Council Requests Information Before Approving Pumping Purified Water into Sewer

News
purified water

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – The city council asked Point to Point Environmental Representative for more information about the purified water and remediation plan before releasing it into the city sewer system.

Point to Point Environmental was hired to remediate the underground tank leak that stored petroleum /gasoline for Union County’s road department. The tank has been removed and new above-ground tanks are already in place.
However, the leaked petroleum needed extraction from the ground, and it leaked into a nearby creek, which ultimately feeds into Butternut.
The state labeled the situation as an emergency for immediate cleanup.
Currently, a generator and pumps treat the water that fills up the 18,000-gallon, impermeable barrier, trench. With an air stripper and carbon filters, the water is cleaned and then stored Oxford, GA.
Point to Point Environmental would like to place the purified water into Blairsville’s sewer system through a manhole located next to the health department. The maximum amount is estimated to be 15,000 gallons a day for two years.
It should come out looking like clear water.
The water goes into the sewer system with waste from toilets and sinks.
“What’s in it after you get done treating it?” asked Councilmember Robert Moore.

Moore asked for specifics about soil reports, contamination, and discharge reports.

The representative stated that nothing should be in the water after it is treated.
Mayor Jim Conley spoke for himself and Wastewater Superintendent Jody Cook, “We don’t think we need to handle this. The last time we had something like this come up, it was landfill water, and it confused the community. We weren’t very good stewards in the community, according to some.”
It cost the county 20 cents a gallon to haul it off and $500 per trip, which is why it would be more efficient and cheaper to place it in the sewer system.
EPD has yet to ask for a full remediation plan, so none exists. The 18,000-gallon trench is the first step, and next would be placing extraction wells to removing the remaining contaminated water.
“We’re not going to be placing contaminated water in the system,” Point to Point Representative Kevin Brown said, “If the city has any additional sampling and analysis requirements, we’d be happy to do that as well.”
Valdosta and Ashburn have worked with Point to Point Environmental for clean-up efforts in the past.
Conley asked for reports from these cities before the council would approve the dumping of purified water into the sewer system. Moore also asked for in-depth details about the frequency of contamination testing and an accurate sample plan.
The council won’t vote on the plan until Point to Point Environmental sends over more information.

Undetermined Number of New Cellular Poles Coming to Blairsville

Community, News
Cellular Poles

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – In a 4 to 1 vote, the city council approved the ordinance to collect fees from Verizon for the installation of small cell towers in Blairsville. Verizon confirmed that several new cellular poles will go up across town within the right of ways.

“Verizon designated Blairsville as a site where the cell service is weak at times,” explained Mayor Jim Conley, “The legislature passed a law in regards to small cell services giving them legally the right to come in and place poles in needed areas to put their equipment on.”

The poles won’t be above 50 feet and would have a small cell hardware device.

Originally, the city hoped that the Blue Ridge Mountain EMC (BRMEMC) and Verizon could work out a deal to use BRMEMC poles for some of the devices.

“It was understood in the first reading that we could use EMC poles as well,” said Council Member Tony Dyer.

Dyer asked what happened to negotiations between Verizon and BRMEMC before approving the ordinance.

Fetch Your News contacted BRMEMC about using EMC poles within the city, and they stated that they were still open to working with Verizon, but hadn’t heard from the company since Aug. 13. Verizon’s spokesperson stated that negotiations were still open as well.

However, Verizon told the city council differently before the Oct. meeting. Currently, it’s unclear how many poles or towers will be needed or if BRMEMC will be utilized at all.

The cellular corporation has a meeting scheduled with the mayor later in Oct. to discuss how many new poles will go up in the right of ways throughout the city.

The ordinance passed in the meeting allows Blairsville to charge Verizon for installing small cell towers across the town. According to the law passed by the Georgia Legislature, Verizon can legally install the towers to improve service without the ordinance’s approval.

Essentially, the towers are coming to Blairsville no matter what, but the passage of the ordinance ensures a monetary benefit.  The council can’t deny Verizon access.

Councilmember Betty Easter made a motion to pass the ordinance, Councilmember Rhonda Mahan seconded, and Councilmember Mary Ruth Cook voted against it.

At this time, Verizon hasn’t determined the number of new cellular poles coming to the area.

Mayor Proclaims Oct.23 to 31 Red Ribbon Week

Announcements, Community
Red Ribbon week

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – Mayor Jim Conley and the city council declared Oct. 23 to 31 as Red Ribbon Week during the Oct. 1 meeting.

“The city of Blairsville values the health and safety of all our citizens,” stated Mayor Jim Conley “substance abuse is particularly damaging to one of our most invaluable resources our children and a contributing factor to the three leading causes of death of children – accident, homicide, and suicide.”

Mayor Jim Conley

Mayor Conley reads Red Ribbon Week proclamation.

The goal of Red Ribbon Week is to involve the entire community and promote awareness and prevent drug use among young people. Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 by the National Family Partnership (NFP), formerly the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth. It is a grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to educating children, teenagers, and parents about the dangers of drugs.

“Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42% less likely to use drugs than those who don’t, yet only a quarter of teens report having these conversations.” –NFP

The Red Ribbon has helped millions of people around the world. It began as a response to the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, angered parents and youth in communities across the country began wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction cause by drugs in America.

“I urge all citizens to join me in the special observance,” said Conley.

During the week, everyone is asked to wear a red ribbon all week to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and educate others.

NFP’s work has nearly 100 Partners, consisting of local coalitions, PTO groups, and parent committees, which share resources, information, and ideas.

For those interested NFP has a pledge on its website for parents and children to sign and demonstrate their commitment to a drug-free culture.

Citizens Raise Concerns About Leachate Processing

News
Citizens Leachate

Blairsville, Ga – Several residents of Union County attended the September Blairsville City Council Meeting to ask about the handling of leachate at the wastewater and treatment plant.

Five members of the Lake Nottely Improvement Association expressed concerns about adding the processed leachate back into local bodies of water.

Ross Malme, who owns a seasonal home on Lake Nottely, asked, “What’s in the leachate, and what’s the system’s ability to handle that? Thirdly, what kind of third-party testing is being done to ensure water quality?”

Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Jody Cook stated that Georgia’s Environmental Protection Agency governs Blairsville’s wastewater treatment plant, and it decides everything that goes into the water.

The main ingredient in leachate is ammonia. Blairsville chose to process the compound because the plant has the extra air capacity to handle the processing. The leachate comes from The Water Authority (TWA).

Cook said, “I had heavy metals testing done on it, and most are non-detected. The highest thing that came back was manganese. It’s not a health concern to people. It just discolors the water. We can see a little bit of discoloration in the water going out, but you’re talking about 100,000 gallons of water a day going into trillions of gallons of water.”

Mayor Jim Conley confirmed Mountain True will test once a week above and below stream for the next three months for water quality. The testing includes the bacterial population. The discharge site is also tested every day and twice a week for permit purposes.

“TVA has a limit for how many gallons per day that we can put into the stream, which is 50,000 gallons a day. We’ll never ever be processing that amount of leachate per day,” said Conley.

Currently, the plant handles 11,000 gallons a day of leachate at six to eight gallons a minute.
The city’s current plant permit processing allows for 400,000 gallons a day with no plans to increase that limit.

Images courtesy of Blairsville-ga.gov.

In reports from before and after Leachate processing, ammonia elevated from .18 to .226 milligrams per day. This falls well within the 19 kilograms per day in the permitted limit.

The slight increase is expected since leachate carries a lot of ammonia.

Fecal bacteria also increased from less than 4 CFG per 100 ml to 5 CFG per ml for the monthly average. The permit limit for fecal bacteria is 200ml.

The wastewater treatment plant doesn’t have to run it that low but does so to keep pathogens out of the water.

August marked the first month the city began processing leachate. After taking the initial samples, the water treatment department has adjusted chlorine to accommodate the increased bacterial loading.

The city sends monthly reports to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.

City council has the final say on how much leachate comes into the plant, and Cook monitors the intake to assure the plant isn’t overwhelmed.

The plant hasn’t exceeded its permit limit and typically processes about 300,000 to 350,000 gallons a day.

“We would stop treating leachate if at any time we are unable to properly treat it whether it be for bacteria or any other issues. We are obligated to treat all water that passes through our system to meet the requirements of our permit, and generally, our discharge water is well below those limits,” stated Cook.

Verizon and City Reach Agreement On Expanding Cell Coverage

News

Blairsville, Ga – Verizon’s small cell towers and 4G coverage took a step closer to becoming a reality after Blairsville’ Mayor Jim Conley introduced an ordinance to the city council.

After the initial discussion of adding small cell towers in May 2019, Verizon, City of Blairsville, and Blue Ridge Mountain EMC (BRMEMC) have reached an agreement about using existing EMC poles for the small cell towers.

However, Verizon might need to add a pole in the right of way within city limits to ensure accurate coverage of the area.

Small cell towers refer to radio transmitters to assist with cell coverage within the city limits, but as of now, it doesn’t extend into Union County.

“Where would they go? I don’t want one in my front yard,” stated Councilmember Mary Ruth Cook, “I don’t want it just going up willy-nilly. Do we have any say-so where they go?”

Conley responded, “In the right of way and that’s already dedicated, it would be the same if EMC wanted to put a pole there.”

A small cell facility will house an antenna that takes up no more than six cubic feet, and all other equipment will be no larger than 26 cubic feet.

The size of micro small cell towers is approximately 24 inches in length, 15 inches in width, 12 inches in height, and an antenna of no more than 11 inches.

Small Cell Tower

Examples of the units installed on top of a light pole. Provided by Verizon.

“Our approach is that we would like to use the existing infrastructure so utility poles, light poles, and only if we have no other option would we seek to put in new poles. We have agreements with GDOT. Also, we’re working with BRMEMC to collocate on something like this,” commented Eleanor Callaghan.

Callaghan also speculated on the number of small cell towers needed for Blairsville and asserted 15 at the most. However, the project is still in the engineering phase, and no final numbers are available at this time.

Councilmember Tony Dyer asked Verizon representative to speak to the need of this technology in Blairsville.

“It’s so we can densify our network because with all the data usage that people have,” remarked Callaghan, “It shows that we need to improve.”

Georgia Legislature made the small cell tower initiative into law last year, and the city has until October 1st to enact it. The city will receive a three percent fee from Verizon for installing small cell towers in the city.

Blairsville City Council must approve permits for placement in right of way locations.

The ordinance still could change before the October 1st signing date.

Widening 515 Requires City to Move Water and Sewer Lines

News
water sewer

Blairsville, Ga – Blairsville City Council approved EMI engineers preliminary evaluations costs to reevaluate water and sewer locations due to the expansion of Hwy 515.

GDOT will only supplement existing lines. It won’t assist in the expansion of water or sewer services. Currently, sewer stops at the Sears building and water ends at Bowling Gap.

“The only restitution from DOT, whatever we get it will only be to supplement what size lines we have in the ground now,” “We’re proposing to place a 10-inch sewer line on up through there.”

A meeting with EMI with utility aid from GDOT will be held on August 12 of the month to go over the plan. GDOT’s trying to develop a plan that removes responsibility from state organization for new water and sewer lines. However, the city will still have to move lines whether it’s in GDOTs right of way or not.

Councilmember Mary Ruth Cook asked, “Have they made any recommendations about extending sewer or water lines?”

Cook wanted to know if sewer and water lines would extend from Sears and Bowling Gap.

The bill presented focused on preliminary professional services for review of DOT widening plan and preparation for widening costs of the project. EMI charged the city $6,510 for 65 hours of work from June 1 to 30 for three members of their staff. The services included preliminary engineering, review of DOT widening plans, preparation of cost estimates, preparation of DOT Utility Aid Application, and attending DOT meetings.

“When they widen the Young Harris Highway, and that land becomes more business-friendly, and businesses start developing that area, are we going to increase the water line, sewer line on up through there? Is that something’s that projected for the future?” inquired Cook.

Conley responded, “I don’t see a lot of additional businesses getting any further than those that are there now, but if they did and they came to the city, then the city could offer that service. In other words, it would cost them to bring a line to where our sewer line ends at this time.”

Currently, it’s just too far to run a line, and the city doesn’t see the need at this time.

New Airport Hangar Door

City purchased a new hangar door for the airport and paid for it with lease money from current tenants.

The purchase totaled at $30,038 with the door costing $13,098 and installation cost being $16,940. Hangar lease money covered all but $230 of the purchase, which came out of the airport’s budget.

Originally, the lease extension money paid for the new fuel funds and the leftover amount covered the cost of the new door.

“This is a beautiful thing,” exclaimed Airport Manager Aaron Mannheim, “It’s been a safety issue for a number of years I believe, it’s almost like a death march when you open the door. So this has greatly improved safety at the airport. I want to say thanks to Mayor Conley and his attention to safety for all.”

The hanger never replaced the original door from the 1960s.

“The door in that old first hangar that was ever built, sometime in the 60s. It’s made out of real metal. It became a very dangerous thing. It took two people to get it open. Now, it’s a bevel type door and takes one person to get it open,” said Conley.

Additionally, the council approved a three-year service plan for airport electronics and software equipment for $5,386.50. The service addresses equipment and software upkeep.

“It feeds information to Aaron when someone pumps gas, or he pumps gas on the Jet A tank,” stated Conley, “This company charges us every year.”

City Lowers Millage Rate

Community, Police & Government
millage

Blairsville, Ga – Blairsville City Council voted to unanimously lower the millage rate during the August meeting.

Previously set at 1.945 percent, Mayor Jim Conley ran the numbers and discovered that by lowering the millage rate to 1.895 percent would only cost the county $202 a year.

It’s a 0.5 percent reduction in current millage rates and saves the city from having to advertise about the city’s rate.

“What all these numbers boil down to, if we go with the current millage rate, there [are] about three different advertising dates that we have to do,” explained Conley, “But if we drop it to 1.895 percent, we would have to do no advertising and only lose $202.”

Councilmember Robert Moore added, “We’ve gone down from 2.0 percent to 1.945 percent, and now I propose, we go down to 1.895.”

“I got the email, and I read it,” stated Councilmember Tony Dyer, “It’d be easier on us, and we’re only losing $200 – $300 a year. I’d think we want to go down that percentage point.”

Dyer added that lowering the millage rate might help constituents.

Dyer seconded Moore’s motion to drop the millage rate, and all councilmembers approved of the decision.

Additionally, the city repurposed an old police 2010 Ford Explorer and turned it into a city car. The car remains at city hall, and the mayor will drive it to and from functions and meetings.

“It’s the first Explorer that we ever purchased and made a police car out of it when it, really was not a police car. That car is decommissioned now,” said Conley, “we’d like to get the council’s permission to use that car as the city car. I would drive my vehicle to and from work and use this for all city business.”

Council unanimously approved of the repurposing.

County Events

Downtown Development Authority Program Manager Darren Harper addressed upcoming events and associated income.

The Green Bean Festival brought in $3,600 in revenue, up from last year, with 45 vendors. Harper’s already looking into improving next year’s festival.

“[Farmer’s Market’s] only open on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. ish, but our festival is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. So, I’ve already reached out to them to find out how we can make it more cohesive,” explained Harper, “The only complaint I’ve had is lack of green beans.”

Green beans came in earlier this year, and Farmer’s Market sold out at 8 a.m.

Some downtown businesses took in $2,000 – $3,000 in revenue from the festival.

Taste of the Mountains is Aug. 24 on the square and benefits North Georgia Technical College with over 26 participating vendors. Last year, the festival took in $11,000 for the city.

So far, the city has profited by $6,372 from festivals in 2019.

Haralson Property Lots No Longer for Sale

Featured, News, Police & Government
Haralson Lot

Blairsville, Ga – City Council decided not to sell remaining Haralson property lots in a special meeting with the DDA on July 9.

In a 3 to 2 vote, the city council voted to keep the Haralson property lots, except for the .90 acres currently pending closing. The DDA can no longer sell the lots to interested buyers according to the vote.

The remaining lots are located next to the American Homes Building and in front of Hwy. 515, greenspace behind city hall, the greenspace across from Cook’s Restaurant, and parking lot across from Foodland.

.90 acre lot next to Hwy. 515, and closest to Popeye’s, is in the process of being closed on and wasn’t included in the motion to keep the land. However, the deal isn’t finalized at this time.

Haralson Plat lays out the lots that are no longer for sale by the city, including land with access to 515.

“It’s going to be really congested in that area,” stated Councilmember Robert Moore, “if we don’t do anything and keep it as an investment, then chances are it might be better than money in the bank. So if we don’t sell it today and decide five or ten years down the road to sell it, we haven’t lost anything. Also, I would like to create a green space for people to use.”

DDA member W.C. Nelson advised against holding onto prime property in the city of Blairsville when businesses are looking to move into the area.

“From the DDA perspective we want to be remembered for doing a good job and what we’re supposed to do for the city,” stated Nelson, “When things are selling, and you’ve got buyers, you better be taking advantage. The economy’s going to go back down then you’re not going to be able to sell it.”

Popeye’s will bring more transient traffic to the city.

Moore added that he didn’t want another fast food restaurant in the city and would prefer picnic tables in the area.

“The two businesses that we have in the area don’t create a tremendous amount of traffic like a steakhouse would or other things. Popeye’s is going to have come and go traffic,” said Councilmember Tony Dyer, “I see your point and I see Buddy’s point.”

Councilmember Betty Easter didn’t see many people using a green space area in the city.

Moore made the motion to take the land off the market. Councilmember Mary Ruth Cook seconded. Moore, Cook, and Councilmember Rhonda Mahan voted in favor of the motion. Dyer and Easter voted against it.

After some discussion as to who should keep the land now that it’s not for sale, the parking lot and green space behind City Hall moved back to the city.

However, the lot across from Cook’s Restaurant and the 1.13 acres next to American Homes and Hwy. 515 remained with the DDA. Moore made a motion to move the property back to the city, but it failed due to lack of a second.

Lot closest to Cook’s is off the market but still remains with DDA.

“We can set on the property as long as we ever want to set on it, but we’re at the behest of the city council as to what to do with it,” stated DDA member Paul Thompson.

Due to two-year term limits, city council can’t permanently bind DDA to hold the Haralson lots. However, the current council didn’t completely rule out selling for the right offer. Still, the DDA can’t actively sell the property at this time.

“If any of the council changes, a new member might have new ideas,” explained Mayor Jim Conley.

DDA member Daniel Davenport assured the council, “We will behoove the request of the city.”

The transfer of the parking lot and green space back to the city reduces the debt the DDA owes to the city by $650,000 with an estimated remaining debt balance of $300,000.

However, once a prospective deal closes the DDA’s debt to the city will be eliminated.

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