Council Discusses Direction for Blairsville’s Growth

Community, News
growth

Blairsville, Ga – City council addressed next steps for Blairsville’s rapid growth and how to handle the future.

Councilman Robert Moore brought up the Haralson Property lots and suggested leaving the remaining lots undeveloped.

Another restaurant will hopefully close eight-tenths of an acre, and if that goes through, then a little over an acre will remain.

“I think we need the greenspace myself. If we cut any more trees, it’s just going to ruin the town,” said Councilman Mary Ruth Cook.

Mayor Jim Conley confirmed that the lot across from Cook’s Resturant would be left, “It’s already been determined that the property across from Cook’s would be hung on to because we definitely need to have the parking.”

Moore stated that the city council needs to address future plans with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

Councilman Tony Dyer announced that the next Downton Development Authority (DDA) meeting on July 9 will be open to the public, “The purpose of the meeting is to throw out ideas and see what we want to do from now on.  I think that’s a good thing to bring up.”

The city doesn’t have any authority as to how the property is sold but can provide input and suggestions for future plans. However, it’s the city council’s decision to relieve the DDA of the existing debt. If the current restaurant deal closes, $200,000 will be due to the DDA.

“I agree with you that we need to slow down with anything else we do,” said Dyer in response to Moore’s suggestion to consider the future of the city.

During Police Chief Michael Bear Baxter’s report, he commented that the new police department should be ready to move into within the month.  Rock’s currently being laid on the building.

“Power should be hooked up next week. Everything is ready to go. Of course, with us moving in, we have to have some things,” stated Baxter.

Councilman Rhonda Mahan asked if the remodel would include new furniture.

Conley confirmed that it would have new kitchen appliances, but office furniture would be moved from the current location.

“Some of that’s not worth moving,” said Mahan, “That stuff’s been here forever. The chairs are falling apart.”

Dyer joined in, “I think it may be up to us, whether they get anything new or not. All of us. Some of that stuff is too old to move over there to that structure.”

The current furniture came from the school, who stored it in a barn until giving it to the police department. Baxter conceded that some new desks, chairs, and other materials might be needed.

“Especially the chairs,” commented Baxter “The ones the public use, when we bring somebody in, they’re bad. They’re. bad.  I wouldn’t want to sit in one. You don’t need fabric chairs for the public. It’s not feasible. They look terrible. They’re stained up. Some of the things we need should be replaced.”

Baxter also commended Officer Shawn Dyer for spending the construction money wisely and stretching the dollar for the city.

Moore recommended that Baxter bring proposals for new furniture to the next council meeting.

Additionally, DDA Program Manager Darren Harper reported that the city earned $3,360 from the Spring Arts and Crafts festival.

“It’s higher than we ever had, and there are ways that we want to tweak it so next year it can be even better,” commented Harper.

Also, downtown business owners told Harper that they’re having really good numbers and are making more money than in 2018.

Wastewater Plant Starts Processing Landfill Runoff

News

Blairsville, Ga – Blairsville’s Wastewater (WWTP) plant to begin processing leachate from local landfills after City Council approves a partnership with The Water Authority (TWA).

TWA approached Superintendent of WWTP Jody Cook two months ago about allowing the company to use the plant for leachate processing. Blairsville’s WWTP makes a good candidate to take on processing due to the extra capacity in the tanks. TWA will pay the city $0.5 per gallon for the amount of leachate that the city accommodates.

“We’ve crunched the numbers and the amount of air available, we can treat it, and it would be a lot of revenue for the city,” explained Cook, “The only thing that we’ll have to purchase would be a pump because we don’t have an in-ground tank. We’re going to do a trial period, and they’ll give a pump until we get it approved by the city.”

In last month’s city council meeting, Cook and the council decided against adding leachate out of concerns that ammonia levels would be too high. However, after spending more time analyzing the procedure, Cook and TWA found that the WWTP can process leachate as long as enough air is available.

TWA’s proposal of $0.5 per gallon will provide the city in the worst case scenario with $526,600 a year if the plant only processes 28,800 gallons a day. The best-case scenario: if the plant can process 93,600 gallons a day, then TWA will pay the city $1,708,200 a year.

Councilman Tony Dyer asked, “This all is going to be hauled to us?”

Mayor Jim Conley confirmed, “It would be hauled to us and pumped into one of our digesters that is not in use at this time.”

The above ground tanks require the city to purchase a new pump to process the leachate.

It won’t alter the existing process at the WWTP, just act as an additive. It’s a chance for extra revenue for the city. Blairsville’s WWTP currently using approximately 30 percent of the facilities capacity at the moment.

“I don’t think they’ve tried it in an SVR plant before, which is why they want to have a trial,” said Cook, “We can’t violate our permit period, so if that happens then we don’t do it. I don’t foresee that, and we have no issue with ammonia, and we’re not using all the air in the tank now.”

The plan’s to start slow and let the organisms acclimate to the leachate with 5 gallons a minute for two weeks, then increase it to ten gallons a minute. Eventually, leachate will reach the 15 gallons a minute and maintain that setting.

Ellijay has implemented a similar process, and Cook visited the facility to see how it works and how Blairsville can undertake the process.

“I talked to the operator down there, and he said as long as you’ve got enough air, then you can treat it. There’s nothing else bad in it. It’s just high ammonia,” stated Cook.

TWA’s a Georgia Environmental Service Company and owned by several parties including State Senator Steve Gooch who explained that the treatment of leachate by under capacity plants’s a “good source of revenue for the city.”

“Typical municipal systems and septic waste systems take it,” said Gooch, “It’s a clean and effective way to dispose of the liquid and to treat it.”

Leachate consists of water, suspended materials, dissolved solids, nitrogen, and other organic substances, which makes it ideal to supplement the WWTP living ecosystem. The nitrogen will turn into ammonia during the aeration.

By adding leachate to the plant on days when the plant can’t maintain a level feeding schedule for the organisms in the WWTP. By using an empty process tank to store the leachate, it can readily meter the substance into the plant.

Until recently, most activated sludge plants operated at a max flow of 200mg/L BOD and TSS at 20mg/L ammonia loading. The TKN will be around 40-60mg/L. To better illustrate this example, TWA provided the following: A plant designed at 1.0 MGD should process 200mg/L BOD and 20mg/L and it can remove 1668 lbs/day of BOD and 166 lbs of ammonia. However, if the plant only operates at 0.35 mg/L with an average of 150mg/L and 15mg/L, then it’s only processing 437 lbs/day of BOD and 44 lbs/day of ammonia.

The leachate will keep the organisms at the WWTP eating at a slow rate by maintaining an even flow at all times.

Timberlake Pleads Case to City Council

News, Police & Government

Blairsville, Ga – Timberlake Custom Homes pleaded with the council to grant the variance permit after it was denied last month.

The variance was denied in May’s meeting due to being 28 square foot oversized.  The city’s sign ordinance stated that all freestanding signs must be 60 square-foot and 20 feet high.

Managing Partner Chip Shively addressed the city council about the sign and apologized for not understanding the process.

Managing Partner of Timberlake Custom Homes Chip Shively spoke to city council about his sign.

“Thank you for hearing us again, “said Shively.

He explained the reasoning behind renovating the existing steel sign, citing age and marketing.

“We took that existing sign and were just trying to dress it up a bit. It never occurred to me that it would need a permit for that, and it’s my fault. I apologize.”

Timberlake Custom Homes covered the existing sign in wood to make it more attractive to passersby. The freestanding sign also included other businesses in that shopping center. The old sign featured fluorescent lights. Shively replaced the fluorescents with LED bulbs to save on costs.

The wood addition will weather over time, which is why Timberlake Custom Homes added the roof to the top of the sign. An electronic piece sits inside the sign too in order to combat the weathering. The business spent $200,000 during the renovations to the signage.

Shively admitted the sign is three feet too high with the roof and requested a variance for that.

Timberlake Custom Homes operated out of Hiawassee for 20 years and recently moved to Blairsville due to all the work that they have done in the community.

“We’re excited about being in Blairsville,” stated Shively, “We want to be a strong member of this community who can contribute and be here for a long time.”

Mayor Jim Conley stated that he didn’t know LED bulbs were used in the businesses’ signs.

“It paints a different picture. They’ll still be 28 square-foot out of compliance, so what we’ll be issuing is a variance on 3 foot in height and 28 square-foot in overall size,” explained Conley.

Remax Town and County Agent Paige Thorton spoke on behalf of Timberlake Custom Homes. The businesses share the lot, and she’s their real estate agent.

“It really gives 515, as his neighbor and real-estate agent, a really nice look. We, at State Farm and Remax, have no problem with it,” said Thorton, “I can attest that Chip has been in business for 24 years in Murphy and Towns County, and he did see the value of Union County.”

“What makes it too high is just the little roof?” asked Councilwoman Rhonda Mahan. The mayor confirmed that yes, the roof added the extra three feet. The extra 3×8 design for the design center puts it over as well. Shively offered to “blackout” that part.

Councilman Tony Dyer offered “Has anything been grandfathered-in?”

Mayor Conley stated that signs had been grandfathered-in before the sign ordinance was put in place. He also added that he wanted to give Timberlake Custom Homes the variance.

Dyer agreed, “I know they got a lot of money in it, and I want to work with them.”

Business Held Accountable For Violating Sign Ordinance

News

Blairsville, Ga – City Council uploads sign ordinance for the city of Blairsville by denying a permit variance.

Timberlake Custom Homes, located on the four-lane between Ingles and The Home Depot, remodeled the State Farm building and the accompanying sign. The business requested a permit variance due to the remodeled sign no longer accommodating the city’s sign ordinance.

“Their sign is 23 foot tall and 80 square foot free standing. It’s 20 square foot too much, as far as the ordinance and three foot too high,” Mayor Jim Conley told the room.

The current ordinance states that signs can only be up 60 square foot in size.

The extra three feet in height comes from the arch added to the top of the sign. The top could be removed, and the sign would meet the height requirement, but still be 20 square foot over as a free standing sign.

City Council denied a permit variance for the new Timberlake Custom Homes business along the four-lane.

Due to the location of the sign, Councilman Buddy Moore remarked that “It’s a bad place to start getting bigger and bigger.”

Timberlake didn’t provide the sign’s height for two months after being asked to provide information to the city government. Also, the business didn’t ask about the freestanding sign ordinance before building it.

“All of our freestanding signs are within the ordinance,” said Mayor Conley.

The council will review the occupational tax certificate and sign permit for Timberlake Custom Homes once the sign meets the ordinance requirements.

Paw Park Project Seeks Advice from City Council

Community, Outdoors

Blairsville, Ga – Paw Park Project approached the Blairsville City Council about creating a suitable dog park for the city and Union County.

Gracian Sabo represented the Paw Park Project and the local Boy Scout Troop, who have pledged to support the project if it moves forward. The Boy Scouts aren’t sponsoring the project, but they have promised to help raise funds once the land becomes available.

“Many dogs have been injured due to the exposed roots and fallen branches [in the existing park], and the 4,608 square foot fenced in space is inadequate for any dog to run, play catch, or socialize with other dogs,” said Sabo of the current dog park.

He compared it to the dog park in Blue Ridge which covers 21,000 square feet and draws many Union County residents.

Paw Park Logo

The Paw Park Project is currently taking signatures for its petition.

The American Kennel Club recommended one acre of land for a park with a four- to six-foot chain-link fence and double gate entry.

“Our off-leash area falls way below any minimum standards, and we are bringing these substandard conditions to your attention, in hope, that you’ll support the Paw Park Project and help us find a piece of land to build a new and improved off-leash area,” proposed Sabo.

Sabo and the Paw Park Project launched a petition on Monday, May 6 and has received more 50 signatures and positive online comments by the time of the meeting on Tuesday, May 7.

Mayor Jim Conley responded to Sabo, “We all understand your plea here, wanting an area that is much greater than what I am assuming is Meeks Park dog section…the city has no area or property of our own that would be anything suitable for something like this.”

Mayor Conley also asked if the Paw Park Project had any land of their own that could serve their purpose within the county. The representatives stated that HOAs wouldn’t allow the development of a dog park and that’s why they’re coming to the city and the county to find a public space.

Mayor Conley suggested talking to the county to find a piece of properly zoned property and reaching out to the tax commissioner’s office to assist with the search.

New Sidewalks Coming to the Downtown Area

Announcements, News

Blairsville, Ga – Blairsville City Council approved new sidewalks for the downtown area in the May 7, 2019 meeting.

Rustic Mountain owner June McEldowney and other small-business owners attended the city council meeting to have their questions about the sidewalks answered and stay updated.

The project to improve downtown’s sidewalks and fix drainage issues received funding approval from the city council.

For the drainage problem, a pipe will run underneath Merchants Walk driveway and flow into a drain that empties into the stream behind city hall.

Merchants Walk

Frocks and Furniture and other businesses along Merchants Walk and downtown will benefit from the new sidewalks

The placement of the pipe will catch all the water that goes around the curve to keep it out of the parking lot as well.

“The sidewalk will extend right past the Copeland’s restaurant, where you see all the markings where people aren’t supposed to park. That’s where the sidewalk will end at this time,” said Mayor Jim Conley, “but once I figure out exactly where the right of way is that goes in front of the bike shop and the front of Mr. Duckworth’s property that sidewalk will be extended up to the present sidewalk.”

The new sidewalks won’t affect current parking along Blue Ridge Street.

McEldowney asked about adding a crosswalk to the area. Mayor Conley indicated that there are plans for a crosswalk, but the exact location hasn’t been decided. “We definitely need a crosswalk,” confirmed Mayor Conley. The eventual crosswalk will include all necessary warnings to slow down motorists like flashing lights and slow down signs.

Colwell Construction Company estimated $14,987 for the project, and it’s scheduled to begin as soon as possible. SPLOST funds will pay for the sidewalks.

Uptick in queries for Downtown space revealed at Blairsville City Council Meeting; City to reimburse employees for short-term disability insurance premiums

News
Blairsville City Attorney David Barrett

Blairsville City Attorney David Barrett

The Blairsville City Council (Council) convened on Tuesday, March 4, 2017 at 6 p.m. for the regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Mayor Jim Conley and City Council Members Rhonda Mahan, Martha Cone, Buddy Moore, Betty Easter, City Attorney David Barrett and City Clerk Kaye McCann were present. Council Member Tony Dyer was absent. Department heads Darren Harper of the Downtown Development Authority, Jody Cook of Wastewater Management, Officer Michael Baxter of Blairsville Police Department and Larry Stevens of Water Treatment attended.
Harper reported, “There has been an uptick in businesses looking for a place to expand in Blairsville.” He said he’s had inquiries from two businesses currently located in Blue Ridge (GA) that are looking to get out of Blue Ridge. He said his contacts cited infighting (within city/county govt.) and (inconveniences due to) construction as reasons for people looking for new places to invest their dollars; and, he said, Blairsville is high on the list. Harper said the biggest challenge in Blairsville is that there are so few buildings available to place people/businesses in the downtown area. He said “the word on the street both in Hiawassee and in Blue Ridge is that we all get along. People have been watching us from afar. A lot of business owners are coming to Blairsville to do shopping, to go dining out and they’re scoping us out in the process”.
Conley broached the subject of employee insurance and turned it over to McCann. McCann said when new employees are hired, they are offered life and short-term disability insurance through Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) with Greater Georgia Life Insurance. In a notice GMA sent on another matter, they informed the City that a minimum level of individual employee life insurance and short-term disability insurance is supposed to be paid for by the employer (City). McCann said she contacted GMA for guidance because she knew that the City had been offering employees short-term disability insurance as an employee paid option, currently $18 per month. She said according to the 2012 declaration page (Council approved this insurance in January 2012) of the insurance policy, it is stated that this insurance is mandatory and is supposed to be paid for by the City. McCann said the significance of this is that the City will need to add short-term disability to all current employees as far back as 2012 and pay the insurance company for it. Additionally, she said, the City will have to reimburse all current and past employees as far back as 2012 who had taken the insurance and paid a monthly premium. Conley said there is no question about paying Greater Georgia Life for unpaid premiums and reimbursing employees for the short-term disability insurance they carried. He said the question now is whether the Council wants to continue carrying short-term disability insurance for its employees. The Council agreed that this is a great benefit for City employees. Moore made a motion that the City keep the policy as is with short-term disability for employees paid by the City at a rate of approximately $6,000 per year. The motion carried unanimously.
Conley opened the floor for public comment on the First Reading of Ordinance No. 2017-02 to amend Ordinance No. 2016-02 to Regulate the Sale of Alcoholic Beverages in the City of Blairsville, Georgia to add a section regulating brown-bagging of alcoholic beverages for holders of an alcohol license. No public comments were forthcoming, but discussion ensued as to how the Council overlooked this area of Prohibited Activities as mirrored in the Union County, Georgia Code. Union County, Georgia – Code of Ordinances, Chapter 10, Article III, Sec. 10-81 (k) states: Brown-bagging of alcoholic beverages, that is, to allow anyone to take any alcoholic beverage into any public establishment, such as a restaurant, or to any licensed special event, is hereby forbidden at any time and on any days in any establishment or special event where anyone holds an alcohol license under this article. This means no BYOB to your favorite restaurant or function where the owner of the premises holds an alcohol license on any day of the week including Sunday. No one on the Council knows how this section of the Alcohol Ordinance was missed or deleted. Conley said this section was there when the original Alcohol Ordinance was first established. Ordinance 2017-02 will more than likely be adopted by the Council after the Third Reading, which is legally required procedure for adoption of ordinances.
Conley asked the Council to consider the proposed Cook Street Water Line Replacement Project. He said the construction cost estimate is $85,000; engineering cost estimate is $34,000 which includes $9,000 for contingency. He said the project would run from Hood Street to Shoe Factory Road and includes three new fire hydrants. Moore made a motion to approve the project. The motion carried unanimously. The bid process will now move forward.
Stevens reported that a Sanitary Survey was conducted by the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (EPD) in February. He said the survey indicated the water tanks are due for their five-year inspection and that the bases at the water plant need rehab. Conley said he is aware of these issues and a plan is in the works for the rehab and other concerns and that outside contractors would be needed for this project because of the nature of the concrete work required. Conley said the project will be more than simple maintenance and that there are SPLOST funds available to fund it. This project “is not going to be cheap”, he said.
Conley asked the Council for their input on the issue of bringing water and sewer service to a commercial property on (Pat) Haralson Drive in light of the disclosure that Notla Water has agreed to provide water to the City at the discounted rate of $2.50 per 1,000 gallons. It was noted that the City would realize income by selling the water to the commercial customer at the current City rate. Moore asked if the service would be available to both commercial and residential customers, to which Barrett responded that it could be if he changed one word in the tentative agreement. Conley responded that, since there are no residences on that particular stretch of (Pat) Haralson Drive, the agreement should be left as is. Conley also noted the fact that, under the current Ordinance, the City could not provide sewer service to any customer that does not also have water service because the City would lose money by providing only sewer service. Moore also asked about the possibility of future requests for sewer and water farther along Pat Haralson. Barrett answered it would be cost prohibitive to run sewer any farther. The Council concluded that since both the City and the commercial customer would benefit by the City extending water and sewer service to the commercial location on Pat Haralson Drive, they would go forward with the project; a motion to that effect was unanimously approved.
There has been a problem with semi tractor-trailer trucks attempting to navigate downtown Blairsville and causing damage to other vehicles and to Blairsville property. Conley said he and Barrett have met and discussed this issue and are still in the process of developing a Truck Ordinance that will address this problem. He said he will, hopefully, have something more on this issue by the next City Council Meeting.
Baxter reported February was generally slow for the Police Department with “a little over 6,400 patrol miles”. With nothing else to report, he invited everyone out to the Hope House Super Chef Cook-off event that will be held at the First United Methodist Church (on Hwy 515, west of Blairsville) on Saturday, March 11, 2017 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Information for the Cook-off can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1316213908425029/.
The Council approved the 2017 Georgia Downtown Affiliate Network Memorandum of Understanding with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for the Downtown Development Authority.
The Council approved both Managing Agent Change Applications. One for Convenience Stores, Inc. dba Blairsville Marathon at 16 Bracketts Way by Michael Davis; and one for Copeland’s LLC at 17 Merchants Walk by Ahleah Eberhard.
The Council approved an Occupational Tax Certificate for Old Mountain Electronics, LLC at 60A Rogers Street for Shawn Jinkerson and Ronny Benfield.
The Council also approved Occupational Tax Certificates and Sign Permit Applications for Chapman and Chapman, PC at 49 Pruitt Circle for Lisa Strickland; Pam’s Back to Nature Health and Wellness Store at 294 Hwy 515 W, Suite G for Pamela Stanfield; and BDRGA Investments, LLC, dba Blue Mountain Vapor and Apparel at 253 E Hwy 515, Suite 1-C for Roger Craig.
With no further business to conduct, the Council then adjourned.

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