Blairsville becomes a Purple Heart City

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Purple Heart City

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Blairsville City Council officially proclaimed the city a Purple Heart City at the July 2021 meeting.

“City of Blairsville has a highly decorated veteran population including Purple Heart recipients, and Blairsville appreciates the sacrifice of the Purple Heart recipients made in defending our freedoms and believe it is important and we acknowledge them for their courage and show them the honor and support they have earned,” a portion of the proclamation read.

Last month, Union County became a Purple Heart County. The move makes it easier to the county and the city to become a stop on the Purple Heart Trail.

The trail creates “a symbolic and honorary system of roads, highways, bridges, and other monuments that give tribute to the men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal.” It serves as a visual reminder to those on the road that someone paid a high price for them to travel comfortably in the states.

Veteran and member of the Order of Purple Heart Ryan McPherson accepted the proclamation on behalf of those who fought and were injured or died in service to the country.

McPherson reading the Purple Heart City Proclamation.

McPherson reading the Purple Heart City Proclamation.

“We’re so thankful you guys took the initiative to continue to make Blairsville and surrounding community a veteran-friendly community. This an honorary and symbolic way, we connect cities, counties, and towns, and roads and bridges together to Purple Heart Trail this entire nation,” McPherson stated.

McPherson is semi-retired in Blairsville, originally from Atlanta. One of the reasons he chose Blairsville was the veteran community.




In recent wars, thousands of soldiers received Purple Hearts:

  • 320,000 in World War I
  • Over 1,000,000 in World War II
  • 118,000 in the Korean War
  • 351,000 in Vietnam
  • 600 in the Persian Gulf
  • 12,000 in Afghanistan
  • 35,000 in Iraq

George Washington created the Purple Heart as a badge of military merit in 1782. He pinned it on three people. It was also the first American Service Award made available to the common soldier.

Blairsville City Council approves agreement with county to receive TSPLOST funds

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Blairsville City Council approved the intergovernmental agreement with Union County for the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) referendum during the July 2021 meeting.

The approval is one in a series of steps necessary for TSPLOST to appear on a special election ballot in November 2021.

The intergovernmental agreement allows Blairsville to receive a portion of proceeds from a one percent sales tax. TSPLOST would raise the total sales tax from 7 to 8 cents on the dollar. The state allows a county up to 9 cents in sales taxes. The state levies the first 4 cents.

The intergovernmental agreement would last for five years and is contingent on voters approving TPLOST in the fall. Measures such as LOST, SPLOST, ESPLOST, and TSPLOST must be approved by registered voters in Union County.

2021 is an off-year for county elections, but the county could call a special election just for TSPLOST. Municipal elections for Blairsville are being held this year.

As the name implies, TSPLOST funds go solely toward transportation projects, unlike SPLOST which covers most capital outlay efforts for a county and city. TSPLOST must meet a transportation need outside of regular SPLOST or free up SPLOST funds for other projects.

With the intergovernmental agreement in place, the county could levy a fractional rate of up to 1 percent. If Blairsville hadn’t passed the agreement, then the levy amount would stop at .75 percent.

If passed, TSPLOST could generate up to $5 million a year and the city of Blairsville would receive between five or eight percent of those funds.

The closest county to Union with TSPLOST is Lumpkin. Gilmer recently put TSPLOST on the ballot and it failed. Here’s a copy of Georgia’s Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart.

Sales taxes, such as LOST, SPLOST, ESPLOST, and TSPLOST, are meant to alleviate the tax burden on local property owners. Since sales taxes are consumption-based and everyone who makes a purchase within the county contributes. In communities like Union County, weekends often see an influx of tourists looking to escape for the weekend. For the last few years, sales tax-related revenue has continued to increase for Union County at a rate higher than expected.

Copy of ACCG map indicating TSPLOST counties and areas in Georgia.

Property owners in Union County experienced a tax increase of 17 percent last year, and they just received property revaluation notices from the tax commissioner’s office. Several experienced significant property value increases.

Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris remarked throughout last year’s tax increase process that the new property evaluations would result in the millage rate dropping this year. As a result, property owners should see their tax burden decrease.

Those wanting to lower their property values can make a case to the tax assessor’s office, but it doesn’t guarantee values will go down. Property owners have 45 days to appeal.

Blairsville looks to become more tourist friendly

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welcome center

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga: Blairsville City Council and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board contentiously debated the necessity of a tourism welcome center before deciding to move forward with public parking and bathroom planning.

The bathrooms and parking lot will be built on the Haralson property either behind City Hall or closer to the main street depending upon the survey. A gravel lot exists behind Michaelee’s Italian Life Caffe. Previously, the city and DDA had plans to pave the lot and most likely still will once they nail down a firm plan.

DDA Program Manager Darren Harper addressed the need for infrastructure in Blairsville, including public restrooms, parking, and potentially a welcome center.

DDA Program Manager Darren Harper

Harper advocated for the necessity of some type of welcome center.

He elaborated on downtown’s continued growth and the need for a center to direct tourists in the area.

“A lot of our income from the DDA comes directly from people outside this community, and anything we can do to encourage people to visit, spend their money, and go home is in everyone’s best interest,” Harper remarked.

He added that the board needed the city’s blessings and involvement, as well as a discussion of finances and expectations. According to Harper, the last infrastructure piece to go into downtown was Bob Head Street. Currently, business owners direct tourists to activities around Blairsville and Union County.

“There’s no one central place for them to get information about: ‘where can I take my kids, where can we go do this,’” Harper stated. “We have the Chamber up on the golf course, which is a great facility, but it’s extremely difficult to tell people how to get there.”

Mayor Jim Conley agreed that public restrooms and parking were necessary for the area, especially after COVID-19. However, he never heard mention of a welcome center until recently.

Mayor Jim Conley

Mayor Conley wasn’t sold on the idea of building a new welcome center.

“I can’t see us giving up a lot of parking spaces for a building that really should be something that benefited the Chamber of Commerce,” stated DDA board member Paul Thompson. “I think the DDA needs to concentrate on the bathrooms that would be necessary in the right place and completing the parking lot. That’s what we initially were supposed to do was get the city’s money back to the property as best we could and develop parking and bathrooms.”

Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rowe mentioned the idea of placing a kiosk with information or small office next to the bathrooms for people to pick up information. He also believed the area offers an opportunity to create a pavilion/park area in the lot behind City Hall, along with the bathrooms.

Conley suggested using the DDA office for a welcome center, but some renovations would be necessary to separate the office space. Harper agreed it was doable but added that public restrooms need monitoring. He conjectured that a building that included the bathrooms and a welcome center would kill two birds with one stone.

DDA Board member Robert Rogers expressed that the lot behind City Hall wasn’t the best option for a welcome center. He preferred the lot next to old Pat Haralson law office, also known as the property Steve Cockerham was going to turn into condos until last year.

“I think that is something not just on the city to take on. I think that would be on the city and county to take on jointly as far as staffing it, the cost of it, and so on,” Rogers stated. “You need to be able to find it. We’ve got a beautiful welcome center now; you can’t find it, that’s the problem.”

He added it would need to be large enough to generate some income as well.

Before making any commitments, Rogers commented that they needed to know what’s possible. He spoke with surveyor Jason Henson who’s willing to draw up options for minimal cost. The DDA and city needed to consider existing sewer, power lines, and ADA accessibility for bathrooms.

Harper objected to another surveyor plan because they previously laid out the area. Rogers said the topographical area changed since the last layout. The previous survey pulled lot elevations from county GIS aerial flights, so a field run topo is necessary to entirely understand the situation.

The gravel lot is on a steep grade that must be taken into account.

Henson will draw up three different bathroom placements on the Haralson property; He will also address the parking lot.  Previous bathroom plans included four stalls with ADA accessible stalls.

Rogers commented that the area behind City Hall might benefit from a pavilion and picnic tables. However, they should consider other sites for a welcome center.

“We also need some sort of budget limitations. We don’t need the tail wagging the dog,” DDA board member Paul Thompson echoed.

According to Conley, the DDA board has approximately $219,000 in its budget. However, if they chose to build a welcome center on the lot previously owned by Cockerham, they could absorb $225,000. The DDA hoped if the county agreed to participate, it would cut some of the cost. Conley expressed doubt that the county would participate. Harper pondered about tourism grant funding becoming available for projects such as a welcome center.

“If you want us to expand our scope, then you need to be prepared to help us pay, so it’s really up to y’all,” Thompson said to the council.

Rogers asked Chamber President Rowe if there was a need for another welcome center in Union County. Rowe expressed that there wasn’t, and a kiosk would fulfill the job.

“I feel like we need something with information for visitors and tourists who come to this area because I feel like I’m the information center a lot of times when people come in our store. I don’t mind it because they’re coming in our store,” DDA Board member June McEldowney explained. “A kiosk or welcome area, something that can direct people in a general area to facilitate our downtown area.”

welcome center

The area behind City Hall could become the new bathroom area or a place for picnic tables.

Conley echoed again the Harper’s office would be the ideal area for a welcome center. For now, it appears the idea of a downtown welcome center is tabled.

The new bathrooms and parking lot surveys should be completed within 30 days.

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