Blue Ridge, Ga. – The “look of impropriety” fueled debate over the City of Blue Ridge’s recent involvement in improvements to Highway 515.
Previously the University of North Georgia (UNG) had approached the city looking for help in obtaining funds to create an RCut in the median of Hwy. 515. This RCut would allow motorists to make a left hand turn off the highway and into the entrance of the campus.
GDOT (Georgia Department of Transportation) looked into the project and determined there was a need for the RCut due to potential traffic flow and for safety reasons.
“The developer couldn’t pull a DOT permit,” Mayor Donna Whitener stated as to the City’s initial involvement but clarified that the request for the RCut came from UNG.
Councilmember Nathan Fitts stated that he had no issue with the City being a vehicle for obtaining the permit but took issue with taxpayer dollars being spent on the project.
GDOT initially slated $150,000 towards providing the RCut this funding came through LMIG (Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant) and developer, John Kieffer put in approximately $48,000 towards surveying and engineering fees.
The low bid for the project came in at $220,978.61. UNG agreed to contribute $35,000 to the RCut project but this still left a shortfall of $35,978.61.
UNG approached both the City of Blue Ridge and the Fannin County Commissioners asking for funds to cover the shortfall but neither entity would agree to pay with local tax dollars.
“I’ve not even officially got word of that and I’m a councilmember. No one has ever given me notice,” Councilmember Rhonda Haight explained that none of the council was notified that funds to complete the project had been gathered and wanted an explanation as to where and how the funds came about.
The remaining funds came through another LMIG grant from GDOT in the amount of $35,000 and UNG made up the remainder $978.61.
Fitts conveyed his disappointment that the remaining funds came from taxpayers, even if at a state level: “This is a developer expense. It’s always been a developer expense and it is not right for the city taxpayers and in my opinion the state taxpayers to pay for a developer’s entrance.”
The developer is assumed to substantially increase the monetary value of the remaining parcels for sale by obtaining the RCut according to Fitts.
“Me and Rhonda talked to Mr. Keiffer and said that on our watch we would not approve it through the city,” Fitts said, explaining that he didn’t feel tax dollars should be spent for the financial gain of a private developer and that projects of this nature should be at the developer’s expense.
Fitts stated that in private conversation the developer had initially said he would be paying for the expenses but that the narrative changed.
“The college did need it, but the conversation that was told to us was that he (Kieffer) needed help from us because he had lost money on that property he had sold to the college,” Fitts said of the ordeal adding that taxpayers should not be on the hook for a developer’s bad business decision.
“It is a look again of impropriety that the City keeps getting itself into, that we all the sudden are paying for a personal developer to have an RCut,” Haight added.
Evidence of the boost to property value and appeal can be seen by a recent sign placed that advertises the RCut coming soon as well as the remaining tracts for sale.
“Are we going to have to pay for all the developers from here on out?” Haight questioned if the City would be setting a precedent for future transactions, and added, “As a state taxpayer I’m a little appalled that my money went to pay for this private RCut.”
The second LMIG in the amount of $35,000 came from the state when Whitener spoke with state level representatives about the issue. This was done without council knowledge according to Haight and Fitts.
“Thanks to Steve Gooch and GDOT. I really appreciate their help,” Whitener said, explaining that the state came in and saw a need for the RCut or would not have given the go ahead on the project.
Whitener also pointed out that LMIG funds could be used anywhere in the state.
“I’m glad that those state tax dollars are being allotted for our area,” Whitener stated, “It is going toward improving safety for the people driving down 515, one of our busiest roads.”
***Featured Image is sign placed by real estate agent representing the developer advertising remaining property and RCut
Atlanta, GA – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp and the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provided an overview of the funding allocated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This critical funding will help small businesses keep workers employed during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the University of Georgia’s 17 Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) and Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the state has launched an information website to provide guidance on accessing a variety of U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) programs.
Beginning April 6, these state partners will host a series of web-based information sessions tailored to each region of the state. In addition, SBDC will be available to assist businesses, where necessary.
The CARES Act provides funds for SBA to aid small businesses through its network of private small business lenders. Georgia has more than 70 qualified SBA lenders, and detailed information about the following vital lending programs can also be found HERE.
“Small businesses are the engine of Georgia’s economy and provide economic opportunity for millions of Georgia families,” said Governor Kemp. “As we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19, this critical resource will provide a lifeline to small businesses across our state. I am encouraging all Georgians to support their local businesses in this difficult time. We will get through this together.”
“The Georgia Department of Economic Development is continuing to work with our partners statewide to confront COVID-19 and move forward together,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “We thank Governor Kemp, DCA, and SBDC for working together with us to better and more efficiently serve our state’s small businesses at this time of great need.”
“DCA is proud to work with our state partners to support the small businesses that are such a vital part of the communities we serve,” said DCA Commissioner Christopher Nunn.
“The University of Georgia has a strong track record of helping to develop new small businesses across the state. Assisting these firms to navigate COVID-19 aligns perfectly with our land-grant mission,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead.
Small Business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
A new $349 billion lending program under the existing SBA 7(a) program. The SBA guarantee of PPP loans will be 100 percent through the end of 2020. PPP loan payments will be deferred for a minimum of six and up to twelve months. Loans will be administered through local and regional banks; any federally regulated bank may become an SBA lender for this purpose. The Department of the Treasury will issue regulations for these loans quickly.
|▪||Eligibility: Small businesses as defined by SBA size standards, generally up to 500 employees, but up to 1,500 depending on the sector; sole proprietors, the self-employed, and independent contractors.|
|▪||The interest rate will not exceed 4 percent; currently fixed at 0.5 percent.|
|▪||Regulatory streamlining: SBA’s standard “no credit elsewhere” test is waived, no personal guarantee or collateral required, and no additional fees will be applied to these loans.|
|▪||Size of loans: Up to $10 million. Loan amount is based on recent payroll costs, compensation paid to individuals, including those who are self-employed. Compensation in excess of $100,000 per year to any individual is excluded.|
|▪||Requirements: The business must certify the loan will be used to retain workers, maintain payroll, make mortgage or lease payments, and pay utilities.|
|▪||Loans may be forgiven, up to an amount equaling eligible payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utility cost, incurred during the eight-week period starting from the loan origination. Compensation in excess of $100,000 a year to any individual will not qualify for forgiveness. Additionally, loan forgiveness is reduced by layoffs or pay reductions in excess of 25 percent, and loan forgiveness is not treated as taxable income.|
Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance
|▪||Eligibility: Advances are available to small businesses, sole proprietors, independent contractors, tribal businesses, as well as cooperatives and employee-owned businesses in operation on January 31, 2020.|
|▪||For those that apply for the EIDL, an advance of up to $10,000 will be provided to small businesses within several days of applying for the loan.|
|▪||The advance does not need to be repaid, even if the grantee is subsequently denied an EDL.|
|▪||Funds can be used to provide paid sick leave to employees, maintain payroll, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent, and mortgage payments.|
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
|▪||Eligibility: Businesses with 500 employees or fewer. This includes sole proprietorships, independent contractors, cooperatives, ESPOs, and tribal small businesses with <= 500 employees.|
|▪||Up to $2 million can be provided to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met if the disaster did not occur.|
|▪||Loans can be made based solely on credit scores.|
|▪||The interest rate on EIDLs will be 3.75 percent interest rate for small businesses.|
|▪||The first twelve payments will be deferred and not become due until one year after the original disbursement. Interest does not accrue during this time.|
|▪||The term of these loans will be up to thirty years.|
7(a) Loan Payment Relief
SBA will pay the principal, interest, and any associated fees owed on 7(a) loans as follows:
|▪||Existing borrower not on deferment: six months beginning with the next payment due on the loan;|
|▪||Existing borrower on deferment: six months of payments beginning with the next payment due on the loan after the deferment period; and|
|▪||New borrower: six months of payments beginning with the first payment due on the loan, but only for new loans made within the first six months starting from the date of enactment.|
Should you need assistance, the UGA Small Business Development Center offices across the state are open and available. Contact information for every office is available HERE.
Earlier today Kemp released details on Medicaid and Peachcare waiver.