Parkway Gains Traffic Light, Employees Getting Raises, But Fate Of LaFayette Road Revamp Unclear

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - by Mike O'Neal

A plan to improve traffic flow and fuel development along Battlefield Parkway was  quickly approved by the Fort Oglethorpe City Council during their regular meeting Monday night.

And it took just a few minutes for the council members to agree on a proposal to increase the take-home pay for every city employee.

But it will be a few more weeks before the council can decide whether or not to approve a masterplan aimed at guiding revitalization of the city’s historic district.

The council had no reservations about approving a request by developer Larry Armour to install a new median cut, turn lanes and traffic light on Battlefield Parkway, just west of Walmart.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has approved a plan that will have the city and Catoosa Economic Development Authority construct a signal-controlled intersection on the busy highway.

Mr. Armour said this project is necessary if he is to develop land south of and directly across the highway from the Crye Leike strip mall, Mattress Connection and Subway. 

Officials were told the project’s estimated cost of $500,000 should be recouped by increased revenue from sales and property taxes as well as business licenses and fees collected.

Mr. Armour said his company, Armour Commercial Real Estate, will repay the city and the EDA should the project’s economic benefit fail to cover its cost over a seven-year period.

Councilman Earl Gray said the 14 businesses located on Crye Leike Drive have suffered because there is no way to cross the divided highway either to or from eastbound lanes.

“This traffic light will help businesses on both sides of the parkway,” he said. 

Mr. Armour told the council that he intends to have the “buildable” land annexed into the city while keeping areas in the flood plan — the property borders West Chickamauga Creek — within the county and available for recreational use.

The issue of pay raises, left unresolved during their previous meeting, was settled when the council unanimously approved 2 percent pay raises for all city employees. This action effectively restores the amount individuals lost when the federal payroll tax holiday expired last month.

Enacted in 2011, that holiday had reduced the employee share of Social Security payroll tax withholdings from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent.

Fort Oglethorpe’s $13.5 million budget that went into effect on Jan. 1 included raises which City Manager Ron Goulart had hoped would be slightly more than a cost-of-living raise.

“This  budget has a proposed 3 percent raise for all employees,” Mr. Goulart said when that budget was adopted in October. “At the end of the year, I figure we’ll have about 2 percent inflation so this means employees will be able to catch up on any shortages in the past.”

In addition to the 2 percent raise that effectively restores their take home pay to what it was at the end of 2012, the council also approved a 25-cent per hour raise — the rough equivalent of another 1 percent pay hike — or all employees.

Mr. Goulart said that after meeting with department heads and council members it was decided that the pay scale will be reviewed as the year progresses and adjustments — maybe additional raises — could be possible.

While the city will see solutions to a long needed traffic situation and well earned pay raises, it will be a few more weeks before a final version of a plan to revamp LaFayette Road is presented for the council’s approval.

William Shealy, senior project manager with the Jaeger Company, apologized profusely that he had not attended the council meeting.

“I’ve never before missed a public meeting,” he said. “I lament the fact that I wasn’t there."

An early version of the masterplan is displayed at city hall or can be viewed online at www.fortoglethorpedda.com.

Mr. Shealy said the date for presentation to the council had been set in December but, due to some revisions, “the REFRESH committee needs to review the proposal before it goes before the city council.”

The updated plan will be reviewed by REFRESH members next week and a masterplan summary should be prepared for review by the individual council members before a final presentation.

“The mayor and council are familiar with what the masterplan entails but there might be a few adjustments after the final review,” Mr. Shealy said. “The council should be able to give their final approval before the end of March.”

While there might be a few changes in particulars, the goal of the plan has remained constant: reworking roughly one-mile of LaFayette Road between the entrance to Chickamauga Battlefield Park and Battlefield Parkway to make it more closely resemble a “main street” than a high-speed motorway.

Jeff Epperson, local business owner and chairman of the Fort Oglethorpe Downtown Development Authority, said preparation of the masterplan has taken a little longer than expected but everything should go before the city council during their March 25 meeting.

“This plan is a catalyst for renewal of this part of town,” he said.

moneal2480@comcast.net 

 


Bradley County Sheriff's Office Warns Public Of Another Green Dot Card Scam

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson has issued an alert concerning attempted fraud in the area.  The sheriff said law enforcement agencies have received numerous calls of yet another “Green Dot” card swindle. There have been several other scams of this type in Southeast Tennessee and nationwide. Complainants report they receive a phone call from a male identifying ... (click for more)

Dalton Police Seek Suspect In Bank Card Fraud

The Dalton Police Department is asking for the public’s help identifying a man who used a stolen credit card to rack up more than $450 in fraudulent charges. The card was stolen from a man’s bag in an unlocked gym locker. The theft happened sometime between 4:30 and 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 15. The male victim left his belongings unlocked in a gym locker room while he worked out. After ... (click for more)

Shelley Andrews Will Be Missed

Shelley Andrews was one of the kindest, most thoughtful and most effective laborers in our community.  Her work with the Friends of Moccasin Bend was exemplary.  She listened, she learned and she led with dignity and class. Her brave battle with ovarian cancer was a testament to her positive spirit and commitment to her work on behalf of the people of this region. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: He’s Exempt From Drunk

I love the old story about a popular Senator who, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, was asked late one evening, “Sir, what if we get bombed?” to which came the quick reply, “I’d be absolutely delighted … I can get one of my aides to drive us home afterwards.” You think of stuff like that when word comes from Kentucky that state legislator Brandon Smith was caught driving erratically ... (click for more)

Libby Peigen Named Soddy-Daisy Volleyball Coach

Libby Peigen, daughter of Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen, has been named head volleyball coach at Soddy-Daisy, replacing Lorri Johnson. Peigen had been head middle school and assistant varsity coach at East Hamilton before taking over the Lady Trojans' program. She played volleyball at Ooltewah and Lee University. The announcement of Peigen's hiring was originally posted ... (click for more)

Hamilton Heights' Duran Commits To MTSU

(Story will be updated) Hamilton Heights wing Joan Duran has made a verbal commitment to Middle Tennessee State University. Duran, a 6-foot-6-inch senior, has been instrumental in the Hawks’ highly successful season. Duran and Hamilton Heights (22-2) will participate in the prestigious Huntington (W.Va.) Prep Classic this weekend. The Hawks will play Arlington Country ... (click for more)