The Jasper City Council held their monthly meeting Wednesday night with several items discussed and presented. With the absence of Councilwoman Anne Morrow and Mayor John Weaver, the meeting was presided by Councilman Jim Looney.Utility Development Planner Lonnie Waters spoke briefly about the ongoing SPLOST proposal. It appears the attorneys for the city of Jasper and Pickens County are still making finalizations to the intergovernmental agreement so while it’s moving forward there still isn’t a complete resolution for adoption or discussion. Waters explained they don’t anticipate any SPLOST changes other than the monies previously funneled into the newly completed Pickens County Courthouse would now be refocused on road improvements. Councilman John Foust suggested road signage also be considered for a portion of funds.
Waters explained in the animal control report the continuing problem with black bears in the city. He stated that in the month of August there were 25 reports of bear sightings and attested that he had seen a dozen different bears himself. He advised residents to curb the problem to get rid of bird feeders and any outside pet food as well as keeping garbage inside until garbage day although he admitted even those who did this still were having problems on that day. After speaking with the Department of Natural Resources, they issued him rubber bullets to “train” the bears to associate the sting they cause with seeing humans and possibly deter them from making frequent appearances in town. However, with the city ordinance regarding discharging weapons inside city limits he would have to see about a procedure or addendum for him to make use of the bullets. If the problem continues he may have to bring a resolution to the city council regarding adoption of the DNR’s suggestion.
Gerry Nechvatal reported on the economic development front that all areas are down a total of 1.3 percent with the exception of industrial (up 3 percent) that offset the losses elsewhere. The July employment rates were at 7.6 percent which is the third lowest in a year.
CFO Lisa Hoyle reports there have been a few budget overages mostly due to equipment repairs in various departments as well as some overtime. She stated that at this point in the year the budget should be at 66 percent and overall it’s at 64 percent of total expenditures.
As for ongoing budget issues, she explained the current year audit as well as the year-end financial statement from 2012 were started late and several factors impeded the progress of R.L. Jennings, the financial firm that does the audit. Those factors included other obligations of the agency and staff turnovers both at the city and at the firm. However, she states it’s moving along at a rapid pace and she expects a result in short order. She said they’ve finished their field work and they’re currently reviewing the financial statements, speculating they’re approximately 75 percent through the process.
An alcohol beverage license was granted to a new business owner who is opening an Italian-style restaurant at the old 61 Main location. It will be called Lola Bistro and Bar. They discussed the fact that all current council members will be returning for another term as they didn’t have any opposition register in the upcoming elections.
A couple of distinguished guests also made a presentation during the meeting. Athan and Gage Bennett, members of the Young Marines, a national organization focusing on character building, leadership, and promotes a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. They urged the city council to proclaim October 23-31 as Red Ribbon Week in conjunction with national Red Ribbon Week. Red Ribbon Week was started by Ronald Reagan in honor of Enrique Camarena. Camarena was serving the country in Mexico when the drug cartel murdered him in the 1980’s, shedding light on the war on drugs which continues to this day.
Hoyle read the proclamation which in part called upon citizens to participate. Hoyle read,
“(the proclamation) urges the citizens of Jasper to participate in drug prevention and education activities not only during Red Ribbon Week but all year long making a visible statement that we are strongly committed to a drug-free city.”
Athan Bennett spoke of how this year they’re dedicating the campaign in honor of Taylor Smith, the 20-year-old who’s body was dumped outside a trailer in the city of Jasper and in the aftermath arrests involving drugs have been made. He stated,
“I believe why they did not call 9-1-1 was because they had drugs and they did not want firefighters and EMS in their house.”
To see the young men’s presentation and the full city council meeting, please see the following video.