No smoking policy on housing authority horizon

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – At the Thursday, March 15, meeting of the Blue Ridge Housing Authority (BRHA), Executive Director Traver Aiken addressed the forthcoming no smoking policy, which is scheduled to take effect for residents August 1, 2018.

The policy is a result of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rule published Dec. 5, 2016, and made effective Feb. 3, 2017, that states all public housing agencies nationwide must have a no smoking policy in place by the end of an 18-month implementation period (July 30, 2018).

According to Aiken, the policy bans all lit tobacco products within residences or other buildings on housing authority property. Additionally, once the policy takes effect, residents who smoke will have to do so outside and at least 25 feet from any entrance to a residence. The policy does not ban smokeless tobacco or vaping products.

“I’ve generated the policy. The policy has been sent out for the review for residents’ comments period,” Aiken said.

Also, Aiken told the authority he has already been addressing residents’ input, comments and concerns on the coming policy and will continue to do so through June. One common concern from residents, Aiken said, was the application of the policy to visitors and guests to a residence. To this, Aiken explained the head of household will be held directly responsible for any violations from all visitors or other members of the household.

Though Aiken in prior meetings has expressed concern that the no smoking policy could create a degree of friction between the housing authority and residents or even between residents themselves, the director did mention Thursday that he has received some positive response from residents regarding the policy.

“Most residents have been positively receptive to (the policy),” Aiken told BRHA members. “They’re kind of like, ‘This gives me a reason to quit smoking. I’ve been wanting to quit smoking forever.'”

Aiken also reported to the BRHA he had been communicating with representatives from the American Cancer Society in an effort to establish an onsite cancer pre-screening event in the near future for residents at little to no cost.

Earlier in the meeting, the BRHA approved the nomination of current resident board member Ellan Johnson to continue to serve on the BRHA. Aiken explained Johnson’s appointment depends on official approval and ratification from Mayor Donna Whitener. Once appointed by Whitener, Johnson’s term will span from April 2018 through March 2019.

“We love to have you again Mrs. Johnson,” Aiken said to Johnson. “We appreciate your willingness to participate.”

The authority also approved a $60,000 transfer of funds from the BRHA operating checking account to a money market reserve account. Aiken explained the purpose of the transfer was to receive a higher interest rate in order to build up further reserve funds.

CLARIFICATION: Last month, it was reported Aiken expressed concern over legislation currently on the floor of the Georgia General Assembly that could eliminate a low-income housing tax credit that benefits housing authorities across the state by giving a tax credit to contracted companies developing new units for housing authorities. That legislation is Georgia HB 851, which is a Bill to be entitled an Act to amend Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. If passed, the legislation could end the tax credit by 2023. Georgia HR 798, on the other hand, was a Resolution adopted by the General Assembly in March 2017 to create a House Study Committee to examine the effectiveness of the low-income tax credit.

 

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.

Aiken discusses potential state tax credit, federal funding changes to housing authority

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Traver Aiken, executive director of the Blue Ridge Housing Authority (BRHA), expressed his concern over Georgia HR 798 to authority members Thursday, Feb. 15, at the authority’s monthly meeting.

The resolution adopted by the Georgia General Assembly March 30, 2017, created a House Study Committee on the effectiveness of a low-income housing tax credit, which benefits the BRHA and other housing authorities across the state by giving a tax credit to contracted companies developing new units for housing authorities. Aiken stated he feared the study could result in the tax credit being eliminated at some point in the future.

Aiken explained he had attended a legislative day for housing authorities in Atlanta Thursday, Feb. 8, and had the chance to speak with Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston. Aiken also told authority board members he had been informed at the Atlanta conference that legislation had already been introduced to eliminate the 9 percent tax credit by 2020.

“If they get rid of that, then there is no possible way we could ever build (new) units,” Aiken explained.

“I specifically went on the floor to talk to (Speaker) David Ralston about this, and I said, ‘I need you to look at this bill please. I’m from Blue Ridge, and this is going to kill us up there if we cannot provide any more housing units for our low-income individuals,'” Aiken continued.

Mentioning another area of concern for housing authorities, Aiken also cited the proposed 2019 federal budget, which proposes an elimination of Capital Fund through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Reading into (the proposed 2019 federal budget), we’re going to have some problems if they pass that,” Aiken said. “The language in there completely does away with the Capital Fund program, which would completely do away with our ability to (renovate) and update anything in these units. Ever.”

He also explained the proposed budget would negatively affect the housing authority’s operating and day-to-day maintenance abilities as housing authorities rely on Capital Fund money to maintain and modernize existing housing units.

“So, it could be scary here in the next couple of months just to see how all of this plays out,” Aiken stated.

 

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.

Housing Authority gathers for final 2017 meeting

Community

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Traver Aiken, executive director of the Blue Ridge Housing Authority, told Authority board members at their monthly meeting Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, of the Blue Ridge City Council’s recent decision to allow the BRHA to forego remittance of its final 2016 Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to the city.

At the city council’s Dec. 12 meeting, the council unanimously approved the PILOT abstention in the amount of $1,530.75 as a means to offset costs paid by the BRHA earlier this year to repair a retaining wall at its Boardtown Road property. Repairs to the wall were necessary after repairs to a failing sewer line located beneath the wall were completed. Ultimately, it was determined that the city was responsible for the sewer line.

In addition, Aiken informed the Authority the city would begin work to replace another sewer line located between the East First Street and East Second Street BRHA apartments sometime in January 2018.

Authority board member Bill Tilly expressed his appreciation to the city for the upcoming work but added, “It’s a shame that it took (the city council) a year and half to make this decision.”

Aiken also reported to the Authority that retained earnings were above projection for the year. According to Aiken, as of Nov. 30, the BRHA had $56,339.51 in actual retained earnings, which is almost $26,000 above the protected year-to-date estimate of $30,668.

Total operating income was also above projections for the year, Aiken stated. As of Nov. 30, the BRHA total operating income stood at $310,897.43, which is $27,611.43 above projection.

“It’s a combination of rent collection, increased rents, making sure that income is being properly reported, and then also collecting on outstanding debts that have been out there,” Aiken explained. “So we’re getting there. We’re making progress.”

Also, Aiken told the board members several site improvements projects were completed during 2017, including grounds beautification and the recent weather stripping upgrades at the residences.

“It’s not like we were just collecting the money and sitting on it,” Aiken added. “You can’t just say we’ve collected capital fund money and put it in operating and we’re good. We actually did capital improvements as well and still came out positive.”

Commenting on the weather stripping upgrades, resident board member Ellan Johnson stated, “You can tell a difference right away.”

Also, at the meeting, the Authority met briefly in executive session and, after reconvening, approved a resolution for the 2017 performance incentives for the BRHA maintenance and administration personnel.

Following this, Tilly expressed his appreciation for Aiken as well as the other board members by saying, “I appreciate everybody on this board. You all have done an excellent job this year. I appreciate everybody being here, and I appreciate the time everybody’s put in. I appreciate (Aiken) going to the city working (the sewer line issues) out. Things are rapidly improving over what they were three, four or five years ago.”

In the same vein, Johnson also told Aiken, “And the residents appreciate and respect you too for all the accommodations you (provided) us.”

“That means a lot to me,” Aiken responded. “The greatest compliment I get is from a resident.”

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 meeting slated for Tuesday

Uncategorized

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council will address a number of agenda items at the final regularly scheduled meeting of the year Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Last month’s meeting was cancelled after three council members had to tend to other obligations and could not attend the meeting.

City Council Member Rhonda Thomas

According to the meeting agenda, Council Member Rhonda Thomas will present a second reading of the city’s amendment to the Electric Shuttle Bus Ordinance. After the reading, the council will vote whether or not to approve the amendment. Thomas is also scheduled to lead discussion about a potential parking deck for the downtown area.

The council will also address an application for the Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) for the city, which must be submitted by Dec. 31, 2017, to be eligible to receive potential LMIG funding for 2018.

Traver Aiken, executive director of the Blue Ridge Housing Authority, is scheduled to speak to the council concerning the prospect of waiving Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) payments to the city as reimbursement for the Authority’s costs to repair sewer lines on BRHA property earlier this year.

The council will also vote on Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) lease resolutions for the purchase of a vehicle for the Blue Ridge Police Department as well as a trackhoe excavator for the city water department.

Resolutions to apply for Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) grant money for future potential projects, including sewer system upgrades and a water meter replacement project, will also be addressed.

Several purchase invoices will be awaiting approval from the council at the meeting, including three from Carter & Sloope engineering firm, one from Johnson Paving and another from Fortiline Waterworks.

In public commentary, Cesar Martinez, local business owner and president of the Blue Ridge Business Association, is scheduled to address the council.

 

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.

Attorneys’ Respond to Housing Authority Bust

Featured Stories, News

After attempting to get a statement from Blue Ridge Housing Authority managers Misti Crowder and Crystal Guy, the managers requested we contact their attorneys for a response regarding the recent events at the office. (more…)

Author

MG

Housing Authority Update

Featured Stories, News

FYN followed up with the managers of the Blue Ridge Housing Authority on their first day back to work after the seizure of boxes of information obtained from the office. (more…)

Author

MG

Housing Authority Bust

Featured Stories, News

The Blue Ridge Housing Authority has had its records seized during a search warrant that was executed by the Housing Urban Development and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation this morning. When FYN received the tip, we went to the office and spoke with David, the maintenance man. When he was told why we were there, he said

“I don’t know anything about it”

but when FYN continued to ask if the information was true or not he ignored the reporter and left the room. (more…)

Author

MG

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