Commissioners considers ambitious history project
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners heard last week about the pros and cons of a variety of projects aimed at preserving the history and the rural character of Morgan County. Senior Planner Allison Moon outlined three particular proposals for consideration by elected officials, with funding sources to be determined for the projects, if approved for the coming budget year.
The first of the three projects would contemplate the installation of “wayfinding signs” in unincorporated Morgan County. Similar to the branching directional signs visible on corners in downtown Madison, these wayfinding signs could point the way to rural communities, business areas, churches, or historic sites.
Entities such as churches could purchase the metal plates that branch off a central pole on the signs, in order to point the way to rural locations; the cost of the signs, which is still to be determined, could be off-set by these purchases, as downtown Madison signs are.
County Commission Chairman Mack Bohlen was sceptical of the practicality of the project. Pointing to a photograph of a local stop sign that was part of an audio-visual presentation, he said, “Let’s be realistic—those are bullet holes in that sign. People are going to shoot signs,” said Bohlen.
“These are different from anything we’ve ever done before,” acknowledged County Manager Michael Lamar.
A second proposed project, titled “Art in Public Places,” could focus on local art and artists, and possibly even the genesis of a county art collection.
“It’s the same thing as talking about local produce,” said Moon. “There are a lot of local artists—and not only do they live and work in Morgan County, they draw inspiration from the environment here.”
The art project could be part of a rural history festival to be held in Morgan County in 2009; an initial investment of $9,500 would purchase display materials, promotional posters, and the beginnings of a county-owned collection of art by local, rural-oriented artists.
“At the end of the day, this is an economic development project,” said Moon.
“There’s an economic benefit to this,” agreed commissioner Ellen Warren.
Commissioner Andy Ainslie also concurred.
“I think everybody is more worried about the initial investment,” said Ainslie. “But that’s something that we’ll just have to fine-tune, we’ll have to sharpen our pencils and get as close as we can to the actual numbers.”
A final project considered was the purchase and installation of an oral-history audio kiosk, a pricey project which could be subsidized by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. A touch-screen, interactive kiosk could be established in the county which would allow residents and visitors access to oral history interview relating to specific areas of the county.
“This kiosk could help tell the story of Morgan County, through audio and video,” said Moon.
Total cost for all these projects could approach $50,000—or the final numbers could be significantly less. The presentation, county officials stressed, was more about whether commissioners were on board with the concept of the projects more than the costs, which are expected to change.
“I can see a lot of these projects paying for themselves, and that’s what people want to hear,” said Ainslie. “The concepts…I can see where these programs could be beneficial.”
“If we don’t do these things, who will?” said Warren. “We could lose this part of Morgan County…what we’re about and what we came from.”