JASPER, Ga. – After May’s primary election night, Kirk Raffield pulled out a close victory of 272 votes to his opponents 262. With the 50.94 percent results, Raffield attended the city of Jasper’s June council meeting to be officially sworn in as a part of the council.
With it being his first meeting, Raffield swore his oath preceding the official call to order in their council meeting and officially took his seat after this. With many in attendance to watch the ceremony, one citizen, Regina Mosley Camp, took a moment to comment on the event saying she knew Raffield as a younger child. “I am truly excited for him because I know the quality of man he is,” said Camp.
Camp volunteered in Raffield’s campaign for the council, noting that she was fervent in her support because of what she has seen him do throughout her time with him.
The special election came after former council member Jim Looney stepped down to take the interim city manager position for Jasper. The seat has been empty up to this month.
With such a close race, Raffield moves forward on the council with a question on him constantly asking what he will bring to the council meetings and what he will accomplish for the city. Sitting in his first meeting, Raffield was not shy about his new seat, speaking fervently on an annexation issue specifically. Check out more by reading City Council discusses Sharktop Ridge annexation.
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.
On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, over 450 people from various communities gathered together to celebrate The Joy House at its annual banquet. Founded by Pickens County native Steve Lowe, The Joy House is a local non-profit that has provided Christ-centered restorative care for struggling teens, families, and individuals since 2001.
The weather was perfect as guests made their way to SharpTop Cove—a Young Life Camp to enjoy hors d-oeuvres on the grounds prior to the program’s beginning inside The Mill at 6:30 p.m. Entertained by beautiful piano music played by a talented Joy House resident, Christina, guests enjoyed a delicious spread served by Joy House residents and local high school volunteers.
After dinner, guests learned about the various aspects of the Joy House program. The program began with moving videos and testimonies highlighting the ministry’s comprehensive teen residential program and their community Christian counseling center, open to all ages. The Counseling Center serves approximately 200 individuals a year out of their offices in Jasper, Ellijay, and Woodstock. Via video, many glowing counseling center testimonies were offered. Following the video, Dr. Garry Barber, the Director of the Counseling Center, shared the singular mission of both the Counseling Center and the residential program: to ultimately be Christ-centered.
Next, the Joy House Academy was featured. The academy is the fully accredited, private Christian school on campus that the teen residential-program residents attend year-round. Robin Whitaker, the classroom teacher, shared with the guests what a typical day at school looks like. While she loved teaching English at Cherokee High School for 30 years, she shared that she thoroughly enjoys working and teaching now in an environment that feels like a “bubble of love.” Joy House Academy Education Director Ron Rucker recognized the contribution of the stellar tutors toward creating this bubble. Including a former employee of NASA and an IBM executive, these tutors volunteer their time to help students understand all levels of math, science, English, and social studies. Students at the academy not only learn the required subjects, but also have the opportunity to take exciting electives. On the centerpiece of each table at the banquet was a bird created on a 3-D printer by Academy students who were taught 3D Computer Aided Design by Pete Payne, a retired technology professor at Dekalb College Atlanta.
Partners with the Ministry, including well-known community leaders such as Don Boggus and Don Russell, came together to create a “Partner Video” to share why they have chosen to serve this ministry with their support. Joy House Board Chairman Kip Wilbanks stated, “I’m all about purpose, and I think people like to make a difference and with the Joy House you can make an eternal difference in people’s lives.”
The highlight of the evening was the testimony of one of the families currently enrolled in the Teen Residential Program. Simply, they said, the Joy House has changed their lives. “Because of this Academy, and because of the care and help from the tutors who spend countless hours of one-on-one time with these kids, [our daughter] is planning on going to college to study nursing.” The resident herself stated that her counselor at The Joy House “has had a huge impact on [her] life just in the last year. [She has] learned countless skills from him that [she] will apply to the rest of [her] life.” In conclusion, they stated, “So today, after working with the Joy House for 15 months, our family dynamics look a bit different. We have deeper conversations at home, we pray together, we are focused as a family on God’s plan for us. We were able to be constructive and uplifting to each other. We’ve learned to forgive better.” The guests celebrated this restoration with a standing ovation.
The Joy House is so thankful for the $65,000 raised at this banquet to support their operational funds and to contribute to building a third residential home on their property. If you would like to be a part of this ministry, you may donate online at http://thejoyhouse.org/make-a-donation/ or by sending a check via mail to P.O Box 247, Jasper, GA 30143. For more highlights from the banquet, visit their Facebook page @joyhouseinc. For more information about The Joy House, please visit their website at thejoyhouse.org; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; OR call 706.253.7569.
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.
The Pickens County Chamber of Commerce would like to congratulate Dynamite Fitness on their ribbon cutting for their business. Dynamite Fitness, LLC is a “Boot Camp” style ladies-only gym. They are here to motivate, encourage, and support the ladies of our community to be a healthier and happier YOU! They offer strength, weight, HIIT, circuit, cardio and endurance training BY women FOR women! They offer drop in day rates, weekly, or monthly programs.
Brittany Poole and Bridget Roland started this venture because they knew there were many local ladies who would love the opportunity to get in shape but just did not feel comfortable in a typical gym setting. When you walk through their doors, you will feel welcome and never intimidated or out of place. They have members ranging from young teenagers to 60+ and on ALL fitness levels. Poole and Roland coach and support you through it all! Not only will you be able to get in shape, but you will have a great time while doing so. The laughs and high fives are endless, and the sweat is just a bonus. Kids are also welcome where they are free to play games, color, watch TV or work on homework.
They have been blessed with an AMAZING group of ladies thus far and look forward to all 2018 may bring.
Your first class is always FREE, so just give them a shot.
For more information on Dynamite Fitness and many other businesses that are members of the Pickens County Chamber of Commerce, please give us a call at 706-692-5600 or visit our website at www.pickenschamber.com.
JASPER, Ga. – Jasper City Council Member Jim Looney resigned during the Jasper City Council Meeting Monday, Feb. 5.
Resigning so that he may take the interim position of city manager, Looney stated it was due to information advised to him that state law prohibits a councilman from holding another municipal office without resigning from his council seat.
Looney read the state code in the council’s meeting: “A councilman or alderman of a municipal corporation shall be ineligible to hold any other municipal office during the term of office for which the councilman or alderman was chosen unless he first resigns as councilman or alderman before entering such other office.”
Immediately after his resignation, the city council officially nominated Looney as city manager for Jasper. As part of the motion made, the city manager position was set “until such time as specific duties and powers of the mayor and city manager are clearly delineated by the city council, that the city manager report to the mayor and city council collectively.”
Jasper Mayor John Weaver recognized members of the public to speak at the meeting. The council was questioned about the public knowledge of the proceeding involving the transfer of the city manager position from Weaver and now to Looney.
Jasper City Council Member Dr. Sonny Proctor commented saying he had asked about the situation last year and began researching the position and the separation of positions. Having spoken on the topic several times, Proctor confirmed there was closed discussion about personnel issues in executive sessions, but the votes were taken in public.
In addition to this resignation and appointment to the city manager position, Looney’s move leaves a city council seat open. During their meeting, the council approved a call for election and set the qualifying fee at $35 for the position. With details still coming about the approval, Jasper will be seeing more details about the election in the coming weeks.
One last comment from Proctor came before the final vote on the issue. “This is a time for us all to come together, and I know it doesn’t feel like that is what’s going on,” Proctor said. “I’m not trying to divide us. I’m trying to bring us together, in a different way I understand that. But I want us to collaborate and work together.
The official vote appointing Looney as city manager came 3-1 with council member Tony Fountain being the dissenting vote.
As the meeting moved through the rest of the agenda items, it came time to adjourn the meeting. However, Mayor John Weaver took time to make one final comment before adjournment saying, “I have been mayor/city manager for 25 years, 5 months, 2 days and 15 minutes, maybe 4 hours and 15 minutes. Anyway, I have enjoyed my stay here and I feel like by being the mayor/city manager, being the evil thing that it is, has allowed the city of Jasper to grow from a $1.6 million budget to over $12 million without raising taxes and with only one water rate increase. I feel like by being the mayor/city manager has given me the opportunity to go visit people, look them in the eye, and argue the case of the city of Jasper better than any city manager that you could possibly have.”