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City leaders face downtown work, water system upgrades this year

The New Year promises to be an extremely busy one for city officials in Thomson, as a number of major projects are planned with many expected to be completed within this year.

One such project involves the expansion of Big Creek Water Treatment Plant, located on Lincolnton Highway in Raysville. Last year, construction began to expand the size of the plant, as well as to increase the water flow capacity from 2 million gallons of water per day to 4 million gallons per day.

City officials sought and received permission from officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to draw the additional water from Clarks Hill Lake, located near the water plant, according to Thomson City Administrator Don Powers.

"Doubling the plant's capacity will allow for future growth in the city as well as the county," Mr. Powers said. "If you combine the 4 million gallons per day from Big Creek with the 2 million gallons per day that we can draw from Usry's Pond, it gives us a total capacity of six million gallons of water per day."

Completion of the construction project at Big Creek Water Treatment Plant is slated for mid-summer, Mr. Powers added.

In the next couple of months, officials of the Thomson-McDuffie County Water and Sewer Commission are expected to finalize details regarding the selling of 100,000 gallons of water per day to the City of Harlem.

"We've still got several details to work out on that project, but I think it'll all come together," Mr. Powers said.

Another project which got underway last year and is expected to be completed within the first quarter of this year is the downtown revitalization project. That particular project involves installing new parking lots along First Avenue and new sidewalks along Railroad Street.

Funding for that project was provided through a grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). The second phase of downtown revitalization will get underway following the completion of the first phase, Mr. Powers said.

The second phase of the project will continue to involve work along Railroad Street - specifically addressing traffic flow in that busy section of downtown to the proposed site of a new city/county government center. The proposed joint government center still is in the planning stages and believed to be several years away from actually being built, local government officials say.

Within the first six months of the New Year, a $1.5 million rehabilitation housing project is expected to get underway in Thomson, Mr. Powers said. The areas for such development will include the Pitt Street and Strawberry Hill neighborhoods.

"We want to address these concerns sometime this year," Mr. Powers said. "It's something that has been needed for a long time and will help improve those neighborhoods and make our city look nicer."

Property also is expected to be acquired to build as many as six new Habitat for Humanity homes within the city limits in the future, he added. Those new homes will allow those who qualify for them a better place to live and raise families, the city administrator pointed out.

In addition to those projects, city leaders also are examining ways to reduce the escalating costs of medical insurance for city workers and their families.

"We employ about 110 workers in the city, and it continues to be a challenge to us as city officials as to what to do about insurance cost that just seem to be going through the roof," Mr. Powers said. "We've got to do something about the skyrocketing insurance cost."

Since 2005, insurance premiums have risen for the city from $450,000 to $750,000, he explained.

"City council will be addressing this problem real soon," he said.

Officials also will be looking into the possibility of involving employees in a wellness program.

"We're going to look at some ways to make our work force healthier," Mr. Powers said.

Web posted on Thursday, January 10, 2008

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