Bainbridge assesses needs, opportunities at planning meeting

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bainbridge officials met with Southwest Georgia Regional Commission planner Steve O’Neil Tuesday morning to discuss various needs and opportunities within the city and how to implement them effectively.

Assistant city manager Roy Oliver, Executive Director Downtown Development Authority Amanda Glover, city clerk Allie Godwin and interim Bainbridge Public Safety Chief Jerry Carter were present at the comprehensive plan meeting. The goal was to create projects that could be tackled in the next five years to help improve the Bainbridge community.

“Ideally the five-year, short term stuff that we want to tackle to try and address the needs and capitalize on the opportunities, all of which has to fit within our goals and policies that we’ve established,” O’Neil said.

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Bainbridge’s needs were broken down into three categories: economic development, public infrastructure/programs and housing/neighborhoods.

The list acknowledged Bainbridge currently lacks sufficient jobs or economic opportunities for local residents and a more skilled labor force was needed. The list also said the Bainbridge community was too dependent on one or two sectors of the economy, particularly the industrial sector.

Multiple projects to fix these issues were addressed, including the mention of a career resource fair and the city continuing to work with the Chamber of Commerce. Glover mentioned using the Georgia Power resource center to analyze the flow of residents in and out of Bainbridge.

“We can pull our demographic information and see the people coming in our community and what they’re going out of our community for,” Glover said.

The group also discussed the lack of restaurant variety in Bainbridge.

“I think it’s just a matter of finding and talking to people,” Glover said. “Sometimes you find someone that wants to be a restaurateur and put in the time and effort it takes, and having the community buy-in and support.”

Many people leave town to eat at finer restaurants, O’Neil said. Carter added that people would like to eat different places, but the variety in Bainbridge simply isn’t there.

Under the public infrastructure/programs, the group planned to continue to develop the streets in Bainbridge to help improve their conditions and address some of their drainage problems.

Other problems Bainbridge is looking to address are diverting truck traffic from downtown, a need for more senior and kid programs during the summer, an underutilized boat basin and water way and dog parks.

“As our recreation authority comes together, that could be something,” Oliver said. “It’s not all about facilities, but it’s about programs too.”

Plans to continue to implement the connectivity master plan were agreed on, which involved the river walk project with streets downtown.

Under the housing/neighborhoods category, the list stated there were too many for sale signs in neighborhoods and too many abandoned properties where landlords are not keeping up with things.

“People are trying to sell now because the market is coming back,” O’Neil said.

Despite these issues that need addressing, Bainbridge has listed a number of opportunities for growth:

Bainbridge has available properties for industrial development in industrial parks.

The Decatur County Industrial Air Park is an advantage that Bainbridge has over most surrounding communities and should be utilized and marketed to maximize its usefulness.

Bainbridge has done a wonderful job with the Boat Basin area and should continue to utilize the area for its current uses and possibly increasing its uses by developing some river activities and hosting more fishing tournaments.

Since Bainbridge has such a highly rated public safety department and popular citizen’s academy it would make sense to offer the citizens academy more frequently if possible and examine ways to expand it.

Bainbridge has some of the best recreation facilities around that contribute heavily to quality of life yet there seems to be a lack of summer activities for kids and seniors.

Opportunities exist for Bainbridge and Decatur County to collaborate on a variety of endeavors. Collaboration is key to keeping costs down and providing an adequate level of service.

The City of Bainbridge and Decatur County share in an industrial heavy economy and that is good but broadening the economy to other classifications would be a more conservative move towards a stable economy.

The historic downtown in Bainbridge is a vibrant jewel for the city, at least during the daytime. After 5 p.m., however, the streets are barren. There are a number of opportunities to liven up the streets after 5 p.m. to help fully utilize the rare jewel.