Jasper approves 2020 Operating Budget

News

JASPER, Ga. – Final approval came this month for the 2020 Operating Budget with the Jasper CIty Council’s transition to the new year.

The Council unanimously approved the operating budget resolution having gone through proposal, public hearings, and regular meetings.

The All Funds total revenue is $10,937,353. That is $1,079,390 less than 2019’s total $12,016,743. This total includes the General Revenue of the city, but also other sources such as the SPLOST, Hotel/Motel Tax, Water Fund, Solid Waste Fund, and Municipal Court Fund among others.

The General Revenue of Governmental Funds totals $4,680,032 with the budget balanced. This fund is also down from 2019’s $5,048,658 ($368,636 less).

Additionally, many departments are carrying the decrease including the largest departments of the Police Department at $1,365,266 (2019 – $1,410,181) and Fire Department at $1,159,810 (2019 – $1,220,937).

In fact, only three departments increased, Legislative at $117,313 (2019 – $94, 626), Animal Control at $43,921 (2019 – $37,735), and Planning and Zoning at $133,324 (2019 -$49,802).

However, with this budget approved, only four members of the council will operate under this budget as Tony Fountain and Mayor John Weaver are leaving this year.

Mayor Weaver is retiring after 27 years of service in the city, having not sought re-election. He will be succeeded in January by Mayor-elect Steve Lawrence.

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.

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.

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.

Cove Road Reopens to single lane traffic

News

JASPER, Ga. – The City of Jasper has officially reopened Cove Road after rock slides have had it closed for nearly a month.

However, with yesterday’s reopening of the road, there is a catch. Today will see only one lane of traffic available to citizens as clearing, repairs,  and stabilization of the area begins in earnest. Today, Georgia Power  will be replacing power lines on Cove road in the S curves, so please watch for these workers.

In the coming months, citizens will continue seeing the road open and close to lanes of traffic as the city continues with the plans it set into motion in last weeks monthly meeting. The city is calling for caution today as you travel the road, not just for the single lane of traffic, but for the workers and linemen who are continually moving along the road today.

 

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:

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.

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.

Jasper sets election fees

Election, News

JASPER, Ga. – The City Council is already preparing for elections season as they met on January 7, 2019.

According to their official release;

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. §21-2-131 (a)(1), the following qualifying fees for candidates seeking office in 2019 were set by the Mayor and Council of the City of Jasper at the January 7, 2019 regular council meeting:

Councilmember $35
Mayor $35

High tension continues into 2019 at Jasper City Council

News

JASPER, Ga. – The City Council is continuing to see dissension among the ranks as a disagreement has now arisen about organizational meeting appointments.

As the January meeting reached item “VI. Organizational Meeting,” Council member Dr. Sonny Proctor stated he wanted more information on these appointments saying, “I think the council should have prior knowledge of who the appointments are, what the duties are. We need to make sure that we educate them  to do their jobs properly.”

The point of debate came from the council members wanting more information and control on the decisions before coming to open meeting. Mayor John Weaver contended against the point saying that he, as mayor, makes the decisions to put before the council during meetings.

Weaver consulted city attorney Will Pickett, Jr. who stated, “The mayor has the right of appointment and the council can decide whether or not to approve your appointment.”

Proctor disagreed with Pickett saying, “I don’t think that’s what the code says.”

Moving along on the item, Weaver presented three appointments for the council’s approval, Luke Copeland to the Planning and Zoning Commission, Karen Proctor to the Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals, Don Boggus to the Housing Authority. All of these were re

All three appointments saw a motion from Tony Fountain, but no second. Each failed for that lack of a second.

Weaver stated during the failed motions, “This is the chaos that prevails.”

Pickett noted that without new appointments those serving would continue to serve until an appointment is approved.

Proctor stated after the motions failed that he was trying to prevent the chaos. He said, “The council deserves input on who serves on these committees. And we’re not saying we don’t disagree with your appointments, but we deserve input on it.”

With Proctor asserting he only wanted input on what goes on, Weaver responded saying, “Sir, you’ve got more input than you can imagine, so congratulations.”

There were committee appointments for council members that were approved. Finance committee includes Tony Fountain and John Foust. Water Committee is Tony Fountain. Public Safety Committee is Dr. Sonny Proctor. Street Department in Anne Sneve. Parks is John Foust. The JYSA Liaison is John Foust. Roper-Perrow Property is Jim Looney and Sonny Proctor. These were approved unanimously by the council.

City Council Advertises Millage Rate

News

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.

City manager updates with advertisements approval

News

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.

Jonah Lane rezoning stalls in January Meeting

News

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.

 

Council progresses on City Manager at December meeting

News

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.”

Kirk Raffield sworn in at Jasper City Council

News
Kirk Raffield joins Jasper City Council.
New council member Kirk Raffield takes his oath before sitting on the council for their June Meeting.

New council member Kirk Raffield takes his oath before sitting on the council for their June Meeting.

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.

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Jonah Lane Rezoning under legal questioning

News

The Jasper City Council went into closed session in February to discuss their action on Jonah Lane from December 2019.

Mayor John Weaver told citizens they were discussing a legal issue with Jonah Lane and recognized City Attorney Bill Pickett to give the City’s official stance on the rezoning.

Pickett said that the Council did vote to re-zone the property to R-3 with a condition of receiving a letter from the Appalachian Regional Commission that it did not violate a grant the city had received. With no motion from the council to rescind the rezoning and no request from the property owner to rescind it, the rezoning is moving forward.

This statement comes after January’s Council meeting when public comments surged against the issue and urged the council to reconsider the effects it would have on neighboring commercial developments. The rezoning in question was a C-2 lot as well. Now the rezoning sets it to residential amid other commercial developments. Citizens began protesting the issue in the meeting saying that police would undoubtedly be called as many of the neighboring commercial business owners gave examples of their businesses operating in unusual hours and causing noise that would be acceptable in commercial but considered excessive in residential zones.

More complaints came in February as citizens began questioning the legality of the issue. One business owner claims he was not properly notified of the rezoning. He also claims he has proof of the failure to notify. A claim disputed by Pickett as he says the city’s department says they did notify the adjoining properties of the request. The business owner also suggested he has had difficulties receiving requested documents. These allegations, as well as others from another neighbor to the property, suggested the city would be seeing legal ramifications if they move forward with the rezoning.

Mayor Weaver closed discussions of the issue saying, “The council’s action in December was specific… we are to follow what the council did that evening and we are aware of the issue.”

Mayor Weaver did voice opinions against the rezoning in December and to possible issues arising from it, but as the voting council members voted in favor of the rezoning, it is the council’s votes that direct the city’s efforts.

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