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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Vacation rentals in downtown Blue Ridge

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Blue Ridge Council held a special called meeting to discuss the creation of the Downtown Development Authority. During this meeting the discussion of nightly vacation rentals in the downtown area garnered much attention.

The city has proposed a “City of Blue Ridge Short Term Vacation Rental Ordinance”.

CJ Stam was present to address the council on behalf of the Blue Ridge Lodging Association. Concerning this ordinance Stam stated, “This is an important issue to us. We’re not opposed to this. We actually appreciate it. We don’t mind having rules set in place.”

The Blue Ridge Lodging Association represents approximately 10 rental companies with over 500 different types of rental properties in our area.
Stam said that concern falls in the application process that the city is requiring, stating that it “seems a little bit cumbersome”.

According to the proposed ordinance, an application for a short term vacation rental certificate shall be submitted along with a non-refundable application fee to the City of Blue Ridge.

Along with proof of homeowners insurance and having staff available 24 hours a day for contact, the applicant would have to submit a large amount of information pertaining to themselves as well as the guests.

APPLICATION MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS

1. The name, address, telephone and email address of the owner(s) of record of the dwelling unit for which a certificate is sought. If such owner is not a natural person, the application shall identify all partners, officers and/or directors of any such entity, including personal contact information;
2. The address of the unit to be used as a short term vacation rental;
3. The name, address, telephone number and email address of the short term vacation rental agent, which shall constitute his or her 24-hour contact information and who shall:
a. Be reasonably available to handle any problems arising from use of the short term vacation rental unit;
b. Appear on the premises within 24 hours following notification from the City Clerk, Police Chief or the City Attorney, or his/her designee, of issues related to the use or occupancy of the premises.
c. Receive and accept service of any notice of violation related to the use or occupancy of the premises; and
d. Monitor the short term vacation rental unit for compliance with this ordinance.
4.The owner’s sworn acknowledgment that he or she has received a copy of this section, has reviewed it and understands its requirements;
5.The owner shall state the maximum occupancy for the residence, which shall be the same number as advertised and marketed to potential renters by or on behalf of the owner;
6. The owner’s agreement to use his or her best efforts to assure that use of the premises by short term vacation rental occupants will not disrupt the neighborhood, and will not interfere with the rights of neighboring property owners to the quiet enjoyment of their properties;
7. A copy of an exemplar agreement between the owner and occupant(s) which obligate the occupant to abide by all of the requirements of the ordinance, and other City ordinances, state and federal law, and that such a violation of any of these rules may result in the immediate termination of the agreement and eviction from the premises, as well as potential liability for payment of fines levied;
8. Proof of the owner’s current ownership of the short term vacation rental unit; and
9. Proof of homeowner’s insurance.

B. Registration under this code section is not transferable and should ownership of a short term vacation rental change, a new application is required, including application fee. In the event of any other change in the information or facts provided in the application, the holder of the short term rental certificate shall amend the filed application without payment of any additional application fee.

Questions also arose about the proposed ordinance not outlining where these rental properties could be placed. Stam stated of the matter, “It sounds like this ordinance supersedes the zoning that is in place and allows anybody to rent in any zoning as long as they have gone through the application process.”

Council member Nathan Fitts agreed with Stam: “It’s been very vague where there can be rentals.”

According to the ordinance a short term rental is defined as: “an accommodation for transient guests where, in exchange for compensation, a residential dwelling unit is provided for lodging for a period of time not to exceed 30 consecutive days. Short term vacation rental shall not include any residential dwelling unit not regularly offered for rental, which shall be defined as any residence offered for rental less than fourteen (14) days in any given calendar year. For the purposes of this definition, a residential dwelling shall include all housing types and shall exclude group living or other lodging uses.”

The ordinance goes further to state that “vacation rentals may be offered to the public for rental following issuance of a short term vacation rental certificate, receipt of an occupation tax certificate, and payment of any and all applicable State and City taxes” but does not address zoning.

Mayor Donna Whitener pointed out that currently short term rentals are only allowed in commercially zoned properties and are prohibited in residential zones, but acknowledged that there are rental properties in residential areas already.

“I’ve had a lot of people in the community who say they don’t want it in the residential areas,” council member Rhonda Haight said of possibility of allowing these rentals to continue.

After brief discussion Whitener suggested “cleaning up” the language of the ordinance to clearly define areas in which these short term rentals can be offered.

Further discussion is expected at the next Blue Ridge City Council meeting to be held on tonight, Dec. 11 at City Hall.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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City of Blue Ridge creates Downtown Development Authority

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – A Downtown Development Authority (DDA) could be in the near future for the City of Blue Ridge.

Opposition from some to creating this organization became overshadowed by the need for the city to obtain more funding, and certain funding and grants can only be obtained by a DDA.

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Proposed boundaries of the downtown district in which the DDA will focus and serve.

Beyond gathering extra funds for the City of Blue Ridge, a DDA will also be a policy-making body and a major decision-making entity that plans and manages the downtown area.

Ann Arnold, who has 31 years of experience with DDAs and their development, was asked by the Mayor and Blue Ridge City Council to step-in in assisting with the creation and structuring of Blue Ridge’s DDA.

Arnold not only created a draft of the outlines for the new DDA, but also examined Blue Ridge for appropriate boundaries of a designated “downtown area” and interviewed potential applicants to fill the 7 member board.

In a special called Blue Ridge City Council meeting Arnold laid out her recommendations on all areas including who she felt would be ideal members of this inaugural board.

“I really was impressed with these people,” Arnold explained of the applicants that she interviewed, “You absolutely cannot go wrong with this board.”
Arnold stated that many of the applicants had already researched the role of a DDA and was familiar with the laws in which they would be working. Some applicants even went as far as to reach out to other DDAs in researching the role they would potentially be filling.

In the interview process Arnold asked each applicant the same questions. She took into account the applicants backgrounds and strong points in hopes of creating a diversified board. Her recommendations are as follows:

  • John (Jay) Hamilton to serve 6 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2024.
  • Nichole Potzauf to serve 6 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2024.
  • Gene Holcombe to serve 6 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2024.
  • Michelle Moran to serve 4 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2022.
  • Cesar Martinez to serve 4 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2022.
  • Jeff DePaola to serve 2 Years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2020.

Originally it was discussed that Mayor Donna Whitener would serve as the seventh member. However, as Arnold saw that the Mayor position was already full-time she offered a different recommendation: “One of the board members, one of the seven will be a council member.”

“It would be nice to have different councilmembers, maybe every two years rotate and have some different insight,” Arnold explained her thoughts on this recommendation, “but also an opportunity for each of the council members to really understand the day to day work of the Downtown Development Authority.”

After Arnold gave her recommendations for board members she moved on to discuss the boundaries of the designated downtown area.

“The resolution does require that you (the city) designate the downtown development area that the downtown development would be serving,” Arnold said explaining the need to have clear boundaries.

The recommendations show the boundaries being roughly East First Street to the East, West Second Street to the West, McKinney Street to the South, and River Street to the North.

Questions arose from council members concerning areas already containing businesses that were not included, to which Arnold replied, “You really want to protect that residential. You have got some beautiful homes all around a number of these areas, and what you have by having that residential is you’ve got a built in audience. Those people are going to use goods and services. They can walk downtown.”

Blue Ridge City Attorney James Balli addressed the council about previously discussed concerns after listening to Arnold’s recommendations: “Once you activate them (DDA approval), they’re out there, whatever is in the resolution.”

Balli recommended that the council go through the DDA resolution more thoroughly and input provisions limiting control of the DDA and the permanence of the directors: “I would heavily recommend that you leave in the provisions about being able to remove directors for cause.”

A 7 year sunset provision was also recommended. This would essentially give the council the ability to dissolve the DDA after 7 years. Balli said of this precaution it “is as close as you are going to get to be able to kill it.”

Arnold questioned the sunset provision and said to the council that DDA and the City Council should be viewed as a team.

Further discussion and possible enactment of the DDA is expected to take place at the upcoming Blue Ridge City Council meeting to be held Tuesday, Dec. 11 at City Hall.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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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 advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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City of Blue Ridge spending comes into question

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – A large bill for the Blue Ridge City Pool and a final amendment to the City of Blue Ridge 2017 budget left new council members questioning the accountability and practices of the city when it comes to spending.

At the June Blue Ridge City Council meeting funds and lack thereof was a topic that was revisited throughout the evening. Blue Ridge Business Association President Cesar Martinez urged the council to take steps to acquire the funding needed for city improvements.

“You were all aware of the important issues facing the city, as you voiced your convictions towards better infrastructure, better parking solutions, and better bathroom facilities for our city and its visitors,” Martinez addressed the council reading from a prepared statement.

“Six months down the road and where are we?” Martinez questioned. “This city needs solutions now. Inaction is unacceptable.”

Martinez acknowledged shortfalls in trying to seek funding for these projects stating that grants could take months even years to come through.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis, Rhonda Haight, Harold Herndon, Robbie Cornelius, Blue Ridge Business Association, President, Cesar Martinez, Recreonics Inc, Spending, Budget, SPLOST, pool, paint, Downtown Development Authority

Blue Ridge Business Association President Cesar Martinez addresses the council about forming a Downtown Development Authority to help seek funding for the city.

Mayor Donna Whitener added to this that grants often have to be matched by city money.

Offering a possible solution to the lack of funding Martinez urged the council to established a Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Through a DDA the possibility of more funding opens up, funding which the city itself is ineligible to apply for.

Martinez cited that there are already 470 registered DDAs in the state of Georgia, and that the city is missing out on opportunities by not establishing a DDA of their own.

Council member Kenneth Gaddis thanked Martinez for addressing the council and questioned the city’s lack of focus on infrastructure.

“We’ve actually done about $800,000 in infrastructure this year,” Whitener responded to Gaddis, “$500,000 in one area and another 300 and something thousand.”

“We’re always spending money on infrastructure. We can’t keep up,” Whitener added.

Council member Nathan Fitts stated about funding issues, “A lot of what we were told as far as funding didn’t come through.”

Later an amendment to the city’s 2017 budget revealed that the previous council had already spent a large portion of projected revenue for 2018.

The previous council had approved for many of the city streets to be repaved in 2017, but the funding was not budgeted. To acquire the funds necessary the council then approved borrowing from the general fund and the Hotel/Motel tax account.

The general fund has now been paid back through the use of 2018 SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) collections, and the money borrowed from the Hotel/Motel account, in the amount of approximately $135,000, will not be reimbursed.

Gaddis showed surprise at this revelation: “So the previous council voted to use-”

“General fund money into your year,” Whitener quickly responded, “Into your term.”

Whitener went on to explain, “When I say we don’t have a lot of SPLOST money it’s because we’ve been paying SPLOST back from last term.”

With this revelation and the lack of funding for city projects, such as infrastructure and parking, Council member Nathan Fitts expressed his detestation when asked to approve a check in the amount of $9,608.04 for paint for the city’s pool.

According to Whitener the specialized paint is very costly, some of it being up to $263.00 for five gallons.

This invoice from Recreonics Inc. coupled with approximately $5,000 already spent on parts to fix the pool, brings the total amount well over the original $5,000 approved by the council earlier this year.

“So now we’ve spent triple,” Fitts said about the new invoice, “Did we get estimates on what paint was going to be before we bought it?”

Gaddis backed Fitts and questioned how the department got approval to spend this amount.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis, Rhonda Haight, Harold Herndon, Robbie Cornelius, Blue Ridge Business Association, President, Cesar Martinez, Recreonics Inc, Spending, Budget, SPLOST, pool, paint, Downtown Development Authority

Costly paint for the city pool led council to question if estimates were given before purchase.

Whitener simply answered, “They didn’t.”

“I think these department heads need to submit these estimates and bids ahead of time for approval,” Fitts went on.

Whitener, who agreed with this sentiment, stated of the department head, “I don’t think she realized how much paint it would take to paint the pool.”

“That’s why we get estimates,” Fitts replied explaining that there is no excuse. “That is unacceptable.”

Since the pool had already been painted the council had no choice but to approve to pay this debt.

“I don’t think we should have painted it period, but its been painted,” Whitener expressed her opinion.

Fitts added, “I think we should tell that department head, they better get out there and start marketing that pool to bring more revenue in.”

The Blue Ridge City Council will hold their next regular monthly meeting on Tue. July 10 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Blue Ridge City Council elect meets with Stewart

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Blue Ridge Finance Director Alicia Stewart met informally with council members elect Robbie Cornelius, Nathan Fitts and Kenneth Gaddis along with Mayor Donna Whitener Wednesday evening, Dec. 13, to discuss city priorities, projects and finances for the coming term.

In the process, Stewart presented the incoming council members with a wealth of city financial information in an effort to familiarize Cornelius, Fitts and Gaddis with the day-to-day operations of the city and the various procedures required of the City Council regarding financial operations. In addition, the finance director also fielded a number of questions from the future council members.

Among the many projects and potential projects mentioned during the course of the 90-minute session were a possible parking deck, a downtown bathroom facility and revitalizing the city pool.

The potential parking deck project, a topic of conversation for the city for quite some time, was discussed, and Whitener told Cornelius, Fitts and Gaddis the city would like to build a two-story deck on the city hall property to alleviate downtown parking congestion.

Regarding the downtown bathroom facility, Mayor Whitener explained plans have already been drawn for a two-story bathroom complex to be built near the depot building and the project is expected to be financed with grant money from the Appalchian Regional Commission (ARC).

As for the city pool, Gaddis suggested talking with representatives from Union County concerning that county’s recent city pool project. “We could mirror that (project) … that would be great for the citizens,” Gaddis stated.

Another city issue discussed at the meeting was water loss. Whitener stated Blue Ridge was once among one of the worst municipalities in Georgia regarding the average percentage of water loss. According to Whitener, the percentage of city water loss from aging water infrastructure near the beginning of her mayoral administration stood at 58 percent. Whitener added that while the city has improved in this area, maintaining those improvements has been difficult.

Gaddis, owner of All Choice Plumbing, mentioned the future state Route 5 highway expansion along with a water main replacement project for that area of the city would help with water loss. “I’ll be surprised at what percentage (water loss) drops instantly,” Gaddis added.

Prioritizing road paving was another area of concern Whitener pointed out, and the mayor stated the city at one time rated roads and streets according to need. Whitener added she would like to see a return to that policy during the next term. “We’re going to rate (roads and streets) again. That’s one of the projects that I have planned,” Whitener stated.

Later, when Gaddis asked Stewart what improvements she would like to see come from the incoming City Council, Stewart answered by saying better prioritization of projects was needed.

“We need a good five to 10-year capital plan with clear objectives and prioritize (those objectives),” Stewart said. “We need) a clear, focused idea of where (the city is) heading. what we’re doing and what we want to get done first.”

“I think we all agree with that,” Fitts told Stewart.

 

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.

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 advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Light Up Blue Ridge, parade draws thousands

Community

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The weather was chilly, but the spirits were warm and bright Saturday afternoon and evening during the Light Up Blue Ridge holiday celebration.

The day began with an arrival of a very special guest from the far north when Santa Claus arrived on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and greeted children, with wishlists in hand, in the downtown city park all afternoon. Storefronts decorated for the fourth annual Holiday Storefront Decorating Contest greeted shoppers up and down the downtown streets as many attempted to get an early jump on their Christmas shopping.

Throughout the day, several musical and theatrical acts entertained passersby at various places all afternoon including the Fannin County High School (FCHS) Theater Group and a barbershop quartet, both of whom performed at Sycamore Crossing, as well as Voices of Hope and a children’s choir led by Connie Davis.

One of the houses in the Gingerbread Village at the BRMAA Art Center.

Over on West Main St., the Blue Ridge Mountains Art Association Art Center hosted the annual Gingerbread House Village for those wanting to take a quick break and warm up from the busy and blustery downtown streets.

By 5:30, night had fallen in north Georgia, and it was time for the annual Blue Ridge Christmas Parade. Starting near First Baptist Church, the parade looped down East Main, Mountain and West Main streets, which were all lined with excited faces, young and old, packed earmuff to earmuff on the sidewalks to take in all of the festivities as well as a few pocketfuls of candy.

The parade featured a number of creatively designed Holiday floats, patriotically adorned Fannin County fire engines, antique cars and tractors, the FCHS Marching Band and even a few local dignitaries as City Councilman Elect Nathan Fitts and Shannon York served as MCs for the night.

The PruittHealth Train Float chugs its way down East Main Street during the annual Blue Ridge Christmas Parade.

Blue Ridge Police Chief Johnny Scearce led the way down the the route in his squad car followed by Mayor Donna Whitener and City Councilwoman Rhonda Thomas close behind in convertibles draped with Christmas lights and City Councilwoman Elect Robbie Cornelius following shortly behind them.

Fannin County Fire and Rescue Chief Larry Thomas escorted Georgia State Senator Steve Gooch in his familiar white truck as Gooch and his family visited Blue Ridge for the day to take in the Holiday celebration and treats.

Georgia Senator Steve Gooch and Fannin County Fire Chief Larry Thomas.

The Fannin and Copper Basin Girl Scouts council marched the route with smiling faces and handfuls of candy to the delight of several youngsters lining the sidewalks.

The FCHS Color Guard and Marching Band served up several rousing renditions of everyone’s favorite Holiday tunes while the Drumline joyfully pounded out the beat on instruments encompassed with red and green Christmas lights.

Several businesses and organizations, including Mercier Orchards, The Home Depot, the Blue Ridge Community Theater and PruittHealth of Blue Ridge among others, contributed elaborately designed floats and displays for the parade. On the Special Olympics float, Snoopy even took time to  make an appearance.

Mary and Joseph keeps watch over Baby Jesus during the Blue Ridge Christmas Parade.

On another float, the Reason for the Season was portrayed as Mary and Joseph watched over Baby Jesus, who was “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Rounding out the parade was Jolly Ole Saint Nicholas, who was escorted down the route in an antique 1930 Ford. Later, Santa took center stage in the park as he assisted Shannon York with the lighting of the 27-foot tall Great Tree to the amazement of many enthusiastic onlookers.

As the night quickly grew colder, country music star Collin Raye warmed the hearts of the crowd with a soulful version of O, Holy Night.

Holiday festivities will continue on weekends throughout the season in downtown Blue Ridge leading up to Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year is officially underway.

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Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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