Jasper approves bids and JMA Events

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JASPER, Ga. – The City Council approved three major events for the Jasper Merchants Association (JMA) accompanying closing of Main Street in Downtown Jasper.

Usually spread across the entirity of the Fall Season as the JMA requests the road closure for these events, this year, with the help of City Manager Brandon Douglas, they made one request including all three events. Citizens should be aware of this road closure for the following days:

Thursday, October 31, 2019, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for the Halloween Event.

Saturday, December 7, 2019, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the Christmas Parade, with the parade to start at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. for the New Year’s Eve Celebration.

Not associated with the JMA, Main Street will also be closed for the Prevent Child Abuse Pickens Long Table event on September 21, 2019, from Noon until midnight.

The city has received four bids for their paving contract for road paving. The apparent low bidder came to be Northwest Georgia Paving, Inc. with a bid of $1,217,062.50. Approved by the council, the paving contract has been awarded.

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Jasper and JYSA unsure of parks future

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JASPER, Ga. – Concerns arose within the city council meetings regarding an item on the agenda to sublet property.

As the city considers leases on the parks and its continuing relationship with JYSA, more confusion is mounting around what the city can and cannot do with the property. One idea is to sublease the property in favor of having an entity control and manage it for the city. 

City Attorney Bill Pickett said, “My gut reaction is no. I don’t know if we have the authority to do that. Cities of population of more than 300,000 people have specific statutory authority in order to lease parks… These are the taxpayers of the City of Jasper that own this. This would alienate the property and take us out of the loop and not have control of our own destination. It will violate the insurance and it could waive sovereign immunity.”

Much of the issue seems to revolve around scheduling events and public use with citizens wishing to use the fields with the options now pointing to continuing with JYSA or having the city take over for planning and scheduling of these events. This was noted as Jasper City Mayor John Weaver summarized the issue saying that years ago, the parks were an effort to provide inexpensive recreation for local citizens. This included a league of local counties. Now, however, the league is not around anymore, but no effort has been made to create travel teams. However, other travel teams around the area are wanting to use the park facilities.

Weaver went on to say, “At this point, JYSA may have run its course with the City of Jasper. And it needs to be brought back under the umbrella of the city council and our staff to decide who gets to use the facilities instead of having people that we don’t know schedule our fields. We have the potential to do that.”

Weaver said he thought the travel teams would come under JYSA, but now the coaches and teams are not controlled by that organization. As independent teams, Weaver suggested the city needs to control those teams scheduled uses of the fields.

Councilmember Sonny Proctor questioned if the city could charge teams to use the fields as part of the city hosting tournaments.

Weaver said they probably could but may need some more insurance or similar needs.

The need to control scheduling comes so that citizens who may wish to use the fields as they meet up with friends could access the field when no events were scheduled. A governing body to control that schedule would provide that singular schedule to be abided and to have the fields vacated for those events.

The City Council ultimately decided to table the issue this month as they continue looking deeper into JYSA, the parks, and the city’s next steps.

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Major Fire Dept issues rise in March City Council

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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.

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Renaming Stegall Drive to Veteran’s Memorial Boulevard

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JASPER, Ga. – Earlier this week, on March 4, 2019, the Jasper City Council heard, and approved, a presentation to for renaming a portion of Stegall Drive to Veteran’s Memorial Boulevard.

The presentation covered most of the concerning issues as Frank Leist said the Veteran’s Association has already contacted the neighboring parties on the street, the Chamber of Commerce and the Senior Citizen, about their response changing addresses with the street name. They also have already looked into signage for the streets and the park.

The actual street name change will only stretch on the Stegall Drive from Mary Street to Maple Street.

Leist when on to note some additional ideas that could be coming to the park including some military equipment. Leist also noted that he had offered to the neighbors that they would absorb costs for the changes.

With the council’s approval, and no other concerns from 911 about the renaming, the street is officially renamed and citizens should be noticing the changes coming as the follow-up with City Manager Brandon Douglas details the logistics and operations of the change.

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Jonah Lane rezoning stalls in January Meeting

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JASPER, Ga. – The rezoning for apartments to be constructed on Jonah Lane in Jasper has stalled in this months meeting after discussion raised community pushback on the change.

Leftover from the December meeting when the rezoning was first brought up and conditionally approved by the council, they now have questions and discussions coming for the future of the C-2 lot. The pitch was to rezone to R-3 for apartments.

Both Brad Dilbeck and David Shouse, local developers, made note of lack of notifications for the initial rezoning requests, though Dilbeck said one of his tenants was notified. They also made comments that the Council speaks for the citizens but they don’t know or have had contact with council-members.

Shouse also said that he developed his land under the pretext that other commercial developments would come around him. He said, “There’s no way any other developer, in their right mind, is going to build anything else commercial beside this project.”

The main argument against the apartments comes from being so close to industrial lots. Those owners said they know they will get complaints and have to deal with the police for noise complaints and complaints about late and early hours of work.

With expectations of freedom to operate how they see fit, business owners said they chose their locations for its general distance from residential areas.

Other complaints revolved around traffic and wear on the road in competition between the current commercial traffic and a potentially a hundred extra cars.

Ultimately tabled for next month, the stall in the issue doesn’t mean the rezoning will be denied. It is still under investigation by the council who could be making a final decision next month.

 

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City Council Talks Festivals in August

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JASPER, Ga. – The Jasper City Council’s August meeting saw a change in the traffic direction for this year’s Marble Festival in October as well as for the popular JeepFest event starting at the end of August.

Haley Bouchie, President of the Jasper Merchants Association, presented a request to close a portion of Main Street during the festival. The road is already to be closed for the Road Race and the Parade that are scheduled for the weekend’s festivities. The new request would see the road staying closed from 6 a.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.

Bouchie stated the joint venture between the Jasper Merchant’s Association and the Pickens County Chamber would have security for the vendors on the street overnight. The request was made last year as well but denied. After several close calls with the traffic and pedestrians, according to Bouchie, they have returned with the request for this year’s festival.

Bouchie also told the council that they would be working alongside the merchants on the street to improve and increase their foot traffic despite the loss of the parking spaces on the street.

Expanding the Marble Festival up to Main Street cause a large discussion on how to get traffic around the closed street including Dixie, Mary, or even Whitfield streets. Sitting down with police and businesses to discuss traffic by foot and vehicle were assured to be forthcoming in preparation of the event.

Ultimately approved by unanimous decision, the event will see the road closed to traffic from 6 a.m. on Saturday, October 6, to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening, October 7.

The same request came for September’s JeepFest event asking to close Main Street for a “Show & Shine” of Jeeps lined up on the street. City Manager Jim Looney presented a letter from Kris Stancil of the Picken’s County Sheriff’s Office requesting the closure of the street on Friday, August 31, starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m. after a concert.

This is not the first time this request has been presented, having been done for years now. The request was approved for the event. Mayor John Weaver commented saying that the Jeeps take over all of Main Street with hundreds of Jeeps lined up down the road for the Show & Shine.

An additional request came from Wingsology for the JeepFest event. Requesting an outside beer and wine license, Wingsology is also a request from previous years.

The council approved the request unanimously as well.

With these events coming up quickly, citizens should be aware of the closures of Main Street during these events as to avoid congestion as they seek to travel through town or attempt to find parking. Shuttles are also being made available for the Marble Festival specifically. Citizens can find the shuttle areas by visiting the Marble Festival Website.

 

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Brewery Ordinance Changes prep Jasper for new business

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JASPER, Ga. – Final approval came this month in the City of Jasper’s ordinance changes for breweries in the area.

While details were discussed last month on setting the costs for the license at $1,500, it was the July 2 meeting that that approved the final adoption as well as the effective date of the ordinance change to the alcoholic beverage ordinance allowing the business as well as the zoning ordinance change to include Brewery in the accepted uses under General Commercial (C-2) and General Industry (M-1).

The amendment allows brewers to manufacture malt beverages and beer in the city limits of Jasper and provides for the creation of the authorized license for that end. Additionally, City Attorney Bill Pickett confirmed the breweries were allowed to have consumption on premises and were exempt from city restrictions for consumption.

This means the allowance of tastings and similar events on premises of the brewery.

With the new ordinance, last month’s meeting indicated that other popular options at breweries would be available such as growlers and crowlers. For those still curious, a growler is a container or vessel that is used for the transport of beer. It can also be described as an air-tight jug, typically made out of glass, ceramic, or stainless steel that allows you to take draft beer from one place to another without a degradation of quality. A crowler is similar but in can form.

Citizen interest has already been shown as well as the business interest of at least one brewery to come. The only question citizens have raised so far is how the facilities will handle parking. A subject the council indicated would be handled with the zoning into only industry and C-2 commercial zonings.

 

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Sharktop Ridge land annexed into Jasper

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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 of Chastain & Associates, P.C., speaks with the city council on his study of accessing the development from Burnt Mountain Road.

Mark Chastain of Chastain & Associates, P.C., speaks with the city council on his study of accessing the development from Burnt Mountain 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.

Paul King, of Sharktop Ridge LLC., offers his costs estimate of changing entrances to the development, calling it a "deal killer."

Paul King, of Sharktop Ridge LLC., offers his costs estimate of changing entrances to the development, calling it a “deal killer.”

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.”

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