BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – New year means progress for Arby’s and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (Popeyes), which are moving along according to update from Downtown Development Authority (DDA) during the Jan. 2020 city council meeting.
“As of [Jan. 6], we received a request from [Arby’s] to extend the closing period by two days, which will be Jan. 20. Once it is closed, then they’ll need to go ahead and start construction,” stated DDA Program Manager Darren Harper.
The DDA previously granted Arby’s four extensions while trying to reach a sale agreement. Both parties finally made a deal in Dec. 2019 and now the DDA is waiting for the property sale to close.
Once the deal closes, Arby’s will take ownership of the lot across from Popeyes on the right side of Bob Head Road if looking from Hwy. 515.
Popeyes has started working on the building again, installing technology and internet components. The store signage and media materials should arrive at some point in Jan. However, the kitchen equipment is still pending delivery and would push the opening date back.
“The franchisee is hoping to open by mid-Feb.,” said Mayor Jim Conley. “In order to do that, his kitchen equipment has got to come at the same time his media equipment comes. So, if it doesn’t show up when the media stuff shows up, it may be later than Feb.”
In other restaurant opening news, Longhorn’s Steakhouse should also be opening in Feb. 2020.
Alcohol Policy Update: Distilleries
The first reading was held to amend the city’s alcohol policy concerning distilleries. The majority of the policy will remain the same, but adjustments will be made to the excise tax and clearly defining the operating parameters for distilleries within city limits.
The council must hold a second reading and approve the policy updates before anything goes into effect. However, the alcohol fee license schedule was adjusted for 2020 to include a section on manufacturing.
Blairsville, Ga – Union and Towns County formed the Trusted Voices committee for assistance with the 2020 census.
With the 2020 Census rapidly approaching – April 1, 2020, Union, Towns, Blairsville, Hiawassee, and Young Harris partnered with the Patrick Malone to form the Trusted Voices committee to ensure maximum participation.
“We had a meeting six week ago with a lady from the Governor’s Office, Anna Miller,” said Mayor Jim Conley “Commissioner Paris put together an agreement with Mr. Patrick Malone who is here tonight that puts [Malone] in charge of the working end of the Census.”
In the 2010 report, Union recorded around 85 percent of the total population. Towns recorded 87 percent.
Malone hopes to increase Census participation in 2020. The organization serves to encourage individuals to answer the survey through door-to-door visits and community engagements. These efforts will gear up in the fall to promote awareness.
“The committee’s known as the Trusted Voices Campaign. The responsibilities are really minor. It’s just being aware what’s going on with the Census and make sure that we exceed last Census’ participation rate,” explained Malone.
Blairsville City Council appointed Councilman Mary Ruth Cook and Councilman Rhonda Mahan to serve on the Trusted Voices committee to represent Blairsville’s interest. They will have one meeting with Malone and then spread the word in the community.
The city paid Trusted Voices $500 to utilize the service. Hiawassee and Young Harris also paid $500, but Union and Towns are expected to cover the rest of the cost.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Blairsville, Ga – Rushton & Company reviewed the 2018 fiscal year with the Blairsville City Council during the May 7 meeting.
Clay Pilgrim, CPA for Rushton & Company, delivered the 2018 audit to members of city council.
“We’re pleased to present that we have an unmodified and clean opinion on the city’s financial statements for 2018,” opened Pilgrim, “Nothing came to our attention to issue a modified opinion.”
The city’s net investment in capital assets for 2018 was $23,290,219. The net position consisted of capital assets, lest appreciation on those assets, lest any debt that was used to acquire those assets.
The net total for the city was $28,964,773. The number varied from the past three years due to capital grants and contributions.
“Large capital grants, you don’t have those year after year so they can cause variances. Since, this is full accrual basis of accounting, a lot of the time those capital grants are income, but you don’t have expenses with them because they capitalized and depreciated,” Pilgrim further explained.
In the General Fund, revenues increased $133,964 or 8.5 percent, which is a direct correlation to a tax increase of $124,566 and fines and forfeitures increase of $24,183.
Pilgrim addressed the tax escalations, “Important to note that those increases were largely title ad valorem tax at $41,000 and LOST at $54,000.”
Expenditures also grew in 2018 by $357,386 due to the purchase of property and personal services for the police department at $305,238 and general administration which increased by $40,513.
Water and Sewage Operating Revenue had decreased by $267,762. The decrease resulted from the 2017 project-related increase. However, the charges for water and sewage were up by $104,934. Operating expenses decreased by $151,213.
Airport Fund had decreased by $18,838 because of the reduction in jet fuel sales. Operating expenses were up by $53,259 because of the increase in the cost of sales and services.
“There was a deficit in the [Airport unrestricted net position] of $480,651,” said Pilgrim. This occurred due to grants made to the airport.
Pilgrim also discussed upcoming changes from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).
“GASB Statement No. 87 which is going to be on leases and change the approach on leases. Currently, we have operating leases and capital leases, and they are trying to move to a more single approach, said Pilgrim “more toward the capital lease side of things, a lot more things on the balance sheet.”
The change applies to most governments leases, including real estate, and finance purchases.
Mayor Jim Conley asked, “What if you got an office equipment lease?”
Pilgrim explained that it does apply to a copier and postage equipment lease. However, materiality will be a factor. Trivial leases are not applicable.
“GASB Statement No. 88 is also coming that is certain disclosures relating to debt, debt borrowings, and debt direct placements,” stated Pilgrim, “This one will really just add some additional disclosures in the financial statements, which we will assist with.”
Finally, Rushton & Company already implemented GASB 89, and it accounts for interests and costs during a construction period. The city no longer has to capitalize construction costs into certain funds when reporting them.
“We thank you for coming and for bringing our audit,” said Mayor Conley, “We appreciate your work.”
Pilgrim added, “If you have any questions after the meeting, feel free to reach out to him.”
Chamber of Commerce Director Steve Rowe stated, “The final payment on the Wi-Fi project using donated funds for the Wi-Fi that is going to be out at Meeks Park. It’s going to be free Wi-Fi and we’re shooting to have it installed before the Sorghum Festival.”
The police department received approval to purchase a new license plate reader because the current reader has become outdated. Also, the council approved the hiring of a part-time officer, Dustin Walker.
The council approved the auger style lime feeder for the water treatment plant. The current feeder no longer works due to the quality of the lime, and the plant had to use a more expensive chemical to change the water’s ph levels.
Sewage treatment plant installed new mixing tanks and decided against using Leech 8 due to the high ammonia. The plant handles 28-30 parts per million, but with Leech 8, the ammonia would be 2,000 parts per million.
Downtown Development Authority reported that over 75 vendors have signed up for May 24-25 Arts and Crafts Festival and 32 vendors for the Green Bean Festival in July.
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.
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.
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.
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.