Communities of opportunity recognized
By Carol McLeod
On Friday, Oct. 17, the mayors of Jefferson County and the county’s commission chairman met at the commission office to sign an initiative with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
The plan is to establish intergovernmental agreements to provide shared services, such as broadband, 911 services, water-sewer, natural gas, transportation and recreation; encourage an informed and involved citizenry; and create a youth leadership program and board to provide activities and programs to bring the youth of the county together.
The idea is to have accomplished these goals within two years.
According to a handout from the DCA, program benefits include two years of customized technical assistance to achieve key initiatives with hands-on assistance from DCA and other state agencies; access to a Communities of Opportunity Initiative grant of up to $5,000; and access to state loans at reduced rates.
During a brief welcome from Jefferson County Commission Chairman William Rabun, he said the members of the group were going to “work together for a shared goal and a common goal.”
“I’m very excited about this plan,” said Lil Easterlin, a representative of the county’s chamber of commerce and a program participant. “I think we can do this.”
Easterlin said the plan is geared to focus on keeping the county and cities within it connected.
“We are so spread out,” she said. “We have six communities, three of whom have the (same) population, and they’re 25 miles apart.”
“We have a very limited economic base,” said Louisville Mayor Rita Culvern. “Our budgets and revenues are stressed.
“If you look at that word – opportunity – the last part of that word is unity.”
Wrens Mayor Lester Hadden said he was happy to be a part of the group.
“There are issues here that I’m very excited about,” he said.
“Whatever happens good for any one of these communities is good for the county,” Wadley Mayor Herman Baker said.
“This is truly federalism at its best. If you look at ‘team,’ it says, ‘Together everyone achieves more.’ And isn’t it amazing what we can accomplish when we don’t care who gets the credit?” said Mike Beatty, commissioner of the DCA.
“This is an initiative; this is not a two-year program,” he said. “We want to partner with you to create a climate of success for your families and businesses.”
He said that although the initiative signed that day was for two years, the overall project will take 10 years.
“If you know you couldn’t fail, where would you want to be in a decade?” he said.
He said it is important to pass on to the youth of today the same great opportunities that were passed down from previous generations.
“This is the first step and it’s a great step,” he said.
The representatives of the DCA also met with the Glascock County Communities of Opportunity Friday, Oct. 17.
“Glascock County Commission Chairman Anthony Griswell and City of Gibson Mayor Gregg Kelly were on hand to sign the contract with the state,” said Lori Boyen, chairman of the Glascock County Industrial Development Authority.
“The Co-op team is looking forward to moving this initiative forward by involving elected officials and representatives from the county, cities, community organizations and the community at large to work together toward a common goal that will benefit the future of the county,” she said.
Local, state and national elections to be held Tuesday
By Faye Ellison
Though Georgia registered voters have been able to vote 45 days early, many will cast their ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 4, the general election date.
Precincts will be open in Glascock and Jefferson counties from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday for voters who officials believe will turn out in mass numbers during one of the ground breaking presidential elections in history for John McCain or Barack Obama. Several local elections will be held as well.
Jefferson County voters may cast their ballot at the Stapleton Crossroads, Matthews, Wrens, Louisville, Wadley, Bartow, Stapleton and Avera on Tuesday.
There will be only one local election for Jefferson County Board of Education District 4 between incumbent Bobby Butts and Dr. Dennis Thompson.
In Glascock County, registered voters may cast their ballots at Gibson, Mill, Edgehill and Mitchell precincts.
According to Probate Judge Denise Dallas, of the more than 1,600 registered voters in the county, more than 500 have voted early.
Elections include the Probate Judge seat, which was voted on by Glascock County citizens to now include the Magistrate Court. The two up for election are incumbent Denise Dallas and Misty May.
In the Sheriff’s race, incumbent Dean Couch is facing off against Steve Mathis.
There will be two Commissioner races, one for the Gibson District seat and one for Commission Chair. Running in the Gibson district are Lori Boyen, incumbent Jay Dixon and Mike Neal. In the Commission Chair seat election are Lori Boyen, incumbent Anthony Griswell and Mike Neal. Dallas said that the two candidates who are in both races must win the Gibson Commission seat before they can win Chairman. If one candidate does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election.
For the Glascock County Board of Education, two seats are up for grabs, including the seat At Large and Mill District. Running for the At Large seat are Michael May and incumbent James Moore. In the Mill District candidates are incumbent Michael Gilmer and Linda Stewart.
Registered voters still have until Friday, Oct. 31 until 5 p.m. to participate in advance voting.
In order to cast a ballot in person, registered voters must bring one of six forms of photo identification which includes a Georgia driver’s license, even if expired; any valid state or federal government issued photo ID, including a free voter ID card issued by a county registrar or Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS); valid U.S. passport; valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency or entity of the U.S. government, Georgia, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of this state; valid U.S. military photo ID; or valid tribal photo ID.
Wrens plans grand opening for new gym
By Leila Borders
The new Rabun Park, named for former mayor J.J. Rabun, is set to hold its Grand Opening Sunday, Nov. 2, from 2 to 5 p.m. The complex boasts two full-size basketball courts, a fitness center, two classrooms, office space and concessions. Outside are a football field, baseball field and softball field which have been in use for a little over a year.
The facility will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., initially. These hours eventually will be tailored based on usage.
“It’s top of the line for this area,” said Christian Tiller, director of the Wrens Recreation Department. He hopes to eventually offer classes from yoga to scrapbooking at the new facility, with the first being a geriatric yoga program.
“We’re going to try to program for senior citizens,” said Tiller. The complex will be open for public use and will primarily serve the citizens of the Northern half of Jefferson County. Memberships to the fitness center are $25 monthly.
“We’re proud to have it,” said Arty Thrift, city administrator. “We’re proud our folks and citizens have access to it.”
Built on property gifted to the city by the former J.M. Huber Corporation, the gym is located off Highway 17 on Coxen Way.
Chamber asks for room tax to promote tourism
By Leila Borders
When asked to think of tourist attractions, certainly everything from Six Flags to the Eiffel Tower to exotic beaches comes to mind. However, there is a tourist attraction many in Jefferson County may overlook: the towns and sites of their own county.
This month, City Councils and the County Commission were asked to consider a new tax designed to aid in attracting tourists to the county. Lil Easterlin of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce spoke to the councils and commission concerning a five percent hotel/motel tax that would be levied on tourists via the hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and inns in the county.
“Tourism is a segment of economic growth that we haven’t been able to pursue and certainly this [tax] will be the first steps to doing that,” said Easterlin.
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The tax will be levied on beds rented for the night, meaning tourists traveling to or through the county will be charged slightly higher rates to stay the night. The increase in rates is expected to be minimal due to the small percentage of the tax.
“What this tax does is get some additional revenue for the cities and county without taxing the citizens,” said Easterlin.
Of the five percent tax, three percent would be used by the city itself for tourism development, including the creation or expansion of physical attractions open to the public. For example, Wrens’ mayor Lester Hadden is in favor of putting those funds towards projects with Better Hometown, Inc in that city.
The remaining two percent would have to be used for tourism promotion. The city or county would have to contract with a nonprofit tourism promotion company, most likely the Chamber of Commerce, to use the monies. There are strict guidelines for the use of these monies and the Chamber or other contracted organization would have to present detailed plans for the use of the funds as well as submit to periodic audits to ensure proper use of the funds. Tourism promotion can include brochures, advertisement of festivals, maps and signage to attract people to the area.
“Tourism promotion and development is the primary function of the Chamber, and it’s very expensive,” said Easterlin. She has been trying to have the county join Classic South, an organization promoting tourism in the CSRA and surrounding Georgia areas, and is hoping that the tax will provide the $2000 membership fee.
“I think certainly tourism can have a bigger impact in Jefferson County,” she said.
Thus far, the tax has received support from all cities in the county except for Bartow. The county commission also seems in favor of the tax. There are eight businesses that would be affected by this tax; one each in Wrens, Bartow and Wadley, three in Louisville, and two in unincorporated Jefferson County. However, the businesses will only be taxed on the beds they have rented, not on any that remain not rented. Campgrounds and RV hookups as well as lodge areas with less than 20 cabins are not taxed.
Louisville is the only town in the county that already has the tax. There, it is at a three percent rate and the city will consider raising it to the recommended five percent.