Commission Tables Funding Request by Helen Arts & Heritage Center

Helen City Commission

HELEN, Ga. – The Helen City Commission Tuesday tabled for further consideration a request for funding from the Helen Arts and Heritage Center.

At the first meeting in April, the Center’s Craft Care Specialist Nancy Ackerman said the Center, which is manned almost exclusively by volunteers, needs funding to continue its work. She asked commissioners to consider funding of $20,000 for the remainder of this year and $30,000 for 2018. At that earlier meeting, disabled veteran William Reed gave powerful and tearful testimony about what the Center’s program for veterans had meant to him personally.

“The program helped me a lot,” Reed said. “It’s gotten me out of the house and involved in art. I feel it’s very important just to help keep me going, and to help other veterans. It helps us all get together.”

Commissioners approved holding the 2017 Southeast Victory Rally from June 1 through June 4, and closing Narr Wegg Street during the event to allow running the dyno machine. Event coordinators had requested the event take place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day but commissioners decided 7 a.m. was too early to start the noise making dyno machines and set the hours at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

A request for a fence encroachment between Escowee Property Holdings, LLC and the City of Helen was unanimously approved.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a comprehensive adjustment to the fiscal year 2016-17 budgetary appropriations and held a second reading of an ordinance to amend the official code of the City regarding alcoholic beverages.

City Manager Jerry Elkins provided a financial report that showed total revenue collected by the city is $2,438,869 as compared to $2,299,386 at this time last year. Total expenditure are also slightly ahead of projections. Expenditures for the first nine months of the fiscal year are $1,922,518 compared to $1,896,838 at this time in 2016.




Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail Advances

Richard Riley

HELEN, Ga. –Richard Riley provided an update on the Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail at Tuesday’s Helen City Commission meeting.

“This has become way beyond what any of us thought could ever be developed, a really quality venue,” he said.

The 4,400-foot long concrete walkway is a Department of Natural Resources project that will connect the City of Helen to Hardman Farm Historic Site. It will be about 8 to 10-feet wide and will run along an old railroad bed on DNR property overlooking the Chattahoochee River. “We have a beautiful design with beautiful stone benches where you can sit and look out over the river and Nora Mills, an iconic spot.”

The $1.5 million project is being designed by Marietta-based Freedman Engineering Group and funded primarily by the state but with some help from White County and the City of Helen. It will be handicapped accessible with no motorized vehicles permitted. There will also be signs along the way that explain the area’s rich history.

“The more people we’ve talked to the more excited they have become,” Riley said. “This is a project that reflects very, very positively on the Sautee Nacoochee Valley heritage.”

Riley said requests for proposals (RFP) to build the trail will go out at the end of this month, a contractor will be chosen in May and he expects the trail to be completed by next Spring.


Disabled Vet Makes Powerful Plea For Helen Arts and Heritage Center

Helen City Commission

HELEN, Ga. — When you think about the Helen Arts and Heritage Center, you don’t think about the good work its volunteers perform for the veterans of Helen and White County and how much it means to them. But that is only because you haven’t met William Reed, a disabled veteran who served 18 years on active duty.

Reed’s powerful testimony at Tuesday’s Helen City Commission meeting not only made it clear what the HAHC means to him, it brought many in the room to tears.

Reed bravely stood before commissioners and, after a long, tearful pause, said, “I’m a disabled veteran. The program helped me a lot. It’s gotten me out of the house and involved in art. I feel it’s very important just to help keep me going, and to help other veterans. It helps us all get together.”

Reed thanked Veteran Art Program Director Lisa Cahill and Craft Care Specialist Nancy Ackerman for what they have done for him.

“(They) have been wonderful in supporting us and helping us. It really means a lot,” he said.

Reed’s testimony was so emotional there were numerous long pauses prompting Mayor Helen Wilkins to encourage him.

“Take your time,” she said. When he continued, he talked about how until he enrolled in the program, he didn’t go out in public much…how it had given him a sense of self worth.

Through a dual non-profit partnership with Help Heal Veterans, Inc., HAHC provides quality art based craft project kits, programs and activities designed specifically with the needs of veterans in mind.

But Ackerman said HAHC needs funding to continue to serve the community and she asked the commission to consider $20,000 in funding for 2017 and $30,000 for 2018.

The HAHC website says “Art is therapy. If we can offer something of quality to a group of men and women who have already given so much of themselves for us, then we have accomplished our goal.”

Workshops meet on Tuesdays from 10 am  until noon. All veterans and spouse/caregivers are welcome.

City Council could vote on Ackerman’s request at its next meeting.

HAHC is located at 25 Chattahoochee Strasse


Commission Could Approve $570,000 Pedestrian Bridge Tuesday


HELEN, Ga. — The Helen City Commission is expected to approve a resolution authorizing the Georgia Department of Transportation and the City to ratify a contract for funding a pedestrian bridge on Main Street near Paul’s Steakhouse.

The joint agreement has a price tag of around $570,000. The state will be responsible for $300,000 and city taxpayers will fund the remainder.

The city is also receiving bids from contractors for the Escowee Street Sidewalk Project. City Manager Jerry Elkins said only one bid had been received as of late Monday afternoon but he expected to receive at least two more before tomorrow’s meeting.

Commission is also expected to appoint three members to the Planning, Design and Review Board, consider providing the United Way of White County a letter of approval to obtain a special event, non-profit license from the Georgia Department of Revenue for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises in conjunction with a celebrity golf tournament dinner to be held in the Holiday Inn Express Conference Center on April 17.


City Commission to Consider Alpine Coaster

Helen City Commission

HELEN, Ga. — Helen’s City Commission will elect a mayor and mayor pro tempore and administer the oath of office when it holds its first meeting of the new year at 10 a.m Tuesday.

The Commission will also hold a public hearing on Terry Sims’ application and conditional use permit from R-2 (medium density residential) to C-3 (highway commercial) for property located at 8409 Main Street for the purpose of constructing an Alpine Coaster.

The issue drew opposition from area residents during last week’s Planning Commission meeting who feel approval of the application could be detrimental to their property values and diminish the peace and tranquility of the area.

The commission will again discuss a proposal from Dona K. Burke to provide decorations for the city for fall and Christmas. The issue was postponed at last week’s meeting.

The commission will also discuss setting qualifying fees for candidates who run for city commission seats that expire at the end of this year.

Before adjourning, commissioners will then hold a first reading of an amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance


Helen City Commission

HELEN, Ga. — Helen City Manager Jerry Elkins had high praise for Fire Chief Jody Prickett during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“You’ve improved a department that was in bad shape and we certainly appreciate that,” Elkins said.

When Prickett was hired in Sept. 2015, the fire department had only one full-time firefighter and three part-time employees. With Prickett’s guidance, the fire department now has seven part-time employees and seven volunteer firefighters and can provide round-the-clock protection.

But the council also expressed its gratitude for Prickett’s services in a more tangible way, presenting the fire department with a new Ford F-150 pickup truck purchased from Mike Jones Ford in Eastanollee. They presented the new vehicle when Prickett arrived for Tuesday’s meeting.

The truck replaces a 20-year-old Ford Bronco and is the first new pickup truck purchased for Helen Fire Department.

And there is another improvement in store for the fire department. The commission adopted a resolution utilizing a lease purchase of a new fire truck from the Georgia Municipal Association’s financial services program. The new fire engine, approved recently by the commission, is an HME Ahrens-Fox and will cost $406,802.

In other business, the commission the decision on a proposal by Donna Burke to decorate the city for fall and Christmas 2017, approved a second reading of an ordinance to amend the cities personnel policies and procedures.


Decorating the Alpine Village Becomes an Issue


HELEN, Ga. — Helen city officials agree that decorating the Alpine Village year-round is a critical element in attracting visitors. What they do not agree on is whether it should be done on a volunteer basis or if a professional should be hired to do the work under the supervision of City Manager Jerry Elkins.

Former Commissioner Donna Burke has submitted a proposal to decorate the town twice a year at cost of $8,000 a year.

Commissioner Cinnamon Spurlock said she would prefer the work continue on a volunteer basis.

“I would like to leave it volunteer,” Spurlock said during this week’s city commission meeting. “I understand the hours that go into it, but I just think that the money that’s being requested here can be spent elsewhere.”

Commissioner Helen Wilkins favors outsourcing the work. “If we want the town to continue to look as good as it does, I think we’re lucky if Dona will do it.”

Commissioner Jeff Ash also favors outsourcing.

“I agree with Helen,” Ash said. “You get what you pay for. I’d like to see it. We’ve reached the level in this town where everybody expects this town to improve each year. Ash added that whoever is selected for the work should be under City Manager Jerry Elkins’ direction.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the issue at an upcoming meeting.


Helen Approves Purchase of New Fire Engine for $407,000


HELEN, Ga. –The Helen City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to replace an aging Fire Engine No. 8 with a new $407,000 unit purchased from Michigan-based HME Inc. Commissioners also approved an additional $35,000 to purchase fire equipment.

Engine No. 8 is 20 years old and, if it should go down for any reason, the city would have to depend on White County Fire Department to respond to calls.

At a recent commission work session, Commissioner Helen Wilkins, who began serving on the commission in 1987 joked, “There has been a lot of wear and tear on me and on that fire truck.”

Fire Chef Jody Prickett thanked commissioners and said it would take about eight months for the new fire engine to be constructed. Meanwhile, the commission will decide on a financing method.

Prickett has expressed concerns about the age of the fire engine before. “I’m afraid that if something was to happen with this truck that we have currently, we don’t have a backup and we would have to rely on the county. As of right now the only spare [engine] that the county has got is being used as a front-line truck, so we would be up the creek if something was to happen with our engine. We do have a ladder truck that could respond to certain locations, but there are certain locations it can’t get to.”

When the new fire engine arrives, No. 8 will become a service truck and back-up engine.

The Commission also approved a Local Maintenance Improvement Grant (LMIG) from the Georgia Department of Transportation in the amount of $21,397.45. The grant requires an 30 percent match from the city.

The city, which has long contracted with Atlanta Pyrotechnics for the fireworks show celebrating the 4th of July, agreed to renew the contract for two years at a cost of $10,070 per year.

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