City of Helen to get huge refund from Georgia Power


Helen City Manager Jerry Elkins

HELEN, Ga. – Just in time to brighten everyone’s Christmas, Helen City Manager Jerry Elkins reported this week that the city will receive nearly $200,000 in cash and services from Georgia Power Company as a result of the utility’s overbilling the city over the past couple of years.

Elkins said city officials have been working with the utility company to gain a better understanding of what the city was being billed. “We really didn’t understand how many street lights we had and how many we were being billed for or the wattage of the lights,” he said.

“We’ve been trying to get this cleared up for two years. When we met with their area manager Jason Stott, he worked with us every step of the way. They conducted an audit that showed we had been overcharged in the amount of $142,072.77 and they are going to refund that. In addition, we have some decorative street lights that have gotten old and need to be replaced. They have agreed to provide about $48,000 to replace those lights at no charge to the city,” Elkins stated.

Elkins added that now city officials understand exactly what they have and will be able to keep track of it better.

“I’m proud to say Georgia Power worked with us every step of the way. They stepped up and did what they needed to do,” Elkins said.


Helen Pedestrian Bridge Approved Again


HELEN, Ga. – A contract for the construction of the long-awaited — and now more expensive — pedestrian bridge over the Chattahoochee River along Main Street was awarded to Square Deal Enterprises again at Tuesday’s Helen City Council meeting.

Council originally approved the contract in June for $586,022 but was forced to rebid the project because it will be funded, in part, by federal Transportation Enhancement dollars through the Georgia Department of Transportation. The original bid did not include a provision requiring a portion of the work to be completed by minority or woman-owned business.

The bid approved Tuesday was for $623,022.

The bridge will connect the sidewalks that front The Castle Inn and Café International and is identical to the bridge that exists in front of Paul’s Steakhouse on the opposite side of Main Street.

Four companies submitted bids in June but only one met the federal requirement and it was $270,000 higher than Square Deal’s bid. The council then had to choose between accepting the higher bid or rebidding the project. They chose the latter.

The bid now goes to GDOT for final approval.

City Manager Jerry Elkins was approved to serve on the Northeast Georgia Housing Authority.

Council also approved the addition on another entrance/exit for the city fire department and the second reading of an ordinance to amend Chapter 6 of the city’s municipal code as it relates to alcoholic beverages.

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Helen Set For First Budget Public Hearing


HELEN, Ga. – Helen City Commissioners will hold a discussion followed immediately by the first public hearing  on the proposed FY 2017-18 budget when they meet Tuesday (June 20) at 3 p.m. at City Hall.

City Manager Jerry Elkins

There will also be a discussion and consideration of renewal of the contract with the Helen/White County Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as a proclamation inducting Warren and Lois Brown to the Helen Heritage Hall of Fame.

City Manager Jerry Elkins will present the monthly financial report.

Commissioners are expected to vote on a variance request for a third sign for the Hansel and Gretl Candy Factory at 8070 South Main Street.

A vote on amendment of the city ordinance as it relates to horse drawn carriages in the city is also expected.


Commission Tables Funding Request by Helen Arts & Heritage Center


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.




City Reviews List of Projects Planned in 2017


HELEN, Ga. — City Manager Jerry Elkins presented a review of the projects planned for the City of Helen at Tueaday’s City Commission meeting. The five biggest projects come with a total price tag of about $1,578,350. The city will be responsible for approximately $925,000. The remainder will be funded by various grants.

The Main Street Water Line Replacement and Well Project is estimated to cost $780,000. The city will pay $480,000 and an ARC Grant will cover the remaining $300,000.

The badly needed Main Street pedestrian bridge which will be constructed outside Paul’s Steakouse is estimated to cost $570,000, $300,000 will be funded by a grant.

The city alone will be responsible for the $75,000 it will cost to complete the Escowee Street Sidewalk and Landscaping project. The commission has approved a low bid of $32,308.03 from contractor J.D. Con for the materials needed on the project.

The Roadside Beautification project will cost $53,350 with about $42,850 coming in the form of a grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The city also plans an addition to the Fire Department that will cost about $100,000, all of which will come from city revenue.

Commissioners also appointed Catherine Cleiman, David Grearr and Linda McAllister to the Planning, Design and Review Board and agreed to provide a letter of approval for the United Way of White County to obtain a special event, non-profit license from the state of Georgia Department of Revenue for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises at Holiday Inn Express Conference Center in conjunction with the Celebrity Golf Tournament Dinner scheduled for April 17.r


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.

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