9/11/2008 – Angela Mitchell Courtesy of Pickens Progress
In a unanimous decision by the Jasper City Council, the City of Jasper will enter into a licensing agreement with the Georgia Northeastern Railroad, allowing the city to take sole responsibility for maintenance of the wood bridge that carries Chambers Street over the railroad.
While the city will not own the landmark bridge north of downtown, after signing the licensing agreement with the railroad they will officially be able to apply for government grants and accept donations from parties interested in contributing to the project, estimated to cost about $80,000.
“[The railroad] is not going to give us the right to dominate their right-of-way,” Mayor Johnny Weaver told the council. “This agreement one-hundred percent protects the railroad. They don’t care about the bridge as much as they do the railroad.”
Mayor Weaver said the railroad initially wanted to tear the structure down when it was deemed unsafe for motor vehicles by the Georgia DOT earlier this year, but said they later realized the bridge’s historical importance.
“The railroad wants to save the bridge like we do,” he said.
Responding to local critics who feel that the city is dragging its feet coming up with cash to pay for repairs quickly, Mayor Weaver noted that in the midst of receding sales tax revenue, low building and construction permits, and high energy costs, the people of Jasper should try to understand the council is acting appropriately.
“Council is being responsible and not writing an $80,000 check,” Weaver said. He strongly emphasized the need for fiscal responsibility at this time.
Council member Tony Fountain added, “People should appreciate the fact that we are doing all we can to keep the bridge.”
After a meeting with The Downtown Development Authority of Jasper last Thursday, Mayor Weaver also announced at Monday’s council meeting that the DDA will act as “conduit between the city and people who want to make donations.” See a related story on the authority’s meeting in this week’s issue.
In other council news:
•Financial Director Tacie Williams reported the City of Jasper is running in the black, despite a nearly 40-percent decrease in tax revenue from this time last year.
Williams said, “The whole city tackled this together,” and estimates by the end of fiscal year 2008, Jasper will come in $400,000 under budget as a direct result of pro-active planning. The city has cut employee healthcare and insurance costs as well as employee overtime.
•The council approved a $500 grant match request for the Sharptop Mountain Arts Association.
The Jasper City Council meets on the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. in city hall.