Close to 50 county leaders and department heads met with Robin Chasman of the Athens-based engineering firm Chasman & Associates last week to learn more about the countywide Capital Improvements Plan already underway.
McDuffie County hired Mr. Chasman's firm for up to $40,000 to help conduct the study, which will determine what county capital needs -- considered pricier, big-ticket items like vehicles and buildings but not things like salaries or maintenance costs -- may arise in the next 10 to 20 years.
Mr. Chasman heaped praise on the county for undertaking such a comprehensive project.
"This county is really unique," he said. "It's unique in that usually, cities and counties this size don't spend that much effort thinking about the future. If you know your leaders here in this county and the city of Thomson, you know they are always thinking ahead -- usually further ahead than most of the counties your size."
County department heads had until today to submit an informal list of some of the capital items they anticipate needing in the next several years.
Over the next few days, Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders, Mr. Chasman, and McDuffie County Manager Don Norton will get together with the department heads and refine those lists.
"I ask you to work very hard on this," Commission Chairman Charlie Newton told everyone who attended the meeting. "It's going to require significant time; it's going to require significant thought, but it'll be worthwhile for us, and it'll carry us for the next 10 to 20 years."
Once the lists have been evaluated, two public meetings will be held where McDuffie County citizens will be invited to let officials know what additions they would like to see, whether it's more ambulances at the hospital or faster computers at the library.
"We want to let the public have a part in this process...We try to get a sense from the general public what it is that is a part of their lives that is a responsibility of government to make sure that we can plug into this what the people see out there as needs," said Mr. Chasman.
One thing the county already knows it needs without doing any kind of a survey is space.
Late last year, voters approved more than $1 million in sales tax dollars for a city and county government complex study, as well as possible land acquisition for the site of the complex. Earlier this week, county officials were waiting to hear from several architectural firms interested in conducting the study.
Once the firm is chosen, they will start analyzing where such a complex could go, how much it would cost to construct and which departments would be housed in it. Mr. Norton said he hopes that the cost of the study will be about $10,000.