Ball Ground may purchase former school building
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
September 15, 2012 12:49 AM | 1664 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BALL GROUND — Ball Ground City Council might be the first city in Cherokee County to purchase a former school building, Mayor Rick Roberts said at the council meeting Thursday night.

“It’s not very common that the city buys a school,” Roberts joked to council.

The purchase price of the building, according to an intergovernmental agreement and sales contract from the school board, is $644,495 including $35,000 in cash and through in-kind services, which include waiving of storm water fees, sewer connection fees and other costs at the new Ball Ground Elementary.

Additionally, the council voted to adopt a tax millage rate of 6 mills for fiscal year 2012, which is an increase from the previous year’s rate of 5.194 mills.

Roberts assured those present that the increase was “barely under” a revenue-neutral increase and most residents will see their taxes stay at about the same rate.

At the same time it was decided at the Sept. 6 Board of Education meeting to surplus the former Ball Ground Elementary School, the school board agreed to sell the city of Ball Ground the property to include the gymnasium, the main school building and the associated property, Roberts said.

The new Ball Ground Elementary School, located at 321 Valley St., opened to kindergarten through sixth-grade students this fall.

City Manager Eric Wilmarth said the $35,000 cash outlay for the building is specifically for the gymnasium, which the city has already paid to be surveyed. The funds will come from the county parks bond and will be reimbursed to the city once paid to the Board of Education, Wilmarth said.

“The restriction would be if we ever dispose of that building from the parks service we will owe that $35,000 back,” Wilmarth said.

The city’s plans for the facilities, located on about six acres, keep it within the city’s parks program, Wilmarth said.

Wilmarth said the rest of the purchase price comes from in-kind services, including having waived the city’s sewer tap and water tap fees during the construction of the new school.

“We’ve really been at the table from the beginning, through the construction, road improvements, sidewalk construction… and the school board has given us credit for that,” Roberts said. “I’m very excited to take over that facility. I think that it is an opportunity for us to put something good in that place.”

Moving forward, city officials will continue to brainstorm the best use for the property, Roberts said.

“The gymnasium is the exciting part because that’s going to allow us to incorporate that into our parks and rec(reation) program,” Roberts said, noting the gymnasium is the only one in the Cherokee County School District that was built not by the school board, but by local residents in the 1940s.

In other business, Roberts said expectations from the local tax digest were less than city officials had projected when considering the city’s budget in the spring, forcing the council to decide to raise the millage rate to 6 mills.

“We have had a decline in the digest for the last few years, and even though the digests have gone down we have been able to actually lower taxes for the last three years,” Roberts said.

However, the decline in the previous years was “not at (as) much” as it declined this last year, Roberts said.

“And for that reason, we’re going to have to go against our track record of reducing taxes and actually go to a tax-neutral position by increasing the millage rate,” Roberts said.

Also during the meeting, the council:

* Discussed the August financial report, with Wilmarth advising council the city’s annual audit began Monday, and that he expects the city to reach an all-time high employment level in January of 500 jobs marking the sixth year of job growth. Wilmarth said the city has also applied for two grants that, if awarded, would go toward building an elevated water storage tank and a new sidewalk system at the four-way stop downtown up to Canton Highway;

* Had the first reading for an alcohol license for Blue Sapphire Enterprises of Georgia, LLC/DBA for the Chevron located at 3005 Canton Highway. The gas station is under new ownership by Sajaeewani Egodawatta-Arachehige;

* Approved unanimously a proclamation for the Ball Ground Volunteer Fire Department in honor of National Firefighter Week Sept. 23-30. Chief Robert Dobbs was in attendance to accept the proclamation;

* Approved unanimously the city’s property tax levy date as Oct. 19 and due date as Dec. 20;

* Approved unanimously the surplus of a 199 Chevrolet dump truck. Wilmarth said the truck is used by the city only a few times a year and it would be more cost-effective for the city to contract services when necessary. He said the truck will be listed for sale for the next 30 days on www.govdeals.com;

* Approved unanimously an agreement with Georgia Northeastern Railroad to improve the Valley Street rail crossing to cost the city $6,000 for its portion of the project to include cutting the asphalt, traffic control and replacing the asphalt;

* Approved unanimously to open a separate checking account for 2012 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax collections at United Community Bank;

* Approved unanimously the designation of City Clerk Karen Jordan as the city’s open records clerk; and

* Approved 3-0-1, with Councilman John Byrd in abstention, to award the city’s Natural and Historic Resources Committee $2,538 for six bronze plaques, costing $383 each with a $40 installation fee to be placed at six designated historic Ball Ground sites. Byrd said he abstained on the measure as his company, John Byrd Signs, may be producing the plaques.

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