Jasper and JYSA unsure of parks future

News

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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Ordinances and Zoning changes in July Council

News

JASPER, – The City Council is moving forward with ordinance changes and zoning issues in July with approvals for 2nd readings and zoning parcels.

The second reading for the new cruelty to animals ordinance and a second reading for changes to definitions and uses for Vape Shops were both approved in July’s meeting. As the second reading both have officially taken effect within the city now.

Additionally, Jasper Citizen Brad Dilbeck opened discussion with the zoning and uses in Mountain City Business Park. Nearly nineteen years old, Dilbeck said the occupants mostly focus on industrial, manufacturing, or distribution on the C2 zoning. The issue for Dilbeck comes as he owns eight parcels in the park and wishes to build on the four he has not already used.

Dilbeck requested the city discuss and consider changing the zoning to more closely resemble what he sees as the vast majority of its usage.

Jasper Mayor John Weaver noted that some issues that might arise with commercial and industrial intertwined such as heavy commercial traffic interrupting employees or delivery trucks or likewise heavy trucks used in industrial work mixing into small vehicle traffic on a smaller road.

Dilbeck said he wanted to have the zoning change for himself as well so he could build correctly with manufacturing which is not allowed in C2 zoning as well as should he need to change tenants on current property. The “incorrect” label, according to Dilbeck, causes issues with his plans for growth and construction.

Councilmember Dr. Sonny Proctor suggested the city take time to investigate root causes and take assessments on current usage in the area so they could understand and adjust accordingly.

Weaver also said he wanted a public hearing for the changes to allow other property owners to speak as well. Dilbeck agreed with the process saying it was reasonable to go through the usual zoning process.

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New fines set for leaving animals in cars

News

JASPER, Ga. – The Jasper Police Department is asking the city for more guidance and direction on its cruelty to animals ordinance as the agenda item came up this week during the council’s meeting.

According to Lonnie Waters of the City of Jasper, the city has already received calls this year about animals locked in vehicles in the heat of the day. This issue was addressed last year with an amendment to regulate this action if the outside temperature is over 70 degrees.

Wanting wording to add fines to a  maximum to the violation of this amendment, the police were seeking the council’s input and approval to make an addition saying, “A violation of section 14-12 shall carry of maximum penalty of a fine of…” With no specific amount set in their proposal, the city was left to set a maximum.

Jasper Mayor John Weaver asked the council to set a fine with regards to the differences between city and superior courts saying, “I think we should allow people to plead guilty to a Cruelty to Animals by leaving in the car when they run into the Walmart, so that we can deal with them in the courts of Jasper, Georgia, instead of making it so extensive that they don’t want to deal with us. They want to take it to Superior Court.”

The city approved a motion to set fines at $50 for first offense, $100 for second offense, and $150 for third offense. With this new addition, citizens who may make a mistake of this nature will face the $50 fine for violation. However, repeat offenders will face harsher fines.

Extreme cases and death of animals are separated according to Police Chief Greg Lovell who said during the meeting that animal deaths would still require their own response.

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Jasper receives Audit for city and chamber

News

JASPER, Ga. – Jasper saw the presentation of the 2018 Audit for both the City and Chamber during the June City Council meeting with reports for each.

Presented by Rushton and Company, CPA’s, the Audit held an unmodified opinion for the city, meaning Rushton did not have to change or alter anything with their opinion and the financial records.

Ending the year of 2018, Rushton’s presentation reported $530,252 of “Revenues over Expenditures.”

The report also noted the city could currently operate about one-third of the year on their fund balance. Council member Dr. Sonny Proctor questioned the fund balance asking if the city was in a “healthy” spot with that operational buffer in the fund balance. To which the city was told that many cities only have one to two months of operational balance, so Jasper would be better than many of those cities.

The report also presented an internal controls opinion. With no material weakness, the presentation did note a comment on a “significant deficiency” with regards to segregation of duties. While Rushton’s representative did say that he felt the two people handling the alchohol licenses were doing a great job, the standards would suggest three employees. He also noted that he didn’t expect the city to change this, but the note was put into the audit.

As the city gives money to the Picken’s County Chamber of Commerce, the city also heard an audit presentation for their funds in the Chamber. The report stated that Rushton and Company found the expenditures were properly spent and spent during the proper timeline.

The report did note that they found one note as the city noted no written policy on allocation percentages for joint costs. While they tested the funds and found the allocations reasonable, they simply thought that having a written policy could improve upon the area.

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City addresses Adult Entertainment sign

News

JASPER, Ga. – Citizens are still in confusion about a sign appearing at the Shops of Jasper announcing “Adult Entertainment” coming soon.

According to City Manager Brandon Douglas, the City has no application or permitting for an adult entertainment business or signage at this location. He went on to note the property owner has also told him he has no intent to pursue this kind of business.

Douglas said that the City has reached out to the property owner about the sign and has received acknowledgment about the sign and it will be coming down. While no fine or official action is being taken because of this acknowledgment, Douglas said the city will be following up with the property owner if the sign does not come down.

As for the possibility of an Adult Entertainment type of business, the city does have zoning where it could be allowed, but Douglas said it is restricted to industrial areas and is also listed as a conditional use permit. This means that if a business like this would be created, it would have to go through zoning and come before the Mayor and City Council for approval. Douglas assures citizens that this type of business would be well advertised, as all conditional use permits are, well in advance of the business opening.

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Cove Creek Fish Rodeo returns

Community, News

JASPER, Ga. – With roughly 25 years of the annual Fish Rodeo, the city is preparing once again for this beloved event.

The Council heard the required request, and subsequently approved, for the Pickens County Sportsman Club Annual Fish Rodeo this month to allow the event in May. Sportsman Club representative Walt Cagle offered fliers to the council as he presented the request. The four-day event will see support for the community, special needs, and senior homes in the area.

Mayor John Weaver called the rodeo “a very special event” in recent years as it has been about a decade at the Cove Creek location. Cagle notes the wired off location will provide stock trout for all who wish to participate. He went on to say that the event not only serves Pickens County, but all who wish to attend and he evens sees response from senior homes in Cherokee.

The council officially provided the proclamation needed for the event to have the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to close off the creek for the event.

Cagle provided the following flier for the council and citizens for information on the event:

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Replacements, Rebuilds, and Resolutions in Jasper’s April Council

News

JASPER, Ga. – April’s expenses for the Jasper City Council are on the rise as they approve purchases and bids alongside an approval for over $100,000 for the Cove Road incident.

These purchases came from three different departments looking to update equipment for the coming spring months.

The Jasper Police Department sought approval, and received it, from the council for $33,900 for a new vehicle. According to Police Chief Greg Lovell, the need comes after several issues in the fleet including two cars in the shop for repairs and the Explorer being totaled after an accident in January. The new truck, Lovell said, will is coming from Ronnie Thompson Ford.

The Water Department requested funding for rebuilding three lift station pumps in the city from Highway 108 to Piedmont Mountainside Hospital. Water Superintendent David Hall spoke to the council about the builds with three different prices. The total cost for all three comes to $32,136.28. The first pump is $7,825.04. The second needs an internal part replaced as well, making the cost $10,634.90. The third pump needs the part replaced and a bearings replaced, making the cost $13,676.34.

Hall said the department already has moved other pumps in the city to cover the need that these pumps served, but this reduces the efficiency more each day. However, these pumps have served this need since 2002, according to Hall. With 17 years behind them before needing the rebuilds, Council member Tony Fountain noted that he hoped to get another 15 years out of these now.

A third purchase request came from the budgeted purchase of a zero turn lawnmower for the street department as the move into spring and prepare to for the maintenance needed. City Manager Brandon Douglas told the council that the city has received bids for the lawnmower. Goss Equipment’s bid was for $11,886.20 for a Grasshopper brand. Nelson Tractor Company’s bid was $12,615 for a Kubota brand. Ag-Pro $13,649.99 for a John Deere brand. Rolling Tire’s bid was for $13,000. Mason Tractor Company’s bid was for $12,526. The council approved Goss Equipment, the low bid, for their Grasshopper brand lawnmower. Fountain clarified with Douglas about the servicing program for the equipment. Douglas confirmed that Goss said the would work and provide for the needs saying that even if they had to outsource the work, they would provide a replacement available immediately for the needs of the city.

The council is also honoring a local citizen, Kyle Brock, with an official resolution to name the city dog park after him. Utility Development Planned Lonnie Waters presented the request to the council for a small marble plaque in honor of the service provided. The council quickly approved the request and pushed further to have Brock come before the council to receive the plaque so that they might further recognize the hard work and dedication he has provided to the animals of the community.

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Council talks speed vs. safety in Cove Road Issues

News

JASPER, Ga. – Citizens of Jasper listened as Mayor John Weaver offered updates on proposals and plans for the Cove Road rockslide recovery.

The council addressed the rockslide with information from City Manager Brandon Douglas who said the city has retained the services of Geostabilization Engineering for stabilization and repairs from the rockslide. Douglas said that the Thursday, the firm offered a proposal to stabilize and ensure safety in the area.

The proposal would present a 6-day period of operations for the cost of $95,000. Douglas said they employed a third-party firm to vet the proposal. This third-party did confirm the competitiveness of the proposal according to Douglas.

However, the contract came under question by City Attorney Bill Pickett who pointed out that any disputes about action or inaction in violation of the contract would require the city to go to Colorado, the home state of the company, to sue or pursue legal action against the company.

Though this is an “if” situation, meaning it would only be needed if the company does not live up to the contract. However, Douglas countered saying that his understanding was that this point of the contract was open to negotiation.

Another contention point came as the $95,000 is not a set price. The proposal is based on site investigations, but if additional work is needed, then additional costs would be incurred.

Mayor Weaver noted that he felt much of the danger of the specific area of Cove Road was taken out by the slide. While stabilization is needed, Weaver said he felt there were much more dangerous areas nearby this site on Cove Road. Douglas said that the six-day period would allow the company to address additional nearby areas without incurring additional “mobilization costs.” This means that if Geostabilization Engineering secures the area’s safety in two or three days, the City can have them move on to the additional areas of danger on the road.

Addressing the rockslide directly, Weaver said, “You can drive the road today. They cleaned it up the next day. But what they’re worried about is your safety because if you’d been on the road when that rock fell… What you’re worrying about is how fast we can get it done. So, that’s the issues that the administration is going to be working with, but there is a lot of issues to be worked out.”

Weaver went on to note that funding and taxpayers are in his consideration as he wants to go seek emergency funds from the state and federal government as well as other agencies who could help. He said he wants citizens to consider that they are working on the area to provide safety for those who are traveling on the road. He does not want to have a phone call one day of somebody being crushed by another landslide as they were driving.

City Councilmember Tony Fountain said that he wants to have the city sleep at night knowing they have done everything they can.

However, the city must also consider, as Weaver later said, once the city begins any work on the area, it becomes a city liability. Weaver stated that because of this liability, the city is going to take its time in the process to get each “stamp of approval” they need to ensure the safety of all who utilize the road.

He went on to say it isn’t going to be a cheap and quick fix, but asked for patience as they continue along this project.

The council did approve ‘up to $120,000’ in a motion from Councilmember Kirk Raffield and a second from Councilmember Anne Sneve. This motion will allow the city manager to move forward with negotiations on the proposal and finalizing details on the contract. The final vote came to 4-0 with John Foust abstaining as he said he could be part of crews working on power lines in the area.

Weaver noted afterward that he is shocked that more landslides haven’t occurred with all the rain and snow and weather the city has suffered in the last year. As such, he is more worried about other dangers in the area than the recent slide that has already taken away much of that spots danger.

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