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Fort Oglethorpe hires firm to sort out zoning policies

The city of Fort Oglethorpe has agreed to terms with a consulting firm to help it revamp its zoning policies.

During a recent City Council meeting, City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins explained that the city's zoning ordinance has been out of whack for awhile.

"Our zoning code is outdated and impractical," she said.

Payne-Simpkins added that she and Building/Planning and Zoning Director Rick Quarles have evaluated the policy over that past few months and highlighted some problem areas.

"This is important to us," Payne-Simpkins said. "Appendix A of our code of ordinances establishes much of the policy. However, chapters 10, 14, 18, 34, 42, 54, 62, 66, 74, 78, 86 and 90 all include policies that affect zoning, and some of them are contradictory."

Payne-Simpkins proposed a contract with Hatley Consulting to help sort out the issues and help the city get the zoning ironed out.

"This is a recommendation to approve the purchase of professional services to review and update our zoning policy with Hatley Consulting in the amount of $48,500," Payne-Simpkins said. "We believe that the $48,000 that we're requesting to spend to update our zoning policy and consolidate all those chapters in Appendix A into a unified development code will be a great use of public resources and will help us form our policy around our needs for future development."

Before calling for a vote, Mayor Earl Gray commended the work done by Payne-Simp-kins and city staff.

"I just want to add a little something. I don't know if our council remembers or not, but this same proposal was put to us about six months ago, and at that time the price was about $156,000 or $158,000 if I remember correctly," Gray said. "Ms. Simp-kins and Mr. Quarles have been working on this thing diligently and did most of the hard work. They were able to go back and renegotiate this thing with all the material they came up with and got it down to $48,000."

The board unanimously approved the contract, and Gray stressed the importance of having the ordinances in line as the city continues to grow. "This is a pretty important thing for this city," Gray said. "It's probably something that should have been done years ago, but it's something we definitely need. I just wanted to say hats off to Ms. Simpkins and Mr. Quarles for getting this figured down to a doable figure."

Although $48,000 is a pretty hefty sum, Councilman Jim Childs said that it's better to spend some money now to protect the city's future. "Our codes are all over the board, as she (Payne-Simpkins) said, and this could save us a lot of money in the future legally," Childs said.

Fort Oglethorpe OKs sidewalk bids for ball field project

Fort Oglethorpe officials recently approved two contracts for its sidewalk project planned for the ball fields on Barnhardt Circle.

During the Nov. 12 City Council meeting, Public Works and Recreation Director Jeff Long gave bid recommendations on the work that will give players, parents, and spectators a smoother path to games.

"We're requesting to replace the sidewalks up there," Long said. "We're trying to get it all in ADA compliance to where people can maneuver throughout the ball fields all the way through from one field to another."

Long explained that the project included two different advertisements for bid: one for the forming and pouring of the walkways, and then bids for the concrete itself.

"We have a lot of them (pathways) up there," Long said. "Some are concrete, some asphalt, some gravel, and then some that are just grass and dirt period. We advertised for sealed bids for forming and pouring the walkways, and then did a separate bid for a concrete supplier where we would buy the concrete from the concrete plant directly."

Long's department received four bids for the forming and pouring, with the low bid being JM Hanner Construction out of Chattanooga.

"Their bid was $1.50 per square foot for the forming and pouring, and also we did three different bid prices on building some catch basins where we're going to put in some stormwater drainage; one price was $480 a piece, one was $680, and then one is $1440, and that's for the different size and depths on those."

Long says JM Hanner, a local company, was much cheaper than the other three companies in South Georgia.

As far as the concrete bids go, Long says he only received one, which was from the Dalton-based Basic Ready Mix at a cost of $116 per yard.

Long says the contract prices also include a lot of in-house work that will be done by city crews. For that reason, Long couldn't provide an exact number for the overall cost of the project, but did give a ballpark figure.

"The price we're looking at will be somewhere from $80,000 to $100,000, and it is in the 2014 SPLOST funds," Long said.

The council unanimously approved the bid awards, and Long added that he hopes to get the project underway before the end of the year.

"We'll be starting on it pretty soon, and hopefully weather cooperating, we'll have it done for spring baseball season."

Fort Oglethorpe OKs new evidence lockers for police

The Fort Oglethorpe Police Department will soon upgrade its facilities by adding new evidence lockers to the fold.

During the Nov. 12 City Council meeting, Police Chief Mike Helton presented recent bids for the project and discussed the department's need for an upgraded evidence storing system.

"The police department would like to make a recommendation to purchase and improve our new evidence locker system," Helton said. "We've had the same one (system) in place since they moved into the building. Frankly, it doesn't meet official locker standards at all."

Helton said how his officers handle and store evidence is one of the department's "12 Critical Tasks," which focuses on maintaining the integrity of property and evidence, and having the proper storage arrangements.

Helton added that the new lockers will be more durable than the current ones, and that they will last for decades.

"These lockers are not the type of lockers that you would think of in a gymnasium or school setting," Helton explained. These are high-quality lockers that cannot be easily penetrated. They'll also be usable; we're going to install them in the hallway right now, but when we get the chance to remodel an evidence entry way where we can package evidence, we can cross-use them.

Helton said the goal is to one day mount the lockers inside walls where evidence technicians can have protective access from the other side of the wall.

"This is for current use and the future," Helton said. "They'll last 40-50 years. They're long-term pieces of metal, and they're strong."

The Council unanimously approved the purchase for a little under $8,000.

"We took three bids, and Fastco Incorporated was the low quote," Helton said. "It's also the best product of what we found out there as well, so that came in good for us. That amount is $7,933, and we do have it within out budget."

3,000 turn out for Christmas craft show at Colonnade in Ringgold

The Christmas in North Georgia Craft Show at the Colonnade in Ringgold on Nov. 17 was a feast for the senses. Craftsmanship at its best was on display as were twinkling lights and savory holiday scents, from cinnamon and flowery wax melts to a mix of smells from homemade foods like cheese straws and pastries.

Last year, Margaret and Lee Parrish took over the annual craft show that was once a Colonnade function. More than 3,000 people walked through the doors to browse and shop the 42 booths this year.

"We had nearly double the number of vendors this year over last," says Margaret Parrish.

The Parrishes are crafters themselves.

They create iron yard art and custom iron work for gates, fences, chairs, headboards, tables, shelving, grills and more, as well as handmade candles and wax melts.

"We travel to a lot of craft shows," says Margaret Parrish. "It's hard to find a major local show, which is why we decided to do this. Our show is devoted to handcrafted items only and we're happy it's already attracting some unique vendors."

Parrish says they advertised this year's show by way of social media, flyers and two billboards. "Next year, we're planning four or five billboards and more ways of reaching people. Some of this year's vendors have already signed up to come back next year."

Vendors at this year's craft show came from the immediate area and from places more distant, like Resaca and Dallas.

Some handed out business cards with Facebook and websites and others had only email addresses or phone numbers. There were professionally printed business cards and ones cut out by hand, techsavvy and old-school crafters.

One thing all the vendors had in common was a hardworking commitment to producing unique and quality products. There were baskets and ornaments intricately woven from pine needles, pottery made of clay its creators dug themselves, signs and outdoor decor made from hardwood found on a crafter's own property, beautifully carved wood handles on ice cream scoops, pizza cutters and shaving brushes, art, jewelry, stationery, textile arts and much more.

"We're excited about next year," says Parrish. "We were able to book the Colonnade for December 7. It will be our third year. We should have even more vendors and more people attending."

To learn more about Christmas in North Georgia, visit them on Facebook at or call 423-309-1871.