Additional parking for downtown Blue Ridge

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County Water Authority rate increase

Community, News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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