County Commissioners hear from TriRivers, show off Bicentennial signs

Published 10:02 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023

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Members of the Decatur County Commissioners met on Tuesday morning for their first meeting of the month. The first item on the meeting’s agenda was a presentation by Philip Clayton, executive director of the TriRivers Waterway Development Association. Clayton began with a broad overview about the various waterway systems throughout the country, before narrowing in on the issues facing Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin system, namely the economic impact of restoration of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers locks, dams and channels.

“We’ve got about $6.2 billion worth of infrastructure on the system if we were to build it in today’s dollars,” Clayton said. “That’s a huge investment for taxpayers, and you all know this system has been closed to navigation for the better part of 20 years, if not in some places, as many as 30 years,” he continued, “and there’s a lot of speculation out there. My personal opinion is the Corps of Engineers, through the lean years, took this system as an opportunity to reprogram money to other systems. A lot of what the Corps failed to do, they blamed on others.” Clayton elaborated, stating that he was told by the Corps of Engineers that they “only do what Congress tells us to do.”

Since then, Clayton and TriRivers has begun working with Congressional leaders and representatives on this issue, including Congressman Sanford Bishop. He proceeded to go over in great detail the necessary measures to repair the systems of locks and channels on the rivers, and the economic impacts this would have, including things such as the effect on shipping. Issues with Florida and the dredging of the Apalachicola River were also addressed. As for the economic impact all this could have, Clayton said, “Our poverty rate is twice the national average. Every rate of poverty across the nation is about 13%, we as a region are about 22%. If we can do things that help industry, that help create better paying jobs, that helps create jobs that help people move from a $10 to a $25 an hour wage index, that helps all of our economies.”

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Following Clayton’s presentation, the commissioners considered for approval a memorandum of understanding regarding new opioid settlements. These settlements would be with five different groups, with the recommendation that the county participate in the settlements, being bound by the memorandum. The commissioners voted to approve the measure.

Next, the commissioners heard for approval an intergovernmental agreement regarding animal control services with the city, an agreement that would extend for a 10-year period, beginning next year. The commissioners approved.

Lastly, the commissioners went into executive session, regarding an issue of real estate. No action was taken at the time.

Following the meeting, several of the commissioners took a drive to see the new Bicentennial signs that now mark each major highway entering into Decatur County. The signs, commemorating the upcoming bicentennial, were placed last week, and will remain up indefinitely.