The Case for a Dog Park

There are many reasons for this need, but first and foremost it is a good thing for the dogs in our community.  Dog owners know that pets are a part of the family, and they need a place to run and play in Ringgold.  Having a healthy social life and exercise is the most effective way of having a happy dog that is well adjusted.  We have many responsible dog owners who take their dogs for walks and ensure they get exercise, but in order to get quality interaction with other dogs, we have to leave our community.  There may be no cheaper cost to benefit ratio for our community than a dog park.  We actually already have a park area that is ready to go with no building of fences necessary.

Dog Park

Blue outlined area is already fenced in. Orange area is dugouts, and can be used for unleashing dogs to release into park.

Behind our Ringgold pool, we have a ball field that is perfectly set up to accommodate a dog park.  The fence is up, and there is an unleashing double fence already in place in the form of bullpens.  The re-purposing of these ball fields would be a wonderful addition to our community that so many families would enjoy.

dog park

Unleashing area. There’s two dugouts. One can be for large dogs and one can be for small dogs. We just need a divider through the field.

We would have a great deal of interest and traffic brought to our downtown area if we could bring this change about.  Not only citizens within the city, but also visitors from surrounding communities would come in and utilize our park.  That is good for our local businesses in the downtown area and our community’s tax base.

Some on the council have expressed nostalgia for the ball park use of our recreation fields, but there has been almost no baseball on the one remaining ball field since I’ve been on the council (4 years).  I share in that nostalgia as I used to play on those fields as a kid. It has just been so many years since the fields have been used for any kind of baseball/softball.  My cross country kids run through the nature trail daily, and I regularly go there with my daughters.  I can’t remember the last time I saw it being used for baseball.  With newer ball fields at Seabolt, Jack Mattox, and surrounding schools (Ringgold Middle is adding one soon), we don’t have as big of a need for ball fields.  Aggressive marketing may not even keep that lone ball field busy.  One field certainly can’t accommodate tournaments.  Soccer currently uses it for their younger age groups, but with an anticipated expansion for their fields in our recreation master plan, they will not be affected by this change.

Help is needed in making this change happen.  If you are a dog owner in the city, or you are just interested in our city moving forward in a positive direction, please contact your council members.  I put it on the agenda for our August 24th meeting, but could not garner enough votes to make it happen.  Without the voice of people in the community, this may not get done.

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City Moving to Well Water

Ringgold is on the verge of predominantly using well water for our city’s water needs.  We’ve drilled a test well on Poplar Springs Road, and the early indications of water quality and sustainability all look very promising.  There are 3 areas in particular in which this is a big deal for our city.

First of all, the amount of chemicals we have to put into the water will be significantly reduced.  The water we currently treat from the creek at our water plant takes a very large amount of chemicals in order to make it potable.  We are responsible and safe in treating that water, but with the amount of chemicals being so significantly reduced, there is much less room for error.  The water in the well will need some chlorine, fluoride, and treatment to make it softer, but much less than we are currently using.

Secondly, the cost of utilizing well water is greatly reduced compared to what it takes to currently treat the creek water,  however there will be initial costs involved in order to connect the well source to our current system.  Laying the amount of pipe needed will be a fairly high cost, but that will pay for itself over the next few years.  The money is already within our budget in the form of our SPLOST money.  The 2014 SPLOST estimates say we will accumulate about 2.5 million dollars over the time we collect that tax, and that money is already earmarked just for this type of endeavor.  The aquifer we’ve tapped into pumps over 500 gallons per minute, which more than accommodates the city’s current water usage.  By also keeping our city’s water plant online at the creek, we will ultimately be in a position to sell water to surrounding areas, whereas we have had to buy water at times in the past.

One of the biggest benefits I am hoping for is improving the taste of our water.  I’ve payed attention to various public water sources since I’ve been elected, and it seems that our city has about average taste when it comes to our water.  Periodically, as I have been going door to door campaigning, people tell me they don’t like the taste of our city water.  I’ve lived here all my life, and perhaps I can’t tell that it doesn’t taste good because I’ve become so accustomed to the taste.  Improved quality and taste is something I think would be wonderful for our city.

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What Your Vote Means (regardless of who it’s for)

I am running for Mayor, but it would be foolish to hope for a low turnout and target a small constituency that would most likely vote only for me.  REGARDLESS of who gets voted into office, the effect of a high percentage turning out would make our requests and needs as a city begin to float to the top of our elected official’s agendas.  Our representatives at the capitol in Atlanta and at the county level already pay attention to and care about our city, but they would give our elected body in the city more consideration and weight if our voter base turned out in a big way.  The power of voting locally is real.  Elected officials are more responsive and engaged with a public that votes.  When I was elected in November of 2011 to Ringgold’s city council, I received 135 votes out of roughly 1,850 registered voters.  That is under 14% of eligible voters.  If that number were closer to 50%, and we had nearly 1,000 voters come out during our next election, that would turn some serious heads.

We need all groups and ages to get to the polls and send a message to the larger elected community that our citizenry is engaged and active.  I truly believe that you could vote for a person that may not be best for the job, but still have a net positive impact on our community because of the stronger voice we would be speaking with through our collective votes.

Breaking turnout records is not only achievable, but also something we should strive for as a community in order to ensure our city is taken as seriously as possible at the county and state level.  Voting means so much more than one candidate or one office.  Our voice is only as loud as it is large.  We won’t always vote for the same people or the same political party, but voting locally in large numbers makes our community stronger and more viable in the larger political landscape.

REGISTER HERE

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Ringgold Council Meetings Online!

One of my biggest goals in being elected was utilizing the internet to better inform and interconnect our community to City Hall.  A big step in making that happen is coming to fruition.  We are now posting our meetings online at this address:

http://ringgoldcityga.iqm2.com/citizens/default.aspx

We are in the process of working out some bugs since this is our first attempt at posting our meetings.  There is some background noise that we are going to get eliminated, and the sound can be tweaked to be a little bit more clear, but this is a huge step in the right direction.   The functionality of the software seems easy to navigate.  You can actually look at our agenda and pick the specific agenda items that you want to hear from the meeting so you don’t have to listen to parts that do not interest you.  Each meeting will remain accessible from the site so they can be viewed on demand at a time that is good for you.

You can currently click on our July 13th meeting and access the video from the meeting.  I had one thing on the agenda (concreting the nature trail), but our engineer was unable to attend the meeting and we had to table it until our July the 27th meeting.

I encourage everyone to bookmark the link above and periodically look at our agenda items and meetings not only to keep up with current events in our city, but also to provide feedback and expertise in specific areas about which the city is conducting business.

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Our Mayor

On June the 29th, our Mayor of 40 years received the honor of being inducted into the Municipal Hall of Fame.  All of our councilman were able to attend the event in Savannah, Georgia along with some of the Mayor’s family to honor what has become an impressive and enduring legacy.   In 1976, he was elected Mayor after serving as Vice Mayor the previous six years.  Serving with someone that has shaped our community through such momentous transitions has been an honor and a learning experience that will serve me the rest of my life.  I feel that in serving with the Mayor, there is an opportunity to bridge future generations with those of the past in a unique and special way.

FullSizeRender

I’m so honored to have been the Vice Mayor during our Mayor’s last years in office. This is a good man.

Even into his 80’s, the Mayor’s dedication to fighting for what is right for the city is strong.  He is quite the bulldog when he believes he has found the right course for the city, and his passion has led to some vey exciting interactions during my time on the council.  Though we are not always on the same side of each issue, I have never questioned the Mayor’s motivation and genuine love for the city from which so many of his citizens have benefited.  He fights hard to do what is best for us all, and that has had the biggest impact on me during our time together.

There was a recent issue the Mayor brought before the council regarding cleaning up the creek and clearing out undergrowth to ensure less flooding.  Initially a majority of the council were against doing what the Mayor asked, but as I spoke with him and began to understand all he had done to reduce flooding in and around the city, I began to question the council’s position (and my own position initially) and more fully considered the Mayor’s wisdom and experience.  Ultimately, we brought it back before the council and made the right decision.  In the twilight of his storied tenure, the Mayor is still influencing the city in a way that protects us, even though he my not see the many years of benefit decisions like this will yield.

Perhaps no man or woman will have a bigger impact on the city of Ringgold’s history than that of our Mayor.  If anyone is to have as big an impact, they have an exceptionally tall mountain to climb.  He has certainly inspired me to strap on my hiking boots.

 

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In the works

The city has a few projects in the works that I’m excited about and want to share.  One of the things we’ve been working on in the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) is getting WiFi available in our downtown area.  With a new college coming to town and our council’s emphasis on revitalizing our downtown area, adding WiFi has been something we’ve been working to add for a while now.  Ringgold Telephone Company has been trying to work out a proposal, and it looks like we have a potential plan in place.  The internet is really just in it’s adolescence, and the real benefits that it can afford our lives will begin to materialize as it matures.  Providing this service serves our local businesses with added benefits and our citizens with an opportunity to enjoy our downtown while they work, play, or shop.

The council has recently approved recording our City Council meetings and providing them to the public as a live stream during the meeting and on demand afterward.  Our council meetings are very interesting to me and I thoroughly enjoy working through complex issues that face our city, but they can appear to be mundane and boring at times during meetings.  With the ability to see what is on the agenda and tune in to specific items of interest, we can better engage the public about how the city is being shaped.  Making the council meetings more accessible and having a more informed citizenry was one of my main goals when I was seeking office.  This service will be instrumental in keeping us informed and giving people the opportunity to take part in the process as they see agenda items they may have expertise or interest in.

Our sidewalk and trail master planning is coming along nicely to make our community as pedestrian friendly as possible.  Our current trail along the creek is in the process of being extended past our water plant all the way to the next train truss.  This is a 10′ wide concreted trail extension that follows along our best natural resource in our city which is our creek.  We have also extended our trail all the way down Robin Road along the creek (from 5 points to behind Walgreen’s).  Bill Clark has graciously leased that entire beautiful field and creek walk for the city to enjoy.  I’ve included a picture below.

new  creekwalk

red=trail \ blue=parking

It’s a beautiful area.  Also, we’ve leased the property behind Ingles, which is one of the most beautiful properties in the whole city.  I encourage everyone to utilize it for walks and family outings.  The sidewalk connecting CVS and our current sidewalk heading East on Highway 41 is also coming along nicely.   Ultimately we are trying to interconnect completely, but our approach has been to see where the most foot traffic is occurring and fill in those places for safety reasons.

We have many other projects such as trying to access well water, changing to liquid chemicals as opposed to powder chemicals at our water treatment plant, and various zoning issues.  We are trying to grow our city as responsibly as possible and these are some momentous changes that we are currently working through.

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Ringgold’s very own drone

Recently, the city council voted to appoint me to the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB).  The purpose of the CVB is to sponsor events and attract visitors to the city.  At our last meeting, I suggested a unique way to showcase our creek, creekwalk, and various events that we sponsor by purchasing a quad-copter that has an attached HD camera.  We voted unanimously to appropriate the funds needed to purchase one of these devices.

One of the things we envisioned when making this decision was to have the drone fly down our creek to showcase our greatest natural resource in the city. We are planning on putting in a canoe launch soon and getting people on our creek is a priority in our overall planning.  We also wanted to utilize it in showing our nature trail that follows along the creek which we are in the process of expanding at both ends.  The other thing we discussed was using it to get aerial footage of our outdoor events such as 1890’s day and our Christmas parade.

There are some legitimate concerns that we considered going into this decision that I wanted to address.  The first concern is privacy.  The CVB will use this technology explicitly for promoting the city.  Law enforcement will have no access to it.  We don’t want our citizens or visitors to have the impression we are moving toward invasive uses that violate their rights.  We will not be flying over people’s back yards or peering through their window.  Another concern is that we are using our money wisely.  The funding for the CVB comes from hotel/motel taxes from people visiting from outside the city.  Half of that tax revenue goes to the city’s general fund and the other half goes to the CVB to be spent on attracting visitors.  Compared to the things we have used this money on in the past, this is a relatively small acquisition ($1,200), but it has a potential to give us wonderful footage of the best things we have to offer.  I welcome any comments or concerns.

My e-mail address is ViceMayorMillwood@gmail.com.

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Update on Life and Council

We’ve just finished a mini surgery with my youngest daughter. She’s recuperating well. My wife and three girls are doing great. My oldest, Allison, has started running on my middle school cross country team. She’s at RMS with me this year. Anna is fabulous and in 5th grade at RES. Molly’s 2 1/2 and already established such a strong identity. My Lori is beautiful, hard working, and devoted. I cannot say enough grateful things about her. School’s right around the corner and it’s exciting getting a new set of students.

City Council stuff:

There’s some city land in the Bluff View area that the council is (hopefully) willing to lend for a community garden. It’s beside my house in an area that they were apparently going to put a pump station at one point. The land is big enough to put pretty much anything we want. I’m going to try and partner with a local home improvement store to sponsor the project. To make it beautiful like some garden of Eden feel would be really neat. A fruit/veggie/flower/community hang out garden would be wonderful. A great reason and destination for an evening stroll. Involving our local retirement community on Lone Mountain would also be nice. Finding someone to volunteer to pick them up periodically should be easy enough. Many living there can still drive. We could also donate a portion of the food to local people in need. An effective project like this could strengthen the community in so many ways.

We’re also looking for ways to utilize our creek area throughout the city because it is our best and most beautiful natural resource. The canoe / kayak launch will be nice, but we still need to find a good “out” point and figure a good way to address the pipe that crosses the creek in the Bluffview subdivision.

I’ve also been setting up a non-profit organization. We’re calling it Stepping Stone Outdoors. Soon we’ll be sponsoring events with contests to raise money for getting people involved in nature here in the community.

The Center for Hope has been helping me find resources in the community to further my ability to mentor. Their board meeting was encouraging, and Dr. Denny gave me the opportunity on Aug. 2nd to speak with the Kiwanis Club about the things I was working toward in the community. The Center for Hope is all about helping people heal and it would be an honor to partner with them in some way.

Otherwise, I’ve been enjoying my summer off. My wife has been doing some tutoring over the break and the girls have slept in impressively. The baby’s even starting to catch on.

Find a way of contacting me if you have a good idea for the city. You can always leave me a message at City Hall. Till next time. 🙂

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City Council – year one

I'm third from right.

Earl Henderson, Randall Franks, Mayor Barger, Me, Terry Crawford, Larry Black

I was officially sworn in almost one year ago to a 4 year term as a Ringgold City Councilman. There have been many eye opening moments in the past 12 months, and I have become very encouraged by the willingness of this council to take action and become involved in the direction of our city. Just recently, we approved $250,000 be put into our Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in order to begin projects associated with bringing our downtown to life. We have had quite a few buildings sit vacant and deteriorate.

We brought experts in from Rome Ga’s DDA, and they were able to provide us with a couple of good base plans that had proven results. We have hired a new point person who’s only responsibility is to effectively leverage the city’s initial investment and help rebuild our downtown.

One of my personal goals is to create a wider diversity of business and career opportunities. The more variety we have in what we offer, the more we can prosper locally. Of coarse we don’t have any real say (outside of city code) in what people owning commercial property do with it. What we can do is pay attention, and show them that we’re committed to making their business happen here.

Our monthly budget is tight. We currently have an emergency fund set aside. Our revenue stream needs to rebound to pre-tornado levels. There are too many businesses that have not returned, namely hotels, that generate much of the city’s tax base. Our goal is to be as business friendly as possible, but I would also like our city to remain unique. We are considering some ordinance modifications to maintain a small town feel while not overburdening potential entrepreneurs and businesses.

This council is very representative of our community. Our variety of personalities and experiences has served us well. The big difference I would like to see is for the city to elect a woman to serve on the council and better represent our population.

The gentlemen I serve with are truly devoted to what is best for the City of Ringgold. We have come together to accomplish some very positive things to grow our city. We’ve also had some strong disagreements. Each one of us are devoted to what we think is right for the city. Going head to head over things people feel passion for is always a challenge. We have been able to work through these times and will continue to in a way that’s civil and lends respect to the office we hold.

I am encouraged and happy with the first year of my term and I am even more excited about the next three. Thank you for reading and I will keep the updates coming.

Nick.

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Ringgold Middle coming home Monday

What a wonderful day!

 

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/dec/30/school-comes-full-circle-from-2011/

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January 4, 2013 · 9:18 PM