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Flowery Branch council to study long-term issues
Road improvements, water and sewer upgrades to be part of discussion
Public works supervisor Johnny Thomas works Friday inside a small building that makes up the Flowery Branch public works building. The Flowery Branch City Council is considering moving the public works department to a larger space.


Hear Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller talk about Saturday’s retreat.

Flowery Branch
City Council
annual retreat

8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
: City Hall, 5517 Main St.

Flowery Branch is a small town with big plans over the next few years, but its pockets are only so deep.

City officials have scheduled a retreat Saturday to hash out and put dollars to some of those ideas, which include road improvements, water and sewer upgrades and building a City Hall complex.

“We’re wanting to put together a five-year capital improvement plan,” City Manager Bill Andrew said. “With that, we wanted to have this session to whittle down what we wanted to fit into that from a fiscal standpoint.”

The meeting, open to the public like the council’s regular twice-monthly meetings, is set for 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at City Hall, 5517 Main St.

Chris Fetterman, the council’s veteran with nearly a four-year term under his belt, said he believes “this retreat might be the one that sets the tone for the next five to 10 years in Flowery Branch.”

He said with the economy hopefully “coming out of the doldrums ... we need to be looking at future water and sewer and growth that’s going to come to Flowery Branch.”

The city needs “to have a plan to tackle and finance these future endeavors we’re going to be involved in,” Fetterman said.
As part of that looking forward, the city also needs to control costs, he added.

“If we don’t (do that) now, it’s definitely going to be a burden on the (city’s) future,” Fetterman said, adding that he is particularly concerned about fuel costs.

Some city plans include moving the city’s public works department from crowded offices on Mulberry Street to newly acquired property off Gainesville Street near
Main Street.

The city’s public works operations are otherwise spaced out across the city, including “extensive equipment stored out in the open,” Mayor Mike Miller said.

“A basic thing in the morning, when they get ready to go to a job, is they’ve got to hit three different places to get various equipment that they need,” he said.

Also, the city needs to explore moving on some road projects cited in a comprehensive transportation study completed last year, Miller said.

“The staff is really looking for direction on where to go with those,” he added.

Other plans include addressing “some lingering water issues in older parts of town” and drawing up a timeline for completing a new municipal complex on the city’s 7 acres at Gainesville and Main streets.

Some old structures, including a rusting water tower, sit on property at that location and would be targeted for demolition at some point, as well, city officials have said.

Councilwoman Tara Richards said she would like to see the council develop “a more comprehensive long-term strategic vision for the entire city.”

Also, she would like to explore some parks and recreation opportunities, such us working with Hall County to develop multiuse trails and “connectivity to adjacent green-space areas.”

Councilwoman Amanda Swafford, elected in September, said she doesn’t foresee being especially active in Saturday’s session.

“Being my first retreat, I don’t know to expect,” she said. “... Everybody has been working on the issues for a while — they’ve got a momentum going and I don’t necessarily want to jump in there and interrupt that.”

Swafford said her “big thing” is next year’s budget, which takes effect July 1, and those discussions might still be a bit early.

In a general sense, Miller said, the retreat will offer council members the chance “to get in-depth on many topics, unlike at regular meetings when we glaze over a topic or hit the high points.”

“We need to give our staff direction on which way to head with a certain issue,” he said. “The council sets the policy and it’s the staff’s job to implement it.”