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After seven years, Ball Ground project finally clears bureaucratic hurdles

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     At the most recent Ball Ground City Council meeting, City Manager Eric Wilmarth discussed in detail the plans for the long-anticipated Valley Street Streetscapes project. 

 

By Larry Cavender

Contributing writer

 

Bids have been awarded in the long-anticipated street scapes project for Ball Ground's Valley Street. The city received a federal grant for the project in 2011, but governmental red-tape delayed the project until now.

At the city council meeting on October 11th, and in what could be described as an understatement, Mayor Rick Roberts said, "All kinds of rules are involved when it comes to federal dollars." Because of the delay and resulting inflationary increases in project costs, some plans had to be scrapped.

City Manager Eric Wilmarth detailed what will and will not be accomplished against the grant of $560,000 with matching funds from the city of $140,000. 

• A continuous sidewalk from Howell Bridge Road East to connect to downtown and a shade structure with brick pavers at the corner of Valley and Beck Streets will be completed. 

• Streetlights, a sidewalk tying into the STEM academy property, pull off parking, and some landscaping are among items to be scrapped.

A bid of more than $430,000 was accepted from Excellere, leaving $67,000 in contingency funding which will be later applied to some of the cancelled portions of the project. Some of those funds will be paired with an expected refund of $19,000 in a city overpayment and will be earmarked for street lighting. Georgia Power has agreed to provide the streetlights for $40,000, an effective savings of several thousand dollars over the original plan. Remaining leftover funds will go to landscaping.

The long delay was the result of governmental red-tape, predominately because of Environmental Protection Agency suspicions the small strip of land might be a habitat for an endangered species. Earlier this year, Mayor Roberts lamented that the species had never been observed by anyone in the city.

Wilmarth said, "We should be turning dirt in January," and recognizing that’s in the dead of winter, he added, "The worst possible time.” Hopefully, the project will be completed in six months.

Because of the delayed September meeting and the resulting interval of only two weeks between meetings, the council addressed a short agenda. 

One item was an intergovernmental agreement between the city and Cherokee County on a magistrate/first appearance agreement, which will allow a county magistrate to hear prisoners transported to the county jail. Previously, a city magistrate was required at jail hearings, and the agreement will save the city money plus valuable time for the city magistrate.

The council approved a new alcohol license, necessitated by new ownership, for the Ball Ground Shell Station, as well as amendments for the 2017-2018 budget allowing for adjustments because of unexpected grants received by the city in that fiscal year.

 

In other Ball Ground News:

• Because of ever-increasing crowds, the Main Street Association announced a change in venue for this year's Spooktacular. The event, scheduled to begin at 4 p. m. on Friday, October 26th, will be held at the athletic field next to the community building instead of City Park.

Several civic organizations are planning on providing treats and games at the Spooktacular including the Ball Ground Business and Community Association and their plans were discussed at their October 10th meeting. The Lunch n' Learn was sponsored by Dr. Ryan Klopfer of Ball Ground Upper Cervical Chiropractic located at the same site of Dr. Rebecca Ray's former clinic.

• The Ball Ground Methodist Church announced their annual Trunk-or-Treat will be held at the church from 5 until 7 p.m. on Sunday, October 28th. Everyone is invited.