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Lowndes County poised for more capital projects, economic development

 

From left, Harry Sanders, president of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, talks with County Administrator Ralph Billingsley and retired attorney Bill Threadgill following the Rotary Club meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Columbus Country Club. Sanders was the guest speaker.

From left, Harry Sanders, president of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, talks with County Administrator Ralph Billingsley and retired attorney Bill Threadgill following the Rotary Club meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Columbus Country Club. Sanders was the guest speaker.
Photo by: Carmen K. Sisson

 

 

Carmen K. Sisson

 

The county is in excellent shape and poised for even brighter days ahead, according to Harry Sanders, president of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors.  

 

The past 18 months have been a whirlwind of construction, and Sanders took time Tuesday to update Rotarians on completed projects as well as what's coming down the pike over the next few months.  

 

Projects include the new $2.4 million health department at the intersection of Lehmberg and Warpath Roads, the new Lowndes County Justice Court complex currently under construction on Martin Luther King Drive adjacent to the county jail, new community centers throughout the county, new fire stations in New Hope and Artesia and the remodeling of the courthouse and county administrative and tax offices.  

 

Sanders also made note of the new Burns Bottom soccer complex, which he said should host its first games in September.  

 

"There's a lot of good things getting ready to happen," he said.  

 

Last year, the county purchased more than 850 acres of land on the west side of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport to expand the industrial park, and Sanders said supervisors plan to purchase an additional 700 acres by the end of this year. They've also worked to provide the infrastructure needed to lure new industries.  

 

"The Southeast is starting to slowly show an uptick in manufacturing jobs," Sanders said after the meeting. "We in Lowndes County have prepared ourselves to take advantage of that." 

 

He said California-based solar silicon company Calisolar is poised to break ground on its first phase in May and will begin phase two this fall. Kior will begin testing its biofuels plant in March, which will lead to more jobs, too, he said.  

 

One thing Sanders is particularly pleased about is the new partnership between the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link and the West Point-Clay County Community Growth Alliance, which was announced last month.  

 

Together, Clay and Lowndes will be able to jointly recruit industry, which will benefit everyone in the Golden Triangle, he said. 

 

"A rising tide raises all the ships, and there can't be anything but good," Sanders said.  

 

While the Link is the captain of the county, it's just as necessary to have someone supplying the fuel, or the funding. That's where the Board of Supervisors has stepped in, offering financial assistance, providing land, applying for grants and offering other help.  

 

"What we've done, as the Board of Supervisors, we have given the Link as many tools to do their job as we possibly can," he said.  

 

Though Sanders supports the idea of a regional collaborative, he is not in favor of merging the city and county governments into a single metropolitan-type government.  

 

Keeping the city and county governments separate offers a system of checks and balances, he said, and joining the two will not solve the problems the city faces. Many issues are caused by resident apathy and poorly considered board selections, Sanders said.  

 

"People who live in town don't get involved," he said during the meeting. 

 

Afterward, he said city residents should be actively involved in elections and stand up and complain to the Columbus City Council about issues such as crime. 

 

"They're packing their suitcases and moving out," he said. "They would rather leave than stand up and fight for their neighborhoods." 

 

He was particularly critical of board appointments within the city, saying too many board members are appointed for the wrong reasons, including political payback and race, instead of qualifications and expertise.  

 

"We've got boards in the city with people who don't know how to tie their shoes," Sanders said.  

 

But board appointments are a matter of opinion, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith said via telephone Wednesday morning, adding that if the majority of the City Council supports a board appointment then he supports it as well.  

 

"From the city's standpoint, we don't determine who's qualified or not qualified to serve on (the county's) boards when they make appointments," Smith said. "Why does Mr. Sanders think it's his responsibility to decide who the city should appoint to serve on (its) boards? ... If Mr. Sanders takes care of the county's problems and lets the mayor and City Council take care of the city's problems then both entities would operate more efficiently." 

 

While there are advantages and disadvantages to merging the city and county governments, Smith doesn't think local politicians would support that position. And, like Sanders, he feels keeping the two entities separate provides a system of checks and balances.  

 

People leave the city for different reasons, Smith said, and he attributes a lot of the population shift to residents seeking lower taxes by moving into the county. He admitted that crime is an issue in the city but said it's also a problem in the county, the Golden Triangle and the nation.  

 

Likewise, he dismissed Sanders' statement that people who live in town don't get involved.  

 

"I think you get more participation in the city than you do in the county," Smith said. "If the City Council did just what Harry Sanders wants the council to do, then everything would be fine. ... The city has its problems just like the county has its problems. ... We have enough problems in the city to try to take care of. We don't have time to try to run the county's business."

 

Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.

 

 

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