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 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.

Back to business for Blue Ridge City Council

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After failing to achieve a quorum at the last month’s meeting, the Blue Ridge City Council met Tuesday, Dec. 12, for their last regularly scheduled meeting of the year.

The Council swiftly moved through a hefty list of agenda items starting with two Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) lease resolutions to purchase vehicles and equipment. The first resolution was to purchase a 2018 Ford Explorer for the Blue Ridge Police Department through a GMA lease for $30,591.58 with a 3.760 percent interest rate. The final payment for the lease will be Dec. 21, 2022, and the city will pay $33,482.22 with included interest.

Next, the city purchased a 2017 Caterpillar track hoe excavator and a 2018 F350 dump truck for the combined price of $85,950.30 through a GMA lease. The interest rate and payment schedule for this purchase is the same as for the previous purchase, and the city will pay $94,071.90 with included interest.

Two other resolutions were for loan acceptances from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA). The first loan, a Clean Water State Revolving loan, for up to $900,000 with a principal forgiveness of $225,000 if all loan funds are drawn will be used for sewer upgrades at Trackside Lane. The other loan, a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan, for up to $250,000 with a principal forgiveness of up to $49,970 if all funds are drawn, will be used for a meter replacement and upgrade project.

The Council also amended a city ordinance through a second reading and adoption to allow an exception for low-speed vehicles or motorized carts in the form of electric shuttle buses to be used on the public streets of the city in an effort to promote economic development downtown.

Blue Ridge City Councilwoman Angie Arp

Bids for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) water system improvement project were reviewed and discussed by the Council. While Mayor Donna Whitener mentioned it was recommended by the city’s water system engineering firm, Carter & Sloope, to proceed with the low bidder for the project, The Renee Group, Inc. of Doraville, Georgia, Councilwoman Angie Arp suggested the possibility of proceeding with the only local bidder, Holloway Trenching, LLC, of Morganton, whose bid was nearly $54,000 over that of The Renee Group. Ultimately, the decision to award the bid was tabled.

A Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) application for a $35,648 grant with a 30 percent was approved by the Council Tuesday. The grant would be used for road work on West First Street from Depot Street to the where West First meets West Main Street.

The Council unanimously agreed to allow the Blue Ridge Housing Authority (BRHA) to forego payment of its final 2016 Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) payment to the city as reimbursement to the Authority for costs to repair a sewer line and retaining wall at the BRHA’s Boardtown Road apartments. The PILOT payment was for $1,530.75. In addition, the Council approved a $5,500 estimate from Holloway Trenching for further repairs on a six-inch sewer line on BRHA grounds.

The Council discussed, but tabled, a $4,368.80 quote from ETC Communications for a downtown stereo system to be used during events and festivals, such as the recent Light Up Blue Ridge and Christmas parade, until more information could be procured about the safety of the system.

Among the other invoices and quotes approved were:

A $4,500.99 invoice to Johnson Paving for asphalt work on Banks Street;

A $4,094.20 quote from Fortiline Waterworks, of Cartersville, Georgia, for work on city hydrants;

A $4,700 quote from Hayes James engineering firm for mapping and geographic information system (GIS) services;

A $5,670 invoice from Carter & Sloope for general consulting, which included a review of the water drainage issues near Ada Street;

A $3,611.25 invoice from Carter & Sloope for engineering services for a sewer line project on Trackside Lane;

A $17,831.85 invoice from Carter & Sloope for engineering services at the city’s waste water treatment facility; and

A $6,599.60 quote from Peach State Amenities, LLC for three new six-foot long park benches and three 36-gallon trash receptacles.

President of the Blue Ridge Business Association Cesar Martinez

Cesar Martinez, local business owner and president of the Blue Ridge Business Association (BRBA), spoke briefly in public commentary about the success of the recent Light Up Blue Ridge festivities and Christmas parade held Saturday, Nov. 25, in downtown Blue Ridge and informed the Council of upcoming BRBA events, such as the BRBA Christmas Party Dec. 18 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Willow Creek Falls and the eighth annual Fire and Ice Chili Cook-Off in downtown Blue Ridge Feb. 17, 2018.

Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Whitener thanked outgoing council members Arp, Rodney Kendall and Bruce Pack for their service to the Council and the city. Collectively, all three members stated they were appreciative of the opportunity to serve the citizens of Blue Ridge but wished they could have accomplished even more during their tenures. Incoming council members Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis and Robbie Cornelius will join remaining members Harold Herndon and Rhonda Thomas in 2018.

 

Author

Jason Beck

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

Blue Ridge City Council meeting slated for Tuesday

Uncategorized

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

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

City Council Member Rhonda Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Author

Jason Beck

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

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.

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 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.

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.

 

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.

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 advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Latest Wolf Report and 2018 Blue Ridge City Council Agenda Suggestions

Election, GMFTO

What issues do you feel should be on the first agenda for the “new” 2018 Blue Ridge City Council? BKP has a few suggestions for them. Hear what his suggestions are and send us any that you feel should be on there as well. Also, you do not want to miss BKP’s “wolf watch” update!

Whaley plans to Appeal to Georgia Supreme Court

Election, News, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, GA – Judge Winegarden denied the first appeal on behalf of Jane Whaley and the decision to disqualify her as candidate for Blue Ridge City Council Post One.

On Friday, October, 13, 2017, an appeal hearing was held at the Fannin County Courthouse. The case was heard by Judge Richard Winegarden due to the recusal of the Superior Court Judges who serve in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit which includes Fannin County Superior Court.

City Council Post One Candidate Jane Whaley was found ineligible to run after a hearing questioning her residence was held on Monday, September 25, 2017.

Election Superintendent Barbie Gerald was tasked with this initial decision, and decided to disqualify Whaley based on evidence presented. Gerald stated in a letter explaining the decision, “Under Mrs. Whaley’s own testimony, she did not reside within the city for the 12 month period.”

Whaley publicly stated shortly after the decision, “I believe I am a legitimate candidate, and I am going to appeal this decision.”

Whaley’s attorney Frank Moore filed an appeal on the decision to disqualify Whaley reciting that Georgia is a domicile state, and under that definition intent to dwell qualifies as residency.

The hearing on October 13, began at 5:00 P.M. and lasted until 9:00 P.M. Judge Winegarden heard arguments from both sides, Moore representing on Whaley’s behalf and City Attorney David Syfan representing the decision made by Gerald.

After hearing the evidence presented, Winegarden denied the appeal. He found “that the determining of the Election Superintendent should be affirmed.”

Moore requested a stay on Winegarden’s decision at that time. This would allow Whaley’s name to continue to be on November 7, 2017, election ballots, and give time for the Georgia Supreme Court to hear the case.

Winegarden did not grant this request, but Moore is hopeful that the Georgia Supreme Court will issue a stay if granted a hearing on the appeal.

Moore is preparing a request for an appeal of the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court. He expects to have this request entered by Tuesday or Wednesday, October 17th / 18th.

Campaign signs supporting the candidacy of Jane Whaley have recently been removed from the City of Blue Ridge. Moore also sent a request that these signs be put back up while Whaley continues her appeal process.

VIDEO: Is it Possible a High Rolling Gambler is Running in Blue Ridge?

Community, FYNTV, GMFTO, Politics

How important is it to know how our candidates live their lives outside of politics?

Paraphrased from GMFTO on FYNTV:

Would you want a City Council Member that was a high roller?

Would you vote for a candidate that REGULARLY gambled hundreds of thousands of dollars?

I don’t know yet, but I understand it is possible that a candidate is a casino regular, maybe not just a regular, but possibly a high roller?

The source can’t be revealed, and it isn’t 100% verified, but this is a source that would KNOW!

 

Major Development in Blue Ridge Council Qualifications

Election
Blue Ridge

BKP reacts to the latest breaking news on the selectivity of the investigations regarding residency requirements in Blue Ridge. To read our official report on this breaking story click here.

Paraphrased Transcript:

There is a letter to Barbie Gerald from Frank Moore, who represents Cindy Trimble. The letter suggests that Mr. C David Stuart may not be qualified to run for BR City Council, his place of residence is not the commercial body shop he owns. Also mentioned in the letter, N Brendan Doyle, owner of The Boro Pub. Doyle stated under oath that his residence is 150 W Main St., which is the Boro Pub.

Moore attached pictures of the properties and tax records of the zoning. There is only a certain amount of time to challenge it. However, recent precedent suggests Barbie Gerald must investigate.

Obviously there was some picking and choosing going on. Who talked these people into running? Maybe it was Johnny Searcy or Angie Arp? After all, Angie Arp does own the land surrounding The Boro. She was seen on multiple occasions going in and out of The Boro. Maybe she was the one who convinced him to run?

It seems to me that one candidate stood out. One candidate that didn’t fit the mold that Angie Arp, Barbie Gerald, and others wanted.

But there is a proof, for a fact, that people were ordered to sit outside Jane Whaley’s apartment to take pictures all day. To see if there are lights on at night. To see if there are people in and out during the day.

A judge will be the one to decide whether or not Jane Whaley can run for office. Yet, there are still many questions to ask of Ms. Gerald.

Why wasn’t the residence of Brendan Doyle investigated?
Why wasn’t the residence of David Stuart investigated?
Who put pressure on Barbie Gerald to investigate Jane Whaley?

Only time will tell…

GMFTO VIDEO: How Blue Ridge Blocked Whaley’s Candidacy

News, Politics

The Blue Ridge City Council extravaganza took a funny turn this weekend with a misspelled sign going up on behalf of Angelena Powell. Also, the REAL STORY behind why Jane Whaley was halted from running for city council. (Time Code Listed in Description)

  1. ANGELENA POWELL SIGN 0:00 – Her sign was misspelled “Councel” instead of “Council.” It was the talk of social media this weekend. Arp, Powell, Doyle is reminiscent of Schizophrenic Jeopardy on MadTV.
  2. JANE WHALEY 12:00 – Sources tell BKP: Angelena Powell does not live in the city limits either. There were several people in the community who did not want Jane Whaley to move in by a certain date. “We need to stop every candidate in their tracks.” Suddenly, it was “discovered” the back porch did not meet the proper code, it stuck out a couple feet too far. Therefore, she was unable to move in. Nothing was said about the violation until much later. A stop work order was issued later on. The zoning board disqualified the residence. They were then ordered to build a wall to chew up more time. It was a gameplan to disqualify Whaley
  3. BKP’s Opinion: They shut her down knowing she might run for city council. They blocked the construction of her apartment to keep her from running. There is an organized effort going on, from the City Council down to the Zoning Commission. “The City has to realize that the pipes going through here is going to pile up crap. You can’t keep building until you fix the pipes.” Stop work order was put in place.

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.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Candidates Face Off at Forum

Election, News

BLUE RIDGE, GA – Candidates for Blue Ridge’s City Council and Mayoral race faced off on Thursday, September 28, 2017, giving residents an opportunity to hear exactly where their candidates stood on many important issues.

The candidates followed a regulated format. Each candidate was given two minutes for an opening statement and another two minutes for a closing. Predetermined questions from popular issues in the city were randomly asked of the candidates.

Every candidate accounted for their top priorities for the city, if they were to be elected. Almost every candidate responded their top priorities would be to focus on infrastructure and parking downtown.

Jane Whaley, Candidate for Post One, came to the stage unopposed. Harold Herndon had previously announced he would be unable to attend the event.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, City Council, Mayor, Election 2017, Rhonda Thomas, Angelina Powell, Donna Whitener, Brendan Doyle, Angie Arp, Kenneth Gaddis, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Jacobs, Jane Whaley, Harold Herndon, Nathan Fitts, David Stuart

Council member Rhonda Thomas addresses package sales in Blue Ridge.

A few of the candidates brought up priorities that were not a common theme. Whaley stated she had another priority along with infrastructure and parking, to “protect the residential zones, and make sure they stay residential.”

Post Two candidates, incumbent Rhonda Thomas and challenger Angelina Powell agreed on the common issues. They both felt that infrastructure and parking were matters to be addressed. Powell stated, “We are growing. We’re not going back.”

They were asked about their stance on package sales being allowed in the City of Blue Ridge. Powell was not opposed to this idea, but seemed unwilling to take a solid stance.

Thomas noted that in order for this to happen, registered voters of our county would have to start a petition and get a significant number to sign in favor. She referred to to success of package stores in Ellijay and that visitors will stop there before coming to Blue Ridge saying, “We’re losing a lot of money.”

Saying she would not go out and actively support it, Thomas promised to listen to what was being asked of her as a councilmember.

Post Three candidates, incumbent Angie Arp and challenger Kenneth Gaddis focused heavily on infrastructure and recreational areas. Both candidates would like to see improvements to our city pool.

Gaddis wants to see the pool revamped to be a more welcoming place for families to enjoy. Arp agreed with Gaddis, and said that she had playground designs that she “had brought to the council several times.” Arp also would like to see a city indoor pool.

Gaddis focused on the infrastructure of the city as being a top priority. He stated, “I’m a little upset right now because we’re paving roads where the water lines haven’t been replaced yet.”

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, City Council, Mayor, Election 2017, Rhonda Thomas, Angelina Powell, Donna Whitener, Brendan Doyle, Angie Arp, Kenneth Gaddis, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Jacobs, Jane Whaley, Harold Herndon, Nathan Fitts, David Stuart

Challenger Kenneth Gaddis questions the city about proper planning.

Candidate for Post Four, Robbie Cornelius went to the stage unopposed. Mike Jacobs, also seeking a seat for Post Four chose not to take the stage. Cornelius spoke of a different reason than other candidates for wanting to improve parking downtown.

While many candidates focus on parking being an issue for businesses and for tourists, Cornelius would like to see it improved for the residents. She stated, “most don’t go downtown because they can never find parking.”

This statement brought to light an issue for locals that had previously not been addressed.
Nathan Fitts, candidate for Post Five, also came to the stage unopposed. His opponent, David Stuart, had opted not to participate. Fitts addressed his broken leg as he made his way to the podium on crutches. “When I announced that I was running, they said break a leg. I didn’t know they meant literally.”

Fitts was asked his opinion on the legal fees that have been spent by the city in recent years, replying with,”It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

He acknowledged that there is a need for legal representation and to be able to receive counsel from someone with expertise, but also noted that “paying attorney fees because people don’t get along is unacceptable.”

The Mayoral candidates were the last of the evening. Incumbent Donna Whitener and Challenger Brendan Doyle agreed on many of the issues that had been discussed previously.

Both candidates gave praise to our city police department and agreed that infrastructure needed to be a priority.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, City Council, Mayor, Election 2017, Rhonda Thomas, Angelina Powell, Donna Whitener, Brendan Doyle, Angie Arp, Kenneth Gaddis, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Jacobs, Jane Whaley, Harold Herndon, Nathan Fitts, David Stuart

Mayor Donna Whitener and Challenger Brendan Doyle debate term limits.

Whitener and Doyle were asked if they believe there should be regular meetings between the County Commissioners, City Council of Blue Ridge, as well as Councils from other cities within our county.

Neither candidate was opposed to this idea. Whitener stated that she felt it would be beneficial and that she thought “we have a great working relation now.”

Doyle agreed with Whitener and thought the regular meetings would add unity to Fannin County. He stated that, “we should be there to support through thick and thin.”

One of the issues that separated these two candidates was the topic of term limits. When asked if they would be in favor of term limits on our local officials, Doyle supported the idea.
Whitener opposed this idea stating that the amount of information to learn is too much for a short time period and would not allow an official to be effective in their post if term limits were implemented. She stated that, “Government is a different beast.”

Elections for City Council and Mayor will be held on November 7, 2017.  Each candidate urges residents to get out and vote.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Less Parking and New Solutions

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

BLUE RIDGE, GA – September marked the beginning of the beautiful Autumn season in our quaint mountain town. With Autumn comes large crowds visiting our area for it’s natural beauty, and enjoying one of our many festivals held downtown.

Business owners and residents alike were shocked to see that more parking spaces were disappearing from East Main Street, especially with the busy season upon us.

More spaces, in our already under spaced area, seemed to disappear overnight as crews came in removing the freshly painted spots and lining them with the all too familiar No Parking stripes.

Blue Ridge City Council, Fannin County, Georgia, Downtown, Parking, Angie Arp, Bruce Pack, Rhonda Thomas, Kenneth Gaddis

Parking along East Main Street removed.

According to the original proposal of the East Main Streetscape project, passed by City Council, these parking spaces should have been marked for No Parking when the project was completed earlier this year.

Council Member Angie Arp confirmed that the striping company, contracted by Colwell Construction, did not mark off or strip East Main Street according to the council approved plans.

She went on to say that parking was only supposed to be on one side or the other all the way down the street as a safety measure, and as per recommended by the public safety officials.

When asked why the parking had not been corrected immediately, Arp explained that the striping was contracted to a company out of Atlanta, and they had to schedule the owner of the company to verify what was done and what should have been done. Once that was confirmed, the striping company had to schedule a time for them to get back up here to fix it correctly. They planned to come back at a time when it wasn’t as busy so they waited till after school started and before Labor Day weekend.

The latest removal of parking spaces disheartened many business owners who had recently attended City Council meetings over parking related matters.

Council Members have been working for years to bring a solution to our city’s parking, but with little agreement, the parking issue continues to get pushed to the backburner.

Arp and fellow Council Member Bruce Pack diligently worked to bring parking through what came to be known as the Pack Property Lease. This area, located at the end of free parking, was estimated to add an additional 300 parking spaces to the city, but at a cost for the taxpayers.

The newest idea to add parking was debuted last week, via Facebook, by Council Member Rhonda Thomas and Councilmember Elect Kenneth Gaddis. This idea involved off campus parking on an already owned city lot.

Blue Ridge City Council, Fannin County, Georgia, Downtown, Parking, Angie Arp, Bruce Pack, Rhonda Thomas, Kenneth Gaddis

Council member Rhonda Thomas and Council member elect Kenneth Gaddis discuss a solution.

The land is located near the Swan Drive-In, and with the recent passing of the Electric Shuttle Bus Ordinance could provide the city with an approximate 150 new spaces. The Shuttle Bus could run regular trips multiple times a day between this free parking area and downtown.

Thomas pointed out that this particular space is already equipped with restrooms, an area for concessions, and the existing structure could provide shelter for those waiting in inclement weather.

Gaddis said, “This isn’t just for downtown, this is for Blue Ridge itself. We have the Blue Ridge Community Theatre there which hosts many events. Students pack nearby parking for the games. This could be an overflow. We want this to be shared throughout.”

This latest idea to help alleviate the parking woes of downtown is scheduled to be discussed at a Blue Ridge City Council special called meeting on Tuesday, September 26 at 10:00 A.M. at City Hall.

 

 

 

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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