After a few drinks health score doesn’t matter

By Audrey Milam and Esther Shim

 

Jerrod leaves Magnolia’s at 2:20 a.m. Thursday night, ready to sober up on a heaping pile of hot food at a 24-hour restaurant. Few full service restaurants are still open downtown, but Jerrod has his sights set on Waffle House. The Washington Street Waffle House received an 87 on its last health inspection, not terrible but not great. “I don’t care,” Jerrod says, “Waffle House is AMAZING.”

“The Grill is disgusting. Steak ‘n Shake is way too far to drive on a couple [of drinks]. That’s just my prerogative,” Jerrod said, explaining his rationale.

After a night of fun and drinks, Jerrod said that he isn’t looking to drive anywhere, especially when Waffle House is only a short walk away. Plus, he enjoys the All-Star Breakfast deal that the joint serves.

Jerrod’s loyalty to his first choice restaurant is typical of downtown visitors. When it comes to picking a dive, cleanliness isn’t a factor. People just don’t care.

In a survey of 50 late-night drinkers, only two people changed their minds about their chosen eatery after learning the health score. Both decided not to go to Waffle House.

Most of the survey subjects commented on the quality and taste of the meals served or the quality of the service provided. Cleanliness didn’t play a large role in altering a subject’s choice of venue.

Multiple people declared that Waffle House had the best breakfast, the most convenient location, and the most food for a few bucks. In terms of pricing, some, such as UGA student Lewis Payne, disagreed.

“I prefer Steak ‘n Shake. Waffle House in Athens is disappointing. They all have bad service and cold food. I’ve never had a good experience at any of the three around campus.”

There are in fact nine Waffle Houses around Athens.

Steak ‘n Shake, a chain restaurant specializing in Steakburgers and milkshakes, was noted the second-most popular restaurant during the survey. The venue boasts half-priced shakes during happy hours from midnight to four in the morning, a prime time for drunken crowds to rush into the diner.

However, half-priced shakes and hot Steakburgers don’t mean that the restaurant is performing at high standards. The Steak ‘n Shake on West Broad Street actually failed a health inspection.

Unexpectedly, no one decided against Steak ‘n Shake, even after learning that it received a score of 71. The Clarke County Department of Public Health cited the restaurant for two critical violations: failure to properly wash hands, and failure to cool food properly.

Employees were seen handling clean dishes right after washing dirty dishes, something you might easily do in your home and never give a second thought. But it’s cross-contamination in the dish room enough to alarm health inspectors.

A representative for the West Broad Street Steak ‘n Shake declined to comment on the branch’s performance.

Steak ‘n Shake’s failure didn’t seem to sway its fans, though.

“I can’t believe Steak ‘n Shake is so dirty. I guess I’d still go, though. I love their fries,” said UGA student Sarah Greene.

The restaurant offers several flavored seasonings for customers to add to their fries. Greene said she constantly craves this dish and often orders “a ton of fries and a shake after a night out with the girls.”

After learning about some of Steak ‘n Shake’s health code violations, Greene shrugged and said, “they must be busy or something.”

Ricoh Black, another UGA student, agreed, “I’d still go to Steak ‘n Shake to get my Steakburger, parmesan fries and my mint Oreo shake. Can’t pass up such a good deal. Why would anyone want to pay 10 bucks for a burger when they can pay four bucks for one?” he said, referring to the higher prices at The Grill.

The long-time Athens diner, The Grill scored the best out of the round-the-clock downtown eateries. It’s score of 93 is exceptional, but not enough to change its perception as a grungy hole-in-the-wall.

“I was never a big fan of The Grill. It’s grody,” said UGA student Matt Thomas. He said the cleanliness was funny because “it’s always gross” when he goes. “I haven’t heard any good things, like ever.”

According Yelp, The Grill scored three and half stars out of five, and four stars on Urbanspoon.

Mike Bradshaw, owner of The Grill since 2009, laughed at the survey’s findings. “I worked my butt off for that [health inspection] score!” he said.

When it comes to dining after a night out and a few drinks, does the health score truly make a difference? In this college town, it’s not about the cleanliness of a diner, but about convenience, large servings, and money left in pockets.

 

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Crowdfunding campaign for steeple reconstruction shows promise!

By Esther Shim

 

 

Money flowed in through a Nuçi’s Space crowdfunding campaign which proved to be an efficient source of fundraising for the reconstruction of the rehabilitation center’s crumbling steeple.

The 145-year-old St. Mary’s Episcopal Church’s steeple was falling apart, and the church was demolished in 1990. “The remaining steeple stood unprotected and ignored till 2013,” said Dave Schools, the bassist for the band Widespread Panic, ”when the Homeowners Association transferred ownership to Nuçi’s Space.”

Now, thanks to crowdfunding, the steeple will be restored, and the area surrounding the steeple will be converted into a meditative garden for Nuçi’s customers and guests.

Nuçi’s Space’s “Reconstruction of the Steeple” Indiegogo campaign is an example of funding a project through the assistance of a community, a fan base, or a group of supporters through an online platform.

“Crowdfunding is by definition, the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet,” said Tanya Prive, a Forbes contributor. “Crowdfunding offers individuals a chance at success, by showcasing their businesses and projects to the entire world.”

The first successful crowdfunding event, according to Fundable: the History of Crowdfunding, was documented in 1997 as a British rock band funded a reunion tour from its fans’ pockets. Inspired by the campaign’s success, ArtistShare originated in 2000 as the the first creative platform to use fan funding to make musician-to-fan connections. 

Crowdfunding exploded after its initial start, and  according to Fundable, it immediately became a popular financing option for entrepreneurs to unleash their creative beasts. In the United States, crowdfunding revenue drastically increased from $530 million in 2009 to $1.5 billion in 2011, showing the popularity of crowdsourcing for funds..

So what makes crowdfunding so successful?

“The idea of it’s not what you do,” said Prive, “ but why you do it.”

Campaigners find a driving force behind a project, said Prive in an article on crowdfunding, or some special purpose that creates a sense of connection or relatability between people in a community. The general public then becomes the major source of revenue behind projects such as the campaign to reconstruct the Nuçi’s Space symbolic steeple.

The rich, musical history of the steeple inspired Nuçi’s Space to begin its campaign in November 2014 to preserve the iconic structure made famous by the band R.E.M., that lived in the steeple and had its first performance there. The 60-day campaign lasted until January of this year, according to the Athens-Banner Herald.

The goal was to raise $250,000 through the community’s charitable care and support. Entertaining incentives such as posters, CD recordings, posters, shirts, and much more were offered for various monetary donations.

The $100 “Steeple Brick/Name Recognition” package was the most elite and important one. Through this purchase, donors would not only take a part of Nuçi’s Space’s beloved Steeple but also have their name engraved on a wall that will be built in a meditative garden during the renovation of the Steeple.

The crowdfunding efforts raised $147,620, just a little over half of the campaign goal, according to the IndieGoGo campaign profile. Despite missing the goal, Bob Sleppy, the executive director of the campaign, said that the project was far from a failed effort.

The most important thing, Sleppy said, is that the campaign put Nuçi’s Space in the limelight. Crowdfunding drew attention not only from new people but also from top-tier media such as Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines.

Individual donors fund 70 percent of the facility’s operational costs, according to the Athens-Banner Herald, with donations ranging from $25 to thousands of dollars each year. Through the crowdfunding campaign, Nuçi’s Space has experienced more contributions from different businesses and individuals outside of its normal source.

$70,000 of the funds raised from the campaign will go into a reserve fund, said Sleppy, to use during hard times or low-budget circumstances.

The rest of the funds, said Nuçi’s Space counseling advocate Leslie Cobbs, will not only help construct a meditative garden around the steeple, but also help fund mental peer group sessions for anyone in the community who needs people to talk to.

Although Nuçi’s Space didn’t reach its campaign goal, it still raised enough funds to help kickstart a project to improve its facility. The campaign proved to be an excellent representative of crowdfunding as a source to support a community center..


Whitehall Hill Reduction Improvements Project

By Esther Shim

A hazardous and hilly road is about to be reconstructed for the sake of the Athens, Ga., community.

The S. Milledge Avenue at Whitehall Road intersection is dangerous for commuters due to hilly conditions that prevent proper sight of other drivers around curves, according to the Transportation and Public Works committee.

The Mayor and Commission approved the award for the Whitehall Road and S. Milledge Avenue intersection reconstruction and hill reduction project proposal at the regular meeting on March 3, 2015.

The Whitehall Hill Reduction Improvements Project was approved as a subproject of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) 2011 Program’s Road and Bridge Improvements and Replacement Program (Project #26), according to the project history. The project idea began in November 2010 to create safer driving paths for the community.

The S. Milledge Avenue at Whitehall Road intersection is a well-traveled and traffic heavy road. The Transportation and Public Works committee’s mission is to repair the vertical curve on Whitehall Road and improve vehicle sight distance to prevent dangerous driving. In addition to reducing the hill on the curve, the committee also plans to construct a roundabout at the intersection for efficient commuting and better traffic flow, according to the project package.

These improvements will be beneficial to college students as well as other community members who travel to Athens for work. The Mayor and Commission approved the Preliminary Construction Plan for the project on April 2, 2014, and the project was advertised for construction on December 18, 2014, according to the package.

The bid opening was scheduled for for January 22, 2015, with several companies such as Structural Resources, Inc., Pittman Construction Co., and E.R. Snell Contractor Inc., placing the lowest bids. At the Agenda Setting Meeting on February 17, 2015, committee members recommended that the Mayor and Commission award a contract of $561,700.95 for the Whitehall Road Hill Reduction Project to E.R. Snell Contractor, Inc.

The contract was the most cost efficient of the competing contractors, and the committee asked that the contract and award  be approved at the March 3rd Mayor and Commission Regular Meeting.

One concern of the construction project was that the roads would have to be closed during renovations. This would cause a couple of months of detouring through Watkinsville and Oconee County.

The construction project will begin in April 2015 and the expected completion date is by September 2015, according to the Athens-Banner Herald. Around this time, there is an expected increase in traffic with a number of detour signs placed in the general vicinity of construction.

Traffic is expected to start as early as May, while schools are in session, in preparation of construction, according to the Athens-Banner Herald. The intersection of S. Milledge Avenue at Whitehall Road is expected to be closed until late July.

Athen’s citizens can expect additional improvements such as bicycle lanes, wider roads, and a sidewalk as well, according to the project package.

For further information as well as snapshots of the intersection improvement project concepts, take a look at the following sites:

http://athensclarkecounty.com/2091/Project-26-Road-Bridge-Improvements

http://athensclarkecounty.com/5395/S-Milledge-Ave-at-Whitehall-Road


CHaRM facility coming soon!

By Esther Shim

Residents and businesses in the community of Athens have been limited when it comes to recycling or disposing of broken equipment around the home or workplace. During fall of 2015, the city of Athens, Ga., in response to the lack of proper trash handling, will finally bring in a one-stop-drop facility for those inconvenient, large or dangerous objects that are difficult to recycle.

The 2011 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) is funding the Athens-Clarke County Center for Hard to Recycle Materials facility (ACC CHaRM) or Project #25, which will replace the former Solid Waste Department site at 1005 College Avenue. According to the SPLOST Project Concept, the 11,217 square feet facility will be able to house all necessary equipment and will cost $187,000 to renovate and equip.

On Feb. 2, 2012, the members of the Mayor and Commission meeting approved the Center for Hard to Recycle Material’s concept, designed to accommodate the community’s need for convenient trash management, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. The purpose of the facility is to provide a location that people can bring their large or dangerous items, such as vacuums, mattresses, refrigerators, or even chemically composed objects. This will prevent residents or businesses from having to leave potentially hazardous items on their curbs or in front of their homes, according to the project concept.

Additionally, the concept proposes that it will provide opportunities for the community to learn how to efficiently recycle and use the resources that they have available. There will also be educational programs available to teach the younger generation about the importance of conservation and recycling.

A large area that the facility will affect is the main downtown region of Athens. Suki Janssen, the interim director of the Solid Waste Department, says that downtown is always a challenging area for trash and recycling management due to the lack of alleys to hold disposed or recycled items.

“So many business owners can’t put their trash and recyclables in a less visual location, and they can’t keep it in their facility due to health code violations,” said Janssen.

Business owners and residents will be able to bring in their broken equipment or large objects to an area that is close by and easy to access. Janssen said the facility will also play a large role in raising the waste diversion rates from 47% to 60% by the year of 2018 due to the efficiency that should come from the center’s operational nature.

Items that are dropped off will be sorted and labeled as recyclable or disposable. Large items that are recyclable will be taken apart so that conservable pieces can be reused. Hazardous or chemically composed items that can’t be recycled will be disposed of in landfills. The Solid Waste Department’s goal is to recycle as much of the dropped-off material as possible.

Although the facility is conveniently located and easy to use, the project plan suggests that there will be a small handling and shipping fee for certain items such as electronics, tires, and other reusable objects. The Athens-Clarke County’s concept for the center originated from facilities in Colorado.

The first Center for Hard to Recycle Materials facility was established in Boulder, Colo., and opened in 2001, according to the Eco-Cycle, an organization which helps provide services to help build zero-waste communities. The organization designed the facility with hopes to recycle more objects instead of throwing them away. This not only reduces the amount of trash building up in landfills, but it also provides ways for communities to conserve natural resources by reusing items that have already been used.

The Center for Hard to Recycle Materials has swept through Colorado, and is making its way into Georgia’s communities. The morning of Nov. 15, the Atlanta City Council held a groundbreaking ceremony for its own recycling facility, and the site became operational at the beginning of the year.

Other states have also constructed facilities to hold hazardous or hard to recycle materials, while others have specifically targeted electronics due to their mixed compositions of reusable parts. The Environmental Protection Agency states that many of these facilities have been designed to not only reduce waste, but also to produce economic development opportunities.

In charging a small fee for handling, the facilities provide employment opportunities and generate tax revenues from the operations. Frank Hefner and Calvin Blackwell, professors of the Department of Economics and Finance at the College of Charleston, say that recycling contributes to the economic health of a state just as much as it benefits the environment.

Due to the benefits that recycling and conservation have on the environment as well as the economy, many states in the nation have either adopted the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials facility design, or have chosen to build facilities that are specific to hazardous or reusable items such as electronics or vehicle parts.

The Athens-Clarke County facility will provide many benefits and job opportunities for members of the community. It will be an efficient way for the city to become a more eco-friendly community and a more economically sustainable one as well.

To find out more information about the Athens-Clarke County Center for Hard to Recycle Materials or the origin of the facility, take a look at the following sites:

Origin of CHaRM Facility: www.ecocycle.org/charm

ACC CHaRM Facility: www.athensclarkecounty.com/5849/CHaRM