, the rates were not calculating correctly in the software but was fixed in May of 2018 while they were going over the audit. Since the amount of money was ‘material’ it needed to go in the report. The ‘material’ amount was 32,110.00 from 2017 and 12,850.00 from January-May of 2018.

The 2017-01 error was the city’s software error and will not be charged to the citizens of Blue Ridge.

New Council Members Question Propane Prices

Downtown Blue Ridge, Featured

Appalachian Propane has been the previous supplier for gas for the city of Blue Ridge and its employees for the last several years. Last calendar year, the city of Blue Ridge put out a bid for gas—as per usual—and where they normally get at least three bids back, this time, they only received one bid from Appalachian Propane.

While discussing Appalachian Propane’s bid, new council members wondered aloud what the current rate was. Now, the city has the option to not reveal the single bid so that they may rebid, however, the city council and Mayor Donna Whitener decided to publicly state the amount of the single bid. Had the newer council members known this, they may not have asked to hear the current rate.

Even though propane prices are based on an open market, some council members were unsure about the current propane rates. This year’s propane price is $1.44 for City and $1.54 for employees.

Council member Nathan Fitz asked, “And what was last years rate?”

After some digging, Finance Director Alicia Stewart found the price which was reported as $1.04.

Council member Ken Gaddis asked, “Can we do that again [send out another bid]?”

Council member Rhonda Haight responded, “To be honest, it wouldn’t really be fair if you went back and asked for a lower rate now, but what you could do is hold off and renegotiate. Call the owner and see if he would renegotiate this. If not, just, it is what it is.”

Council member Ken Gaddis replied, “So can we table it and reach out to them and see if there’s any other rates we can do?”

Council member Haight responded, “We could actually make a motion probably to do it at this rate or a lower rate, but then, he wouldn’t change it would he? [after a comment within the council] Yeah, I’m recused.”

Council member Fitz made the motion, “Okay, I’m going make a motion that we table the propane gas 2018-19 quote until next month.”

Council member Gaddis second’ the motion and then they discussed whether or not there was an ‘official’ contract between Appalachian Propane and the city of Blue Ridge.

A city official responded that there may not be a contract because Blue Ridge usually goes with the bid that offers lowest rate.

Where will the Blue Ridge Council members go from here? Stay tuned for next month’s council meeting.

Budget: Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Statements Audit

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

The city of Blue Ridge audit has been reviewed by Welch, Walker & Associates and they found no issues or changes needed to be made in the report. This information is summed up from December 31, 2017. The audit was finished in June of 2018 and has been approved with no changes.

The auditors are looking at items like capital projects, funding, big downtown projects, and new water rates. The auditors judge the financial reports based on a three-tier system: the highest level is 3) Material Weakness (most serious issues), 2) Significant Deficiencies and the lowest level is 1) Management Comments—these aren’t even shared in the report as they are minute.

Findings found in the Blue Ridge financial report that are tested. There were three Significant Deficiencies findings within the Blue Ridge audit.

2015-01: “Lack of segregation of duties” and this is a very common finding in a ‘small-town’ community. This just means that there’s only one person working in a position where mistakes can be made and there’s no additional person to go back and check over reports, data entry, etc.

2015-02: “Lack of contract for revenue transactions” a few years ago it was spotted that the franchise tax agreement between the tri-state EMC and the city of Blue Ridge is outdated and it’s not been renewed officially on paper. There are a few things that need to be updated within the contract and it needs to be signed by Tri-State EMC. This has been addressed and is something the city of Blue Ridge has been working on.

2017-01: “Rates were not calculating properly in the software” this is a new finding but has already been addressed and fixed. For the new water bills in 2017, the rates were not calculating correctly in the software but was fixed in May of 2018 while they were going over the audit. Since the amount of money was ‘material’ it needed to go in the report. The ‘material’ amount was 32,110.00 from 2017 and 12,850.00 from January-May of 2018.

The 2017-01 error was the city’s software error and will not be charged to the citizens of Blue Ridge.

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