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Hot topics addressed at Columbia County's State of the Community

State of the Community

One of the big discussion points at the Columbia County State of the Community was the economy and the booming growth in Grovetown. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 22, 2011)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011

GROVETOWN, Ga. -- The economy may be slow everywhere else, but things are still looking up in Columbia County. There are still big projects and big challenges on the horizon and that was the topic of Thursday night's first ever State of the Community Address.

Columbia County is one of the fastest growing parts of Georgia. In the last 10 years, the population has grown by nearly 40 percent.

The Chamber of Commerce held its first ever State of the Community Address Thursday to talk about some of the challenges that come along with that kind of growth.

It was a packed house and Arlene Candy, of Martinez, wanted to be a part of it.

"I wanted to know what was going on in the county," Candy said.

More than 100 people, some of them small business owners, showed up to hear what city and county leaders had to say.

"It sounds like they're kid of thinking logically; they're kind of thinking progressively," Candy said.

Tammy Shepherd, president and CEO of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, said they want to have a great place to live, work and grow.

One of the big discussion points was the economy and the booming growth in Grovetown.

"You would not believe what's going in in Grovetown! As we were driving out this way we were going, when did they do that? When did they build that?" Candy said.

Govetown Mayor George Jame said he's proud of the growth.

"People want to say the economy's down and yes it is, it's down all over the place, but here in Grovetown we can say that the economy is looking good to us. We're having people moving in and we're very proud of that," James said.

Another hot topic is the T-SPLOST. The regional transportation sales tax will go before voters will next year.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we've got to pass T-SPLOST if we're gonna make road improvements in our community," James said.

"Those are all the things we need to be concerned about -- T-SPLOST is a big issue coming next year you're going to hear more and more about," Shepherd said.

Crews have been working for months to lay about 200 miles of broadband fiber-optic cable. County leaders estimate things will be up and running by mid-2012.

"It's something bigger than any of us realize at this point because of the capacity that we'll have and the potential," said Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross.

There's also talk about recent redistricting and how the county is now split up.

"I don't want to say we got shafted, but there were some parts of that that we were not totally happy about," Cross told the crowd.

Even so, Candy is pleased overall about the future of Columbia County.

"I am very encouraged," she said.

The crowd also heard from the Columbia County Board of Education, Conventions and Visitors Bureau, Development Authority and the City of Harlem on their ongoing and upcoming projects.

The Chamber of Commerce is looking to make the event an annual one.

There was also a mention of the new Evans Town Center Park. The county is finalizing plans for a dedication on Saturday, Oct. 22. They're planning a full day of events for families with live music. That will happen the week before the big Lady Antebellum concert Oct. 28.

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