Updates on the state, county, city, board of education and hospital were given to a packed audience at Thursday’s State of the Community breakfast.
The event is hosted annually by Metter-Candler Chamber of Commerce. Chamber Chair Jason Grimes welcomed the audience and introduced the speakers.
Leading off the agenda was State Senator Jack Hill.
“The state’s economy is doing very well ... but our revenues just don’t seem to be producing very well,” Sen. Hill told the group. While the economic metrics are indicating economic growth, Sen. Hill explained, the actual state revenues are not increasing at the same rate and, in fact, were flat or slightly below anticipated after the first quarter of the fiscal year.
Speaking of the Governor’s 4% statewide cut this year and the 6% cut to follow in FY2021, Hill said, “These cuts are going to be painful.” Hopefully, Hill said, “revenue will stabilize and we’ll start building again and things will return to normal, but until that happens, these cuts will be in place.” The Legislature, he added, will protect the vulnerable parts of the population, such as children, the elderly and agriculture, from the budget cuts as much as possible.
Speaking locally, Hill talked of the business incubator agreement between Georgia Southern and the City of Metter, which included some OneGeorgia grant funding.
“That’s a tremendous project for your community, and I’m glad the state could play a part in it,” he said. “I want to continue to be your partner in working to create jobs and economic opportunities.”
State Representative Butch Parrish followed, echoing some of the positive comments made by Senator Hill.
“The past couple of years, a lot of attention has been focused on rural Georgia,” Rep. Parrish said. “This focus has helped us to address some of the problems we know are important to our part of the state ... and indeed to the state as a whole.”
Speaking of rural listening sessions last year, which included one session in Metter, Parrish said one area of need in the rural areas is high-speed broadband. He then praised the work of Pineland Telephone to provide that service to the local community.
County Commission Chair Glyn Thrift thanked fellow commissioners and county personnel for their dedication to the community before turning the floor over to County Administrator Bryan Aasheim.
Aasheim highlighted some of the accomplishments of the county in the past year, including resurfacing projects on Excelsior Church Road and the Stillmore Highway. He also informed the audience that speed limit signs will be installed on county roads. “Take this as fair warning; they’re coming,” he said of the signs, bringing a round of laughter from the audience.
He spoke of the upcoming partnership with Metter Rotary Club and the community to repair recent storm damages to the nature trail, as well as the implementation of the county’s new CodeRED alert system.
Mayor Ed Boyd also spoke of updates in the city over the past year, including the recent State Certification received by Metter Police Department. Resurfacing of Vertia and a portion of College Street were completed in the past year with curbing, sidewalks, water/sewage and storm water run-off upgrades. Over 2600 feet of water main and 3500 feet of sewer were upgraded as well. Now, he said, the attention is turning to Williams and Kennedy Streets.
Mayor Boyd also praised the Georgia Grown pilot program and partnerships with the local community. In the highlights, Boyd said, perhaps the most exciting news is, “We’re experiencing a downtown renaissance in a way.” Businesses are reinvesting in downtown, he explained, with new retail shops and restaurants opening or announcing plans to open in the near future.
“It’s an exciting time and I just feel like we are on the edge of being a destination, which was our goal,” he said.
Speaking of education in Candler County, Board of Education Chair Craig Lanier told the audience, “Some of the brightest and most talented and most dedicated people you will ever know are working in the Candler County School District, and they are doing a fantastic job taking care of our children and pointing them toward their futures.”
Lanier recognized the role the local community plays in the education of children, reporting that last year over $40,000 in local scholarships were awarded.
“That just includes money that comes from you and organizations you represent right here in Candler County,” he said. “That’s a tremendous investment you’re making back into education.”
Larry Hadden, chairman of Candler County Hospital Authority, then spoke, announcing that the hospital has just been awarded a $300,000 stabilization grant.
He recognized the hospital physicians who have been instrumental in the ongoing success of the hospital, including Dr. Chad Slaughter and Dr. Erin Tanner, who were both in attendance, as well as Dr. Dorsey Smith and Dr. Chip Cowart, and encouraged the audience to support the Georgia HEART Tax Credit.
The meeting concluded with the unveiling of the 2019-2020 Community Magazine and Community Guide.