By Tia Lynn Ivey
The annual State of Morgan Forum was held last week, where local and state leaders gathered to update each other on the most recent developments in the county, as well as the most pertinent goals for the future.
The event was orchestrated by the Morgan County Family Connection. Guest speakers included Senator Burt Jones, House Representative Dave Belton, Vice Chair of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners Ellen Warren, Madison Mayor Fred Perriman, Superintendent James Woodard, President of the Madison Morgan Chamber of Commerce Bob Hughes, Morgan Memorial Hospital CEO Ralph Castillo, Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley, Family Connection Chair Karen Robertson, and Family Connection Coordinator Velde Hardy.
“We had approximately 70 civic and community leaders in attendance at the 2016 State of Morgan County Forum,” said Hardy. “This Forum is an initiative of Morgan County Family Connection as a way to get key information into the hands of key stakeholders.”
Each speaker represented a vital pillar of the community, each upholding essential roles in the overall health and stability of Morgan County.
“I think we all left there feeling good about our city, our county and our state,” said Mayor Perriman. “I was impressed and pleased to know that all of our government agencies are moving in positive directions. We are very fortunate here in our community.” Perriman spoke about the coming make-over to the West Washington Gateway, soon-to-be completed Silver Lakes complex, reduced city budget by $1.3 million, the water treatment efficiency project and recent housing grant as examples of beneficial progress happening the city of Madison.
Accoding to Ellen Warren, Morgan County has some important goals on the horizon, including securing solar power for county buildings, the completion of the comprehensive plan, installing countywide broadband, establishing a citizen’s budgetary advisory board, and securing a water source for all of Morgan County.
Representative Belton shared growth seen at a statewide level. Georgia is the fourth fastest growing state and the fourth best in job production, and for the fourth year in a row, we’re first in the nation for ‘best places to do business in,’” said Belton.
Ralph Castillo shared the latest results of Community Health Needs Assessment at the forum and how MMH is responding.
“Our tri-annual Community Health Needs Assessment this year revealed that our community views access to care as the top rated healthcare priority. We hope to affect this need in a big way with the new hospital.”
Woodard updated the crowd on the progress of the new consolidated campus that will house the College and Career Academy along with a brand new high school and middle school. Woodard was pleased that the Georgia Department of Transportation was working with the school system on installing a cut-through to the bypass to improve the flow of traffic.
Family Connection hopes to procure increase community involvement and funding to broaden their services to families, especially in light of increased cases of child abuse in Morgan County.
“Our focus will be to broaden partnerships and strengthen the collaborative by engaging child and family serving organizations to drive successful coordination and implementation of evidence based practices that will ensure our children are safe and families are strong,” said Hardy, who highlighted Family Connection successful launch of the Baby Expo Program, which provides new parents with helpful literature on supportive resources for their children, and “Quarterly Employers Lunch and Learns” to develop strategies to keep the community educated and working.
Velde also announced a new grant given to Family Connection to launch a new effort, the Parents as Teachers program, which will work with families of children under 5 to help parents ensure their children are ready to start school successfully.