Fort Oglethorpe, Ringgold DDA's continue to work to improve downtowns

Fort Oglethorpe, Ringgold DDA's continue to work to improve downtowns

February 26th, 2014 by Katie Ward in Catoosa

The Fort Oglethorpe Downtown Development Authority board of directors is comprised of, clockwise from left, Karen Goodlet, Paula Stinnett, Chairman Jeff Epperson, Vice Chairman Derek Rogers and Ron Davis.

The former bowling alley along LaFayette Road in the Fort Oglethorpe business corridor will soon be leveled.

The Fort Oglethorpe Downtown Development Authority board of directors unanimously voted to allow the Bank of LaFayette to level the building.

"[Bank of LaFayette President] Dave Gilbert owns the bowling alley and Gilbert-Stephenson Park," explained DDA board member Karen Goodlet. "He asked me how we felt about them leveling the bowling alley."

DDA Chairman Jeff Epperson's response was an ear-to-ear grin.

"He would be willing to do that?" Epperson asked. "That's great. That's fantastic. Frankly, I think that land will be more valuable [without the bowling alley building]. Could he donate the land to the DDA? We could sell it and raise money for the DDA."

In other business:

The DDA board welcomed two new members: Father Bill Williams of St. Gerard Catholic Church and Councilwoman Paula Stinnett. A seventh member is still needed to complete the board.

Member Ron Davis said he would like to see the city hire a DDA director to help development grow in the city. "We have 9,300 people and Ringgold has 3,300," he said. "Why don't we have a DDA director [like Ringgold]? We need a paid person." Epperson said the local DDA does not receive funding and many have questioned how the group continues to even exist. Davis' prompt ultimately led to discussion about applying for a grant to hire a DDA director. Stinnett said she would like to find out the pay and qualifications required for a DDA director to get the ball rolling. Epperson said in order to join the Georgia Main Street Start-up Program, the city must have a paid DDA director on staff.

The DDA plans to meet with the Georgia Department of Transportation in March. The DDA is allowing GDOT to take the reins in administering a recently received Appalachian Regional Commission grant to renovate the corridor along LaFayette Road. "It will still remain four lanes," Epperson said. "We will narrow the lanes. Medians will be throughout the process for green space. North- and southbound will have bike lanes. Green space and new trees will be along the sidewalks. Utilities will be buried. Once we get the engineering firm picked ... we have to have community involvement. This is a community project. Everyone needs to be involved and have input."

The DDA is still in talks about creating an Opportunity Zone in the city. The zone will allow businesses to receive tax credits for hiring employees.

The Fort Oglethorpe DDA meets the third Monday at 6 p.m. at Fort Oglethorpe City Hall. The next meeting is scheduled for March 17.

Ringgold Downtown Development Authority Director Joseph Brellenthin said the DDA board will vote on facade grant applications March 17. No businesses have returned an application yet, but a couple have called him with questions, he said.

The maximum grant amount allowed is $1,000.

The board is also working on the Main Street Start-up Program's checklist of five objectives, 10 goals and 35 action items. Brellenthin was scheduled to attend the Main Street Start-up Program 101 Conference in Douglasville, Ga., Feb. 24.

The next Ringgold DDA meeting is March 17 at 5:30 p.m. at Ringgold City Hall. Meetings are open to the public.