Year of change, cooperation
The year 2013 proved to be a time of governmental cooperation and change at the county.
The new Board of Commissioners began the year by settling a year-long legal dispute with the local cities over the distribution of the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST). All parties agreed the new formula was a fair compromise, saying the positive outcome was the result of the local governments making a concerted effort to cooperate with one another.
The LOST agreement in the first two weeks of the 2013 was a precursor to the strong show of unity between the county government and city and town governments throughout the year.
The 2013 Board of Commissioners fulfilled a promised to be the most open and transparent board in the county’s history. Citizens are now allowed to speak at commission meetings regarding any item on the meeting agenda. Time limits on public speech have been removed. Additionally, the meetings can be viewed in progress on both the government cable channel and via Live Stream, and they can be viewed and are also available for rebroadcast on the county’s website for public viewing.
The board also introduced the public town hall meeting format on specific topics. One of the positive results from the town hall meetings was the creation of a new county government email newsletter sent frequently from the Clerk’s Office to Fayette citizens who register to receive it.
The new board promised to put an end to the continued deficit spending of the past. The current fiscal year 2014 budget ended deficit spending. The board eliminated 32 staff positions and tightened contracts with outside vendors to bring the budget in line.
Fiscal policies were strengthened and internal controls were strengthened. Likewise, the county maintained a strong bond rating despite significant use of fund balance the two previous years.
The board also created a dedicated code enforcement unit to protect areas within the county from becoming subject to blight.
The county experienced some considerable problems with the Water System in 2013. In their commitment to improve the level of services, new Board of Commissioners took ownership of those problems and brought in a new system director and a new water engineering firm to work with the system. The county had not bid engineering services for over 30 years. The new engineer, CH2MHill, is recognized as one of the top water engineering companies in the nation.
New water reservoir Lake McIntosh was opened in Peachtree City along with a new 14-acre park.
For quite a while the Health Department wanted to renovate their very tired looking office space. The county’s Buildings and Grounds Department took the reins and renovated the lobby, offices and kitchen space, including repainting and re-carpeting, on a very tight budget. The improvement benefited the Health Department staff and their patients at a significantly low cost.
The county’s library saw 1,082 children participate in the summer reading program. The library staff continues to work with our local schools.
The county changed insurance brokers and carriers and added a health savings account option for employees. In all, the changes will save the county taxpayers roughly $3 million on an annual basis.
The county’s Cooperative Extension Service delivered over 45 agricultural programs to 858 Fayette homeowners and over 700 youth participated in Fayette County 4-H. The Master Gardner program volunteers produced over 39,763 pounds of food for those in need of assistance.
The Purchasing Department was given the authority to conduct all purchasing activities within the county which, surprisingly, had not been done in the past. The move created better efficiency and better tracking of purchases.
New ergonomic furniture was installed at the 911 Call Center which improves the operators’ physical well-being by reducing stress. The 911 Call Center staff also taught CPR and automated external defibrillation use to other departments.
The county’s animal shelter handled near 2,000 animals and benefited from food donations from civic organizations and local businesses. In addition, Animal Control Services are now dispatched through the E-911 Call Center to make it easier for citizens.
The Recreation Department orchestrated 28 adult sport leagues, 18 youth sport leagues, 127 fitness classes, 65 tennis classes, 34 youth programs, 61 adult programs, 98 therapeutic programs, and 197 leisure/learn time activities. All totaled, 4,454 individuals participated. Look for future programming in conjunction with Fayette Piedmont Hospital, directed at fighting obesity, heart disease, cancer and inactivity in our community.
To make payment and registration easier for recreation programs, credit card payment will be available both online and for walk-ins at the recreation office.
A new director was hired for the Information Systems Department and there is a new focus on improving service delivery and infrastructure as well as improving security.
The new board was able to secure an agreement with Spalding County to replace the McIntosh Road Bridge over the Flint River after many years of trying. The bridge received one of the poorest structural rankings in the state.
The effort to upgrade the interchange at State Route 74 and I-85 has been re-energized by the current Board of Commissioners and much progress has been made with the Georgia Department of Transportation. Millions of state transportation dollars of have been moved to the project. Engineering is fully funded and we are up for approval for $8 million in right-of-way funding in 2015.
Through a series of intergovernmental agreements and good old fashion cooperation, the county and the City of Fayetteville set the new gold standard for collaboration with the planning and development of the new Pinewood Studios project in the center of the county. The schedule for build out was beyond aggressive, but both local governments were determined to succeed and a new era in Fayette County economic development has begun.
The county launched the first ever high school intern program in June. The students received some excellent experience and made some wonderful presentations to the Board of Commissioners for future action.
The recognition of “Milestone Weddings” has also been a huge success. Fayette couples celebrating their 50th anniversary and beyond were recognized at a meeting with the anniversaries being officially recorded in the permanent record of the county government.
Fayette Fire and EMS, along with the faith-based community, started a local disaster relief team for our county. Construction on the new Fire Station 3 in Tyrone was initiated in November.
The new Board of Commissioners made a commitment to attend various civic and charitable organization meetings to find how more interaction can be encouraged with local government. At least one commissioner was able to attend every meeting where an invitation for participation was extended.
The Board of Commissioners has done its best to resolve the significant problems facing the county, adopting a new positive attitude toward working with the cities and towns. Efforts to meet the needs of the citizens will continue under a tight budget.
All citizens are cordially invited to attend the Board of Commissioners meetings and citizen comment and participation is an expected part of the process.
Steve Brown, chairman
Fayette County Commission
[Editor’s note: According to County Clerk Floyd Jones, “This press release was written by Chairman Steve Brown and reviewed/approved by each commissioner.”]