Council talks speed vs. safety in Cove Road Issues

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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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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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