JASPER, Ga. – The Jasper City Council’s August meeting saw a change in the traffic direction for this year’s Marble Festival in October as well as for the popular JeepFest event starting at the end of August.
Haley Bouchie, President of the Jasper Merchants Association, presented a request to close a portion of Main Street during the festival. The road is already to be closed for the Road Race and the Parade that are scheduled for the weekend’s festivities. The new request would see the road staying closed from 6 a.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.
Bouchie stated the joint venture between the Jasper Merchant’s Association and the Pickens County Chamber would have security for the vendors on the street overnight. The request was made last year as well but denied. After several close calls with the traffic and pedestrians, according to Bouchie, they have returned with the request for this year’s festival.
Bouchie also told the council that they would be working alongside the merchants on the street to improve and increase their foot traffic despite the loss of the parking spaces on the street.
Expanding the Marble Festival up to Main Street cause a large discussion on how to get traffic around the closed street including Dixie, Mary, or even Whitfield streets. Sitting down with police and businesses to discuss traffic by foot and vehicle were assured to be forthcoming in preparation of the event.
Ultimately approved by unanimous decision, the event will see the road closed to traffic from 6 a.m. on Saturday, October 6, to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening, October 7.
The same request came for September’s JeepFest event asking to close Main Street for a “Show & Shine” of Jeeps lined up on the street. City Manager Jim Looney presented a letter from Kris Stancil of the Picken’s County Sheriff’s Office requesting the closure of the street on Friday, August 31, starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m. after a concert.
This is not the first time this request has been presented, having been done for years now. The request was approved for the event. Mayor John Weaver commented saying that the Jeeps take over all of Main Street with hundreds of Jeeps lined up down the road for the Show & Shine.
An additional request came from Wingsology for the JeepFest event. Requesting an outside beer and wine license, Wingsology is also a request from previous years.
The council approved the request unanimously as well.
With these events coming up quickly, citizens should be aware of the closures of Main Street during these events as to avoid congestion as they seek to travel through town or attempt to find parking. Shuttles are also being made available for the Marble Festival specifically. Citizens can find the shuttle areas by visiting the Marble Festival Website.
The Jasper City Council hosted another set of members from the Pickens High School Youth Leadership Program. Six seniors and three Juniors attended the meeting as the Council spoke.
After approving minutes from the February 1st meeting, the council hosted Matt Bidwell, of the MSI Benefits Group, Inc., to speak about the City’s Health Insurance plan. The plan is set to renew with Blue Cross Blue Shield on April 1st unless the Council would change it. While they had budgeted for a 12% increase to insurance, the actual increase Bidwell presented at the meeting amounted to a 13.5% increase after they had plead the case with Blue Cross Blue Shield to drop from 30%.
Bidwell stated they looked at Aetna Insurance as well as the company was able to submit a bid without the entirity of City Employees submiting Health Histories and extra paperwork. However, Aetna would have asked for more than the original 30% increase.
While deliberating the topic, City Clerk Lisa Hoyle said the Council could possibly cover the 1.5% difference between the budgeted 12% and actual 13.5% increase with an “over budgeted” in Liability Coverage the County had. The motion for approval came from Council Member John B. Foust Jr. with the comment that next year he wanted to look into getting all the paperwork from the city employees required for the City to collect more bids.
The Council moved on approving one reduced water/sewer rate application and a read resolution for Section 125 Plan. During the Mayor’s Reports, Economic Development Director Gerry Nechvatal gave updates as the coming Traffic study should be starting by the end of the month and plans are early in process to develop an area near Piedmont Hospital. Plans are hopeful to entice several developments, one specifically being a hotel. Nechvatal himself stated the hotel could be useful as Jasper does not currently have any specific locations for a convention or large meetings and groups.
Another issue was brought up in the meeting as the shop owners on Main Street have been speaking of concerns about parking on Main Street. The problem is said to happen on days that court is in session at the Pickens County Courthouse. Police Chief Greg Lovell stated the City Police are looking to begin writing citations for parking violations in the posted two hour limit locations and are also looking at options including the possibility of a citizen employee to monitor, somewhat similar to a meter-maid you might see in larger cities.