ATHENS, Ga. -- Thomson, Dearing, and McDuffie County officials met last weekend in Athens for their annual planning retreat, and by all accounts, the event was a rousing success.
Leaders used the time to discuss, plan and strategize for the year ahead. The retreat's crowded agenda included everything from updates on school construction projects to timetables on sales tax payments.
For County Manager Don Norton, who was only recently named to the position full-time, the experience of working closely with both city and county officials was a positive one.
"I think it was a good process, particularly for someone like me relatively new going in there. I learned a lot, and I got to meet some folks I had not met, and I think getting all of the various entities together and talking about things is invaluable to coordinate who's doing what and how the various projects interrelate with one another," he said.
Presentations were made by representatives from the hospital, school system, airport, water-sewer commission, Forward-McDuffie, and various city and county officials, among others.
Dearing Mayor Ralph Menees said that the annual planning retreat always seems to be an effective event.
"I thought it went very well, and I thought it was very informative to all participating," he said. "I think this is my fourth one I've attended, and I think each of them have been beneficial not just to me, and not just to Dearing, but to all parties."
Thomson Mayor Bob Knox also thought that the open discussion and exchange of ideas was a good indicator of the year to come.
"I thought we were able to look at a lot of different areas and forecast in those areas generally, but I also thought it gave us a good opportunity to meet together and look toward the next year and the next several years," he said.
Hitting the highlights:
In a surprise move, McDuffie Regional Medical Center CEO Doug Keir revealed to local leaders that just last week MRMC was billed approximately $55,000 by Medicare. Mr. Keir also asked for some assistance in funding indigent care, which he expects the state to cut further in the upcoming year. MRMC asked the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners for approximately $400,000 to help fund indigent care late last year.
Local leaders discussed the approximately $5.4 million airport expansion plans that are being proposed for the next five years.
Officials said that one of the sticking points was the approximately $1.6 million that would go towards constructing additional hangars, which would have to be completely funded by McDuffie County. Officials also discussed the idea of forming an Airport Advisory Commission, which would be comprised of city and county officials, the airport's Fixed Base Operator, two McDuffie plane owners and pilots, and a citizen interested in aviation. The commission would be responsible for providing policy direction and advice to local governments.
Local officials tapped Athens-based engineering firm Chasman & Associates to conduct both a county-wide capital improvements study and a special study to determine the preliminary size, configuration and location of a joint city/county complex.
The two studies will cost an estimated $45,000, plus expenses and are expected to be completed in the second half of this year.
Thomson city officials discussed a proposal by Warren County that would allow them to buy Thomson water for its customers. McDuffie County officials talked about the proposal, including the implementation of a regional water system as an alternative. The upside to a regional system would be that the Warren County section would, in most respects, simply act as an extension of the McDuffie County Water District. Officials are expected to discuss the issue more in the upcoming weeks.