Officials weigh in: What will 2014 have in store for community, state

Published 9:40 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Government officials and business leaders are weighing in throughout the nation on what issues will most face citizens in 2014.
The residents of Bainbridge and Decatur County will certainly read headlines detailing county and city projects and even controversial topics the two will face. Many of those topics are not yet known, but leaders on the state and local level weighed in this week to tell what topics they believe will create headlines.

COUNTY UTILITY PROJECTS
According to Decatur County administrator, Gary Breedlove, the county will be finishing up some ongoing projects in 2014. These include construction to expand the current landfill, the dedication of a newly renovated airplane hangar and a water system upgrade in the industrial park.
“We hope to show off our hangar renovation project and we should be doing a dedication for it later this spring,” Breedlove said about the project that began in 2013. “We are also about to let a contract for the water system upgrade for the industrial park and we are looking at adding a natural gas line out there as well to assist the industries there.”
Breedlove said he hopes the addition of a natural gas line will bring in new opportunities for industries to locate to the park.
“We will also be finishing up a construction on the landfill,” Breedlove said. “We have developed acreage for more solid waste — it’s an elaborate process and we have been working on it for eight months. We will get more capacity for future solid waste and that should be finished in the next several months.”
The county will also see a change in leadership. Because the Decatur County Commission has a rotating chairmanship, Frank Loeffler will be handed the gavel at the commission’s first meeting of the year in January.
As for the pending litigation involving the city and county, Breedlove said his goal in 2014 is for the city to “just give us a call,” he said, and “we can come here or we can go sit down there and figure out what it is they want to know.”
“We want to know their goal,” Breedlove said.

CITY DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
Residents of Bainbridge will possibly get to witness some community development visions of the city come to fruition in 2014. One of those projects namely being the River Walk project that will connect downtown areas to the Flint River and Earle May Boat Basin.
“Right now we are just waiting for approval from the Corp. (of Engineers) and once we get that, we will have a public comment period for 30 days,” Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said. “Barring any negative comments we get, that project will be ready to go in early spring. Because it is a big project, it will complete our trail system and we should have 6.2 miles or more of paved trail.”
The city will also add lighting through the River Walk, illuminating the area and increasing safety for nighttime joggers and visitors.
“That park gets more than 1 million visitors each year,” Hobby said. “And those are not all from Decatur County, many are from out of town. So if we can just get the visitors to stay a while and visit our restaurants and shops, that will grow our tourism.”
Hobby noted the arrival of a new Hampton Inn in the city limits would also add to the tourism possibilities and even new opportunities for restaurants and businesses.
He also mentioned that in 2014, residents should hear more about Bainbridge Manufacturing that is a newly located industry. The company hopes to employ more local workers and increase employment in 2014.
As for pending litigation with the county, Hobby said he is looking for 2014 to be a better year than last and he hopes to resolve issues, “putting the fighting and bickering behind us,” he said.
“There are some legitimate issues we need to work through, but we will get it done in a positive way,” Hobby said.

THE STATE WILL FOCUS ON
BUDGETS, CRIMINAL REFORM
Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) said it is his perception that the budget is always the biggest issue and the top priority.
“It is our top priority to get the budget passed, because elections have changed in their timing, we don’t need to be in Atlanta for long periods of time, but in our area with our people,” Powell said,
He noted that as for hot topic issues, those would come up as the year goes along, but he has not heard of any “rumblings for right now,” Powell said.
He said the state’s residents would see more work done with the criminal justice system reform.
“The governor has some things he wants to get done and one of the major issues is criminal justice reform,” Powell said.
Powell explained the reforms would specifically work through issues with transitioning inmates back into society, getting them in halfway homes and other transition homes.
Powell said the legislative session would be faster this year, possibly ending on or before March 15.
“It is important for Darlene Taylor and me both — and also Sen. Burke — that anyone who has concerns or questions, they let us know,” Powell said. “It helps us make up our mind. The worst thing is if we don’t hear anything and then vote on something where people have concerns. I is important for people to let us know about things so we can answer questions or be aware of concerns that people have.”