ATLANTA - They'll be a new face and some familiar issues waiting for the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.
"We've got a lot of work to do next year," County Commissioner Diane Ford said last week during a two-day retreat in Atlanta for political leaders and head county officials to discuss upcoming topics to tackle.
The meeting was the first opportunity for District 4 Commissioner Lee Anderson to participate in county discussions as an elected official. Anderson, who won the seat in earlier this month during a special election, was sworn into office officially Monday.
Much of Friday's meeting, which included reports from department heads, focused on work that still needs to be done on the county's infrastructure, such as roads and sewer lines and the upcoming release of recommendations about the county's fire services.
Pam Tucker, director of the Emergency Services Division, said the final documents of the fire master plan, which will outline future building needs, are expected to be out in the next few weeks.
County officials also will need to decide if and how they want to place a referendum to the voters about county fire service.
Another topic of discussion was the county's work to attract new businesses and employers.
"We need a focused economic development program," County Administrator Steve Szablewski said. "I think we need more of a unified effort than we've had in the past."
Zack Daffin, executive director of the county's development authority, earlier this year said he has noticed an increase from companies scouting for locations.
"We are working more (inquiring companies) today than at any point in 2002," he said, adding that the county's lack of available industrial buildings could be a hindrance.
"There's a lot of prospects that we'll never know about because we don't have the inventory," Daffin said.
Even as county officials were celebrating a successful meeting the state Department of Transportation, they pointed out more work necessary along many of the county's major corridors.
State transportation officials in Atlanta unofficially pledged a $400,000 grant for the county's portion of Washington Road.
A vote to extend or end the 1-cent local sales tax also will be critical for the government's plans next year, and several department heads already have projects they hope make it on the ballot.
Some of those include an expansion of the Animal Care and Control kennels and new recreation facilities.
But Barry Smith, director of Community and Leisure Services, said the penny tax might not be enough to accomplish all the future projects outlined in the county's recreation master plan.
He reiterated a recent proposal for the county to seek partnerships with private agencies, which can build some of the facilities.
"We can't afford all of this," he said. "We can't afford to keep paying for everything."
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