Blue Ridge City Council to have second public millage rate hearing 48 hours after the first

City Council, Downtown Blue Ridge
Taxes not increasing - City Council

BLUE RIDGE, GA – In a surprise move, the Blue Ridge City Council has included a second public hearing concerning the fiscal year 2019 millage rate nearly 48 hours after the first public hearing was offered.

At the regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday, September 10, the council held the first of the required two public hearings to discuss the millage rate. With no public commentary offered Tuesday, the council has added onto the agenda a second public hearing to take place before a joint meeting with the Downtown Development Authority scheduled for Thursday, September 12, at 6 p.m.

During the council’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, the announcement was made at the end of the meeting that a joint meeting with the Downtown Authority would be held Thursday, but no mention of the second public hearing of the millage rate was given.

“… (T)he announcement of the joint meeting with the city council and the Downtown Development Authority, September 12, 2019. We will have a meeting, a special called meeting, and do I need the agenda (…) to be able to announce that?,” Mayor Donna Whitener said in the closing moments of the meeting. Whitener was assured that a copy of the agenda would be provided to media outlets.

FetchYourNews.com obtained a copy of that agenda late Wednesday afternoon.

Additionally, the council has scheduled the first reading of the fiscal year 2019 millage rate ordinance to take place Thursday after the second public hearing.

The council is set to begin their meeting with the Downtown Development Authority at 6 p.m., Thursday, September 12, at City Hall.

 

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Gaddis Resigns from City Council, Special Election to be Held

Featured Stories, News
Gaddis

Blue Ridge, Ga – Ken Gaddis resigned from Blue Ridge City Council on August 15, and the city will hold a special election for his seat.

The reason behind the resignation is he is moving outside of city limits. Gaddis put in his resignation for Aug. 30 because he will move outside of the city on that date.

A special election will be held to fill his seat. The city is currently in the process of filing with the state to hold a special election for his seat. At this time, the city could not provide an exact date to Fetch Your News.

For the time being the city council will consist of four members and the mayor. In the event of a tie vote, the mayor will break the tie.

Fetch Your News will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

City Council Approves New Speed Limits

City Council, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council approved new speed limits during their meeting on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.

They are as follows:

Street Name / Current Speed Limit / New Speed Limit

Ada Street from Mountain to City Limit sign / 30 / 20

Board Town Road / 25 / 20

Church Street / 25 / 20

Cook Street / 25 / 20

Davis Street / 25 / 20

Depot Street / 25 / 20

Old 76 from City Limit to Green Street. School Zone add flashing light 20mph. / 45 / 35

Old 76 from Green Street to Orvin Lance Connector / 35 / 30

East Main Street from Old 76 (Lynn Kemp) to McKinney Street / 35 / 25

East Main Street from McKinney Street to Church Street / 20 / 10

East Main Street from Church Street to Mountain Street / 5 / 5

East Main Street from Mountain Street to Old 76 / 30 / 20

East Second Street from East First Street to Church Street / 30 / 25

Industrial Blvd. from East First Street to Ouida Street (City Limit) / 35 / 30

East Highland Street / 25 / 20

Haight Street / 25 / 20

Jones Street / 25 / 20

Josh Hall Road / 25 / 20

Orvin Lance Drive / 25 / 20

McKinney Street / 25 / 20

Messer Street / 25 / 20

Milam Street / 25 / 20

Mountain Hideway Trail / 25 / 20

Mountain Street / 25 / 20

Mountain Tops Street / 25 / 20

Mountain Tops Circle / 25 / 20

Mountain Tops Road / 25 / 20

Old 76 from Orvin Lane, Connector to Marina / 25 / 30

Orchard Blvd. / 25 / 20

Orvin Lance Connector / 25 / 20

Ouida Street / 25 / 20

Porter Road / 25 / 20

Ridge Street / 25 / 20

River Street / 25 / 20

Roberts Way / 25 / 15

Scenic Drive / 25 / 20

Sierra Lane / 25 / 20

State Street / 25 / 20

Summit Street / 25 / 20

Trackside Lane / 25 / 20

Waldroup Lane / 25 / 20

West First Street from McKinney Street to Depot Street / 35 / 25

West First Street from Depot Street to Highway 515 / 35 / 30

West Second Street / – / 20

West Fain Street / – / 20

West Highland Street / 25 / 20

West Main Street from McKinney Street to Mountain Street / 30 / 20

Willa Street / 25 / 20

Wilson Street / 25 / 20

Windy Ridge Road / 25 / 20

Highway 515, US 76 from Bridge to Bridge (City Limit to City Limit) / 55 / 45
 
 
 
Board member Rhonda Haight made the motion to pass, Board member Nathan Fitts seconded, with the Board voting unanimously.

No changes were made to the proposed limits since the initial draft and first reading.
 
 
 

 
 
 
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City Council Approves Derelict Property Ordinance, Short-Term Rental Ordinance, and Seeks to have Third Party Perform Building Inspections

City Council, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council voted to approve the Derelict Property Ordinance, Short-Term Rental Ordinance and made it known that they seek to have a third party perform city building inspections during their meeting in Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

The Derelict Property Ordinance, or ordinance BR2019-08, has been the topic of much debate since its first reading on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

The 36 page ordinance, now 35 pages, focuses on what the city considers to be “derelict and blighted property within the City”, and is intended as a means to allow the city to better deal with such properties.

Many believe that the ordinance may have unintended consequences however.

The only changes made to the original document were that the mayor is to designate the enforcement officer, the removal of the tax break for redeveloping, and the time to respond was changed from 14 to 15 days.

Council Member Nathan Fitts made the motion to approve the ordinance, seconded by Council Member Robbie Cornelius. Council Member Kenneth Gaddis and Council Member Harold Herndon voted in opposition. With Council Member Rhonda Haight absent, Mayor Donna Whitener broke the tie voting in favor of the ordinance.

The Short-Term Rental Ordinance, or Ordinance BR2019-07 was also approved by the council.

This ordinance deals with a residential dwelling unit that is provided for lodging for a period of time not to exceed 30 consecutive days and the sub-divisions they’re allowed in.

There is now a process for a special land-use permit that allows people to avoid re-zoning a property in the middle of a residential area and instead notify their neighbors and appear before the City Council to request special permission for the short-term rental.

Neighbors may then voice their opinion and the council may allow the rental for a period of 12 months, at which time the council may revoke the permissions granted.

Council Member Robbie Cornelius made the motion to approve the ordinance, seconded by Council Member Harold Herndon. Council Member Kenneth Gaddis and Council Member Nathan Fitts voted in opposition. With Council Member Rhonda Haight absent, Mayor Donna Whitener broke the tie voting in favor of the ordinance.

Richard Edinge, Vice President of CPL

The City Council also made it known that they are currently seeking to have a third party perform city building inspections, similar to how they currently have a third party perform city electrical inspections.

Because of House Bill 493, local government has a fixed amount of time to review a permit application for completeness. If the local government fails at this, then the developer may hire an architect or engineer to do these inspections through their own finances. This information is then shared with the local government, which then has only a few days to determine if the review was accurate.

Because of this, the City Council heard from Richard Edinge, Vice President of Clark Patterson Lee (CPL) to help determine whether or not they wish to use the CPL firm for inspections moving forward.

No decision has been made on this matter as of yet, however, so be sure to stay tuned for future updates on the matter!

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Additional parking for downtown Blue Ridge

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – At their regular monthly meeting held on Tuesday, Nov. 13 the Blue Ridge City Council voted to move forward with the possibility of adding more parking spaces in the downtown area.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Council Member, Donna Whitener, Harold Herondon, Kenneth Gaddis, Nathan Fitz, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Reid Dyer, Hayes James and Associates Inc., Kevin Whipple, CSC Design Inc., Blue Ridge Hotel LLC., Parking, Parking Deck, City Hall

Phase one of the concept design for parking at Blue Ridge City Hall.

The idea of adding parking to the existing location of Blue Ridge City Hall, located on West First Street, is not a new one, but Kevin Whipple, a principal architect with CSC Design, Inc., introduced a fresh look at Blue Ridge’s long standing parking issue.

Whipple along with Reid Dyer, Vice President of Hayes, James and Associates, Inc., proposed a multi-phase concept that when completed would bring the total number of parking spaces on the property from 48 to 246 including 17 on street parking sites.

“You currently have 48 parking spaces on the property right now, phase one will increase that for an additional 60, so you will have 108 parking spaces on the property,” Whipple said as he presented city council with diagrams of the proposal.

Phase one of the project would require the removal of the green space currently on the Depot Street side of the property. This area would then be turned into numerous parking spots. The phase also including adding a few spots to the back corner of the property closest to the location of the Senior Center.

The initial proposal of this phase included the addition of public restrooms to one side of the City Hall building. After discussing with council, however, the options of restrooms in this area was put on hold.

Due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ramps would be required to access these restrooms. With the lay of the land in the area having a significant slope, adhering to ADA standards would be difficult to achieve.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Council Member, Donna Whitener, Harold Herondon, Kenneth Gaddis, Nathan Fitz, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Reid Dyer, Hayes James and Associates Inc., Kevin Whipple, CSC Design Inc., Blue Ridge Hotel LLC., Parking, Parking Deck, City Hall

Phase two of the Blue Ridge City parking concept showing lower level parking.

It was originally thought that a parking deck could eventually be built in this newly designed area. Dyer pointed out, however, that there were too many utilities located below ground (sewer, storm drainage, power) for this to be a viable option.

A parking deck was not ruled out as Whipple and Dyer presented phase two of the proposed parking concept.

“This phase would include us taking the road. The road between here and the senior center,” Whipple said presenting the second phase.
According to Whipple by taking the street, the City of Blue Ridge would be able to add numerous parking spaces on ground level and open up the option of adding a second story parking deck over this area.

Parking on ‘ground level’ would have a single entry point from West First Street and would allow access to all parking spaces around City Hall. Parking for the ‘second level’ would have a single entry and exit point located on West Second Street.

This single entry/exit point will have many benefits according to Whipple and Dyer. The lay of the land behind city hall, being a rising hill, is a natural elevation ideal for creating this second level. Whipple also pointed out that it could be used as a secure parking area for all visitors who are partaking in a trip on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, and suggested that riders of the train be given a parking pass and only those with passes would be able to access this second level.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Council Member, Donna Whitener, Harold Herondon, Kenneth Gaddis, Nathan Fitz, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Reid Dyer, Hayes James and Associates Inc., Kevin Whipple, CSC Design Inc., Blue Ridge Hotel LLC., Parking, Parking Deck, City Hall

Phase two of the Blue Ridge City parking concept showing upper level parking.

“One of the biggest issues for parking decks is internal circulation,” Whipple stated of the unconventional approach to the parking deck and the separate entries for the two levels. “The ramps, you’ll lose a lot of parking”

After the phase two completion, a total of 246 (including 17 spaces available on Depot Street) parking spaces would be created for public use.
Members of the Blue Ridge City Council had many questions concerning the project including how storm water runoff would be handled, but with the design being in its concept stage more research would need to be done to come up with solutions and costs.

“This isn’t what I had envisioned, but I love it,” Council-member Rhonda Haight was the first to speak up about the proposal.

Haight complimented how the design incorporated the use of the natural slant of the land. Mayor Donna Whitener agreed with Haight and pointed out that its structure would be less intrusive at the City Hall property.

Haight motioned to grant permission for more research to be completed on the project, and Council-member Nathan Fitz made a second. The council voted unanimously to move forward.

In the meantime the City of Blue Ridge has extended the arrangement with Blue Ridge Hotel, LLC. to continue to use property on West Main Street for paid public parking. The extension will last through Dec. 2018.

 

 

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Fannin County Water Authority rate increase

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Discussions on whether the Fannin County Water Authority (FCWA) would see a price hike has been a hot topic this year, and the Blue Ridge City Council solidified that this rate increase would take place at their Nov. 13 meeting.

Currently the FCWA purchases water for its customers from the City of Blue Ridge at a wholesale rate. This rate had been debated early this year as being under normal wholesale prices.

Rebecca Harkins, Utilities Director for the City of Blue Ridge and Alicia Stewart, the city’s Finance Director, presented to the Blue Ridge City Council a breakdown of why a wholesale rate increase is necessary.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Council Member, Donna Whitener, Harold Herondon, Kenneth Gaddis, Nathan Fitz, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Utilities Director, Finance Director, Rebecca Harkins, Alicia Stewart, Fannin County Water Authority, Rural Assistance Community Project, Phillip Reid, Water Rate, Increase, Wholesale

Rebecca Harkins and Alicia Stewart address city council on their findings regarding the wholesale water rate.

“Earlier in the year Alicia and I have gotten to together and calculated a wholesale water rate,” Harkins said of the internal work done by the city. “We based it on our expenditures from the water system versus what our normal everyday customer paid.”

Harkins pointed out that the expenditures and data collected was based on the previous year of 2017.

Currently FCWA purchases water at a wholesale rate of $3.25 per 1,000 gallons. This rate is approximately 25.65 percent of what a consumer directly supplied by the city pays. The goal of the City of Blue Ridge is to bring the wholesale rate up to 50 percent in yearly increments.

The proposed rate increase would put wholesale prices at $4.25 per 1,000 gallons and bring the percentage closer to 33 percent.

Harkins and Stewart also had a third party rate study conducted by Phillip Reid, Georgia State Manager for the Rural Assistance Community Project. This third party review was conducted at no cost to the city.

According to Harkins, Reid looks at the percentage of water used versus the percentage of revenue and through his findings had also recommended the rate be set at $4.25 per 1,000 gallons with an increase to $5.00 per 1,000 gallons the following year.

“The only difference I came up with is that in the second year of rate increase it would look more like $5.25 if you factor in inflation,” Harkins stated of her findings.

Council member Rhonda Haight questioned the current total amount of debt the City of Blue Ridge faces in regards to its water system. Stewart replied approximately $14 million.

This debt according to Haight must be taken into consideration when negotiating rates. Haight further commented that she felt the city should not be locked into a set price with the FCWA and should be able to evaluate rates if more debt is obtained.

Mayor Donna Whitener suggested the city holding a workshop where Reid could go over all findings and explain to the public the cost of running a water system.

While contracts are still being worked through between the City of Blue Ridge and the Fannin County Water Authority, the city council did vote to raise the wholesale water rate to $4.25 per 1,000 gallons effective Dec. 2018.

 

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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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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Natalie Kissel

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