Thomson City Council met Feb. 9 and approved several items, including a resolution to abandon and close the alley between Milledge Street and First Avenue, and an alcohol license for a not-yet opened restaurant, Hoagie Joe's, on Railroad Street. The alley closure passed unanimously with all members present, while the alcohol license was passed with an abstention from Councilman John Smalley.
The council also discussed and approved a pay increase for City of Thomson Municipal Court Judge David Moore. The previous pay for Judge Moore was $250 per month. Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry proposed an increase to $600 per month. Mayor Usry said Judge Moore would offset the pay increase by reducing jail inmate expenses paid by the city to the sheriff's department.
Judge Moore said in a letter that he will hold hearings every Thursday instead of once a month. When defendants are arrested, some cannot post a bond and are detained in jail for up to six weeks awaiting trial. Weekly hearings would allow them to be released within a few days.
"We are trying to keep them out of jail because it cost money to house them," Mayor Usry said.
In the letter, Judge Moore also said he will review the jail list daily and adjust the formula used when revoking probation, resulting in reduced jail time.
Councilman Smalley said he had a "problem" with the increase because the judge was under contract. The vote passed unanimously, with Rev. Smalley saying he was voting in favor of it, but it "gives me heartburn."
As was the case at the January meeting, several local business owners attended the February meeting to stay abreast of the city's new controversial sign ordinance. Mayor Usry told the audience City Attorney Jimmy Plunkett, was working on changing wording of the ordinance. Business owners had expressed concerns about confusing language in the ordinance, restrictions on certain types of signs and enforcement of the ordinance.
"We have heard what the common complaints are and we have focused on the issues the people have brought up," City Administrator Don Powers said.
A public hearing will be held before the ordinance is finalized, Mayor Usry said.
The council heard a request from Alan Shapiro, a member of the Car Show at the Depot committee. Mr. Shapiro said the annual car show, held in the spring, has outgrown the parking lot of the Depot. The committee was seeking permission to close Main Street from the railroad tracks to Whiteoak Road to hold the car show on Main Street.
Mayor Usry said he was in favor of the car show "150 percent," but was concerned with detouring traffic, specifically 18-wheelers, down residential side streets. The mayor suggested the committee meet with the chief of police and Department of Transportation officials and come up with a way to reroute the trucks.
"As long as you're receptive to the idea, we'll go back to the drawing board," Mr. Shapiro said.
Although the agenda revealed Mary Bailey was seeking to open an adult entertainment business, Ms. Bailey said the wrong words were used.
"No entertainment is involved," Ms. Bailey said. "It is a lingerie and novelty shop. There will be no nudity, no alcohol. Just retail."
Ms. Bailey said she travels from Charlotte to hold "passion parties" in the area, and had been asked by her customers to open a shop in Thomson.
Mr. Plunkett said even if the business did involve entertainment, it was not prohibited by local ordinance.
However, the type of business and items sold would determine where the business could be located.
Ms. Bailey said she did not wish to locate close to a church or school, and the minimum age requirement to enter her shop would be 21 years, the same as the state's legal drinking age.
Mayor Usry suggested Ms. Bailey make a specific list of items to be sold in her shop and meet with Zoning Director Fred Guerrant to learn her options, and then come back to the council.
officials of both counties regarding that agreement.
"I'm really excited about this project," said Jon W. Puckett, who serves as the director of Biomass Procurement program with Oglethorpe Power. Mr. Puckett, who was guest speaker of the local Rotarians, said the biomass plant offers a "tremendous" opportunity for him, as well as this area.
"We've received overwhelming support for this project," added Mr. Puckett before explaining what the new biomass facility will actually mean. "It's a proven technology."
The plant will generate enough energy to serve 40,000 homes, he said, noting there are no plans to burn any fossil fuels at the new plant.
"This is a major project," said Mr. Puckett, adding that the project is on schedule and that the new plant is expected to come on-line in 2014.
An estimated 500 workers will be involved in the construction phase of the new plant. Once completed, the biomass plant will employ 40 workers.
Mr. Puckett shared slides of the project with those attending, including an artist's rendering of what the plant will look like when completed.
The Oglethorpe Power official explained that solar waves and wind projects would not have been the way, which is why executives opted on biomass procurement.
"The economic benefit of this plant will be tremendous," said Mr. Puckett. "This plant will benefit this area in many ways and help create jobs."
Fuel sources for operating the biomass plant will come from whole tree chips, forest residues from timber harvesting, etc.
The tentative life span of the plant is 30 years.
Mr. Graham agreed with the earlier comments of Mayor Usry, saying, "This is a win-win for everybody."