Dawson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Thurmond delivered his State of Dawson County presentation at the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Oct. 11, where he discussed the 2019 budget, the upcoming March TSPLOST vote and current projects in the county, including the much-anticipated creation of turn lanes at Lumpkin Campground Road and Hwy. 53.
“One of the big things that a lot of people have been interested in is the county and state joint project…Lumpkin Campground turn lanes,” Thurmond said.
Dawson County has been working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to add turn lanes and a signal on Lumpkin Campground Road and Hwy. 53 to help increase the flow of traffic.
“The latter part of this year, first part of next year we hope to get that project completed. It’s one we’ve been talking about for over a year,” Thurmond said. “If you have to travel that road and get to sit there for two or three lights to get to turn you understand the need to make this project a reality.”
GDOT will provide material while the county will provide labor for the project that is expected to be completed in late 2018 to early 2019, according to Thurmond.
The new turn lanes will help the county prepare for future residential and commercial growth, which was also a big focus of Thurmond’s presentation.
Thurmond said Dawson County has seen 177 new businesses come to the area in the first nine months of 2018 and has seen a tremendous increase in residential building permits, more than doubling from 2017.
New developments along Red Rider Road, Lumpkin Campground Road, Dawson Forest Road and Sosebee Road will bring 683 new single family developments. Ongoing projects also include 300 apartments behind Publix and 60 townhomes at Riley Place.
“I don’t want to overrun the county with apartments, no one does I believe,” Thurmond said. “But… we’ve got to have a mix of affordable housing as well as the more different homes that we have in this community as well.”
Two senior developments are also in the works on Lumpkin Campground Road with the construction of Dawson Ridge, a community of 190 senior homes, and Magnolia Assisted Senior Living.
“You have to have a mix of different availability for citizens,” Thurmond said. “Not everybody can live or afford to purchase a $250,000 to $300,000 home. You got to have a place for people to live if they want to live in this community and work in this community.”
Commercial growth continues to rise, with an Olive Garden planned where Huck’s Apple Barn was located on Dawson Forest and the five parcels surrounding the property up for grabs.
“We’re very proud of the businesses that we have,” Thurmond said. “We’re very proud of what we have on the 400 corridor, but as you all know we’re a retail based community. We want to diversify that a little bit and try to find some businesses that have higher paying jobs.”
Early this year the board of commission approved to reinstate impact fees, which are one-time fees charged to new development to help offset the cost of services. Thurmond said the fees are something the board continues to look at on a continuous basis.
"We will as a board continue to look and see what kind of impact the impact fees has on our community. One thing we don’t want to do is we do not to lose the businesses, especially in that area where we’re trying to diversify,” Thurmond said. “It’s very important that we diversify our economy in this county and in this community. We will take a constant look at that to make sure that we’re not causing an issue with that.”
Something the county is also considering is the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or TSPLOST, as the board prepares a final list of potential transportation projects that should be up for discussion sometime this month.
There will be a referendum in March as to whether TSPLOST will be implemented.
Thurmond also discussed his proposed 2019 general fund budget, which is approximately $700,000 more than the previous year. After going line item by line item with the finance department, almost $1 million in funds could be reallocated to make the budget more efficient, Thurmond said.
“One of the things that I wanted to make sure of as we looked at the 2019 budget was that that budget was efficient,” he said. “It also meets the needs of our elected officials and our departments. It’ll increase productivity. It gives our elected officials and staff and personnel and equipment to better perform the services they provide for you.”
Thurmond encouraged the attendees of the luncheon to come to the remainder of the public hearings on the proposed budget, the third and final of which is at 6 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Dawson County Government Center.
“It’s your money. I like to hear from you so I know what you’re thinking,” said Thurmond. “I do want to hear from you if you have thoughts or concerns in reference to that.”