By Tia Lynn Ivey
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) gathered earlier this month for their annual Strategic Planning retreat to establish of list of top priority goals to work toward in the coming year and beyond.
“Our strategic planning sessions serve as a blue print for the county’s future growth and development,” said BOC Chairman Donald Harris.
One of the county’s top priorities in years to come will be to secure its very own water source. Commissioners expressed the importance of establishing a county controlled water source because water “helps determine the future growth and development” of the county and the need for an alternative to City and well water.
The county intends to hire Precision Planning to do an analysis for the county on water sources and costs and to pursue Water Authority reactivation. According to Harris, the county is looking into using Lake Oconee or Hard Labor Creek as potential water source options.
The BOC also aims to increase staffing and equipment for the county’s public safety agencies, including the fire department, sheriff’s office, EMS, and 911. The BOC aims to add more firefighters and police officers over the course of the next few years and establish a long-term staffing plan that will feature gradual increases over time. According to the BOC, the ideal goal is to have five deputies on for each shift, but no less than three.
County-wide high speed internet is another top priority for the BOC. The commissioners noted that “Community-wide internet broadbanding is an economic development issue. Everybody needs internet and it sometimes determines where people live and where businesses locate.”
County Manager Michael Lamar suggested investigating interest in NEGRC establishing regional committee to work on high speed internet availability for the region, not just in the county.
The BOC is also preparing for a revenue shortfall that has been predicted for the 2018 SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax). The BOC plans to reduce spending and investing more into the county’s fund balance. The BOC is also looking to step up their pursuit of grants and funding opportunities, as well as investing in local project that will boost economic development as the county did with Farmview Markets and Mannington Mills. “Job creation is always a top priority,” said Chairman Harris.
Finally, the BOC is seeking to establish a Citizen Budget Committee, a five-member advisory board with no final decision-making abilities to come along side the commissioners during the budgetary formation process to provide feedback and accountability, as well as to serve as a liason between commissioners and the broader public.
“These plans are vital to our county. We are here to try and improve our community and the lives of our citizens,” said Harris.