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Litigation delaying buildings renovation
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If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following questions were submitted by readers and answered through the efforts of our news staff.

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What is going in the remodeled building on the corner of Atlanta Highway and Winder Highway across from Walgreens? It seems to have been finished for quite a while.

That building is owned by Smokehouse Properties LLC, which operates Smokehouse Barbeque and Catering Inc.
The partially remodeled building has been left vacant due to ongoing family-fueled litigation, according to owner Rae Rogers.

“It’s a family-owned business with family-owned problems. We shut down the renovation, which is about 80 percent complete, because it has been embroiled in a 2-year-old court case,” she said.

“It’s an historic building, we’ve traced it back to the 1950s, and has housed several businesses over the years including a Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Smokehouse restaurant over 20 years ago.

“Right now it’s just sitting while we wait to see what happens.”

What are the franchise fees for on electric and natural gas utility bills inside the city of Gainesville?

The franchise fees are due to a municipal franchise agreement between the electric and natural gas companies and the city of Gainesville, according to the city’s Administrative Services Director Melody Marlowe.

“Municipal franchise agreements are allowed by state law and are contracts between a city government and a utility company that outlines certain requirements that must be met in order for the utility to place their facilities in the city’s right of way. These contracts establish the franchise fee which is the ‘rent’ or ‘reimbursement’ utility providers pay to use that right of way,” she said.

How much is collected annually from these fees?

In the fiscal year 2012, the city of Gainesville received $3.72 million in franchise fees from electric and natural gas utility companies, Marlowe said.

When did the city begin charging these fees?

Utility franchise agreements date back to 1980 in the city of Gainesville, Marlowe said.

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