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Flowery Branch may tap ex-Main Street manager
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Flowery Branch is considering hiring the former manager of Main Street Gainesville to determine what the future holds for the city’s downtown-focused Better Hometown Program.

If hired, Joe Burnett would analyze Better Hometown’s past performance and study programs in Cornelia, Cleveland and Jefferson.

Burnett would gather information on various services offered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Historic Preservation Office in recommending how the city should go forward with its program, City Manager Bill Andrew said.

Community Affairs’ Office of Downtown Development coordinates the Georgia Main Street and Better Hometown programs. Both are designed to help Georgia cities and neighborhoods in the development of their core commercial areas.

Andrew and Mayor Diane Hirling “feel confident in (Burnett’s) abilities to produce a report that will be beneficial” to budget, organizational and content planning for the Better Hometown Program, Andrew said in a report for City Council.

The council is set to vote at 6 tonight on contracting with Burnett’s Athens-based company, Downtown Management Services, for the study.

The cost is $3,000, with the money coming from the remaining $10,188 in salary amounts in the program’s budget.

The program’s future became cloudy in December, when Better Hometown director Dinah Wayne quit the post.

“They need somebody young; they need somebody who’s passionate and energetic,” she said in an interview at the time. “I was when I started. ... It’s time to move on.”

The state designated Flowery Branch as a Better Hometown in January 1999. Six months later, Wayne became the program’s first paid Better Hometown manager.

She remained at the helm, leading an effort to renovate and move the town’s century-old downtown depot, which is now used for community meetings and special events.

Better Hometown held its 10th anniversary celebration on May 10, with baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro as the keynote speaker.

In a final act on Wayne’s watch, the organization announced plans in December to donate to the city two or three street lights, similar in design to ones as part of a streetscaping project on Main Street, to be placed in Depot Park, a grassy area next to the depot.

Upon approval, Downtown Management Services’ work could take 45 to 60 days to complete.

However, Andrew said the staff would like to have the study results in time to include as part of the city’s 2010-11 budget, which becomes effective July 1.

“This report will enable the city to hit the ground running (next fiscal year) for Better Hometown and Main Street activities,” Andrew said.

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