State leaders to discuss issues at Dec. 10 breakfast

The Georgia political landscape is never short on hot-button issues these days.

Cannabis oil, health care, water, education, tax reform and workforce development — there’s plenty on the minds of residents and their representatives ahead of the January start of the 2016 General Assembly session.

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce is offering a forum for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and six local legislators to address those topics and more with businesses and residents at the Eggs & Issues Breakfast Dec. 10 at the Gainesville Civic Center. The event is set for 7:30-9:30 a.m. that day.

Though debates in the political arena can often be contentious, Chamber President and CEO Kit Dunlap said the organization looks to facilitate a civil discussion.

“This is not a debate,” Dunlap said. “It’s a business meeting.”

She said tickets are going fast, with 330 already sold as of late Monday afternoon and the Civic Center able to hold 400.

Tickets for the event include a full buffet breakfast and cost $25 for chamber members and $30 for nonmembers. Reservations are required, and tickets are nonrefundable after Friday.

Joining Cagle at the event will be:

• Sen. Butch Miller, 49th District

• Sen. John Wilkinson, 50th District

• Rep. Lee Hawkins, 27th District

• Rep. Carl Rogers, 29th District

• Rep. Emory Dunahoo Jr., 30th District

• Rep. Timothy Barr, 103rd District

Dunlap said the chamber has held this event or one similar to it for the past 20 or 25 years, and it’s gotten bigger and bigger. She added that it’s also a good chance for networking among business leaders.

State leaders to discuss issues at Dec. 10 breakfast

Opposition grows as Gainesville Council set to vote on “rain tax”

Some Gainesville residents and business leaders are speaking out against the city’s plan to implement a “rain tax” to pay for repairs and upgrades to stormwater drainage infrastructure.

City Council will vote Tuesday on a proposal to charge $1 for every 1,000 square feet of impervious surface on residential, commercial, nonprofit and government property.

The fees would begin in January 2017.

Critics said city officials are moving too quickly to implement the new utility, calling for public education meetings first and waiting for new council members to be sworn in next year.

“This is the third time in my memory that this rain/storm sewer tax has been attempted or proposed,” said Frank Norton Jr., CEO and chairman of The Norton Agency real estate firm. “The city leadership has been determined to give this tax an inch into the city taxpayers’ pocketbooks, and where there is an inch there will be a mile.”

Churches, hospitals and even government buildings will be subject to the new fee, which could rise to $1.25 in 2019 and $1.50 in 2020 under current proposals.

Only federal, state, county and city roads and right of ways are exempt.

There are more than 124 million square feet of impervious surfaces in Gainesville alone, and the fees could generate about $1.5 million in revenue in the first year.

However, that figure could fall to about $955,000 after credits are counted toward each property owner’s’ bill.

Residents have complained that the process has been rushed and that proposals have not been properly vetted.

“I noticed several lame-duck council (members) endorsing the new fee now that they aren’t trying to get re-elected,” resident Pat Horgan said.

Horgan was active in protesting the approval of a new subdivision development along Ahaluna Drive last year.

Zack Thompson, who was just elected to represent Ward 2 in November, hinted that he would like to be a part of the debate.

“The stormwater utility is definitely a complicated issue that needs the council’s full attention,” he said. “I believe there will be much discussion and, hopefully, public education on this proposed fee in 2016. It would be extremely beneficial if the new council members were fully informed and therefore able to have input on this matter.”

Gainesville officials have said pollution, and new federal and state regulations, are driving the need to establish a special enterprise fund to pay for repairs to stormwater culverts and other infrastructure — some of which is more than 50 years old.

The city has about 170 miles of pipe, the vast majority of which is corrugated metal and reinforced concrete. There are 222 detention ponds, about 4,500 catch basins, about 5,000 head/end walls and about 1,700 junction boxes.

Recent sinkholes, road washouts and other problems have exacerbated the need for a fully funded program, officials said.

Outreach, education and community meetings will be a critical part of explaining the program and getting buy-in from Gainesville residents on the need for a new utility, according to officials.

“We’ve had numerous conversations with the public,” including church leaders and business owners, Councilman Sam Couvillon said. “I do feel like we’ve had adequate input. I am aware that people are not going to be happy about another fee to pay, but it’s just something we’re going to have to deal with as a community.”

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said business leaders served on the city’s study committee.

“We will follow the progress and inform businesses,” he added.

But it’s clear that the cost and impact on local government and schools is still being calculated.

Hall Administrator Randy Knighton said county officials have not yet “been able to assess the impact to county-owned properties.”

Matt Cox, director of facilities and construction for the Hall County School District, said he believed the new fee would only impact three schools whose properties are in the city.

“I am not aware of the stormwater fee,” he added. “I have not been contacted by Gainesville.”

The city school system, meanwhile, will pay about $30,000 under the fee proposal.

Norton called the fees a property rights grab, and disputed assertions by city officials that there is not enough money in the general fund or capital improvements budget to handle needed repairs.

City officials have said only $70,000 has been allocated from the general fund this year to pay for capital improvements to stormwater pipes.

Norton also questioned the impact on developers, adding that stormwater costs are built in with detention pond mandates and other regulations.

“The city requires paved driveways, new paved roads and forces through ordinances stormwater rules in any development, now only to tax it for the same,” Norton said.

City officials said it’s probable that some development regulations will be relaxed to accommodate the new tax.

Horgan said recent property tax reassessments, the passage of a new five-year round of special purpose local option sales tax and the city’s slight tax increase approved this fall have put an unfair strain on homeowners’ budgets.

“Seems to me that government has simply spent the maintenance money that they have collected over the many years on other things, and then have neglected maintenance of the infrastructure,” he added. “Now the people will have to fill the resulting vacuum one more time.”

Horgan said a voter referendum is needed to settle the issue.

“Is there any tax these people don’t like?” he asked.

Opposition grows as Gainesville Council set to vote on “rain tax”

David Beckham renuncia a plan de estadio de fútbol en el centro de Miami

El exfutbolista inglés David Beckham ha abandonado sus planes de construir un estadio de fútbol en el centro de Miami, ante los obstáculos encontrados, aunque no renuncia a levantarlo en otra zona del sur de Florida, informó hoy el canal local NBC 6 South Florida.

David Beckham renuncia a plan de estadio de fútbol en el centro de Miami

César Salinas espera que el Tigre no cometa más errores

El presidente atigrado César Salinas dio un “jalón de orejas” a sus jugadores y espera que en las últimas cinco fechas sea favorable al Tigre. Salinas es consciente que tienen dos puntos de desventaja con relación a Sport Boys, puntero del Torneo Apertura y que cada partido se lo jugará como una final anticipada.

César Salinas espera que el Tigre no cometa más errores

Gainesville pedestrian killed Saturday on US 129

A Gainesville man was struck by a car and killed Saturday while walking on the shoulder of Athens Highway/U.S. 129, according to Georgia State Patrol.

State patrol responded around 6:57 that night to Athens Highway south of Gaines Mill Road. Darrell Harris, 58, was dead when they arrived, Trooper J. Thompson said.

Thompson said Harris was walking on the right shoulder and Jose Acosta, 37, of Gainesville was traveling southbound on Athens Highway in the right lane. Acosta was at the scene when troopers arrived.

“Mr. Acosta struck Mr. Harris with his vehicle on the right front of (the car),” Thompson said.

An autopsy is being performed on Harris, and charges are still pending in this case.

Gainesville pedestrian killed Saturday on US 129

Sport Boys repite la planificación que lo llevó a ganar partidos, en la altura

Sport Boys comienza el “plan altura” para los cotejos frente Universitario y The Strongest. El cuadro warneño se encuentra en La Paz y estará hasta el jueves 10 de diciembre.

Sport Boys repite la planificación que lo llevó a ganar partidos, en la altura

Íker Casillas reconoce que no descarta jugar en EE.UU. en el futuro

Íker Casillas, capitán de la selección española y portero del Oporto, destacó la pujanza del fútbol en EE.UU. y no descartó terminar allí su carrera, además de reconocer que ha recibido comentarios muy positivos de antiguos compañeros que juegan en la MLS.

Íker Casillas reconoce que no descarta jugar en EE.UU. en el futuro