FANNIN, Ga. — The Blue Ridge City Council experienced heated debate over a proposed condominium during their Nov. 16 meeting. However, the council also took action on several other issues, including up to three thousand dollar bonuses for city employees.
The American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, took effect in March of 2021. Since then, the city council had used that money for improvements to the city. Specifically, $300,000 for a Mineral Springs sewer line and $100,000 for work at Mountain Tops. Donna Whitener proposed that the City of Blue Ridge follows the lead of surrounding municipalities, like Gilmer and Fannin County, and use the remaining $145,582 in ARPA funds to provide bonuses to city employees.
The council approved pre-tax bonuses of $3,000 for all full time employees and $500 for all part time employees, a total amount of $133,486. The bonuses from ARPA funds will replace city employees’ Christmas bonus which, as the council pointed out, are based on seniority with a maximum of five hundred dollars.
Water & Wastewater Utilities Director Rebecca Harkins spoke to the council about current efforts to improve the city’s sewer system, saying, “As you all know, we’re currently rehabbing our sewer lift stations … We’re gonna pump everything … right up Industrial Park Rd. … which has really taken a load off the sewer distribution system.” She then explained that a developer was requesting to tie in to the Industrial Park Rd. lift station, which was near capacity. Harkins says she spoke to Plant Supervisor James Weaver about installing a grinder at the pump, “That’s gonna reduce the load on that pump and make it more efficient so that it could handle that extra capacity. The grinder is something that the city would have purchased in that upgrade [anyways].” The developer, Harkins noted, has offered to pay in full for the grinder and its installation. At an estimated total cost of $97,000, including a ten percent contingency, the developer is willing to pay 50 percent upfront, 25 percent when construction begins, and a final 25 percent at completion. “So the city gets their grinder basically for free,” Harkins emphasized, and the council approved.
Also brought up at the meeting, was an upcoming Christmas tradition. Light Up Blue Ridge takes place Nov. 27, 2021, as noted by DDA Chairman Cesar Martinez, “There’s a lot of stuff going on, from elementary school Christmas trees on the boardwalk, to food vendors and people singing and ‘falala-ing’ all around the city. So, hope you all get out there for light up.” The Light Up Blue Ridge Parade begins at 5:30 p.m. At E. Main St and is immediately followed by the lighting of the Great Tree at around 7:00 p.m.