Next to good schools, nothing rates higher for a company looking to locate to a county than a good transportation system, i.e., good roads. Douglas County in the past several years has made great strides in improving our road system – Chapel Hill Road is but one example. But these upgrades were largely funded by short-lived Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds.
We have learned that this type of funding is not effective for constant and ongoing roads maintenance. We must continually fund a Transportation Capital Fund to be able to acquire federal and state money (OUR money) with readily available matching local funds. Also, we must get our many roads on a regular schedule of re-paving and maintenance – something that is not being done now. UPDATE: Accomplished! The 2014 budget included – at my request – $1M being moved from the reserve fund to the Transportation Capital Fund. We are now planning on paving more roads using county staff and equipment.
Economic Development – Job growth:
Douglas County must move away from an over dependence on a largely residential tax base. We must recruit more commercial taxpayers into the county. I am glad to report that about 1,000 jobs came to the county in 2013 but this is only a good start.
Aside from schools, the main attributes businesses look at when starting-up or relocating are Quality of Life and Infrastructure. I discuss QofL other places in this site so I will focus on infrastructure here. We are pretty well set within the range of water supply and various utilities. We are more deficient in terms of transportation infrastructure. In particular the ability to quickly move products to the interstate and the airport. East-West connectivity (not I-20) is very poor in our county.
Quite simply, businesses look at the ability to move products regionally, nationally and globally. So the roads around a business get a hard look from site locators. Specific needs are identified in the county’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan. Having a plan positions us well with state and federal transportation agencies. Having the money is a more difficult hurdle. Fortunately, in the 2014 budget I was able to have more funds added to the transportation budget. One unknown is the issue of city-county cooperation where conflicts can and have driven away funding for projects. All-in-all, I am becoming more optimistic about executing on transportation plans. And this directly affects our ability to bring more jobs to our county.
Just like the rest of metro Atlanta, our county will experience a considerable increase in our older citizen population. We must prepare now. The older adult population in the Atlanta region doubled between 1970 and 2000; between 2000 and 2015, it will double again. By 2030, one in five residents will be over the age of 60 in Douglas County and the region.
Our preparations must include appropriate housing choices that are near shopping, healthcare and transportation. Housing options should be enhanced by a Senior-Living Subdivision code that would address the requirements of older people for a smaller yet high quality home that minimizes maintenance and upkeep. Senior development should be designed to provide easy access to amenities, doctors and other services without needing a car.
An animal shelter is a core responsibility of a county’s duty to maintain the public’s health, safety and welfare. A shelter must be designed and equipped to provide proper care of animals in its charge and a safe and healthful workplace for employees. The present shelter is not meeting these needs.
While the shelter has one of the lowest euthanasia rates in the state it is sadly deficient in its design to maintain cleanliness, prohibit air borne transmission of diseases and to be sanitized to reduce the smell. A new shelter is needed to replace the present facility built in 1983. I believe this will also go a long way to recruiting staff and retaining them so that training can be effective. The present facility presents very poor working environment for the staff.
UPDATE: A new shelter is to be built in the Dog Park area at the county’s Deer Lick Park off of Fairburn Road. The Dog Park will remain but may be relocated nearby. This is a very good site with full utilities and nearer Douglas County’s population centers. It also eliminates land acquisition costs. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was authorized by the commission on January 21, 2014 and will go public to design firms in the near future. Great News!