JASPER, Ga. – With a review of city manager applications in November, the City Council was further updated at December’s meeting about accepted and Scheduled interviews for December 10 for candidates for the position.
With four interviews set for Monday, the candidate pool is shrinking towards a final decision to hire a full time City Manager. This position is currently being filled by former council member Jim Looney.
As the Council continues in executive sessions, they are to be advertised as meetings for the council to legally be in the same room for these interviews. However, the Council will immediately go into a closed executive session to perform the interviews.
After the interviews, it should not be long before the council makes their decisions and formalizes the personnel hiring at an official meeting.
Additionally at their December Meeting, the council officially adopted Sanitation Rate increases for six months of review. Council member Kirk Raffield noted in the meeting that during the six month period, he wanted a conversation and decision on the growth of the program and equipment. The new rates are as follows:
Residential – $20
Residential (Senior) – $18
Housing Authority – $14
Commercial (One Day) – $25
Commercial (Two Day) – $50
Commercial (Four Day) – $100
Commercial (Five Day) – $125
Restaurant – $150
City employees also saw a major change in Vacation Days and a Christmas Bonus for their careers in December’s meeting. Vacation policy changes were approved as proposed in the meeting by City Manager Jim Looney who stated, “Personnel Committee recommends that accrued vacation be changed from 40 hours per week to the scheduled hours that employees work. That would be a change for Firefighters to 56 hours, Police for 42, and Water and Sewer employees for 42 hours per accrued week.”
The bonus came later in the meeting. Looney also presented this proposal after a work session discussion. A motion was made to offer a Christmas Bonus and one-time Service Award for employees.
Less than one year of service – $150
One year to ten years of service – $250
Eleven to nineteen years of service – $500
Twenty or more years of Service – $750
Each of these amounts already have included within them a $100 Christmas bonus and the remainder is the one-time Service Award “to recognize the dedication of each employee.”
JASPER, Ga. – The Jasper City Council held a town hall in the midst of circulating rumors about the garbage collection services.
One proposal offered street side service costing slightly less than the other that offered backdoor pickup.
Despite the offers, citizens quickly began asking why Looney didn’t include a third option for the city to maintain the service. Looney quickly responded saying that it was an option, but he was simply noting the outside proposals with set prices.
Overwhelmingly, the citizens present for the meeting as well as downtown businesses began saying that they enjoyed the people working for the county and felt their service was beyond compare. As such, suggestions began rising that they would be willing to pay more if it meant keeping the current service going.
Others complained about bringing in an outside service saying that restaurants downtown would have nasty and smelly trash on the sidewalk every weekday waiting for trash pick-ups whereas the current service provides backdoor pickup. Even with one of the outside proposals offering a similar service, citizens said the current workers have consistently responded to extra needs and requests without complaint, a service they highly doubted would continue with a commercial business operation.
Giving examples like times when a box was forgotten or something was missed, the city’s servicers readily returned to fix issues.
It was added that the reason these issues could be resolved quickly and easily was citizens direct contact with the operators. With an outside company, the city would become a “middle-man” between the citizens and the company with the city collecting the fees and paying the vendor. Likewise, the city would still be handling much of the trash issues as citizens would contact them with issues and they would contact the vendor.
UPDATE: Discussing the issue one week before their monthly meeting, the city saw no action on changes to a vendor or fees as of yet regarding the garbage service. As they continue discussions on the topic the item sits on the agenda for November.
(Photos provided by the City of Jasper)
JASPER, Ga. – Authorities in the city of Jasper are asking for citizens patience during a major issue causing water outages south of Roland Tire.
According to an official release, an auto accident took out a fire hydrant causing a massive loss in the water system. As officials already have men working on the break, they are informing citizens of the loss. The official release states,
“Due to an auto accident, which has broken a fire hydrant at Solomon and South Main Street. Anyone South of Roland Tire could possibly have little or no water until the problem is corrected, please note City crews are working and will get it repaired as soon as possible.”
Officials also confirmed there is “no need to boil at this time, we are just having water loss from the hydrant.” Despite citizen concerns and questions, there is no word at this time as to how long the water loss will remain. However, as the city indicates a localized area of effect, citizens in other parts of the city should not experience a loss.
Seventeen years ago, I’m certain you were inundated with people saying “Never forget” and newscasts saying “We will always remember.”
Indeed, the entire nation, and even the world, poured out its heart for America and the major wound we were struck with. It is the kind of thing that people everywhere will remember. The kind of thing that I will tell my children about. It is indeed something one cannot easily forget.
Even the numbers dredge up memories of all kinds. And honestly, not all of them are bad. I have fond memories of that day. Shock, gasp. I know you may have anger at hearing that but think of yourself on that day. Did you have people with you? Were you amongst friends? Do you remember people all over the world start saying ‘we.’
Today, we find anything we can to show how different we are from one another. We are a divided country. I don’t want to take a side and tell you that you are wrong, whatever you think. It is honestly probably why we have issues. We can’t disagree without getting angry.
But think back to that day…
I sat among fellow students in a freshman orientation class in high school. It is scarred into the wall of my brain that our desks were placed in a circle and I had only one or two of my “friends” in the class. There was even a guy in that class that I really did not like. We did not get along and we did not like each other at all. My how quickly and easily that melted away in the glow of a tv screen as I, first hand, watched a second plane fly into the building.
I feel its impact even today, and I was nowhere near New York. I couldn’t feel it at the time, but today I can remember my body shook when it hit, as if it hit me just as hard as it hit the building.
I remember hearing the report about another one hitting the Pentagon. I remember not doing anything in any class except one, Algebra. I remember the rage that permeated every person in that school that day. Not just anger, a burning rage threatening to engulf your soul. A rage that broke chains and welled up from somewhere incredibly dark near the bottom of my stomach. It was more powerful because it sensed itself in every other person.
Seventeen years, do you remember?
Do you remember the songs written and speeches made? Do you remember being an American? Forget the conspiracies about it, forget the doubt about what really happened. Do you remember that specific moment of impact?
It’s not a special anniversary, it’s not the ten or twenty year anniversary. This long since something and we as people tend to only really recall things on nice, round-numbered years.
Are we remembering? Have we forgotten even though we said we wouldn’t?
I don’t think so. I think seventeen years later, people still hurt. I know the people you don’t speak to on this day and the people who need you to speak on this day.
I know the guy who plans a trip every September. I know he doesn’t actually go anywhere except into the woods to be alone. We don’t talk about his trips, I just understand his Dad was in New York that day on business. Isolated near a stream maybe, maybe he’s up a tree. I don’t know where he is, but inside I hear him screaming at the top of his lungs in his isolation.
I know the woman who holds her son up like a banner for his service because she never had the chance to see him grow into anything else after he died fighting for us.
I see counties and cities holding memorials on this day, but I see something else. I see the separation. I see the people forgetting something along the way.
I can’t forget that pain. I can’t forget that day. I can’t forget that tv. I can’t forget the faces. I didn’t lose anyone close to me. I had friends who served, but I didn’t lose anyone so close as a brother, sister, father, mother, cousin. I have been so lucky, so why is this day forever seared into my soul?
Maybe I’m being emotional? Maybe I’m thinking too much? Will you judge me for that? Will you think less if I can’t let go? Or would it be worse if I didn’t care?
What if I didn’t write this and you never read it? You’d go about your day and maybe you would think about what today is or maybe it’d slip by as you try to finish that project just get through a tough day. What if we let this day fade into history as a footnote and we never look back to think about the feelings of that day, the pain, the rage, the hurt, the solace, the people?
What if we forgot?
Jasper, Ga – The City Council approved advertising for their millage rate alongside other items this week. Moving the meeting due to the holiday, the Council met on Wednesday, September 5.
The Council made no changes to the rate, leaving it at 4.655 mills. Thought Lisa Hoyle said in the meeting that the inflationary rate actually went down, it did not force a rollback rate. With growth in the county and new construction, the city could still see a rise in revenue, but they decided not to raise or lower the rate to affect any other changes to the budget.
With the advertisement, the council can move the next two meetings in October and November, this could also include a Special Called Meeting if needed. Citizens are invited to speak on the Millage Rate at any meeting set to discuss the subject.
The City also motioned to move forward with negotiations in the interest of connecting a water line to a new Pickens County Water Treatment Plant. With finer details still in need of finalizing and concessions between the two entities to be met, the City will be sending Mayor John Weaver, City Manager Jim Looney, and David Hall back into the negotiations to protect the city’s interests.
The approval simply notes the city’s willingness to participate in the new treatment plant by constructing the pipeline and covering the costs. It could mean the ability to trade water between the city and county treatment plants as well as adding a potential 300,000 gallons of water per day to the supply for the area.
The city is set to continue updates for the council in coming meetings as details and agreements are finalized. The city is also looking to maintain its water supply and flow through potential drought conditions.
A third major topic the council discussed involved restricting turn options at Mark Whitfield Street and Highway 53 and a four-way stop at Old Philadelphia Road and Confederate Avenue.
Making the turn left off of Mark Whitfield Street next to the drug store was approved in efforts to fight against the danger of what Looney referred to as a “Blind Turn.” Making the action illegal will cut down on the issue while encouraging drivers to begin using alternate routes such as moving over to North Main Street or on the opposite side to Richard Street. Officially approved as “Right-Turn only,” the approval will actually have citizens avoid going straight across either.
A four-way stop on Old Philadelphia Road is set to help avoid traffic back-up from another dangerous intersection. With heavy traffic involving the many businesses located on Confederate Avenue and Philadelphia Lane, as well as traffic coming from the nearby Wal-Mart using Old Philadelphia Road as a shortcut towards North Main Street.
Requested by a business owner in the area, the council decided they wished to further investigate as the item was placed on the agenda last minute. Officially tabled until October’s meeting, the council will be looking at the intersection until then.
Jasper, Ga. – The Jasper City Council dealt with an option to annex into the city limits a section of property on Sharktop Ridge Road.
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.
However, King and his development project have been met with resistance on the project at the Planning and Zoning level as well as at the council meeting. While none in opposition directly opposed the project itself, several citizens spoke in opposition to the project connecting to Sharktop Ridge. Almost an hour of discussion was spent at the council’s June 4 meeting delving into the heart of the citizens’ concerns. Ultimately, the viable complaints focused on the safety of the road with increased traffic along a treacherous left turn onto the road as well as the wear and tear on the road with an extended period of heavy construction equipment traveling the road as the only access point to the development.
While options were discussed such as moving the access to another point, possibly Old Burnt Mountain Road, or at least having the construction traffic access the development in an alternate route, no official action was taken. This is because the opposition to the project asked for additional study and options to prevent the “undue stress” on residents.
While there is no point where the city can officially block what is allowed under a residential zoning, this issue arises as the land is being considered to be taken into the city as an R1 zone to allow the project to move forward. King mentioned and later agreed to bring in an engineer to analyze the viability of accessing the land from Old Burnt Mountain Road despite the extra costs. However, King did note that he already had the engineer glance at the area and offer a preliminary estimation that the slope and grade of the road would make accessing the land there far too costly for the project.
The council will be looking at the agenda item again next month along with requested documents like the engineer’s official report and an accident report on the road and intersection with Cove Road. One citizen also requested they provide an additional independent engineer’s opinion on the access viability.
As discussion heated after 35 minutes, Councilmember Tony Fountain commented saying, “We’re sitting here tonight to discuss and vote on the annexation of that property … The last time I checked, we still live in a free country where if you have the good fortune to take your retirement and buy a piece of property. And you wanted to develop it and [sic] make you a little money. Who is it for us to say, ‘No, you can’t do that because you might disturb some of your neighbors.'”
He was not the only council member to comment as new member Kirk Raffield also spoke up. One of the first council members of the night to mention tabling the issue to further investigate, Raffield questioned King on his willingness to access a different road. While King suggested an increased cost would make him unwilling to go that route, he had previously agreed to look into it and said he would be willing to investigate, putting off the item until next month.
Raffield also commented on the item as a whole thanking both parties for attending the meeting. He went on to say, “As frustrating as it may be on both sides, thank you for sticking with it. Please do not lose your temper, remain professional at all times, that’s why we’re here. I know it’s frustrating … I understand your concerns, and I understand your right. So, please remain patient with us.”
With the official motion to table the annexation of the property in an effort to look for better information, citizens are already considering returning July 2 to see the further information provided and continue the discussion there.
JASPER, Ga. – The latest in the city of Jasper’s separation of the positions of mayor and city manager came with council approval for advertisements for a permanent person to the position.
Currently, the position is held as interim City Manager by Jim Looney. As a part of the position, Looney presented Carl Vinson Institute of Government as the entity to take care of advertising and searching for candidates for the position.
The proposal for $9,487.50 includes the company interviewing the mayor and council to find what they are looking for in a candidate and then seeking people to fill those needs. They would accept applications for the city, evaluate the candidates, and make recommendations to the council for candidates. However, Looney reported the final decision on candidates would be up to the mayor and council.
The search would be localized to our region, according to Looney, providing candidates from the area. Another option of the package could have representatives from the Institute attend the interviews for candidates costing $1,500 per day. Though this option was in addition to the main package and not required.
Jasper Mayor John Weaver offered his opinion, stating it was a lot of money for what the city could do. He also noted that the people of the city elected the council to handle the business of the city. Suggesting he did not want the operation “taken out of the city’s hands,” Weaver suggested the council not approve the proposal.
Looney countered saying it added transparency to the process as well as handling “a heck of a job” in finding candidates. He went on to say that having the Institute’s name on the advertisement could provide some added prestige in the candidate search.
One alternative to using the Carl Vinson Institute would be for the city to establish its own search committee and place its own advertisements for the search and controlling everything “in-house.”
The council voted unanimously at their May meeting to approve the Carl Vinson Institute of Government proposal for finding a city manager.
JASPER, Ga. – On the agenda since January, Jasper City Council has been discussing self-funding for medical insurance versus insuring normally as they have been for years. They have had both Matt Bidwell, of MSI Benefits, and Kevin Godfrey, of Godfrey-Downs, looking through their contacts and markets to bring forth proposals to the council for insurance.
The city ultimately went with the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) recommended by Bidwell and MSI Benefits. Though the original recommendation was a $1,500 deductible plan, the council’s motion approved an alternate plan with a $1,000 deductible. The new plan’s premiums for the city would come to $1,104,163.00, around a $52,000 increase, which is far less than the near $300,000 increase the city was originally looking at during the beginning of the year. According to Bidwell, this plan is just above a 4 percent increase over the $1,500 deductible plan for the city.
The plan also allows, according to Bidwell, for any employee receiving compensation in the form of workman’s comp or a salary from the city to be covered under the insurance. This covers the issue the city had with their current insurance preparing to drop an officer from coverage who was injured in the line of duty.
The city may be closing down North and South Main street once a month in favor of a recurring Chamber event. Setting the events as May through August, the Chamber is attempting to establish the Saturday Social in the Mountains as a tourism event. The issue came before council to close South and North Main Street for the social events. While representatives had no set point of exactly what every event would entail, they did suggest they could include live music, children’s events, food, and other activities. Ultimately approved, the item passed with two votes, as Dr. Sonny Proctor and Anne Sneve abstained due to their involvement with the Chamber.
The council also approved a number of previously budgeted expenses including $14,000 to swap out the Cove Well emergency generator, $11,900 to rebuild pump four across from Shiloh Church, and the previously discussed 3 percent raise for city employees.