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.
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.
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.
Business as usual was conducted at the August 17, 2017, special called meeting of the Blue Ridge City Council. Despite the turmoil and protesters present, many items on the agenda were discussed and voted upon.
A key piece discussed was the leasing of the Pack property for possible extra parking to accommodate the downtown area. Owner’s of the Pack property are now asking the city to pay a rental fee of $2000 a month, as previously discussed, and for the city to pay property taxes on the land as well as adding the current owners of the property to the city’s liability insurance.
Before proceeding with discussion of the Pack property leasing, Council member Rhonda Thomas excused herself from further voting on the issue stating that she felt the development would “increase the value of my property.”
Mayor Donna Whitener voiced serious concerns of proceeding with any work on the property without looking into proper permitting first. Council member Angie Arp brought up the fact that a land disturbance permit is not required if the work being done is on one acre or less.
Thomas suggested the possibility of just leasing an acre of the property, but Council member Bruce Pack stated that he had already spoken with the owners about this and it would have to be “all or nothing.”
This discussion brought about the proposal of a parking garage that had previously been considered. The parking garage would be located near City Hall and potentially add 350 additional parking spaces, with 110 of those spaces being on the ground level.
Whitener felt that both options should be looked into further and urged council members to do their due diligence, check into permitting, and look for possible grants to help fund the projects.
Storm drains were also a topic of debate, specifically beginning with an area located near free parking along East Main Street. Funding for the storm drainage improvements could come from a number of areas including the recent sell of the marina which would give the city $400,000 by the end of this year.
Whitener also suggested looking into an Appalachian Regional Commission Economic Development Grant. These grants provide assistance with critical infrastructure and could possibly fund an additional $750,000.
Council members also unanimously approved the appointees for the positions of Poll Managers to handle the upcoming city elections. The Poll Manager will be Barbie Gerald and Assistant Poll Managers will be Rebecca Harkins and Gina Quinton.
Many of the items, such as the Pack property leasing, will be further discussed at the Council’s regularly scheduled September meeting to be held Tuesday, September 12th, at 6:00 P.M.
On July 26, 2017, City Council member Rhonda Thomas went live on Facebook to show one of the city’s roads that is badly in need of repair. The video quickly garnered a lot of attention and has had over 5,000 views.
In this video Thomas directly asks fellow Council members Angie Arp, Rodney Kendall, and Bruce Pack why Davis Street was taken off the city’s list of roads to repair. Thomas goes further to speculate as to some of the possible reasons, questioning if it involves a past lawsuit between the City and Ada Street, LLC.
Arp and Pack called a special meeting this week, and while not on the agenda, Arp felt this video needed to be viewed and addressed. Kendall was prepared for this motion and presented the video to the room via his phone. Conversation became heated as this unannounced item was brought to the table.
Thomas stood firmly by her actions to go live on the video and wanted Arp to answer the question, “Why did you take this road off the list to be paved?”
Arp read a prepared statement in response to the video. In this statement, she addressed the issue of Davis Street with the explanation that “we decided to get the bid cost for all the relatively minor street repairs first, and wait till after we found out what their cost was before we started on the streets that would require more extensive work.”
Discussions intensified with both Arp and Thomas accusing the other of lying. Mayor Donna Whitener had to regain composure of the room by calling a Point of Order, effectively ending the dialogue about the video.
This all was a lead in to an item that was actually on the agenda, approval of bids on paving of city streets. Thirteen items were quoted on the list of streets for repair. Johnson Paving won the bid with a quote of $232,000 for all repairs.
BLUE RIDGE, GA – Involving several issues that the city has addressed in the past, some with no resolve, the Blue Ridge City Council called a special meeting on August 1, 2017.
City Council members discussed and voted on the first reading of a Parking Ordinance Amendment. This amendment will remove Chapter 72 from the Code of the City of Blue Ridge and replace it, giving authority to change parking within city limits.
Wording in the Amendment specifically states that the city can now “provide for certain restrictive parking”, essentially putting the option of three hour parking back on the table for the city. Four council members voted in favor of this amendment with one opposing vote from Council member Rhonda Thomas.
When asked about her vote Thomas explained that she felt that the ordinance change had been rushed through. She stated, “I agree that something needs to be done, but not without a plan in place first.” She also added that Pacific Rail has been working diligently to come up with a plan and work with the city.
Council also addressed the long running issue of the city’s storm water damage. A main cause of the city’s flooding and lack of drainage is the varying size in the waste water piping. Some areas experience back up due to larger pipes being funneled down into smaller pipes that are unable to handle the volume. An engineer from Carter & Sloope was present at the meeting to provide council members with a detailed map of problem areas.
City Council member Angie Arp suggested to approach the dilemma in a piecemeal fashion rather than tackling the problem as a whole. The total cost for fixing the entire drainage system is an estimated $700,000.
Council and the representative from Carter & Sloope agreed that one of the least expensive sections to fix is located at the end of free parking. This area is represented as number 12 on the map( Phase I – Storm Drainage Revised 11-17-15-Aerial). City Council is set to discuss moving forward with this project at their regularly scheduled August meeting.
The City Council will hold their August meeting on Tuesday, August 8, at 6:00 P.M..where these issues will be further discussed.
Spoiling for a fight. The heated argument between the two city council members Angie Arp and Rhonda Thomas was well on its way before the meeting ever started. Arp obviously took issue with comments Thomas made the previous week concerning City Attorney David Syfan. Arp responded to Thomas’ comments through several early morning e-mails (e-mail text posted below). It reached a boiling point at last nights Blue Ridge City Council Meeting.
At the Blue Ridge City Council meeting on March 14th Councilwoman Angie Arp and Rhonda Thomas get into a heated argument. Arp addressed the council about recent comments concerning legal fees for the city of Blue Ridge. After showing her support for City Attorney David Syfan, Councilwoman Rhonda Thomas, took a different position than Arp’s concerning the legal costs. This resulted in a verbal fight between the two council members. It escalated to a point where council member Rodney Kendall yelled the point of order several times. Arp offered to Thomas to take it outside.
Sent: Sunday, March 12, 2017 3:24 AM
To: Donna Whitener; Rhonda Thomas
Subject: Re: Ada Street v. Blue Ridge – Ct. of Appeals Order Dismissing Appeal – IMPORTANT
My Dear Friends Donna and Rhonda,
How has your deceitful attacks and lies against me worked out for you so far? You LOST! Has it not hit either of you yet, that you have LOST every time you’ve gone against me and the council for that matter. Does it not get old always being on the losing side? Have either of you considered, you may just need to come to the realization that you are not going to ever win against me, no matter how dirty and deceitful you play. How long will you keep trying, it’s been almost four years now and your still getting your tail kicked. Where is the shame in that or better yet where is the pride in that. I like a challenge, but if I couldn’t do better than you’ve done, I believe I would wave the flag, pull may tail between my legs and go home.
I do have another question though, do you not find it odd that despite all your calculating, deceitful planning, orchestrated attempts and lying, you still have not been able to win at anything. Your attacks against me hasn’t effected me at all, except maybe gained me more favor, for being known as someone that don’t play the political game and certainly known as someone that don’t take no sh– from anyone or don’t care who you are or whether you like me or not.
Where is your elite group of supporters, none of you have been able to defeat me and now you’re all laying low, planning for one last attempt. Rhonda, as you have referred to confidently, a “new council” has it ever crossed your mind that you may not be part of the “new council”. Unless your luck changes and you can do something you haven’t been able to do in almost four years. If so, there may be a “new council”, if not, you lose again.
And Rhonda, I guess you’re eating crow right about now, I thought it was funny when an employee reminded me of the day you was in city hall, and so boldly and proudly quoted”Steve is going to win this lawsuit”. Now what do you have to say? Are you still going to strut into city hall, all confident and cocky, as if you’re somebody important? Rhonda Who? I’m curious, did you celebrate at the Black Sheep last night?
Joking aside, I really do hate that you both have cost the tax payers to date, $103,601 on this lawsuit, but one positive thing that may have came out of the lawsuit, is maybe at least it exposed the character of both of you, the trial certainly exposed that you were both not creditable witnesses, which is a polite way to say you’re not trustworthy. Even though you already had the reputation of having a “silver tongue”, and everyone knows about half of what comes out of your mouth, isn’t true, what the courts proved is different, because it involves tax payers money. Both of you went in to court for the sole purpose of lying to help your friend and you did it at the tax payers expense. Do you know how many people may have read the court transcript, and do you have any idea of what one could conclude after reading it?
And as for GMA, who knows what this has cost them. An attorney that has worked for GMA for 35 years said they have never seen elected officials testify for anyone that sued the city, ( the plaintiff) And he’s been around a long time and seen a lot. That says a lot about both of you and I’m sure you both have a really good reputation with GMA now. Donna, it doesn’t matter that you got on a board, due to the fact that no one else wanted to be on it, you will get courtesy, but you have no respect. Just a bug in your ear, for when you mingle at the next Mayor Conference, you have no idea what people really think of you. Just imagine if everyone is like you, untrustworthy, you’ll never know. I heard the rumor was you didn’t compare to the past mayors Blue Ridge has had. I can probably believe that some people may think that, I’ve even had people that actually supported you tell me that. Good grief I supported you and was saying that after about two years too.
Donna, I had hoped you had turned a new leaf, I heard someone at city hall say you said the most important thing in your life was your salvation, you told me that to. But all it takes is for someone to listen to you talk. Half of what you say still is not true, has it just become a bad habit? I have often wondered how you would answer God if he ask you where you lived when you served as mayor of Blue Ridge, what are you going to tell him? Are you going to say Lord, my home (domicile) is at Orvin Lance Drive, a two bedroom, one bath apartment above Town and County Furniture, where I live with 9 other people, but you’ve blessed me an investment property in Staurolite, so I stay there some too!
Its a good day and its good news, I’m just having a little fun with the facts , I was told I needed to get another hobby, other than increasing my portfolio, so maybe I have and maybe its’s beating both of you at your own game. I’ve actually done pretty good so far, don’t you think.
I’ve practically begged and pleaded with both of you, to put the personal aside, forgive and forget and try to get along, but you both seem to have no interest in that and both continue to wage war against me, you just continue to force me to do what I do best, and that’s WIN!
I still would love nothing more than to call a truce, but if you dont want to, I’ll continue to beat you at your own game.
Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2017 1:16 AM
To: Rodney Kendall; Bruce Pack; Harold Herndon; Rhonda Thomas; Donna Whitener
Cc: Sally Smith; Roy Parsons
Subject: City Attorney Attack
After speaking with several of you individually today about the attack on the city attorney made by Rhonda, I think this should go on the agenda to discuss and clarify at the meeting. We all have information from David that we could use to get the record straight as well. David has done a good job for the city and has represented the council well in a lawsuit that could have been over in a fraction of the time and a fraction of the cost, if it had not been for both Donna and Rhonda’s involvement, starting with an illegal veto.
The council made their decision and it should have been final, and that’s the root of the problem. They want their way as they had it in their first term, neither of them have any respect for the council, the authority of the council, the city attorney, the citizens of Blue Ridge or the tax payers money. There willingness to betray the city and the tax payers in an attempt to help their friends, speaks volumes. Quite frankly the attack on David and the untruthful statements made by Rhonda, frustrate me more than anything she has done toward me. I can handle anything she dishes out at me, but when she starts attacking others, it is disturbing.
We have 9 months to go in this term, lets make sure that this type of thing does not happen again, the majority of the council has all authority. We do not have to allow Donna, Rhonda or anyone tohinder the decisions of the council. We have a lot of things to accomplish in a short amount of time. Please support me in putting a stop to any further hindrances and tactics by either Donna or Rhonda. They have both caused turmoil, strife, and unproductiveness within the city, not to mention the shame brought upon the city for their actions. They have both failed to keep their oath to the people that elected them.
Lets remember the tactics they have attempted in order to defy the council and the tactics the will try in the council meetings in an attempt to promote themselves as the election grows closer. Our meetings are for the majority of the council to make decisions, lets remember our role and adhere to our policy. They will both try to use the meetings as a political chess piece, it will be up to us to keep these meetings in order and run by the policy.
It takes a motion and a second to discuss and if the discussion is not what we want to hear it takes a motion and a second for the council to vote to end discussion.
Let me know if any of you want this on the agenda.
After the events leading up to the resignation of the City of Blue Ridge Election Supervisor, the city council made decisions that would lead them to ask a representative from the Fannin County Board of Elections to oversee the currently ongoing city election.
The Fannin County Board of Education was presented the opportunity to apply for a low power FM radio license. Dr. Michael Gwatney and Scott Barnstead presented the offer before the Board of Education prior to applying. (more…)
The Blue Ridge City Council held their monthly meeting on Tuesday, September 10. The city hall was somewhat fuller than usual with candidates seeking election seeming to take an interest in new business on the agenda. Despite the increase of those in attendance, the meeting was the usual, short and sweet meeting. (more…)
The deadline to qualify for running for office for the city of Blue Ridge was today at 4:30 pm. FYN was there at the close of the qualifications to see who would be seeking a position. (more…)
Some Blue Ridge vendors say they do not to want leave their downtown location. (more…)
Blue Ridge confirmed this week that it’s taking new steps to increase security at several city facilities. (more…)
The City of Blue Ridge is seeking to curtail its feral cat problem. (more…)
In an effort to retain its federal funding, the Blue Ridge City Council this week moved to update its Hazard Mitigation plan. (more…)
The Blue Ridge City Council passed a resolution last week to approve and designate the location of the Sunset Mountain Water Tank. (more…)