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Oakwood OKs 2011 budget, seeks to ban street advertisers
City's spending plan stays at $3.6 million, includes no tax hikes, furloughs
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Costumed and dancing sidewalk advertisers, common in many communities, will have to leave Oakwood's streets.

The city plans to crack down on the often-animated activity, which has surfaced lately along Mundy Mill Road at the entrance to the Walmart store and across from Gainesville State College.

"It's not a proper practice and it's creating a traffic hazard in the roadway," City Manager Stan Brown said at Monday night's City Council meeting.

The Mundy Mill-Gainesville State College intersection has become one of the city's busiest crossings, particularly as other businesses have filled up a strip shopping center next to Walmart.

Brown said the city took into account First Amendment rights, but freedom of speech doesn't extend to public rights of way such as sidewalks.

"The way we look at it, (the activity) is a violation of our sign ordinance," he told the council.

Brown didn't get any arguments from council members or Police Chief Randall Moon, who was nodding in agreement.

"It is a very, very serious distraction," Councilman Montie Robinson said. "Somebody is going to get hurt before it's over with."

Brown said the city plans to start with issuing violation notices, then step up consequences if the activity doesn't stop.

Moving from the physical to the fiscal, the City Council voted to approve its 2011 budget, which takes effect Jan. 1. The city's $3.6 million general fund budget is basically unchanged from the current spending plan.

Like other governments, Oakwood has seen flat revenues against a tough economy. Unlike others, the city has averted layoffs and employee furloughs, a trend that is expected to continue into 2011.

City Council already has approved its property tax rate of 2.48 mills, with 1 mill equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Property is assessed at 40 percent in the city.

The tax rate has remained the same for 11 consecutive years.

Tax bills will be mailed out Dec. 1 and taxes are due Feb. 1.

Last year, the city approved a 2010 budget that netted $3.38 million in revenue, a 2 percent increase over 2008.

Despite the drab budget, the city is expecting growth in the coming year and as the economy improves.

Several businesses have opened, replacing ones that have closed. And officials announced in September that California-based baker King's Hawaiian plans to start up a plant in the fall of 2011.

The new plant in the Oakwood South Industrial Park off McEver Road is expected to create 126 new jobs over two years and then an additional 100 jobs by 2015.

A new four-lane — the final segment of Thurmon Tanner Parkway between Plainview and Mundy Mill roads — is expected to stir development after it is completed Dec. 31, as is a new sewer line being installed along Winder Highway from Martin Road to Braselton.

In other business, the council voted to apply for a Georgia Department of Transportation Enhancement grant to complete a downtown improvement project that would feature new sidewalks, ornamental lighting, benches, brick crosswalks and landscaping.

The city already has $100,000 in hand from a previous Transportation Enhancement grant. City Planner Larry Sparks said the city would like to end up with $300,000 to $500,000 for the project.

The state's applications deadline is Dec. 15.

The Transportation Enhancement program helps pay for "multiuse facilities," such as walking and biking trails and paths, street improvements and landscaping projects, historic preservation of transportation-related structures (such as railroad depots) and preservation of scenic byways.

 

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