Zoning request for Hastings Development tabled

Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Zoning, Hastings, Development, College Street, Highway 515, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli, Utility Director, Rebecca Harkins, Integrity Development Group LLC

Blue Ridge, Ga. – A development that has drawn the attention of many in Fannin County has once again come to a temporary halt as the developer seeks to have land rezoned in the City of Blue Ridge to accommodate the plans.

What has become known locally as the Hastings Development is a residential development set in the City of Blue Ridge with access points to Highway 515 and College Street. The 14 acre property sits adjacent to Overlook Subdivision.

The proposed development itself has seen a number of changes based on community feedback and most recently the city zoning board gave approval for an 83 town-home high density site. The Blue Ridge City Council has final say on whether zoning of the land will be changed for the development to take place.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Zoning, Hastings, Development, College Street, Highway 515, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli, Utility Director, Rebecca Harkins, Integrity Development Group LLC

Developer Johnnie Hastings addresses concerns of the citizens and presents a revitalized plan for the development.

The Hastings Development has been met with concerns ranging from the possibility of high volume traffic on narrow College Street to whether the city’s infrastructure can handle the additional stress of the new units.

A vote was expected to take place at the Jan. 12 Blue Ridge City Council meeting but with last minute changes to the proposed plans, a motion was made to table the decision until next month’s meeting.

“We listened,” Johnnie Hastings, the developer of the property, spoke to the council and citizens, “What is the need in the community? What is it that you guys need in terms of housing?”

Hastings explained that the original concept for the development dating back to Jan. 2020 was for affordable housing in the $250,000 range, but after gathering further community input the design was changed to upscale town-homes in the $450-500,000 range.

“I want to do something…that’s good for the community, that we can all get around,” Hastings said as he revealed the revised plan based on community push back to the suggested 83 town-homes, “Believe it or not but that’s my heart.”

Hastings’ new plan consists of 56 freestanding family homes at 4 homes per acre. The price will still be in the range $500,000 per home.

“We’re here to compromise and bring a little unity to this project,” Hastings said, adding, “At the end of the day you’ll be very pleased with what I did up there.”

Citizens who had come to the meeting to speak in opposition or at least express concerns over the development were taken off guard with the proposed changes to the site.

The main concerns echoed by the citizens present was the need for the new changes to be approved by the planning commission or flow through proper channels, whether the city’s infrastructure could handle the added usage and traffic coming onto College Street.

“It concerns me that you would vote on this when the planning commission has not,” one citizen spoke.

“The sewer system won’t handle it. The water system won’t handle it,” another citizen voiced.

Utility Director Rebecca Harkins addressed the concerns of city infrastructure stating that the city has more than enough capacity remaining in their system to handle the proposed development.

“I don’t have a position on this development,” Harkins stated adding that she simply wanted to present the public with the facts.

Harkins confirmed that the city did have capacity to handle the additional units to the system and that there are issues that need to be fixed and updated throughout the city’s infrastructure, but that those issues would have to be addressed regardless of the development adding on.

“I agree that it needs to be worked on and it needs to be worked on diligently,” Harkins said of the city’s current infrastructure and reassured residents that the development would cost nothing to the city: “The city does not fund any portion of the water and sewer system for a new development.” 

Harkins also pointed out that the developer would be financially responsible for any impacts on the system from the development to the plant caused directly by their connection.

Mayor Donna Whitener confirmed that City Attorney James Balli had sent in writing that council could vote on the rezoning if Hastings had lowered density but that it would need to go through proper channels before coming to council if the density had increased.

Council member Mike Panter made a motion to table the vote until the next regular meeting in Feb. giving the council more time to look over the proposed changes. 

All council members voted in favor of tabling the vote with the exception of Council member Rhonda Haight who stated her reason as “I think we’ve kept people waiting long enough”.

Charter changes and reopening of City playground

City Council, Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Citizens could see a change in the way the City of Blue Ridge is managed after the city council voted on charter changes that would allow for the hire of a City Manger.

According to council member Rhonda Haight, the move to a city manager or a full-time mayor has been discussed among councils for several years. Haight stated that when looking at projected growth of the city, citizens would benefit by “making sure someone is here full-time to answer questions”.

Many municipalities in the area have this form of government, council member Mike Panter cited the cities of Jasper and Cumming to name a few. Council members also pointed to an example in Fannin County of the County Chairman holding a full-time position to oversee day-to-day operations.

“The council still has control over everything, including the budget, hiring and firing of the city manager,” Haight explained of the proposed move, saying that the only difference would be that a City Manager would not be an elected official and would therefore be able to be held accountable for their job performance.

“We know there is a need for leadership,” Haight said, adding that while council members are currently overseeing departments, most members hold other full-time jobs giving them less time to keep track of everyday business. 

“Our job is really to set policy,” Council member Nathan Fitts stated agreeing with Haight : “I think there needs to be some accountability to the public and this is the only way we’re ever really going to get there.”

Fitts added, “I think this form of government takes power out of people who want to be in the position for power. The mayor doesn’t have power then. It puts the workload on someone who is being paid to do it.”

Council voted in favor, with Mayor Donna Whitener and Council member Robbie Cornelius absent, to send a Resolution to the Georgia State Legislature requesting that the city be able to move to a City Manager form of government.

The Resolution would need to pass on state level before any charter changes can take effect. 

If enacted, there would be a transition period of 1 year taking place in 2021, with the official City Manager style government going into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

The City Manager position would oversee and have executive power over all day-to-day activities including inner workings of all departments, tax collection, and grant availability.

CITY PLAYGROUND TO REOPEN

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Charter, Change, Election, Resolution, City Manager, Playground, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli

Council member Mike Panter going over his findings in a previous meeting regarding the city’s playground.

The City of Blue Ridge Street Department has been hard at work correcting the issue of drainage at the city’s playground.

With the corrections having been made, the council voted in favor of new padding and turf to be added and the playground be reopened to the public upon completion.

The issue of the drainage system was one that had previously halted some council members from moving forward with the new playground turf, concerned that there would be significant unforeseen expenses once corrections began to take place.

Panter, who wanted the playground corrected in a manner that would cut costs in the future, had been a strong proponent of moving to the padding and turf option rather than continuing with mulch.

“I do believe we have ample funding to do this at this point,” Haight said of moving forward with the project.

The company responsible for installing the padding and turf will have to do an initial inspection of the area and drainage system before their work would begin. The process is expected to begin as soon as next week.

Panter stated that he hopes the playground will be reopened by March 1, 2020, and could possibly be open sooner. Weather permitting and void of an unforeseen circumstance, once work has begun the process could be completed in as little as 3 weeks.

“It’s going to be done correctly. It’s going to be done right,” Panter said of moving forward with the padding and turf option.

The city has also received approximately $19,000 from a private donor for shades to be installed at the park. The city could have to spend an additional $5,000 in this area.

Moving forward with work on the playground, at a cost of $60,743.75, was voted unanimously in favor with Cornelius and Whitener absent.

Haight announces intent to run for Mayor

City Council, Election, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Charter, Change, Election, Resolution, City Manager, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Charter, Change, Election, Resolution, City Manager, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli

Council member Rhonda Haight

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Rumors have already begun to circulate regarding who may or may not be running and for which seat they will seek in the 2021 Blue Ridge City Council / Mayor election.

One such rumor is that of current council member Rhonda Haight and her intent to seek the seat of Mayor in the upcoming election.

Haight confirmed with FetchYourNews that she does intend to qualify for the seat of Mayor next year.

Haight said that this is an option that she had contemplated for awhile, but recent city council meetings were what solidified her decision. Her hopes as Mayor would be to bring unity to the council so that city business could run more efficiently.

Council votes to stagger elections

City Council, Downtown Blue Ridge, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Charter, Change, Election, Resolution, City Manager, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council made moves to bring about changes to the city charter which according to council member Rhonda Haight has not been updated since 1989.

While it has been discussed in previous years, council members voted unanimously to begin the process of staggering elections for city council and mayor.

Currently all five city council seats, along with mayor, go up for election simultaneously after a four year term. This leaves the possibility of all seats being filled with newly elected officials at the same time. Council members agreed that not having an experienced member to guide newcomers is a vulnerability for the operations of the city.

“I can’t name another city who does it like we do,” Haight said of the city’s current election practices, “Even the county, they stagger their terms.” 

While all changes to a city’s charter must be passed on the state level, council members voted in favor of sending a Resolution to the capital for consideration. 

This resolution would stagger the terms of council and mayor in the following manner by dividing seats into two elections. One election would be for Mayor and council seats 2 and 4. Another election would be for council seats 1, 3 and 5. The elections would take place in off years of each other.

Council member Mike Panter also presented the idea of reducing the council size altogether: “Looking at where we are growing, with our budget, how our budget’s grown over the last five to 10 years and how projected growth is, I’m not sure that we shouldn’t go to three council members, a mayor and then a city manager.” 

Panter cited the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) as an example, stating that the county budget is almost $5,000,000 more than the city budget and that the BOC is able to operate with two part time commissioners and a full time commission chair.

“I think that it would put more responsibility on the councilmen,” Panter said of switching to a three person council.

Council member Nathan Fitts said that he while he mostly agrees with Panter, he had spoken with a few citizens and had not found anyone in favor of the major change: “Citizens need input on that.” 

“We have a hard enough time just meeting with five and that is an issue,” Haight shared her opinion on the reduced council and explained why she felt the change would not be good for the city. 

Haight said there are many times where items need to be discussed between meetings and with the current five member council, council members can reach out to each other to talk about issues: “If you have only three you can’t do that because then you’re breaking the Sunshine Law”

The Georgia Sunshine Law states that members of a board (or council) cannot speak privately to one another if a quorum (majority vote) is present. With the five member council this means that three members would have to be present in the discussion to violate the Sunshine Law. 

With a three member council, however, two members constitute a quorum meaning that members of a three person board may not speak on official matters outside a public meeting.

Haight feels that a better alternative would be to keep the five member council but move the city toward a City Manager style of government or compensate the seat of Mayor to a full time position.

“City manager government is the most prominent form of government according to GMA (Georgia Municipal Association),” Haight said of the suggestion, pointing out that a city manager would be trained to supervise departments and all working aspects of the city. This would free up council to vote on decisions without having to oversee individual departments.

Mayor Donna Whitener suggested a town hall meeting to get citizen input on these proposed changes. 

Haight pointed out that 2021 would be an election year so the changes need to  be “done quickly” adding, “That’s why I don’t even know if we have time for a town hall meeting. Even if we have a town hall meeting they don’t understand the inner workings like we do.”

Haight made a motion for the City Attorney James Balli to draft a Resolution for the City of Blue Ridge to move to a City Manager form of government but the motion failed with council members Robbie Cornelius, Harold Herndon and Mike Panter in opposition.

Arguing erupts over City Park playground

Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Zoning and Project Manager, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, Jeff Stewart, James Balli, Legal, Safety, Reopen

Blue Ridge, Ga. – It was clear from the onset of the Blue Ridge City Council meeting that tensions were high between fellow council members Rhonda Haight and Mike Panter.

During approval of the minutes from a Special Called Oct. 20, 2020 council meeting Haight made the motion to accept the minutes but with it being noted that Panter had brought forth non agenda items at this meeting and that this was illegal according to the Open Meetings Act.

During this meeting Panter asked to speak and used this time to point out the history of dysfunction within the city council.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Zoning and Project Manager, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, Jeff Stewart, James Balli, Legal, Safety, Reopen

View of playground in City Park showing height of slide.

Mayor Donna Whitener pointed out that it was a council member who had made the request for this for the time to speak.

“It doesn’t matter if it was a council person,” Haight responded to the Mayor’s comments, “I’ve never been allowed to do that.” 

The motion to accept the minutes with the added note passed 3-2 with council members Robbie Cornelius and Panter opposing.

Contention didn’t stop there, as Haight then moved to have the agenda amended, moving Panter’s line item (Presentation of playground and Purchase) from Action Agenda Items to Purchasing Approvals.

Haight stated that according to the city charter and for clarification in minutes that the item should be moved: “Are we going to be purchasing?”

Council member Nathan Fitts backed Haight stating, “If we’re going to go by procedures, let’s do it correctly.” Fitts added that everyone needs to get on the same page.

“An action item can be an action item where you are taking action on something and a purchasing approval,” City Attorney James Balli clarified whether the item had to be moved. “Legally you can do it under either one.” 

The motion to move the item passed with only Panter in opposition and council member Harold Herndon expressing his opinion that it didn’t really matter.

Panter had previously presented to the public his research and opinion on the route that should be taken when considering reopening the City Park’s playground area.

During his presentation at the current meeting Panter reiterated that his concern is with safety and the lack of upkeep the city has done in maintaining the playground area. 

Panter advocated for using rubber padding in lieu of mulch and stated that while the initial cost would be over $60,000, the benefits of not having the upkeep of mulch would save the city money in the years to come.

“We had two grants of over $150,000 offered to the city,” Panter stated of the park’s history, “We got zero because we couldn’t make a decision.” 

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Zoning and Project Manager, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, Jeff Stewart, James Balli, Legal, Safety, Reopen

Panter presenting his research and findings into reopening the City Park playground.

Arguing among council and mayor erupted over who had been previously responsible for the decisions made about the park and playground.

“Ms. Whitener went down to the park yanked all the equipment out and left it totally blank,” Haight said of the park’s two year saga of renovation between 2015 – 2017.

Haight acknowledged that there was a grant for $120,000 to be used in the park but that the grant was for a botanical garden and not for the playground. 

Mayor Whitener retorted to Haight, defending the landscaping that began but was later removed, “You were moving the park to the other side.” 

“And yes I did want it to go at the other end but it was too late at that point,” Haight responded to Whitener’s remark.

One thing that the two did agree on was that $12,000 was spent during this time on sod that was later removed and a sprinkler system.

Conversation became more heated when Whitener pointed out that council member Haight’s husband had been involved with the park at that time. Haight acknowledged that her husband had volunteered some of his time but was not involved in the ultimate decisions that were made.

“I think you’ve told so many lies over the years, you don’t even know what the truth is,” Haight spoke directly to Whitener.

Fitts tried to steer the conversation back to addressing the playground as it is today instead of discussing the history: “We need to do what is best for the citizens right now. What would it take to get the park open to code?”

Cornelius finally made a motion to purchase the turf option presented by Panter, stating that the problem should just be fixed rather than “putting a band-aid on it”. The motion, however, failed to pass with only Panter and Cornelius voting in favor.

“I’m not interested in taking the liability and doing that,” Panter said when suggested that the city use mulch for now.

Haight responded to Panter,  “Just because we voted you down, you don’t want to participate even though you’re over the park?”

“I’ve done my job,” Panter responded “You do your job. I’ve done mine.”

Haight motioned for $10,000 to be spent in bringing the playground up to code with the use of mulch and to address drainage issues in the area. This motion passed 3-2 with Cornelius and Panter in opposition.

Planning, Zoning and Project Manager Jeff Stewart agreed to take on the project of the City Park playground and will oversee the steps necessary to reopen the playground to the public.

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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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).

 

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 [email protected]

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 [email protected]

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 [email protected]

 

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 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 [email protected]

 

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 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 [email protected]

 

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.

The Results Are In

Election, News

BLUE RIDGE, GA – The polls have closed and the ballots have been counted in Blue Ridge.  Citizens filled City Hall on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, to hear the outcome of several months of campaigning.

The race for Mayor and City Council of Blue Ridge was a long fought battle for many of  the candidates, and the unofficial results are in.

As it stands, you can expect to see the following faces representing the residents of Blue Ridge in January:

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Fannin County, Georgia

Mayor Elect Donna Whitener

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Post 1, Harold Herndon, Fannin County, Georgia

City Council Post 1 Elect Harold Herndon

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Post 2, Rhonda Thomas, Fannin County, Georgia

City Council Post 2 Elect Rhonda Thomas

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Post 3, Kenneth Gaddis, Fannin County, Georgia

City Council Elect Post 3 Kenneth Gaddis

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Fannin County, Georgia, Election, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Jacobs

City Council Post 4 Elect Robbie Cornelius

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Fannin County, Georgia

City Council Post 5 Elect Nathan Fitts

 

 

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 [email protected]

Blue Ridge City Election Results

Election, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Polls are set to close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. After a very public campaign, Blue Ridge residents will get to know who will represent them for the next four years.

Counting of the votes will begin at approximately 7:10 p.m., and results will be announced in the race for Blue Ridge City Council and Mayor.

Follow FetchYourNews for updates live from Blue Ridge City Hall.

 

***Update 7:20 p.m.***  Electronic Ballots have been tallied. Currently the votes stand at:

Mayor :   Donna Whitener (I) 113       Brendan Doyle (C) 103

Post 1:     Harold Herndon  (I)  159

Post 2:     Rhonda Thomas (I)  91        Angelina Powell (C)  126

Post 3:     Angie Arp (I)  101                  Kenneth Gaddis (C)  116

Post 4:     Robbie Cornelius   107          Mike Jacobs    100

Post 5:     Nathan Fitts  100                   David Stuart  112

 

***Update 9:00 p.m.*** Paper Ballots have been tallied. (Number of votes include electronic voting previously tallied.)

Mayor :   Donna Whitener (I) 288       Brendan Doyle (C) 185

Post 1:     Harold Herndon  (I)  317

Post 2:     Rhonda Thomas (I)  255        Angelina Powell (C)  223

Post 3:     Angie Arp (I)  186                  Kenneth Gaddis (C)  288

Post 4:     Robbie Cornelius     255        Mike Jacobs    205

Post 5:     Nathan Fitts  244                   David Stuart  224

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Fannin County, Georgia, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Brendan Doyle

Candidates for Mayor. (L) Incumbent Donna Whitener (R) Challenger Brendan Doyle

 

Unchallenged City Council Post 1 Harold Herndon

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Post 2, Election 2017, Rhonda Thomas, Angelena Powell

Candidates for City Council Post 2 (L) Incumbent Rhonda Thomas (R) Challenger Angelina Powell

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Election 2017, Post 3, Kenneth Gaddis, Angie Arp

Candidates for City Council Post 3 (L) Challenger Kenneth Gaddis (L) Angie Arp

 

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Fannin County, Georgia, Election, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Jacobs

Candidates for City Council Post 4 (L) Robbie Cornelius (R) Mike Jacobs

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Fannin County, Georgia, Post 5, Election, Nathan Fitts, David Staurt

Candidate for City Council Post 5 (L) David Stuart (R) Nathan Fitts

Blue Ridge election results: Whitener, Herndon, Thomas re-elected, Gaddis, Cornelius, Fitts will join

Election, News, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Unofficial results from the Blue Ridge Mayoral and City Council elections were tallied late Tuesday evening, Nov. 7, at City Hall.

After six hotly contested races, Mayor Donna Whitener, Post 1 City Council Member Harold Herndon and Post 2 City Council Member Rhonda Thomas retained positions while candidates Kenneth Gaddis, Robbie Cornelius and Nathan Fitts will all take oaths as Post 3, 4 and 5 city council members, respectively, in January.

Incumbent Whitener defeated local business owner Brendan Doyle 288 to 185 in the mayor’s race. Whitener described the night’s results as “extremely exciting.”

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Mayor, Election 2017, Donna Whitener, Blue Ridge City Council

Blue Ridge Mayor Donna Whitener

“I have a really good council going in. They have lots of experience, lots of knowledge. They’re going to bring a lot to the table at Blue Ridge. I can’t wait for the next four years,” the mayor stated. “We’re going to focus on infrastructure. We have some serious issues there (with) upgrading infrastructure (and) the same thing we’ve been doing: paving roads. We’re going to continue to keep working toward keeping a vibrant downtown.”

Herndon was re-elected in what became an uncontested contest after candidate Jane Whaley failed to qualify for the election because of city residency requirements and the Georgia Supreme Court ultimately denied her appeal of city Election Superintendent Barbie Gerald’s ruling to remove Whaley from the ballot following a Sept. 25 hearing with Whaley, her attorney, Frank Moore, and City Attorney David Syfan. Herndon received 317 total votes in the election while several uncounted ballots cast showed abstention in the Post 1 election, according to Gerald.

Blue Ridge City Council, Election 2017, Post 1, Harold Herndon, Fannin County, Georgia

Post 1 City Council Member Harold Herndon

The Post 1 incumbent said he was “looking forward to another four years” on the council.

“We’ll just see how things work out. You just never know – no matter who it is or where they come from – whether you’re going to get along with them or not or whether you share some of the same opinions,” Herndon said of the council elect.

While admitting the new council had several challenges on the horizon, Herndon explained, “You’ve got to look at finances and see how (the city is) sitting … There’s a lot of things that have to come together before you can even come to a decision about what you might be able to do.”

Blue Ridge City Council, Fannin County, Gergia, Rhonda Thomas, Post 2, Election 2017

Post 2 Council Member Rhonda Thomas

In the Post 2 race, incumbent Rhonda Thomas won over downtown business owner Angelina Powell with 255 votes to Powell’s 223. After the final tally, Thomas said she was “thrilled with the results.”

“I think everyone who will be on this council are going to do a fabulous job. It’s a diverse group of people who have great ideas, and we’re going to come together for the benefit of the city, for the residents and for the businesses, and we’re going to make a difference,” Thomas stated. “Blue Ridge should be excited about their choices.”

Citing parking and city infrastructure improvement as key challenges facing the new council, Thomas was optimistic of the city’s future. “You’ll see a huge difference in this city in the next four years,” she added.

Whitener, Herndon and Thomas will all be entering their third terms, each having served since 2010.

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Post 3, Kenneth Gaddis, Fannin County, Georgia

Post 3 Council Member Elect Kenneth Gaddis

Challenger Gaddis defeated incumbent Angie Arp in the Post 3 race taking 288 votes to Arp’s 186. “It feels great; it feels amazing,” council member elect Gaddis said after his win.

“I’m excited to work with the citizens. That’s my key. We are a council, but we are working with the citizens,” Gaddis added.

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Fannin County, Georgia, Election, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Jacobs

Post 4 Council Member Elect Robbie Cornelius

Receiving 255 votes to Mike Jacobs’ 205, Cornelius won the open seat of Post 4.

Cornelius shared the sentiments of all the other winning candidates of the night and was excited to begin on the city council. Relieved that the campaign was over, Cornelius laughed, “I’m tired. I’ve been out in the rain all day (campaigning).”

In the closest race of the night, Fitts overtook David Stuart by 20 votes, receiving a total of 244 in the open contest for Post 5.

FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge City Council, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Fannin County, Georgia

Post 5 Council Member Elect Nathan Fitts

“We’re going to work on parking (and) the infrastructure of the water lines and sewer lines,” the council member elect said of city needs. “Hopefully, we can make it so streamlined we can all get along and do things a little more professionally.”

According to Gerald, 486 total ballots were cast in the 2017 election. Of that sum, 221 ballots were cast on Election Day, 229 were early voting and 36 were absentees. “If I’m not mistaken, that’s probably a record (turnout),” Gerald said of the election.

For continual coverage of the Blue Ridge City Council, stay with FetchYourNews.com.

 

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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 Sewer Rates Set To Increase In 2018

News

BLUE RIDGE, GA – Sewer rates are expected to increase next year for the residents of Blue Ridge.

In a special called meeting of the Blue Ridge City Council on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, council members held their first hearing of the 2018 budget. Among the noted items in the proposed budget was a 3% pay increase to most city employees and a raise in sewer rates for citizens.

The new rate, set to take effect in 2018, would increase consumer fees by $1.00 per 1,000 gallons.

Mayor Donna Whitener questioned the exact reasoning for the increase and pointed out even with the increase it “still keeps us in the negative as far as sewer.”

The increase will fund a complete rehab of the pump station located at Trackside Lane. The updates to the pump station are expected to cost approximately $900,000.

The Environmental Protection Division of Georgia has mandated upgrades, and the process of these improvements must begin by the summer of 2018. The City is still looking into GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency) loans to help offset initial payments to the project.

Downtown parking was also discussed at the meeting. Council Member Rhonda Thomas presented the possibility of off campus parking located on city owned property near the Swan Drive-In.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, City Council, 2018 Budget, Mayor Donna Whitener, Rhonda Thomas, Angie Arp, Harold Herndon, Sewer Rates

Proposed off campus parking area.

Thomas had recently met with Street Supervisor Mark Clemmons to discuss the possibility of using this area. It is estimated that 160 additional parking spaces could be provided to the city through use of this land.

With the recently passed shuttle bus ordinance, visitors would have the option of being shuttled downtown.

Whitener questioned the logistics of the shuttle asking, “How long will the shuttle run? What if somebody gets stranded in town and are not able to get back to their car and have to walk?”

Councilmembers considered plans for signs designating the shuttle schedule and agreed that there were still areas that needed to be closely examined. Council Member Angie Arp stated about the property, with the shuttle it “helps make it more viable.”

Thomas agreed and said that parking in this area “could become long term, but is definitely a short term possibility.”

Arp took time at the meeting to discuss possible improvements to the city park and pool. She is a strong advocate for the idea of an indoor pool in that area.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, City Council, 2018 Budget, Mayor Donna Whitener, Rhonda Thomas, Angie Arp, Harold Herndon, Sewer Rates

Council and Candidates focus on updates to the city park.

She suggested using funds from the recent sale of the marina to upgrade the site. The funds available from that transaction are approximately $400,000.

The City Council will have a second hearing on the 2018 Budget on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 6:00 P.M.

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