McCaysville holds public hearing for proposed budget

Community, News
McCaysville, Georgia, Ga, Budget, 2019, 2020, fiscal year, city council, mayor, Larry Collis, Sue Beaver, Rodney Patterson, Richard Wagner,Tommy Quintrell, Thomas Seabolt, SPLOST, Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, Administration, Police Department, Street Department, City Park, Municipal Court, Water Distribution, Sewer, Water Treatment Plant

McCaysville, Ga. – The McCaysville City Council held a public hearing on Aug. 29 to discuss the city’s 2019 – 2020 budget.

Read by McCaysville Mayor Thomas Seabolt, the resolution to adopt the 2019 – 2020 budget was met with no opposition by citizens who were present for the hearing.

According to the proposed budget the City General Fund is projecting a revenue of $1,455,526.00 and projecting expenses to be $1,455,526.00. Similarly the city’s Water and Sewer Service is projecting a revenue of $2,105,450.00 and projecting expenses to run $2,105,450.00.

These projections give the City of McCaysville a balanced budget for the 2019 – 2020 fiscal year that will end June 20, 2020.

“I think the budget’s wonderful,” Councilmember Sue Beaver shared her opinion of the proposed budget noting that the city needs everything that is in the expenditures in order to function.

Points of interest in the budget include the following departments:

Administrative proposed budget : $234,259.00

Police Department proposed budget : $585,047.00

Street Department proposed budget : $245,615.00

City Park proposed budget : $374,250.00

Municipal Court proposed budget : $16,355.00

Water Distribution proposed budget : $1,614,995.00

Sewer Collection and Disposal proposed budget : $389,455.00

Water Treatment Plant proposed budget : $101,000.00

 

General Fund projected revenue : $1,455,526.00

 

SPLOST projected revenue : $333,020.00

SPLOST Capital Outlay proposed expenditures : $202,500.00

The proposed budget for the City of McCaysville 2019 – 2020 fiscal year is expected to be voted in unanimously on Sep. 10 at the councils’ next regular monthly meeting.

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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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Street preaching allowed. McCaysville City Council clarifies new ordinance.

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – McCaysville City Council made attempts to clarify the purpose and the parameters surrounding the newly adopted “Vendor Ordinance” at their regular July monthly meeting.

The ordinance, adopted in June, was set in place for public safety according to council. By requiring vendors to obtain a permit before hitting the streets of the city, it allows for city officials to monitor activity and put in place necessary precautions ahead of events.

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Richard Peacock’s post via Facebook regarding the new city ordinance.

The ordinance requires street vendors to apply at City Hall for a permit, and there is a $25.00 application fee. This application fee is waived for nonprofit organizations and these groups can receive a permit for free.

The McCaysville City Council was moved to pass this ordinance due to the growth of the city and its festivals. Controversy was met, however, when Richard Peacock an open air preacher, posted to Facebook that the ordinance had stopped a young missionary from spreading his testimony.

“This is Aiden, he was saved last year and this year God laid it on his heart to be a missionary. Last week he handed out nearly 200 gospel tracts,” Peacock’s June 30 Facebook post read and goes on to say, “He (Aiden) wanted to go again but I have to tell him McCaysville, will not allow it without a permit. They passed an ordinance last week stopping Christians from sharing the gospel on the public sidewalk.”

FetchYourNews reached out to Peacock asking who had informed him that Aiden could no longer preach on the streets of McCaysville, but we are still awaiting a reply.

Peacock’s post fueled outrage by citizens over the new ordinance, and the McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley even became involved when he publicly replied to the social media post stating: “I have advised Brother Peacock as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the City of McCaysville I will not nor will my department enforce the ordinance and take away the right for some one [sic] to spread the word of God!”

After the backlash via social media, Councilmember Rodney Patterson addressed those present at the meeting: “Lets go ahead and clear it up. It was never meant for a preacher not to be able to preach on the street. I do want to say that. I would never take a fellar’s rights away who wants to preach. It’s freedom of speech.”

Patterson did clarify that while preaching on the streets did not require a permit, if a preacher were to hand out material such as pamphlets and gospel tracts a permit would be required, and that the permit is free for nonprofit organizations.

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McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley replies to Peacock’s social media post.

Jerry Rice, Reverend of Midway Baptist Church, was present at the meeting and inquired about if a permit would be necessary for his organization to hand out candy and gospel tracts in October, as they have done for many years.

Patterson replied to Rice’s inquiry, “That organization would have to have a permit.”

McCaysville City Attorney Cortney Stuart clarified, “You just need a permit. You also can’t pass out Satanic literature without a permit. It’s just meant for anybody, that’s going to do anything, to have a permit so that the city can monitor it and see what is going on.”

“It’s nothing against nobody,” Patterson added to Stuart’s comments and pointed out that in instances where a controversial group might be handing out literature or demonstrating, that the city would need to know to implement measures such as crowd control.

Stuart also clarified, “The city ordinance only concerns city property.” 

“So if you’re in the IGA parking lot and never touch a city street ain’t nothing we can do to you,” Patterson added, “That’s personal property.”

McCaysville Mayor Thomas Seabolt told the concerned citizens that the city would be holding a workshop to discuss the ordinance further: “I have talked to our lawyer, we’re going to have a workshop in a couple of months. We’ll work on something. I don’t know what will come of it, but we’ll have a workshop.”

With some clarification being given as to the rules of the new ordinance, FYN spoke with Police Chief Earley as to whether he would now enforce the ordinance in instances of preachers and missionaries handing out material without a permit, Earley replied, “I’ve not looked into that yet.”

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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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McCaysville Police respond to the growth of the city

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – The City of McCaysville continues to grow with renovation and innovation taking over the small town. This growth brings about economic opportunity and aesthetic upgrades, but with the good also comes the bad. Simply put, anytime you have more people, you will see a rise in crime.

The City of McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley spoke to city council members about the workload of his department and the role that law enforcement is playing in keeping the city safe.

Officer Bill Higdon receives officer of the month in March.

Currently the police department has 16 employees, some of which are full-time and others part-time.  Of these employees the city boasts three specialized certified instructors, an arson investigator, a criminal investigator, a hostage negotiator, an FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) certified sniper, and a full tactical team.

“Our town, as we know, is undergoing a continual growing cycle,” Earley stated explaining the need for the growth in his department and adding, “which deserve the most professional protection needed to best serve the citizens, business owners, and tourists.”

Last month, May 2019, the McCaysville Police Department responded to 41 dispatch calls, 228 phone calls, 23 walk-ins, and 92 vehicle stops. This resulted in 41 citations being given, 4 arrests being made, and 46 warnings being issued.

The Criminal Investigation Division currently has several open investigations including a case of statutory rape and a case of burglary with warrants expected to be issued soon.

Earley also made mention to a drug related case, “We are actively pursuing a drug investigation with acid / heroin.”

Appointed to Chief of Police on March 16, 2016, Earley gave the stats for the department since his time in that position: “Since my appointment, we have made 100 misdemeanor arrests, 40 felony arrests, and of that number 56 were drug arrests.”

The department, also since that Earley’s appointment, has issued 654 uniform citations and currently have 14 active investigations and 28 active pending warrants.

“Last year alone our department answered 1660 for services from the Fannin County 911 center,” Earley spoke highly of his staff’s work.

Earley compared these numbers to the statistics of previous years. In 2015 only 11 arrests were made for the entire year, and the previous year of 2014 only saw three arrests.

“I appreciate everything you all have done for me and helping me bring the police department where it needs to be. I feel very confident in what we have as a police department now,” Earley addressed the McCaysville City Council for their role in making the department “a professional law enforcement agency”.

Council member Sue Beaver replied to Earley, “Speaking on behalf of the council, thank you. You do a great job for us.”

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

City Council Backs Derelict Property Ordinance

City Council, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council backed their newly proposed Derelict Property Ordinance during their meeting on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, citing improvements to current ordinance.

One of the structures targeted by the Derelict Property Ordinance. Click to enlarge.

As one would expect, the ordinance was drafted in response to currently standing structures that are in need of repair. There were several specific locations the city has been struggling with, some definitely worse than others.

The ordinance was drafted by attorney James A. Balli in response to Jeff Stewart (Zoning, Land Development, Project Manager of Blue Ridge, Ga.) and the City Council’s requests for a solution to the properties in question.

Suzie Soave, a sales associate at local real estate company, had initially asked Stewart what could be done in response to comments such as “why some of these structures are allowed to be eyesores and possibly dangerous to the neighborhood and why ordinances are not being enforced.”

There is already a similar ordinance in place, though City Clerk Kelsey Ledford states that the current ordinance is “outdated, completely open to interpretation which encourages selective enforcement and would allow the mayor and council to without notice order an abatement of a nuisance property. If notice was provided the only hearing is in front of the mayor and council, no court or no warrant. If a citizen disobeyed the council order, they are subject to arrest.”

Another one of the structures targeted by the Derelict Property Ordinance. Click to enlarge.

She continues that this proposed ordinance “removes far-reaching power from the mayor and council in this area of law”, and “removes the ability for someone to be arrested for non-compliance, and adds procedural safeguards require by the state to protect citizens.”

Council member Rhonda Haight says that this ordinance will allow Police Chief Johnny Scearce to better do his job, with Mayor Donna Whitener stating that the new ordinance would be much more straightforward in regards to what Scearce’s responsibilities would be regarding enforcement of the ordinance.

Only one citizen signed up to speak against the ordinance; Michael Eaton, former Blue Ridge Zoning Board of Appeals, stating that he believes this ordinance will have unintended consequences, and thinks that Mayor Whitener may use it in her favor.

Many in attendance seemed to have concerns despite the council’s efforts to distinguish fact from fiction regarding the new ordinance, however.

Another view of the first building. Clearly not in as bad of shape as the second. It is located near the other building. Click to enlarge.

Only one council member, Kenneth Gaddis, spoke out stating that he believes that the council is rushing the ordinance, citing that tax payer money is on the line for something that he believes the council has had little discussion about, especially considering that the first reading was of a draft that still needed modification.

The ordinance is set to be voted on and potentially passed during the councils July meeting (currently scheduled for Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at 6 pm), and those who wish to speak before the vote should contact City Clerk Kelsey Ledford to sign up.

(Apologies for the quality of the second half of the video. A different recording device had to be used, but this shouldn’t be an issue in future recordings).

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Can the City of Blue Ridge now seize your property? Here’s what a new ordinance has to say…

City Council, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council held a first reading of their Derelict Property Ordinance, or ordinance BR2019-08 during their meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

This 36 page ordinance focuses on what the city considers to be “derelict and blighted property within the City”, and as many citizens are rightfully concerned, gives the city power to do anything from raising taxes on such properties to seizing the property entirely.

Properties that are potentially in violation of the new ordinance are all of those the city deems “[…]is unfit for human habitation or commercial, industrial, or business use or occupancy due to inadequate provisions for ventilation, light, air, sanitation, or open spaces; poses an imminent harm to life or other property due to fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, storm or other natural catastrophe; is vacant and used in the commission of drug crimes; is occupied and used repeatedly for the commission of illegal activities, including facilitating organized crime or criminal enterprises after written notice to the owner of such activities conducted therein;  is abandoned; or otherwise constitutes an endangerment to the public health or safety as a result of unsanitary or unsafe conditions[…]” (lines 124 – 133).

The ordinance doesn’t state who exactly would be in charge of inspecting such properties, but that they are empowered to “Investigate and inspect the condition of dwellings, buildings, structures, and private property within the City to determine those structures and property uses in violation of this article. Entries onto private property shall be made in a manner so as to cause the least possible inconvenience; provided, however, the enforcement official shall not enter into any occupied dwelling or structure without first having obtained the consent of the owner or a person in possession. In those cases where consent to entry is denied after reasonable request, the enforcement official may apply to the municipal court for an administrative search warrant upon showing probable cause that a violation exists.” (lines 149 – 159).

If the property is found to be in violation of the new ordinance, the city ultimately will make the decision as to whether or not the property is worth having cleaned up and repaired or demolished completely.

“If the repair, alteration, or improvement of the said dwelling, building, or structure can be made at a reasonable cost in relation to the present value of the dwelling, building, or structure, requiring the owner, within the time specified in the order, to repair, alter, or improve such dwelling, building, or structure so as to bring it into full compliance with the applicable codes relevant to the cited violation; and, if applicable, to secure by closing the structure so that it cannot be used in connection with the commission of drug crimes; or If the repair, alteration, or improvement of the said dwelling, building, or structure in order to bring it into full compliance with applicable codes relevant to the cited violations cannot be made at a reasonable cost in relation to the present value of the dwelling, building, or structure, requiring the owner, within the time specified in the order, to demolish and remove such dwelling, building, or structure and all debris from the property. (lines 232 – 246).

The ordinance also states that those who are in possession of “[…]a common, ill-governed and disorderly house, to the encouragement of gaming, drinking, illicit drug activity, or other misbehavior, to the common disturbance of the neighborhood or orderly citizens, shall be guilty of an offense against the City[…]”.  (lines 405-408).

The enforcement penalties? Fines to having public water services removed from certain properties.

“Any person who willfully refuses to comply with the provisions of this article shall be cited to appear before the municipal court and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $500.00; each day of continued violation, after citation, shall constitute a separate offense. In addition to the foregoing fines, upon conviction, the director shall discontinue the public water supply service at any premises upon which there is found to be a cross-connection, auxiliary intake, by-pass, or inter435 connection, and service shall not be restored until such cross-connection, auxiliary, by-pass, or inter-connection has been discontinued. ” (lines 429 – 436).

If the property is found to be in violation of the new ordinance, it may also be subject to increased taxes.

“There is hereby levied on all real property within the City which has been officially identified as maintained in a blighted condition an increased ad valorem tax by applying a factor of seven (7.0) to the millage rate applied to the property, so that such property shall be taxed at a higher millage rate generally applied in the municipality, or otherwise provided by general law; provided, however, real property on which there is situated a dwelling house which is being occupied as the primary residence of one or more persons shall not be subject to official identification as maintained in a blighted condition and shall not be subject to increased taxation.” (lines 521 – 529).

There will be a meeting in the near future that will allow a public hearing regarding the ordinance prior to the official vote by the City Council.

We have attempted to reach out to the Blue Ridge City Council for further clarification on this proposed ordinance, but have not yet received any communication from them regarding it.

An open records request has been delivered to the council, so we will keep you updated on further developments!
 
 
 
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New direction in City of Blue Ridge design

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Change and growth have become inevitable in the City of Blue Ridge. Cindy Trimble, a board member of both the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, brought before the Blue Ridge City Council on Tuesday a small step in establishing direction, consistency, and beautification of our growing town.

Trimble along with help from council member Nathan Fitts rolled out conceptual drawings for new way-finding signs in Blue Ridge.

“It is critical that we have a plan for signage,” Trimble stated due to growth, extra pedestrians, and extra traffic in the area.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, City Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis, Harold Herndon, Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Cindy Trimble, Street Signs, Beautification, Wayfinding Signs, Gateways, East First Street, Hwy. 515, Bill Holt Chevrolet, Cook Street, Burger King, West First Street, McDonald's, Windy Ridge Road, Orvin Lance Drive, CVS

Proposed design for City of Blue Ridge archways that will direct visitors to downtown.

The designs included newly structured street signs with stone bases, covered kiosks with maps of businesses downtown, and gateways to the city. Trimble noted that those traveling along Hwy. 515 often do not know where to turn to enter the downtown historic area.

The gateways would be strategically placed in five areas to direct visitors to downtown. Trimble proposed placing the gateways on East First Street and Hwy. 515 near Bill Holt Chevrolet, Cook Street and Hwy. 515 near Burger King, West First Street and Hwy. 515 near McDonald’s intersection, Windy Ridge Road and Hwy. 515, and lastly Orvin Lance Drive and Hwy. 515 near CVS.

“Because these are city owned signs we cannot put them on the DOT right of way,” Trimble said explaining that the signs would need to sit back on side streets away from Hwy. 515 itself.

The gateways, designed as archways with mountain scenery and stone pedestals, would be back lit as to be visible at night and are designed to hold seasonal posters to display festivals and happenings in town.

Suggestions came from council to perhaps look into painting the Windy Ridge Road overpass to go along with design and planning. This option would require grants and permits, as well as permission from the state, but Trimble noted that it has been done in other towns and would be worth looking into.

Discussion also arose about the business directory or “you are here” map kiosks. These freestanding structures will be double sided and not only display downtown businesses, but also parking areas and trolley stops.

“There is an opportunity for advertising on this and it is something that we haven’t developed further,” Trimble stated of the kiosks.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, City Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis, Harold Herndon, Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Cindy Trimble, Street Signs, Beautification, Wayfinding Signs, Gateways, East First Street, Hwy. 515, Bill Holt Chevrolet, Cook Street, Burger King, West First Street, McDonald's, Windy Ridge Road, Orvin Lance Drive, CVS

Conceptual designs for most signage downtown including parking and business directory kiosks.

Trimble presented the idea of digital maps as an option: “That way as businesses change it would be easier to change it.” She also noted that it would give more opportunity for advertising and that the advertisements might be a way to supplement income to purchase the new signage.

“The next step is to take some of these, if the council is comfortable with the design direction,” Trimble explained the plan moving forward, “then what we will do is, we will have several of us get together and take a map of the city and we will go around and look at where we need some of these signs immediately.”

Mayor Donna Whitener questioned, “Is the goal to replace all the signage in town?”

Trimble replied that it would just be key locations for the time being. She noted that certain areas of town might experience more street scaping such as Roberts Way and the City Park, and would not move forward in those areas until work is completed.

Council chose to move forward with obtaining pricing for the new way-finding signs and this information will be presented in a later meeting.

 

 

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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