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City Update

Economic development in the city is happening in various places, and I wanted to mention a few.  Dunkin Donuts is in the midst of constructing a plant on Industrial Court that will bring about 70 jobs to the city and distribute to about 60 stores throughout the area.  Hamilton Medical is constructing a facility next to the Zaxby’s down Alabama Highway to help fill in that development.  Kresh development is currently constructing a new building next to the Ringgold vet’s office that will either be another restaurant or possibly a retail establishment.  Center for Sports Medicine on Battlefield Parkway across from the Rock Fitness is about to begin their structure and Larry Armour is working to fill the remaining development with various businesses.  Mountain View CDJ has been clearing their spot on Alabama Highway for their new dealership, and construction will begin there soon.  Daniel Silvers, on Bookout Road, is working to build a plumbing and retail space that will also be office and warehouse.  Spring Hill Suites, beside the existing Marriot and new Farm to Fork building, has begun their dirt/storm water work and will be under construction soon.

Our nature trail and creek have some new features you will be seeing in the near future.  The first part has already started in dealing with some standing water that has been problematic across the new concrete extension beyond our water plant.  Also, engineering has started to connect that concrete extension from the water plant with more concrete all the way to the wooden walkway on the existing part of our trail toward the ball fields.  This engineering includes better parking at the water plant with new asphalt.  We will be moving the fence back toward the water plant to make room for this improved access to our nature trail.  Also, we are actively constructing concrete steps along the bank that will work as a pull around for our kayakers at the pipe that goes across the creek behind Bluff View subdivision.  This portage will be a welcome addition for people who put in at our canoe launch at the ball fields and get out behind Ringgold High School at our exit the school board and city have made available there.

Bridge work is slated to begin very soon on Alabama Highway over the interstate and creek.  Those bridges will be raised 5-6 feet and be more pedestrian friendly.  Also, the widening will begin at Hazel Drive (just beyond the Zaxby’s and college) and move back toward the interstate.  I’ll keep you as updated as I am on that project as it moves along.

There is currently a petition making the rounds through the city to allow the city of Ringgold to issue business licences to potential package distilled spirits stores.  Once the petition is complete, there will be a citywide vote to determine if the community allows such establishments in the city.  The city council will have an item on our next agenda (Aug. 14th) regarding how to regulate those stores in case it passes.  We can determine how many stores, where they can be located, and the zoning/size requirements.  Having 3 exits along the interstate, I can’t imagine we would allow any more than 3 such stores into the city, but that will be discussed, researched, and decided by the city council in a way that is responsible for our city.  As always, we would certainly welcome input from our community as to how to make this potential transition work for all of us.

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Local Economic Update

The city has multiple economic growth opportunities we are both helping in, and working toward.  Commercial, restaurant, industrial, and manufacturing are on the table throughout the community.  Our local economy is vibrant.  We are getting more and more zoning cases regarding future businesses and hearing about potential new sites regularly.

Recently, the city has annexed portions of US Highways that have made our city slightly more sprawling.  Your council has successfully implemented a long term plan to grow the economic base while maintaining our historic neighborhoods and businesses.  There have been growing pains making the budget work from year to year as we’ve grown, but utilizing these growth corridors will mean more opportunity for our workforce and stability for local government.

We have never worked from a deficit since I have been on the council (6 years), and a nest egg has been present with significant increases through the years.  Our yearly money (just under 10 million dollars in total taxes) is accounted for in the budget and working for you in the community.  Adding to our reserve has become more and more challenging.  Lately, the toughest decisions we have made were largely balancing acts between investing in growth or holding the entirety of that safety net.   Economic development opportunities only come around so often, and being in position to take advantage has been helpful in moving us forward.  I have served with a diverse group of council people who have made consistent majority decisions that have been economically sound every year.  Seeing economic stimulus backing up our territorial expansion is very exciting for everyone.  The future is bright.

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Currently in Your City

I’d like to start by addressing the opiate treatment facility coming to the old city electric building that’s fairly close to our downtown.  The exact location is .31 miles after you go under the railroad underpass going toward Tiger Creek Elementary leaving downtown Ringgold.  We have been working with our state delegation in Atlanta over the past couple of years to give us more tools to have a say in whether or not these types of facilities can move into our city.  Those efforts have paid off in bringing about a moratorium that is currently in place state wide for one year.  We will continue to work with our state legislature to make sure they use this time to give local municipalities the tools they need in order to have greater say in how we choose to grow our communities.  Unfortunately, this facility’s application came in before that took effect.  We had no legal authority to even review their applications before the state issued their operating license.  They very well may be opening in the near future, but we are diligently verifying they have met all the parameters necessary for this type of facility.  We have also been reviewing information brought to us by concerned citizens and addressing their concerns in every way we can.  The love people within our community have for Ringgold has shown through beautifully during this process.

The city (through our DDA) has purchased Benton Coal property that constitutes most of the block between our downtown business district (where Caffeine Addicts and Home Plate are located) and city hall.  We are excited about the opportunity to bring more business to this area through developing parking and business pads around that block.  We’ve already removed two old buildings that were eye sores in that area, and the future looks bright for the rest of the property.  This is a significant growth area for local business owners who will live and work here much like many of the businesses that currently make up our downtown business district. The property the city has brought under it’s control is outlined in yellow in the picture below.  The red area signifies the buildings we have removed.


For those who put their kayaks/canoes in at our new canoe launch at the soccer fields (behind Ringgold City Pool) we now have an “out” behind Ringgold High School.  If you drive down Sparks Street passed the Ringgold High School ROTC building and to the corner of that road by the softball field, there is a gravel pull off to the right that goes behind the school.  At the end of that road there is a place where a car can be parked to pick up kayakers at the end of about a 2 hour trip from where they put in at or current canoe launch.  There are beautiful boulders that extend out into the creek and create a natural ramp for people to take their canoes/kayaks out.  The city is very grateful to the Superintendent and school board for their support and partnership in allowing us to use this area. Here is a picture of the creek route:


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Current Events

IMG_1003Demolition has begun behind the buildings where Caffeine Addicts and Home Plate are located in order to continue our long term plans of developing that block between City Hall and our downtown business district.  Seeing those old buildings come down is a welcome sight, and I look forward to the progress our Downtown Development Authority is continuing to make for our city.

Road pavings in the works for this year include Whittemore Street, Valley View Drive, Rollins Industrial Court, Marilyn Circle, Jenkins Street, and Old County Road.  We continually identify needs and this is an ongoing resurfacing process we are working through.

We are also beginning a recycling pilot program to gauge interest of people within the community that wish to recycle plastic 1-7, paper and cardboard, and tin/aluminum cans.  We will be contracting for a big container drop off spot, and I will update you on it’s location when that is determined.  All the items can be dumped into one big container, so there will be no need to separate the three types of items mentioned above into separate containers.

We also addressed an issue that has come up about our sewer non connection fee the city charges when we provide sewer to properties that ultimately do not connect.  We did lower that non connection fee to $15 across the board to ease the burden on residents who voiced those concerns.


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City Update

Highway 151 widening was on a recent agenda, and we are finishing paperwork to prepare for construction in October – November this year.  Our mood is cautiously optimistic the state will move forward and fund this project in August.

We recently secured a Nature Trail Grant of $100,000 from the state.  Our plan is to make a better connection/entry point for our nature trail where Depot Street goes back to our water plant at the trail.  We’ve added a beautiful paved extension there.  The Lyndhurst Foundation has also committed another $25,000.  They have become a valuable partner and deserve thanks from everyone in the community.

The council has also voted to visit a solar field in Chatsworth and gather information on potential funding sources to explore the possibility of changing some of our biggest power users over to solar.  Following in the model of what Chatsworth has done would be in all of our fiscal and environmental best interest.  In addition to solar power, the city has now voted to transition our street lights to LED type lighting.  You will gradually see a shift in the look of our streets at night.  I am excited about the new hue our streets will have, and we’ll be saving money along the way.  They use only a fraction of the electricity our current lights use.

We have extended the current contract with our Ringgold Soccer program until August.  Darnell Byrd and Earl Epps do a great job bringing families into the community and providing a better quality of life within our city.  I look forward to signing a much longer contract in August.

You can always visit our City Page that has  our video and agendas available if you would like a more comprehensive review.  As always, I would love to answer any questions you may have about any item on our agendas.

-Mayor Millwood

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3-28-16 Council Meeting

Our meeting began with Sandra Self addressing the council to thank us for so many years of working with the city and being a positive partner.  Her dedication for so many years as a public servant is noteworthy and greatly appreciated.

Next, I had an item on the agenda to help raise public awareness about an increase in property crimes and thefts within the city.  The numbers show we have a problem, and comparing our numbers to other municipalities shows how much of a problem it has become.  A city with a small population (under 4,000) connected to a major interstate (3 city exits) and state highways at a state border all make for bad crime number scenarios.  After the meeting I requested our crime report statistics from our city manager to get an indication of how those numbers have changed over time.  We are compiling a message to keep everyone informed about methods we can all deploy in guarding against becoming a victim.  Initial ideas include not letting people on social media know when you are and aren’t home, locking car and home doors, and reporting thefts in a timely manner to the police department.  You will be hearing more about this soon.

I also included an item about solar power and the financial impact it could have on our city budget.  Over the course of the solar panel’s lifetime the city could save hundreds of thousands of dollars (and I believe into the millions) by just converting a few of our highest energy sites to clean energy.  The council is reviewing the data and we will address it at our next meeting on April 11th.  If it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do, then we should do the ecologically responsible thing and move forward with a comprehensive solar plan.

The Health and Wellness Committee item was about approving the committee members.  The council approved the list I had compiled, and we will begin meeting the first Thursday of each month.  I’m excited for the opportunity to work with people toward community events designed to promote health and wellness.  I intentionally made our title vague so as not to limit the scope of things we could work to make happen.  You will be hearing about many of our events soon and I look forward to finding creative ways to bring our community together with fun events.

There was a request from a resident in Bluff View subdivision about putting in speed bumps to slow down traffic.  As a resident of the neighborhood in question, I know how big of a problem speeding is through those streets.  I had to move my family off one of the straight aways and into a cul-de-sac to keep my daughters safe from the cars that flew by.  There was a motion to put in stop signs at a few intersections to create two 4-way stops and one 3-way stop in order to break up the distance cars had to build up speed.  I asked for a motion to table the request until our next meeting in order to inform the residents about our plans and allow time for feedback.  We did vote to table the motion and we will vote on it at our next meeting on April 11th.

Our police chief addressed the council about attaining tasers for the department.  He has had multiple stop working and others becoming obsolete.  We voted to replace the inoperable ones and phase in newer ones at intervals in order to avoid having all of them go out at around the same time.

We also had an item about contracting with GMA (Georgia Municipal Association) to help manage our hotel/motel tax processes like collecting, record keeping, and auditing.  We will move forward with requesting those services.  Next, we had a couple of adjustments to our city code regarding one of our parking lots and  our alcohol pour fee for businesses.  We’re required to do extensive background checks for people pouring in the city, and we needed to adjust our fee to cover those basic costs.  Both of those items passed and will be implemented.

There was also an item included to put up signs at our park to keep dogs out of the old baseball field area at our recreation fields behind the city pool.  Those signs will go up soon.  We also had 2 public hearings on minor variances that the council approved.  We then approved a request from Shaw to enter into a landscaping agreement that was needed on their end to move forward on some improvements around their facility.

Georgia Power requested a needed easement regarding a power pole in our downtown, and we had to table the request to get more information about exactly what they were trying to accomplish.  We also received bids on upgrades to our water plant and we accepted the low bid to make those improvements.  I have since received word for our City Manager that we have an opportunity to reduce to cost associated with this project and I will know soon the amount we will have to pay to make these necessary upgrades to out water plant.

I had requested an employee picnic at  a previous meeting and the council decided to put out a survey to gauge interest.  The vote was to put on hold the request because they viewed the resulting return of surveys as a lack of interest with 28 of 44 employees returning those surveys.  While I had hoped to have an event to get more acquainted with city employees, we ultimately did not move forward.



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2-8-16 Council Meeting

We began our meeting by the council denying a request from a company wanting to rezone a property on Guyler Street from R-2 to R-3.  This would have allowed the developer to put a duplex on the property as opposed to a single family residence the lot was zoned for.  Multiple residences from around the lot in question showed up to argue against the rezoning, and the council ultimately sided with the people that lived in the area.

We also got an update on our ground water well being constructed on Poplar Springs Road.  We have been successful in our attempt to install a 10″ well in order to supply our residents with quality water.  The new well produces an estimated 1- 1.5 million gallons a day.  Our current city usage is 400-500 thousand gallons a day.  The well water will require less chemical treatment than is required to clean the creek water we currently use.  There will be some cost on the front end to lay pipe out to the well site, but the money we will save in the long run on chemicals as well as the added security of another water source that is even more reliable than the creek is something we are all excited about on the council.

We also got some news on our Chapman Road project.  We are trying to make that intersection more safe for residents entering Highway 41 from Chapman Road by the Sonic drive in as well as alleviate flash flooding issues on that road.  The GDOT has authorized $350,000 toward the project, and the remaining $280,000 had been agreed on to be split between the county and city governments.  We were recently informed that the county commission has pulled their support due to budgeting issues they are currently dealing with.  This has put the city in a precarious spot, at the end of this process, to fully fund the $280,000 or lose the $350,000 GDOT has approved.  In exchange for pulling support for this project, the county has said that they are willing to fund a stormwater project not to exceed $140,000 from their 2019 SPLOST if that tax is approved by the voters.  Our council is planning on addressing how to move forward at a meeting in the near future.

We also addressed a potential sewer addition on Hillcrest Circle, and the council approved moving forward with adding some residences in that area to our sewer system.

Next, I included an agenda item to have a city picnic for the employees of the city and their families to get together for an event to develop a sense of community within our government.  As Mayor, there are many city employees I have never met, and would love the opportunity to spend time with them in a non work environment to get to know them.  From what I hear, we have exceptional employees that have long tenures for our city and it would be nice to show our appreciation with an event geared toward honoring them.

I also included an agenda item about creating a Health and Wellness committee for our city.  The point of having it on the agenda was to inform the council of my intent to form the committee and to solicit their input in regards to the committee’s focus and board make-up.  In the next month or two, I anticipate completing the committee and submitting it to the council for approval.  As opposed to rewriting about the point of the committee I will reference you to the article I wrote about it at THIS LINK.

The final agenda item was introduced by a local resident to declare March social work month.  She is currently completing coarse work at Dalton State and part of her obligations there is to have community outreach and local recognition of the importance of social work for the most vulnerable in our community.

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