BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – The Blairsville City Council convened on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, at 6 p.m. at Blairsville City Hall. All council members were present, as was Mayor Jim Conley, City Attorney David Barrett and City Clerk Kaye McCann. Al Harper, interim president of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce was in attendance.
Immediately following the invocation and pledge, Barrett conducted the swearing-in of newly re-elected Mayor Conley and City Council Members Tony Dyer and Buddy Moore.
Mayor Conley recommended that the council reappoint Barrett as city attorney and McCann as city clerk. Both appointments were unanimously approved.
With the retirement of Larry Stephens, former superintendent of the Blairsville Water Treatment Plant, in December 2017, Danny Dillard, a 30-year city of Blairsville employee, was promoted and approved by the city council to replace Stephens as superintendent.
Mary Ruth Cook will replace Betty Easter this year as the Blairsville City Council liaison to the Union County Historical Society. Easter will continue as liaison to the Blairsville Airport. Tony Dyer will remain liaison to the Streets & Sidewalks Department. Rhonda Mahan will remain Blairsville City Council liaison to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and liaison to the Blairsville Police Department. Buddy Moore will continue as mayor pro tempore and liaison to the Water/Sewer Dept.
The 2018 Intergovernmental Agreements with Blairsville DDA, Union County Historical Society and Blairsville/Union County Chamber of Commerce for Hotel/Motel Tax distribution was unanimously approved as follows: DDA allowed 25 percent, Historical Society allowed 25 percent, the Chamber allowed 40 percent and the city taking 10 percent for administrative costs.
A resolution to renew existing annual contracts (mostly service contracts) was unanimously approved.
The annual donation of $5,000 to the Blairsville Public Library was unanimously approved. Cook asked that the donation be reviewed for increase prior to the 2019 budget process. The mayor and city council agreed.
The city council unanimously rejected any change in the language of Alcohol Ordinance #2017-04 regarding taxes. Union County Tax Commissioner Lee Knight asked that the council make the renewal of Blairsville alcohol licenses dependent on county taxes being current. The city council in its entirety felt that it is not the responsibility of the city of Blairsville to collect Union County taxes.
Blairsville Airport Manager John Hamler reported that the new Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) equipment will be installed by David Brown Technology on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 8 and 9 and that the grounding issues had been addressed and new wiring was installed. He said Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors would be there on Wednesday, Jan. 10, to certify the new installation. Hamler said having an operational AWOS will be a big boost for airport safety and that the Atlanta flight center will be much more likely to route air traffic to Blairsville in less-than-optimal weather conditions, which will drive airport income. Hamler also said the $119,000 of AWOS equipment was completely paid for by the state of Georgia, and it did not cost the city of Blairsville a dime. And last, he said the new airport security cameras are operational and working very well.
The mayor broached the agenda item of airport fuel storage tanks. Conley informed the council that the Jet-A fuel storage tank, which was originally going to be placed on the north side of the airport where the new terminal is located, would have to be placed on the south side. He said, because Air Methods medical air transport helicopters use Jet-A fuel and self-serve at all hours of the day and night, he and Hamler felt that everyone would be better served by placing the Jet-A tank away from the terminal side. The plan now is to place the Jet-A tank where the AvGas tank now rests and relocate the AvGas tank over to the north side of the airport. Conley said he is working with Hamler on a plan to move the AvGas tank at no cost to the city of Blairsville (see video). The council unanimously approved a resolution to allow Conley to proceed with the plan.
In other department head reports, DDA Program Manager Darren Harper reported the next DDA Meeting would be Jan. 9, 2018, and that the events for 2018 were in the works. Ottis Franklin, superintendent of Water and Sewer Maintenance, reported a few residential water supply lines had frozen but had been resolved. Blairsville Police Chief Johnny Carroll reported nothing out of the ordinary. Conley asked for a vote on the acquisition of a new vehicle for the Blairsville Police Department. The council unanimously approved a bid from King Ford for a 2018 model at a price of $26,180.
The city council discussed the question of whether to allow only Blairsville residents to be interred at the Blairsville Cemetery. Cook requested the issue be tabled until February so council members could give the issue some consideration.
An Occupational Tax Certificate was unanimously approved for Blairsville Internal Medicine, Inc., 374-A Pat Haralson Drive, Mary E. Wiles, president.
Sign Permit Applications were approved for:
• Kenya L. Patton PC/North Georgia Law Group, 44B Blue Ridge Street, Kenya Patton, applicant; and
• Made by Mamz, 294 W. Hwy 515, Suite L, Anna Burbage, applicant.
Occupational Tax Certificate and Sign Permit Applications were approved for:
• Chelsea Stephens Photography, 370C Cleveland Street, Chelsea Stephens, owner; and
• Custom Cakes by Stacy, 307C Cleveland Street, Stacy Moot, owner.
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Blairsville, GA – The Blairsville City Council convened for their September Meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 at 6 p.m. at Blairsville City Hall. Mayor Jim Conley, Council Members Rhonda Mahan, Betty Easter, Tony Dyer and Buddy Moore were present. City Clerk Kaye McCann and City Attorney David Barrett were also present.
Darren Harper, Downtown Development Authority Program Manager, said the Eclipse Event went very well; that the Square was ‘packed’. He said the Merchants Meeting on August 31st was attended by about 40 people, lasted for 2 hours, went very well and that the Blairsville merchants are pleased overall with the way things are going. The main topics of discussion, he said, were parking, sidewalks and crosswalks. Harper said there have been a lot of inquiries about retail space recently. The Heritage Festival, he said, over the Labor Day Weekend was a huge success. All the merchants did well, he said. Hotel/motel tax revenue has consistently increased and about one merchant per month has opened a business in Downtown Blairsville over the last four years, he said. Harper updated the Council on the Haralson property; that is, the planned construction of a new building on Pat Haralson Drive across from the Foodland grocery store between Young Harris Street and the Square. Harper displayed artist renditions of the new building. He said the project has progressed to the point where the design is set; now the construction costs need to be reviewed and approved by the owner, Steve Cochran. Harper also updated the Council on the remodeling of the building on Blue Ridge Street across the parking lot from Copeland’s Restaurant and the planned buildings at that site (see FYN Aug. 7, 2017 article). Harper said the new buildings all together will not only add ambiance to Downtown Blairsville, they will also add about 14,000 square feet of much needed retail space and about 8,000 square feet of residential space. The apartments are planned to be about 600-800 square feet in size.
John Hamler, Manager of the Blairsville Municipal Airport, reported that the Grand Opening of the new W.C. Nelson Airport Terminal building hosted about 150 people and was great fun. He said the day before the Eclipse Event 3,500 gallons of aviation fuel was sold, and the day of the Eclipse 55 planes came into the airport and 5,500 gallons of fuel was sold. He said about 250 people were there for the Eclipse Event. Hamler said airport operations have moved completely over to the new building now. There are a few quirks to work out, but, he said, nothing major. He said Chris Dyer, the Assistant Airport Manager, will be leaving as of Sept. 15 in pursuit of furthering his aviation career and that a replacement was needed. He said they are staying very busy with five jets in over the weekend and three came in that day. The new Jet-A fuel truck, he said, is a real boon for the airport; that it’s been in use every day. Hamler said the Blairsville airport currently averages about 45,000 takeoffs and landings a year.
Mayor Conley brought up the need for ground transport for employees to cross the runway to pump aviation fuel for small planes (avgas), since the new terminal is on the opposite side of the field from the old one. Mayor Conley said he had consulted with Larry Garrett about acquiring a golf cart with a gas engine and would have more on that issue at the next meeting. Hamler mentioned that they would also need another credit card machine, as well, to reduce the number of runway crossings for avgas transactions.
Mayor Conley called for a public hearing on the Amended Alcohol Ordinance to which no one spoke. He then asked for a first reading of the Alcohol Ordinance 2017-03 amended to include Sections 10-76(a), 10-76(b) and 10-79(n) regulating signage advertising or promoting alcohol sales. The Sections restrict the advertising and promotion of alcohol in the City of Blairsville. The Sections have not been completely vetted and approved by City Attorney Barrett. Barrett pointed out to the Council some vagueness in some of the terms of the Sections after some discussion. McCann said she would obtain a copy of the Union County Alcohol Ordinance so the Council and Barrett can ensure that they are compatible. Copies of the proposed Sections can be reviewed at City Hall.
Mayor Conley presented the Georgia Department of Transportation FY 2018 Contract – Avigation Easement and Land Acquisition for RPZ Obstruction Removal at Runway 8 and 26; DBE Plan Update (18-20); RPZ Obstruction Removal for Runway 8 and 26. He said the contract won’t go into effect until March of 2018, but GDOT needs a commitment from the City for its portion of the cost: $41,833. The Council unanimously approved the contract.
McCann explained to the Council the issues involved in the 2018 Health Insurance Renewal for City employees. She said she received notice of an increase of 13 per cent from Blue Cross/Blue Shield though GMA in August. She said they currently have a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) type group insurance plan. She said after she investigated other group plans, that a Point of Service (POS) insurance plan would lower their premiums and would save the City $10,000 per year without any change in deductibles or quality of service. The Council voted unanimously to change over to a POS plan.
In other Department Head Reports, Blairsville Police Officer Michael ‘Bear’ Baxter reported that there were 120 calls responded to in August. He said the Eclipse Event went very smoothly and wasn’t nearly as bad as had been feared. He said the new police vehicle would be delivered this month. Baxter said one thing of note was the first drug arrest in Blairsville that involved the seizure of heroine mixed with Fentanyl, a drug that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.
Ottis Franklin, Superintendent of the Water and Sewer Plant reported that the Kimsey Street paving project had been completed; a lot of meters had been set due to the increase in construction this year; and reported no problems.
Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Jody Cook reported that #1 Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) tank was up and running and the #2 SBR tank was down, but should be back in service in the near future. He said there will be a student tour of the plant with 5th through 8th graders coming up. Cook had no other problems to report.
Mayor Conley addressed the Council regarding a suggestion that the Blairsville Municipal Airport, officially named Robert Colwell Field, be changed officially to another name: Jack Tarpley Field or Charles Hill Field. No member of the Council was in favor of pursuing that name change and the matter was dropped.
The Council approved an Occupational Tax Certificate Application for Harry Norman Realtors, 63 Murphy Highway, David Allsteadt, Corporate Officer.
The Council approved a Sign Application for Ingles Markets, 207B Highway 515, Chad Priest, Applicant.
Having no further business to conduct, the Council adjourned.
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