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Local leaders discuss future of area in Athens

Thomson, Dearing and McDuffie County officials gathered in Athens this past weekend to plan for future and ongoing projects as well as the growth headed this way.

"About 50 percent of the benefit is just getting everyone in the same room and informally talking about issues and those types of things," said County Manager Don Norton.

City council members and county commissioners discussed plans on the new government complex and courthouse planned for downtown Thomson. They also laid out plans on how the other downtown redevelopment work is progressing.

Leaders also received suggestions on how to proceed with long-term comprehensive planning from some experts. Langford Holbrook of the University of Georgia's Fanning Institute and Costa Pappis of the CSRA Regional Development Center both gave presentations.

Mr. Norton said officials also talked about the growth planned in the area and ways to guide it, like improved subdivision regulations and consistent development rules across city and county.

"You know, for the last several years, we've talked about the growth that is out there on the horizon," Mr. Norton said. "I think this year we actually got to the point where we think it is truly knocking on our door."

Many water and sewer system expansion projects were also on the agenda. Those included updates on the Belle Meade and Hwy. 150 sewer projects, the south McDuffie water expansion, upgrades on the water treatment plants and the sale of water to neighboring towns.

Airport consultant Phil Eberly took leaders through the long list of projects on the books at the Thomson-McDuffie County Airport. Those include future T-hangars and corporate hangers, a runway extension and repaving and a possible airplane mechanic school.

McDuffie County schools were also represented at the retreat. Superintendent Mark Petersen and Assistant Superintendent Jim Franklin gave leaders an update on the status of the school system.

City and county officials also updated each other on the several Community Development Block Grant programs underway. Those include housing work in the Pitts Street area, sewer extension in the Hayes Line district and the revamping of the Dearing Gym.

On Saturday, Information Technology Director Kelly Evans showed leaders how the first year of existence for the new web portal had gone. She said the website - - received 105,000 hits from late February 2006 when the site opened through year end. Last month alone, there were 15,000 visits to the web site, Mrs. Evans said. She also informed them of future upgrades that would be needed.

Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers - who will soon start as the new Thomson City Administrator - examined future industrial prospects and explained how current ones, like the former Thomson Company project, were progressing.

Local leaders also received an update on the McDuffie Regional Medical Center's programs and financial status.

Web posted on Thursday, March 01, 2007

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