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).

 

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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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Blue Ridge City Council to welcome new members before Tuesday meeting

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – New and incumbent council members as well as the mayor will take the oath of office Tuesday evening, Jan. 9, at the first Blue Ridge City Council meeting of the year. New members Kenneth Gaddis, Robbie Cornelius and Nathan Fitts will join incumbents, Post 1 Councilman Harold Herndon and Post 2 Councilwoman Rhonda Thomas and Mayor Donna Whitener. Gaddis, Cornelius and Fitts will assume the positions of Post 3, 4 and 5 council members, respectively.

Prior to the meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m., a one-hour, public meet-and-greet for the new city council will be held at City Hall at 5 p.m.

The meeting itself will see a number agenda items, including several appointments of city positions. Among those appointments will be mayor pro tempore, city attorney, city clerk, city treasurer, municipal court judge, the prosecuting attorney for the court and city auditor. The city charter requires the council to appoint or reappoint the above positions and offices at the start of a new term.

An agenda item tabled from the Dec. 12 meeting, a review of bids for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) water system improvement project, is again expected to be discussed by the Council. At the last meeting, Mayor Whitener mentioned it was recommended by the city’s water system engineering firm, Carter & Sloope, to proceed with the low bidder for the project, The Renee Group, Inc. of Doraville, Georgia. However, Councilwoman Angie Arp suggested the possibility of proceeding with the only local bidder, Holloway Trenching, LLC, of Morganton, whose bid was nearly $54,000 over that of The Renee Group. The decision to award the bid was tabled so as to allow the new council a chance to review and discuss the bids.

Also, the council is expected to discuss revision of its hazard and on-call policy for all city departments as well as discuss recent water issues within the Staurolite subdivision.

Contract quotes for annual routine and emergency maintenance at the city’s waste water treatment facility are also scheduled to be reviewed by the council.

Several invoices and quotes are expected to be discussed and/or approved at Tuesday’s meeting. Those pending purchasing approvals include two invoices from Carter & Sloope, one invoice from Heavy Constructors, Inc. and one invoice from Dwight Oliver Electrical Contractor, Inc. In addition, two quotes from Ellijay Telephone Company (ETC) – one for downtown stereo equipment, which was tabled at the Dec. 12 meeting and another for equipment for the Blue Ridge Police Department – are scheduled for discussion and potential approval.

Cesar Martinez, president of the Blue Ridge Business Association, is also slated to speak in public commentary.

 

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.

Back to business for Blue Ridge City Council

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After failing to achieve a quorum at the last month’s meeting, the Blue Ridge City Council met Tuesday, Dec. 12, for their last regularly scheduled meeting of the year.

The Council swiftly moved through a hefty list of agenda items starting with two Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) lease resolutions to purchase vehicles and equipment. The first resolution was to purchase a 2018 Ford Explorer for the Blue Ridge Police Department through a GMA lease for $30,591.58 with a 3.760 percent interest rate. The final payment for the lease will be Dec. 21, 2022, and the city will pay $33,482.22 with included interest.

Next, the city purchased a 2017 Caterpillar track hoe excavator and a 2018 F350 dump truck for the combined price of $85,950.30 through a GMA lease. The interest rate and payment schedule for this purchase is the same as for the previous purchase, and the city will pay $94,071.90 with included interest.

Two other resolutions were for loan acceptances from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA). The first loan, a Clean Water State Revolving loan, for up to $900,000 with a principal forgiveness of $225,000 if all loan funds are drawn will be used for sewer upgrades at Trackside Lane. The other loan, a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan, for up to $250,000 with a principal forgiveness of up to $49,970 if all funds are drawn, will be used for a meter replacement and upgrade project.

The Council also amended a city ordinance through a second reading and adoption to allow an exception for low-speed vehicles or motorized carts in the form of electric shuttle buses to be used on the public streets of the city in an effort to promote economic development downtown.

Blue Ridge City Councilwoman Angie Arp

Bids for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) water system improvement project were reviewed and discussed by the Council. While Mayor Donna Whitener mentioned it was recommended by the city’s water system engineering firm, Carter & Sloope, to proceed with the low bidder for the project, The Renee Group, Inc. of Doraville, Georgia, Councilwoman Angie Arp suggested the possibility of proceeding with the only local bidder, Holloway Trenching, LLC, of Morganton, whose bid was nearly $54,000 over that of The Renee Group. Ultimately, the decision to award the bid was tabled.

A Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) application for a $35,648 grant with a 30 percent was approved by the Council Tuesday. The grant would be used for road work on West First Street from Depot Street to the where West First meets West Main Street.

The Council unanimously agreed to allow the Blue Ridge Housing Authority (BRHA) to forego payment of its final 2016 Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) payment to the city as reimbursement to the Authority for costs to repair a sewer line and retaining wall at the BRHA’s Boardtown Road apartments. The PILOT payment was for $1,530.75. In addition, the Council approved a $5,500 estimate from Holloway Trenching for further repairs on a six-inch sewer line on BRHA grounds.

The Council discussed, but tabled, a $4,368.80 quote from ETC Communications for a downtown stereo system to be used during events and festivals, such as the recent Light Up Blue Ridge and Christmas parade, until more information could be procured about the safety of the system.

Among the other invoices and quotes approved were:

A $4,500.99 invoice to Johnson Paving for asphalt work on Banks Street;

A $4,094.20 quote from Fortiline Waterworks, of Cartersville, Georgia, for work on city hydrants;

A $4,700 quote from Hayes James engineering firm for mapping and geographic information system (GIS) services;

A $5,670 invoice from Carter & Sloope for general consulting, which included a review of the water drainage issues near Ada Street;

A $3,611.25 invoice from Carter & Sloope for engineering services for a sewer line project on Trackside Lane;

A $17,831.85 invoice from Carter & Sloope for engineering services at the city’s waste water treatment facility; and

A $6,599.60 quote from Peach State Amenities, LLC for three new six-foot long park benches and three 36-gallon trash receptacles.

President of the Blue Ridge Business Association Cesar Martinez

Cesar Martinez, local business owner and president of the Blue Ridge Business Association (BRBA), spoke briefly in public commentary about the success of the recent Light Up Blue Ridge festivities and Christmas parade held Saturday, Nov. 25, in downtown Blue Ridge and informed the Council of upcoming BRBA events, such as the BRBA Christmas Party Dec. 18 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Willow Creek Falls and the eighth annual Fire and Ice Chili Cook-Off in downtown Blue Ridge Feb. 17, 2018.

Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Whitener thanked outgoing council members Arp, Rodney Kendall and Bruce Pack for their service to the Council and the city. Collectively, all three members stated they were appreciative of the opportunity to serve the citizens of Blue Ridge but wished they could have accomplished even more during their tenures. Incoming council members Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis and Robbie Cornelius will join remaining members Harold Herndon and Rhonda Thomas in 2018.

 

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.

Blue Ridge City Council elect meets with Stewart

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Blue Ridge Finance Director Alicia Stewart met informally with council members elect Robbie Cornelius, Nathan Fitts and Kenneth Gaddis along with Mayor Donna Whitener Wednesday evening, Dec. 13, to discuss city priorities, projects and finances for the coming term.

In the process, Stewart presented the incoming council members with a wealth of city financial information in an effort to familiarize Cornelius, Fitts and Gaddis with the day-to-day operations of the city and the various procedures required of the City Council regarding financial operations. In addition, the finance director also fielded a number of questions from the future council members.

Among the many projects and potential projects mentioned during the course of the 90-minute session were a possible parking deck, a downtown bathroom facility and revitalizing the city pool.

The potential parking deck project, a topic of conversation for the city for quite some time, was discussed, and Whitener told Cornelius, Fitts and Gaddis the city would like to build a two-story deck on the city hall property to alleviate downtown parking congestion.

Regarding the downtown bathroom facility, Mayor Whitener explained plans have already been drawn for a two-story bathroom complex to be built near the depot building and the project is expected to be financed with grant money from the Appalchian Regional Commission (ARC).

As for the city pool, Gaddis suggested talking with representatives from Union County concerning that county’s recent city pool project. “We could mirror that (project) … that would be great for the citizens,” Gaddis stated.

Another city issue discussed at the meeting was water loss. Whitener stated Blue Ridge was once among one of the worst municipalities in Georgia regarding the average percentage of water loss. According to Whitener, the percentage of city water loss from aging water infrastructure near the beginning of her mayoral administration stood at 58 percent. Whitener added that while the city has improved in this area, maintaining those improvements has been difficult.

Gaddis, owner of All Choice Plumbing, mentioned the future state Route 5 highway expansion along with a water main replacement project for that area of the city would help with water loss. “I’ll be surprised at what percentage (water loss) drops instantly,” Gaddis added.

Prioritizing road paving was another area of concern Whitener pointed out, and the mayor stated the city at one time rated roads and streets according to need. Whitener added she would like to see a return to that policy during the next term. “We’re going to rate (roads and streets) again. That’s one of the projects that I have planned,” Whitener stated.

Later, when Gaddis asked Stewart what improvements she would like to see come from the incoming City Council, Stewart answered by saying better prioritization of projects was needed.

“We need a good five to 10-year capital plan with clear objectives and prioritize (those objectives),” Stewart said. “We need) a clear, focused idea of where (the city is) heading. what we’re doing and what we want to get done first.”

“I think we all agree with that,” Fitts told Stewart.

 

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.

Syfan out as city attorney, Chief Scearce likely soon to follow

News, Videos

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Attorney James Balli, of the Marietta law firm of Sams, Larkin, Huff & Balli, was appointed Tuesday, Jan. 9, to replace David Syfan as city attorney during the first Blue Ridge City Council of the new year and administration. Balli’s appointment was approved by the council four to one with incumbent Post 1 Council Member Harold Herndon voting against the appointment.

Mayor Donna Whitener also explained Balli’s rate would be $175 an hour with no retainer fee, and only four applications for the position were received by the city.

Additionally, a decision was made later in the meeting to begin proceedings to replace Blue Ridge City Police Chief Johnny Scearce. After Whitener asked Balli to explain the council’s options according to the city charter, Balli stated the council basically had two: either to “nominate and appoint a permanent police chief or you can make a motion … to allow someone to act as an interim chief until such time as the mayor and the city council approve a permanent chief.”

Interim Blue Ridge Police Chief Johnny Scearce, right, speaks with local resident prior to Tuesday’s city council meeting.

When Whitener asked if it was possible to have a vacancy, Balli stated he did not recommend this.

After this, newly appointed Post 3 Council Member Kenneth Gaddis made a motion for Scearce to serve as interim police chief until the mayor and council are able to find a permanent police chief. After a second from new Post 5 Council Member Nathan Fitts, the council voted unanimously to approve the transition.

The two moves followed the oaths of office from incumbents Mayor Whitener and Council Members Herndon and Rhonda Thomas-Haight as well as incoming Council Members Gaddis, Fitts and Robbie Cornelius.

Thomas-Haight was also voted to serve as mayor pro tempore of Blue Ridge. Other appointments included Kelsey Ledford and Alicia Stewart remaining as city clerk and city treasurer, respectively, Robert Sneed as municipal court judge, Joseph Hudson as prosecuting attorney of court appointments and Welch, Walker & Associates as the city’s designated auditor.

Blue Ridge Mayor Donna Whitener, left, takes the oath of office as her daughter, Kristen, holds the Bible.

Local architect David Goodspeed was also approved to serve as interim building inspector for the city’s Zoning and Land Development department. Thomas-Haight stated in her motion that Goodspeed would serve the city on a limited basis, working between 12 to 16 hours a week on average at the rate of $100 an hour.

Continue to follow this story on FetchYourNews as more details and the video from the meeting are made available.

[Featured image: Mayor Donna Whitener, left, new City Attorney James Balli and Mayor Pro Tempore and Council Member Rhonda Thomas-Haight conduct business during the Tuesday, Jan. 9, Blue Ridge City 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.

Light Up Blue Ridge, parade draws thousands

Community

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The weather was chilly, but the spirits were warm and bright Saturday afternoon and evening during the Light Up Blue Ridge holiday celebration.

The day began with an arrival of a very special guest from the far north when Santa Claus arrived on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and greeted children, with wishlists in hand, in the downtown city park all afternoon. Storefronts decorated for the fourth annual Holiday Storefront Decorating Contest greeted shoppers up and down the downtown streets as many attempted to get an early jump on their Christmas shopping.

Throughout the day, several musical and theatrical acts entertained passersby at various places all afternoon including the Fannin County High School (FCHS) Theater Group and a barbershop quartet, both of whom performed at Sycamore Crossing, as well as Voices of Hope and a children’s choir led by Connie Davis.

One of the houses in the Gingerbread Village at the BRMAA Art Center.

Over on West Main St., the Blue Ridge Mountains Art Association Art Center hosted the annual Gingerbread House Village for those wanting to take a quick break and warm up from the busy and blustery downtown streets.

By 5:30, night had fallen in north Georgia, and it was time for the annual Blue Ridge Christmas Parade. Starting near First Baptist Church, the parade looped down East Main, Mountain and West Main streets, which were all lined with excited faces, young and old, packed earmuff to earmuff on the sidewalks to take in all of the festivities as well as a few pocketfuls of candy.

The parade featured a number of creatively designed Holiday floats, patriotically adorned Fannin County fire engines, antique cars and tractors, the FCHS Marching Band and even a few local dignitaries as City Councilman Elect Nathan Fitts and Shannon York served as MCs for the night.

The PruittHealth Train Float chugs its way down East Main Street during the annual Blue Ridge Christmas Parade.

Blue Ridge Police Chief Johnny Scearce led the way down the the route in his squad car followed by Mayor Donna Whitener and City Councilwoman Rhonda Thomas close behind in convertibles draped with Christmas lights and City Councilwoman Elect Robbie Cornelius following shortly behind them.

Fannin County Fire and Rescue Chief Larry Thomas escorted Georgia State Senator Steve Gooch in his familiar white truck as Gooch and his family visited Blue Ridge for the day to take in the Holiday celebration and treats.

Georgia Senator Steve Gooch and Fannin County Fire Chief Larry Thomas.

The Fannin and Copper Basin Girl Scouts council marched the route with smiling faces and handfuls of candy to the delight of several youngsters lining the sidewalks.

The FCHS Color Guard and Marching Band served up several rousing renditions of everyone’s favorite Holiday tunes while the Drumline joyfully pounded out the beat on instruments encompassed with red and green Christmas lights.

Several businesses and organizations, including Mercier Orchards, The Home Depot, the Blue Ridge Community Theater and PruittHealth of Blue Ridge among others, contributed elaborately designed floats and displays for the parade. On the Special Olympics float, Snoopy even took time to  make an appearance.

Mary and Joseph keeps watch over Baby Jesus during the Blue Ridge Christmas Parade.

On another float, the Reason for the Season was portrayed as Mary and Joseph watched over Baby Jesus, who was “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Rounding out the parade was Jolly Ole Saint Nicholas, who was escorted down the route in an antique 1930 Ford. Later, Santa took center stage in the park as he assisted Shannon York with the lighting of the 27-foot tall Great Tree to the amazement of many enthusiastic onlookers.

As the night quickly grew colder, country music star Collin Raye warmed the hearts of the crowd with a soulful version of O, Holy Night.

Holiday festivities will continue on weekends throughout the season in downtown Blue Ridge leading up to Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year is officially underway.

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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.

Blue Ridge City Council elect talks with BKP

GMFTO, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Members of the newly elected 2018 Blue Ridge City Council joined BKP to talk Friday during Good Morning from Blue Jeans Pizza.

Incumbent City Council Member Rhonda Thomas along with council members elect Robbie Cornelius, Nathan Fitts and Kenneth Gaddis candidly discussed their goals, plans and hopes for city improvement in the next four years.  Incumbent Mayor Donna Whitener and City Council Member Harold Herndon were unable to attend due to other obligations, but both expressed their gratitude to and appreciation of voters after their respective elections to third terms Tuesday.

The open forum began with each having the opportunity to thank the voters and share their own thoughts of the upcoming council.

“I’m really excited. There’s a lot of excitement here in the community,” Gaddis said. “Even after the election was over – going out into the community still talking with people – they’re excited. They’re excited about this council.”

Regarding the nature of the election itself, Cornelius stated she was proud of the newly elected members for avoiding some of the negativity that existed during the campaigns.

Thomas thanked not only those who voted for her but those who did not: “I’m still here for you … I want to make this a term that we can get a lot of things done.”

Describing the excitement in the community as “overwhelming,” Fitts added, “I wish we could start tomorrow … I’m ready to unbutton my sleeves, roll them up and get to work.”

The diversity of the council was one of the topics BKP addressed with the council elect. Gaddis spoke of the differences of experiences and backgrounds of the new council but saw this as a strength. While agreeing with Gaddis, Fitts admitted he knows there will be some disagreement on issues at times. However, he stated this disagreement would be met in a respectful manner. “I don’t think any of us have an issue with stating our opinion … (The citizens) are tired of the fighting and the bickering … I don’t think you’re going to see any of that in the next four years. We certainly won’t ‘take it outside,'” Fitts said, citing a comment passed at a City Council meeting earlier this year.

BKP added that he saw a “good balance” with the new council and cited Herndon’s unbiased voting record as another positive moving into the next term.

When asked about issues that have plagued the city over the last two terms, veteran council member Thomas said she wants to see a long-term solution to the downtown parking situation addressed by the new council. Thomas again put forth the idea of building a parking deck to alleviate congestion. She also said downtown flooding was another major concern facing the new council.

“This has to be resolved. This is a major issue when people’s homes are flooding,” Thomas explained.

Among other ideas for the future of the council and the city, Cornelius stated she would like to initiate a quarterly town hall meeting with the citizens of Blue Ridge, and Fitts said the council will be looking into grant options to provide funding for infrastructure improvement. Gaddis also added “re-evaluat(ing) the city attorney (David Syfan), right out of the gate” would be another concern the council will soon address.

Adding his thoughts, BKP provided three suggestions, or “requests,” to the incoming council. First, he suggested staggering the elections, having an election for three council members in two years followed by elections of the other two council members and the mayor two years later. Next, he recommended looking at either a strong-mayor as city CEO system or a weak-mayor system along with a city manager. Currently, Blue Ridge operates under a weak-mayor system without a city manager in which the mayor has no authority outside the council. Lastly, BKP encouraged the new council to give more voice to the citizens in public meetings.

For the entire segment featuring the newly elected Blue Ridge City Council on Good Morning from Blue Jeans Pizza with BKP, watch FYN TV. And for up-to-date coverage of the council and the city of Blue Ridge, continue to follow FetchYourNews.com.

 

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.

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