Chairman Jones says consolidation a good idea
|Commission Chairman Rob Jones discusses the state of Pickens County at the Squires & Stags breakfast. Photo by Wayne Tidwell|
Pickens County Chairman Rob Jones briefed members of Squires and Stags on the state of the county at the February 2 breakfast in the Big Canoe Clubhouse. He told the group that he supports consolidation of Pickens County and City of Jasper services.
“I think the comprehensive plan and combining services, in my opinion is a great idea,” Jones said. “I think it would be beneficial to everybody involved.”
The county is working to update its comprehensive plan and some citizens have suggested consolidation according to Jones.
“Some of the ideas that some citizens have had on the comprehensive plan is consolidation (of Jasper and Pickens County governments),” Jones said. “Combining fire departments, combining the water systems and maintenance of the city.”
He said some in Jasper government did not like the idea.
“Let’s just say that hit a nerve with the city. One or two of them in the government there took it out (consolidation). I took offense to it because a comprehensive plan is just a 10-20-year plan. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen but it gives us a guideline.”
The last meeting for public input to the comprehensive plan was scheduled for February 6.
On other issues, Jones said that the unemployment rate in Pickens is 3.9 percent and that “things are really starting to pick up.”
Building permits included 127 site-built homes outside the city of Jasper in Pickens County and Jones said water meter applications were even a better show of growth.
“Last year we sold 65 water meters which is the most we have sold in three years,” Jones said.
Special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) revenues collected to date are $14 million, according to Jones who said most of that is earmarked for repairing existing paved roads and paving dirt roads.
The only county debt is $700,000 for the recreation center and that will be paid off in January, according to Jones.
Water service has been extended and is tied on to Big Canoe’s water supply, and ISO ratings are improving, Jones said. He intimated that he felt Jasper’s water and sewer systems needed attention.
Jones said that if he were the city manager of Jasper, “one of the first engineering studies I would have done is to see what condition my water and sewer system is in.”
He pointed to the fact that he had to install an 80-gallon booster pump in the newly rebuilt and extended courthouse, “so we can flush toilets on the top floor.”
“Those are issues I am seeing with the water system in the city of Jasper,” Jones said. “And contrary to popular belief, the city of Jasper is the heart of Pickens County. That’s the economic driver. If you let the city go down, we’re all on the back burner.”
Jones said new business is mainly mom-and-pop shops. There are ten pizza restaurants in Pickens County, according to Jones. Medical facilities are growing. He said he hopes Pickens County will get a Chick-fil-A in the near future and suggested that Pickens could support a movie theatre.
When questioned about the recent purchase of Potts Mountain, Jones said “all of Potts Mountain is under a conservancy now. There will not be any development in the Potts Mountain area.”
He said the county will still collect property taxes from the owners of the property.
Jones said the county was not considering a sewer system expansion, mainly because Jasper has annexed the center of the county along Highway 515 where expansion would take place.
“If you are not familiar with the map of the service delivery area of Pickens County, if you will consider that Pickens County is a rectangle,” Jones explained. “The right hand side of Pickens belongs to Pickens County and the left hand side belongs to Pickens County. The whole center part belongs to the city of Jasper. That was manipulated back in 1998.”
When asked about the property assessments for the purpose of taxes, Jones suggested that Chief Tax Appraiser Roy G. Dobbs be invited to share information about that subject.
On the recent termination of Gerry Nechvatal as director of economic development for Jasper/Pickens County, Jones said Nechvatal “has been a great asset.” Nechvatal continues his role as executive director of the Pickens County Chamber of Commerce.
Jones said changes were coming to the Jasper city government. Mayor John Weaver, who has served as city manager as well as mayor, was recently relieved of his city manager duties by the city council. Jim Looney, long time city councilman has agreed to run the city as city manager.
Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond has been invited to speak at the next Squires & Stags breakfast.
Squires & Stags meets in the Mountains Grille at the Clubhouse at Lake Sconti.
Coffee is ready at 7:45 a.m. followed by a buffet breakfast served at 8:00 a.m. Big Canoe residents and guests are invited to attend the meeting. The price of breakfast is $13 payable on your POA account or by cash at the door.
Reservations are required and must be received by Noon on Thursday before the Friday morning meeting. You may also call Kim Cooper at her new number (706) 268-3346 to make reservations.