JASPER, Ga. – Several issues have mounted up on the Jasper Fire Department in the last month.
The issues are also mounting into a major budget issue for the city as they seek repair Fire Engine #2 from engine troubles and deal with an unbudgeted Fire Interface Purchase. Both of the issues come amid a new vehicle purchase for the Fire Department as well.
While the Council did agree that the engine repairs could be covered as Chief Steve Roper suggested he had a few projects that he could put off until next year in order to pay for the major issue of the repair, including a driveway repair and a painting project.
As the Fire Engine requires an “in-frame repair” as Roper called it, the need could cost nearly $30,000 if the engine block needs to be fully rebuilt. However, Roper also said there is a chance the issue could be a smaller issue needing a gasket replacement costing $7,500.
The council approved up to $30,000 for the repairs to come from the line items of the other projects.
However, this was not the biggest issue the Fire Department saw as the next item on the agenda listed a 911 Interface Purchase.
Roper informed the council that the department has been in process of establishing a Computer Assisted Dispatch interface since 2018 and has seen stalls throughout last fall and winter. This system was picked up again this year with a total cost of $18,120.
The interface, according to Roper, will allow all information that 911 has taken into the system and dumps the information into Ipads for users to instantly access the information, history, and conditions among other things. This not only accumulates and accesses this information, but cuts down on radio traffic and aids in reporting for the city as well.
However, the $15,120 has been spent to proceed with this project, but was not budgeted in the 2019 budget. Jasper City Councilmember Anne Sneve clarified in the meeting that it was budgeted at one point but postponed. Having never returned to the budget, the City is now facing the $18,120 unbudgeted expense and seeking a way to cover the cost.
Roper said that he had a conversation with the City Manager, Jim Looney at the time, earlier this year about the project and its importance to the city overall. He said, “He gave me the go ahead to proceed with the project, and that’s where I am right now.”
While Jasper City Councilmember Tony Fountain noted that if the engine issue comes in to cost $7,500, they could could use the remaining funds to cover the $18,120 for the interface system, he also questioned what the city would do to respond if the engine took the entire $30,000.
Mayor John Weaver offered his opinion saying, “I think we need to give a stern reprimand that we did not know that we had approval for a $18,120 item before this council.”
Jim Looney was present at the meeting and took responsibility for the mistake as he said his understanding was that it was budgeted, but has now discovered it was not.
As the council moves forward, they are still seeking funds to cover the expense in case the engine repairs monopolized the excess funds from the canceled Fire Department projects.
JASPER, Ga. – The second part of the development of Sharktop Ridge Road has reached its conclusion with a city approval to annex the land into the city.
Originally meeting last month to discuss the topic, the council had agreed to table the item to allow for a more detailed study on Burnt Mountain Road as feasible alternatives to access the land being developed.
The annexation is a part of a Planning and Zoning issue revolving around Paul King looking to have a residential development in the area connecting to Sharktop Ridge. The development would host around 23 homes, according to King. While he would utilize city water for the project, the sewage would be dealt with in septic tanks.
Three new points of detail were offered in favor of keeping the entrance at Sharktop Ridge Road including a survey from Chastain & Associates, P.C., a cost estimate on building the road from Burnt Mountain Road, and an accident report on the intersection of Cove Road and Sharktop Ridge Road.
Mark Chastain was on hand from Chastain & Associates, P.C. to discuss what it would take to build the entrance down from Burnt Mountain Road. Speaking mostly on the grade, or slope, the road would have to take and how long it would need to be to not exceed the maximum grade. Chastain did say that an entrance from Burnt Mountain Road could be possible, but it would need to be close to a quarter mile at maximum grade on the road. He went on to say that he had originally recommended to those looking to develop the property because “it’s a safety aspect of having to climb or descend at maximum grade for that long to achieve the difference in elevation from highway to the road.”
He explained later that fire code preference is a 12% grade, meaning you rise 12 feet for every 100 feet you travel. Chastain continued saying that in his time in engineering and surveying experience, traveling at maximum grade for that long could cause extra stress to vehicles. Without some way to level out or alleviate stress on the vehicles, you could approach an increased risk to situations “where clutches fail.”
However, this suggested that if added points of leveling for vehicle stress relief or other extra steps were taken, it could be possible. Chastain noted however that, in his opinion, Sharktop Ridge Road provides a better, more pleasant, grade to make it a safer entrance relative to Burnt Mountain Road.
The second point came when Paul King, the representative of Sharktop Ridge, LLC., presented a quote he received on accomplishing the Burnt Mountain Road entrance, he noted an extra $200,000 in costs on top of the current costs of developing the property. King called the extra costs a “deal killer” for the project.
King noted the original plan from Chastain saying he didn’t want to spend the extra money on a “marginal, somewhat unsafe road to come into the development.” He went on to say that the road would also take out one of the planned lots for the development representing a loss to the usable residences in addition to the road costs.
Finally, King asked Jasper Police Chief Greg Lovell to comment on the accidents at the intersection of Cove Road and Sharktop Ridge Road regarding a comment from the June meeting indicating an already bad intersection due to a high number of accidents.
Chief Lovell reported there were no wrecks there in two years. Though two accidents were noted, one in 2007 and another in 2009. However, citizens present at this meeting still noted numerous instances where they had to quickly slam on their breaks or nearly missed other vehicles at the location. They also commented saying that the council should take into account all the extra traffic they would be bringing to location as well.
Though the council did ultimately approve the annexation, this is not the end of the discussion of Sharktop Ridge. The council noted several times that they would revisit the issue. They discussed options such as if the city could place certain restrictions on the development. Mayor John Weaver noted that the city had an option of a planned unit development. He noted that the council could approve the planned development before the council and any change made would have to come before the council. However, all these ideas will come later.
City Manager Jim Looney stated, “There will be opportunities for the developer to work with the mayor and council, and city manager, on what it looks like if it is annexed in and developed.”
CITY OF ATLANTA’S FORMER CHIEF PROCUREMENT OFFICER
ADAM SMITH PLEADS GUILTY TO TAKING BRIBES
ATLANTA – Adam L. Smith, the former Chief Procurement Officer for the City of Atlanta, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to accept more than $30,000 in bribe payments from a vendor who obtained millions of dollars in city contracts.
“Great trust was placed in Smith as Chief Procurement Officer for the City of Atlanta, and he abused his position to serve his own financial interests,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn. “Public corruption offenses, like Smith’s, can erode the confidence that the people have in government.”
“The guilty plea in federal court of former City of Atlanta Procurement Officer Adams will ensure that he is held accountable for his greed based criminal conduct as he now awaits sentencing. It is hoped that this case serves as notice to others that similar such conduct among public officials will not be condoned and that there are severe consequences should that notice go unheeded,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
“Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to obey laws and ethical principles above private gain. Smith abused his public trust to enrich himself at a cost to the taxpayers,” said James E. Dorsey, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “We will continue to work with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in making these public corruption investigations a priority.”
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: From 2003 to February 21, 2017, Smith served as the Chief Procurement Officer for the City of Atlanta, Georgia. As the Chief Procurement Officer, Smith oversaw the City of Atlanta’s purchasing activities and its expenditure of billions of dollars in public money for projects.
The information refers to a vendor who was an executive with a construction firm in Atlanta, Georgia, but does not identify them by name. During Smith’s tenure as the Chief Procurement Officer, Atlanta awarded contracts worth millions of dollars to Vendor’s firm and joint venture projects of which Vendor was a partner.
From at least 2015 to January 2017, Smith met privately with Vendor on multiple occasions, frequently at local restaurants. During these meetings, Smith and Vendor discussed Atlanta procurement projects, bids, and solicitations. Often at the time of these meetings, Vendor was actively seeking contracts, projects, and work with Atlanta.
After most of these meetings, Vendor and Smith met in the restaurant’s bathroom, where Vendor paid Smith approximately $1,000 in cash. In return for the bribe payments, Vendor expected Smith to use his position and power as Atlanta’s Chief Procurement Officer to assist Vendor with contracting/procurement with Atlanta and to furnish Vendor with future benefits and favors when needed.
Given his position, Smith was required to sign annually a financial disclosure statement certifying that he had not received more than $5,000 in annual income from any corporation, partnership, proprietorship, or other business entity other than Atlanta. Additionally, under Atlanta’s Procurement Code, Smith also had to “make a written determination as to the existence” of any “personal or organizational conflicts of interest exist” between vendors and Atlanta before awarding a vendor a solicited contract. Similarly, Atlanta’s Procurement Code mandated that Smith “certify to the city council” that the winning vendors had disclosed to Atlanta any “organizational and personal relationships” and that the “award of the contract [was] appropriate.”
Furthermore, in exchange for those cash payments:
- Smith met with Vendor on a regular basis;
- Smith provided Vendor with information and counsel regarding Atlanta’s procurement processes (among other information);
- When Vendor’s firm or joint venture became the successful bidder on an Atlanta contract or Request for Proposal, Smith approved and submitted the award of such procurement projects or bids to Atlanta’s mayor and city council for final authorization;
- Smith never disclosed his ongoing financial relationship with Vendor and/or Vendor’s firm on his Financial Disclosure Statements to Atlanta; and
- Smith never advised Atlanta’s City Council that the Vendor’s firm or joint venture had failed to disclose its organizational and personal relationships with him.
In total, from at least 2015 to January 2017, Vendor paid Smith more than $30,000 in cash.
Adam L. Smith, 53, Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to conspiratorial bribery. Sentencing is scheduled for January 16, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation are investigating this case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis, Kurt R. Erskine, and Jill E. Steinberg are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office atUSAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.