SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL

The completion of the long-anticipated Highway 92 relocation project took center stage at Douglasville’s Annual Strategic Planning Session on Feb. 4-5.

Mayor Rochelle Robinson and the Douglasville City Council heard updates on the numerous plans and projects currently in progress, but the SR92 relocation seemed to be the common thread running through many of the presentations.

“This one project will have a major impact on all of Douglasville and Douglas County,” said Robinson. “We discussed park renovations at Jessie Davis Park which will become a highly visible gateway park along the new route. We talked about development opportunities at the Old Mill site which will be located at the prime intersection of the new State Route 92 and Veterans Memorial Hwy. We are continuing plans for the New Horizons Community and the New Town Green which will help our downtown areas to grow and thrive after the relocation is completed.”

On the first day of the planning sessions, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) gave an update on the status of the relocation project. According to the current timeline, the fully realigned State Route 92 will be open to traffic no later than May 31st of 2021 with final landscaping and project clean-up continuing through February of 2022.

“This is an exciting time for our city and our citizens,” Robinson continued. “The SR92 relocation is just one of the many projects that are happening in our community including everything from positive development to park renovations to improved walkability and connectivity options. I am honored to be a part of this elected body at such a pivotal time in Douglasville’s history, but more importantly, I am just excited as a citizen for all of the things that will be coming to our community and where we are headed in the future.”

The city has recently heard a proposal from a potential developer for a project on the property surrounding the new Douglasville Town Green and it is expected that the Old Mill Site will attract some positive development options as well.

“The goal has always been to target these areas for positive, well-planned private development,” explained City Manager Marcia Hampton. “As a municipal government, we want to lay the proper groundwork to attract those private investors to come in and partner with our community to build something beneficial to everyone. That is how we make the most efficient use of the resources we have available. Tools like the Tax Allocation District (TAD) and Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) allow us to make vital improvements to our city and draw those private investors without increasing the tax burden on our citizens.”

Chris Pumphrey, president of Elevate Douglas, provided an update on countywide economic development as well. With seven major projects completed in 2020, Douglasville and Douglas County saw $663.5 million in total investment and 880 new jobs created. With such positive stats to report from the past year, Pumphrey teased even more exciting news to be coming in 2021. It has since been announced that Microsoft will be establishing its new Datacenter Region “East US 3” in Georgia with a site location in Douglasville. This was the first major development project officially announced under the “Elevate Douglas” Public-Private Partnership. This partnership between the city, county, and Chamber of Commerce will help to target and attract positive investments in the community.

In addition to the Jessie Davis Park Master Plan, the continued progress of the Town Green and Mill Village projects, and the focus on future development, the Mayor and Council outlined several goals for fiscal year 2022.

The city will conduct a pay and classification study and look at options for new health benefits brokers to ensure employees are appropriately compensated and covered while making the most efficient use of financial resources.

The council will consider updates and revisions to ordinances pertaining to breweries in the Central Business District while also examining the current alcohol licensing fee structure to ensure they are in line with other comparable communities.

Over the next year, the city will work with state and area agencies to put additional focus on mental health issues and services for the community. The goal will be to determine where gaps exist between citizen needs, service delivery, and agency resources. “Mental health issues are a growing concern that impacts the entire community,” stated Police Chief Gary Sparks. “From a public safety stance, we want to make sure we are fully equipped with the resources and staff needed to appropriately respond when a call comes in that involves mental health issues.”

The mayor and council also considered the issue of recycling services that have been suspended since the beginning of the pandemic. Presentations from Public Services Director Greg Roberts highlighted the challenges of staffing and escalating costs to provide these services.

The recycling industry has changed dramatically over the past few years greatly increasing the cost of the service. These changes have also greatly limited what items can be accepted for recycling.

The cost of operating the recycling program is more than $125,000 annually. This increasing price tag has become a challenge as the city does not charge an additional fee for the recycling service. The council proposed to officially restart the recycling service for a probationary period to determine the long-term financial feasibility of the program and what changes may need to be made to the service. Recycling is set to resume on May 3rd and will be accompanied by an educational campaign explaining what items can and cannot be recycled under the new guidelines.

The city set an overarching goal to continue operating in the most fiscally responsible manner. With the long-term economic impact of the pandemic still unclear, The mayor and council were determined to make the most efficient and effective use of budget dollars to deliver services to the community.

City Manager Marcia Hampton concluded by reiterating the importance of the strategic planning sessions. “These discussions are vital to the operation of the City. It provides staff with the direction we need to take in 2021 and beyond. Having this dialogue clarifies where we are now and where we need to be by this time next year.”

Regular City Council meetings are held on the first and third Mondays of each month, while their Legislative Work sessions take place on the Thursday prior to the Regular Meeting. To view future City Council meeting agendas and dates, visit the City’s website at www.DouglasvilleGA.gov/agendas.