Interfor Invests in Thomaston Sawmill to Grow Southern
By Matt Sharpe
During the past few weeks, the Thomaston City Council has heard from several citizens who oppose the sale of the Silvertown triangle at the corner of Hwy 19 and Goodrich Avenue. Former City Manager Patrick Comiskey, who resides in the Silvertown area, and Jerry McDonald, chairman of the West Village Association, voiced their concerns on the sale of the property during the council’s Tuesday, Jan. 16 meeting.
In December, one bid was received for the lot which includes Park Drive road. Charles Mixon Properties of Atlanta offered $500,000 for the 1.179 acres. Being proposed for the site is a “sit down restaurant.” No other details about the site have been received by the city. City hall has stated meetings with the developer are scheduled to learn more information on his proposal for the area. A decision to accept the offer has neither been denied nor accepted.
Those who oppose the sale have stated the land was given to the citizens of the city and county for recreational purposes and should not be sold, and selling the land violates the intent of the gift from BF Goodrich. Others oppose the sale wanting to keep the area a “greenspace” and, in doing so, protect the entrance to historic Silvertown and the Greatest Generation Memorial Park. Several residents of the Silvertown community were in attendance to oppose the sale.
According to news articles, the purchase of the land began back in the early 1990’s when community reaction to a plan to locate a shopping center project in the pine grove-the land between the catfish pond and R Street. Community reaction pushed city leaders towards rejecting a rezoning request for the property.
The BF Goodrich land was eventually sold to the city for $890,000. The deal included a three phase plan. A total of 21 acres would be sold. The area included the 9.45 acre pine grove site and 3.71 acres near the tennis court site. The tennis court area, surrounding island tracts, Silvertown Ball Park and other road frontage properties would be donated as part of the deal. In return, the final phase involved BF Goodrich asking for, and receiving, 231 acres to be rezoned for the development of those tracts. At that time, the rezoning requests were in line with the city’s zoning policies. Funds for the purchase of the land came from several sources including private donations, grants, and a SPLOST.
Comiskey said there was nothing wrong with someone approaching the city government about purchasing or selling property and agreed that its “part of the business operation of the city to make or receive such inquiries”. Comiskey added that a businessman inquired about buying the parcel several years ago, but at that time, Mayor Hays Arnold advised him there was not any interest in entertaining a proposal because of the land being the entranceway to the historic Silvertown West Village.
Comiskey said if the property was going to be put out for bid it should have been placed in the city utility bill information so citizens could see the information.
“If the city was going to entertain such a proposal, it is my opinion, the city should have put the proposal information onto a flier and sent it out to every citizen through the utility bills a month in advance of the meeting date the issue was being decided. This was the very approach the city utilized to educate citizens on projects in the past such as the Weaver Park improvements and the Lake Thomaston project. This gave citizens ample time to learn about the issue and present their views to the mayor and city council. Everyone received the information showing what it was going to look like and how much it was going to cost and they had it as soon as we had it,” he said.
Comiskey said he was concerned that the efforts of the past four administrations to protect and beautify the Route 19 corridor would be diminished with the sale. The official gateway extends from Potato Creek Bridge to Goodrich Avenue.
“The Greatest Generation Memorial Park, Mayor Hays Arnold’s initiative with $1 million assistance to date from the Hightower Family, has been a $3 million investment in the quality of life of this city. Imagine Thomaston today, without the Greatest Generation Memorial Park.
The Walmart shopping center developer had to follow the gateway ordinance for greenspace so why wouldn’t we try to require other developers to do the same,” said Comiskey.
Coming up with funds for operations shouldn’t be a problem, according to Comiskey who said, “When Hays Arnold came into office, the city had just over $2 million in the bank. When Hays Arnold left office the administration was left with $20 million in resources to work with...$10.8 million in cash in the bank, $1.6 million cash in a restricted fund to become available over 36 months, and about $4 million of SPLOST revenue to in over six years for sewer and storm water replacement...$200,000 of the SPLOST restricted for Silvertown Tennis Courts and $4.1 million placed by the Arnold administration in a restricted fund for new power generation.
Again, $20 million in financial resources. The Arnold administration left the city government in rock solid financial condition. There should not be a need to sell land in order to make ends meet.”
Comiskey said that implying the mill village is at fault for the city need to raise taxes or sell the land to avoid a property tax, “is nonsense or to phrase it in common Irish, it is a bunch of malarkey. Last year, the city passed a 40 percent increase on residential sewer, a 26 percent increase on residential water, and added $96 to every household’s yearly base electric rates. This amounted to an approximate $332 annual increase in utility fees to the average household. And they did not increase many of the large water and sewer users and they lowered the electric rates of high usage customers. In essence, they shifted the burden toward the mill village resident and other average households. The $300 increase in bills amounted to a 400 percent increase in city property taxes of a mid-range West Village mill house. These bill increases were made when the city water and sewer utility had an operating income in excess of $72,089 and the water/sewer fund had $1.7 million in the bank. The city electric utility had revenues in excess of $2.5 million. Using the mill village as an excuse to sell this land is wrong.”
Planning accordingly to enhance long term economic development for Thomaston is a concern for Comiskey. “We need not just maintain, but improve our quality of life. Selling off historically significant greenspace for a parking lot on a gateway corridor is not progressive planning. It’s not quality economic growth."
Jerry McDonald, chairman of the West Village Association, addressed council and said the association’s goal is to monitor the greenspace and keep the character of West Village.
“We’ve had to fight to keep that greenspace there and fight off everything from a billboard to a taco stand...and now, speaking on behalf of the people I have polled in west village association committee...the one thing they are saying...we don’t want to smell a new restaurant in Thomaston. Do not pollute our air with liver and onions. What we’re saying is...let’s not give up the quality of our life for a short term capital gain for something that will actually be a long term nuisance.”
According to the city council, a Town Hall will take place once all information from the developer is received.
City issues press release on
City officials have issued a press release regarding the sale of the Silvertown triangle. The release was issued following the council’s Tuesday, Jan. 16 meeting. During the meeting, the council heard from two citizens who opposed the sale of the triangle.
Here is a look at the press release:
“In August of 2017, the City of Thomaston was contacted by a developer who expressed interest in purchasing the property located at W. Goodrich & Church Street. This property consists of 1.179 acres and includes a section of Park Drive, as well as a triangular piece of land that was deeded to the City of Thomaston by B.F. Goodrich.
Georgia law regulates the procedure by which a municipality may sell property. The mayor and council chose to advertise the property and receive sealed bids in accordance with the statute and also as permitted by the City Charter, a legislative act. Prior to advertising, the property was surveyed and appraised. The procurement and solicitation ran in the legal organ the week of November 6th. In addition, notification was displayed on the city’s website and Facebook page.
Bids were received on December 8th, and the city had one respondent. The bid price for the 1.179 acres was $500,000.
In the bid package, the city required the following stipulations in efforts to protect the corridor and the Silvertown community:
• If, after the expiration of two (2) years from the date of conveyance of title out of the City of Thomaston, the purchaser has not completed construction on the primary building, structures, or facilities, parking areas, loading areas or landscaping, the city shall have the option to refund 75% of the purchase price and enter into possession of said property. The City reserves the right to extend this time limit or waive or alter the above stated conditions for good cause.
• No “discount stores” shall be constructed on subject property.
• If subject property is bundled with any adjoining parcels for a multi-parcel development, then the following shall also apply:
• The Development, if applicable, shall have a double setback with landscape buffer along the back alley of 4th Avenue, SW.
• The Development, if applicable, shall not place any trash receptacles along the back alley of 4th Avenue, SW.
• The Development shall not use the back alley of 4th Avenue, SW for commercial access to subject property, or contiguous properties tied to said development.
• The Development shall use Hwy 19 for ingress/egress for commercial trucks.
• Where feasible the Development will be all electric and shall be served by the City of Thomaston Electrical Department.
• The Development shall be responsible for paying for the relocation of any City utilities which interfere with Developer’s site plans.
• The City of Thomaston reserves the right to approve the material used in connection with exterior façades of any building facing a public street or roadway if such facades differ from those proposed in bid.
• The Development shall adhere to the provisions of Sections 71-31 through 71-50 of the City of Thomaston Code of Ordinances as currently enacted, unless a variance is specifically approved by the Mayor and City Council.
• The development shall meet all City of Thomaston Building Codes, unless a variance is specifically approved by the Mayor and City Council.
The bid that the City received was not specifically responsive to the terms and conditions that were required in the bid document. Therefore, the Mayor and Council authorized the City Manager and the City Attorney to negotiate with the sole bidder and to report back to the full body with specifics regarding these stipulations and protections. The City has been in contact with the developer but has not finished negotiations and does not have the full specifics of the proposed development.
Regarding rumors and myths:
• The City does not know what business or businesses are interested in locating within this project.
• No one has suggested or offered that the island will become a parking lot.
• The City has not violated any laws or taken any vote in private concerning this property.
• The City’s Mayor does not make unilateral decisions that affect our community. He is the City’s chief advocate of policy, but all matters pertaining to real estate go before the entire City Council.
• The City is not in a desperate position to come up with cash. The City’s reconciled unrestricted cash position at the end of December 2017 was $6,934,957. Do not confuse this total with amounts that have been touted by others which include restricted accounts. The City is still in receipt of these same restricted accounts which include deregulation funding, SPLOST, intergovernmental funding, escrowed funding held in generation trust accounts and flexible spending accounts at MEAG, etc... Any citizen interested in the financial condition of the City is encouraged to contact the City Manager's Office.
• Neither the Mayor nor any Council member has taken the position that property tax increases will be necessary because mill village values are declining. The City’s net tax digest has declined and that is fact. Despite this fact, millage rates have remained constant.
• One could argue that declining property values within the mill village are directly related to the closing of the mills, which in turn resulted in thousands of lost jobs. This effect ultimately led to higher densities of rental properties. Ergo, the City Council is interested in educated exploration of any and all opportunities related to economic activity.
• The City’s decision to raise water and sewer rates in 2017 and to restructure electric rates was not done in an effort to shift the burden to small business and residential customers. The decision was made after conducting a cost-of-service study by an outside agency, a study that was promised by this administration. The City has many water and sewer issues that need addressing. The City Council eliminated the summer electric rates and instituted a blended rate to soothe cyclical swings for people on budgets.
• The piece of property being considered for sale is not part of the Greatest Generation Park, and is not part of the Park’s master plan.
• Note that one or more of the trees on this lot are diseased and removal has been recommended by an arborist. This action has been delayed in anticipation of the potential selling of the property. Whether it is sold or not, the diseased trees will have to be removed.
• The City Council is aware of a petition that is circulating concerning the potential sale of this property. There is however concern that signatures are being sought without the provision of complete and accurate information.
Why sell this property, if the City does not need the money?
(1) The price is advantageous and a consideration.
(2) Citizens have expressed to the Mayor and Council a need for more jobs in the community, an issue since the mills were closed and abandoned. Note, the photographs in the newspaper ad of dilapidated property are not properties owned by the City.
(3) Citizens have expressed to the Mayor and Council a desire for new dining and shopping options.
(4) Development in the City is a mark that our City is growing and will inspire interest by other employers and citizens in moving to the City.
(5) Adding new businesses will add taxpayers and also generate revenue through electric and water service.
At the time this Mayor and Council were elected, many citizens vociferously objected to the development of a park at the City Reservoir. This administration took note and the park was not developed. The Mayor and Council interpreted citizen concerns to be that a park was an unneeded luxury and that economic development was a priority.
The City Council has made no decision to date regarding the sale of the referenced property. This administration is greatly concerned and interested in promoting economic development and quality of life for all of our citizens. That means that outside-the-box thinking is prudent, and that any endeavor that might bring jobs and positive activity should be investigated and vetted. This administration is not interested in killing development prior to having all of the facts. Once all of the facts have been gathered, representatives from this administration will be more than happy to conduct town hall meetings to address any concerns that citizens might have. We do not have all of the details yet, but we are working on it.
We want to thank all parties who have come out, both in protest and in support of this process. We are here to represent you, the Citizens of Thomaston, and the Mayor and Council will strive to make the best decision for our community after receiving all of the information needed to act.
Here’s How They Scored
Overall- Combined total score
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 5 out of 5 stars
Harborview Heath Systems: 4 out of 5 stars
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 1 out of 5 stars
Health Inspection- Total number of health deficiencies, complaints, faculty reported incidents, fire and safety
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 5 out of 5 stars
Harborview Heath Systems: 3 out of 5 stars
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 1 out of 5 stars
Total number of licensed nurse, RN, LPN, CNA, Physical Therapy staff hours per resident per day
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 3 out of 5 stars
Harborview Heath Systems: 2 out of 5 stars
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 3 out of 5 stars
Quality Measures (Self Reported)-
Patient improvements, re-admissions, ER visits, successful discharges, new or worsened ulcers, vaccinations, pain issues, new prescribed antipsychotic medicines.
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 5 out of 5 stars
Harborview Heath Systems: 5 out of 5 stars.
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 3 out of 5 stars
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 5 out of 5 stars- zero penalties in the past three years
Harborview Heath Systems: 4 out of 5 stars- zero penalties in the past three years
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 1 out of 5 stars- Providence was fined and paid $13,507 in 2014 for deficiencies
By Debbie Lord
Choosing a nursing home for your loved one is a major decision. When making that decision, the quality of care the nursing home provides should be at the top of the list.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 1.3 million people receive care each day in over 15,500 nursing homes in the United States that are certified by either Medicaid or Medicare, or both. Although the federal government requires nursing homes to meet minimum standards as a condition of Medicare and Medicaid payment, nursing home reports of quality problems still exist. Key problem areas include low staffing levels, new pressure ulcers (bedsores), and fire hazards. All are serious issues given the frailty and vulnerability of nursing home residents.
While some states have added to the federal standards and requirements for licensing, Georgia has not. For instance, Georgia only requires a registered nurse be on duty eight hours per day. That leaves 16 hours a day without a trained professional on duty if a problem should arise.
Upson County has three nursing homes; Riverside Health and Rehabilitation, Harborview Heath Systems and Providence Healthcare of Thomaston. All three are Medicare and Medicaid certified, inspected and must meet federal minimum standards. Medicare grades all certified nursing homes across the country using a five point star rating system. It posts the scores on medicare.gov and will even allow you to compare up to three nursing homes. It also tells you if a nursing home has deficiencies and if the homes were fined. The main purpose of the grade system is to hold nursing homes accountable and to ensure it is providing quality care for its patients.
Two out of the three local nursing homes scored above average on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare. Riverside has 73 certified beds and is a non-profit; it scored an overall five out of five stars, much above average. Harborview has 114 certified beds and is for profit; it scored four out of five stars, above average; and Providence also a for profit with 110 certified beds, scored 1 out of 5 stars, much below average. Medicare uses a star rating system reflecting the quality of care provided by each nursing home. The star ratings for the overall rating and each category are graded from 1 star, the lowest score to 5 stars, the highest score available; more stars indicates better quality. Nursing homes are judged in three general areas: health inspections, staffing and quality measures with several subcategories under each of those. The overall rating is the combination of all three areas.
The Beacon asked all three nursing home directors if they would like to add any additional information, here’s what they had to say:
Harborview’s Executive Director, Nelva Lee, LNHA, Ph. D said, “Harborview scores 5 out of 5 in Quality Measures and 4 out of 5 Overall on Nursing Home Compare website.
We have improved our staffing, lowered our turnover and are proud of our zero deficiency survey this year. We are the only facility in Thomaston that accepts VA residents and have also passed our VA survey with flying colors. We have a lot to be proud of and welcome the community to visit our facility.”
Donna Ramey, Providence’s administrator said, “I want you to know that I am extremely proud of the compassionate care we provide here at Providence Health Care. I’ve been Administrator here for just under two years, and I can tell you the people who work here not only care for our patients, but also care about them.
I also want to acknowledge that we are working hard every day to improve our “star ratings” that appear on some websites. The welfare of our patients and residents is our primary concern, and if any measure ever shows we are in need of improvement, we take that to heart and take decisive action.
Please understand that the type of rating you’ve asked me about is driven largely by state survey data that is 2-3 years old. In our case, our recent star rating is based on an inspection from July 2015, which well before I came on board as Administrator. That 2-year-old survey identified a number of what are called “deficiencies” or “tags” – and we took them very seriously. Those deficiencies identified mainly revolved around our dietary program. At that time, the community experienced some significant employee turnover and needed to replace our dietician. I’m happy to say that problem was resolved immediately and satisfactorily, per reinspection by State authorities.
Again – this was a 2-year old survey. For comparison, I am pleased to report that our most recent State survey earlier this month resulted in only one minor deficiency. We immediately instituted a plan to correct the one minor deficiency, and it’s already been approved by the State. We hope and expect that our ratings will improve dramatically when this new survey is reflected, however, as stated earlier, it could take another 2-3 years for us to see a positive star rating impact.
At Providence Health Care, the wellbeing of our patients and residents is our number one priority. We are working as hard as we can to be sure we deliver the very best possible care for the community we are privileged to serve – and I’d invite you to come visit with me and see for yourself.”
Riverside’s director chose not to comment.
The five star rating gives you important information to help you compare nursing homes and provides a "snap shot" of the care individual nursing homes give. Medicare.gov suggests you use a variety of resources when choosing a nursing home. You should always do an in person visit, consider what types of specialized care you may need and what each home offers and how many hours per day an RN is on duty, along with the nursing home’s Medicare’s star rating, to make a final decision.
For more information on the rating system and choosing a nursing home that is a good fit for your needs, visit Medicare.gov.