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Time to talk: Program links communities and legislators

A new program entitled, "Hometown Connection," now links local city government officials with their local state lawmakers so those legislators have a better understanding of the city budgeting process and other issues confronting those in city government.

One such meeting was held between Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry, City Administrator Don Powers and two area state lawmakers, Sen. William "Bill" Jackson (R-Appling) and Rep. Sistie Hudson (D-Sparta). The meeting was held at Thomson City Hall and included all city department heads last Thursday.

The new "Hometown Connection" is an initiative that is being implemented by officials with the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), of which the City of Thomson is a long time member, according to Mayor Usry. Representing GMA at last week's meeting was Lamar Norton, who serves as director of governmental relations.

"I personally think this is a great program," Mayor Usry said. "It gives us an opportunity to explain what's going on at a local level with our legislators. Our local legislators have been good friends of ours for years and we want them to know that we plan to keep that friendship by letting them know what's going on in Thomson."

Like state lawmakers, local government officials also are burdened with dollar issues, the mayor said.

"We have to deal with those dollar issues just like our lawmakers do in Atlanta," Mayor Usry pointed out. "We're having a tough time, too."

In the past, local officials have enjoyed a close relationship with area legislators. "We have been able to pick up the telephone and share our thoughts with them about a lot of different issues and we appreciate that very much," Mayor Usry told Sen. Jackson and Rep. Hudson.

"Our intent is to let you know what we do," Mayor Usry said. "I think we do a good job."

GMA Executive Director Jim Higdon said it is important that legislators see what cities across Georgia are doing so they understand their achievements and the many challenges that confront those local officials. He believes they need to be connected to the welfare of cities across the state.

Aside from budget matters, there are quality of life issues that concern city officials, too, Mayor Usry said during last week's meeting. For example, the City of Thomson is addressing a number of concerns related to sub-standard housing.

"We think we're moving in the right direction," Mayor Usry said.

Residents of two neighborhoods, located on opposite ends of each other, have expressed their desire to address certain issues. Those residents are working directly with the mayor and council, as well as city administrator to change some things currently going on in those neighborhoods. Two of the problems focus on trash and speeding motorists.

Mr. Powers explained the city's budgeting process to Sen. Jackson and Rep. Hudson. He said balancing the city's budget is "very difficult" sometimes.

Overall, Mayor Usry said he believes that city officials "do an excellent job" in running day-to-day operations - something he credited Mr. Powers with more than himself since he's not involved in city government operations every day.

As for the economy, which has been experiencing major problems of late, Mayor Usry said he hopes the situation doesn't become any worse.

"It's bad enough as it is," Mayor Usry said. "We don't need it to get any worse."

Mr. Powers told the local legislators that city officials are proud of the new runway expansion at the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport. The runway recently was expanded from 5,200 feet to 5,500 feet.

"That's a great asset - a great feature here in Thomson and McDuffie County," Sen. Jackson told city officials.

The senator also praised officials for their support of the local hospital - McDuffie Regional Medical Center.

"You have an excellent small-town hospital," Sen. Jackson said.

Rep. Hudson praised city officials for their spirit of cooperation with each other, as well as working with county officials in such a close manner.

Web posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008

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