2017-06-15 / Front Page

County holds public hearing for joint comprehensive plan

A public hearing to inform the community about a joint compre­hensive plan between the Lincoln County and City of Lincolnton gov­ernments was held in conjunction with the regularly scheduled meet­ing of the Board of Commissioners. The hearing highlighted the plan’s intent to map both a five- and 10- year plan for county-wide growth.

“This meeting is to inform the general public that we’re in the process of re-doing our joint com­prehensive between Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton. This plan is due on or before February of 2018, to be adopted by both govern­ments,” Public Works Director Roby Seymour said. “The Department of Community Affairs is funding the project, and CSRA-RC has been contracted by Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton to basically, draw up the plan. It’s being paid for completely by DCA, so it’s no cost to us or the City of Lincolnton.”

According to Seymour, the com­prehensive plan outlines the goals expressed by both governments over the next five years, as well as outlin­ing certain economic development goals, but also depicts the goals for infrastructure and other improvements over the next 10 years.

The plan would provide potential residents and businesses owners a “screen shot” of what the county has to offer, which includes a lot of information based on census data.

“The plan originated in May with a kickoff meeting of the stakehold­ers committee. That stakeholders committee is made up of county employees, county business lead­ers, city council members, city em­ployees, and some outside general public individuals to give input,” Seymour said. “There are three parts to the plan. The first is an introduc­tion and discussion of the com­prehensive plan, and the process. The second part is the community profile and background of the com­munity, which includes the general demographics, housing, economic development, community facili­ties, natural agricultural resources, and land usage. The third part is the community agenda, which includes the needs and opportunities in the community, the community goals, the land-use plan, and the commu­nity work program.”

The comprehensive plan would also require regular updates every two years in order to keep informa­tion and data current.

An open house in order to gauge public opinion regarding the plan will be scheduled in September of this year, with a second public hear­ing to be held in October.

After the hearing, Development Authority Executive Director John Stone gave an update on future pos­sible endeavors in Lincoln County’s economic development, which would require approval by the Board of Commissioners should future action be taken. Stone relayed infor­mation learned after a development authority member’s retreat, which hosted meetings with state officials from the Department of Commu­nity Affairs, the Georgia Economic Development Authority, along with other entities, who briefed those in attendance on development oppor­tunities available.

Stone first discussed blight grants, stating “It’s a rural development agenda, and a community improve­ment grant, of $750,000 to use to clean up abandoned properties, and dilapidated properties around the county.”

Before an application for the grant is made, the county must have a blight ordinance in place that’s based on the state legal definition of blight, however it could be written to suit Lincoln County specifically. “It has to contain the basic elements that are in the state definition, but as for our purpose you could make it what you want it to be,” Stone said, noting that the deadline for applica­tion submission is next April.

Brownfield assessments and grants could also positively im­pact Lincoln County, according to Stone.

“This concerns old properties, particularly old filling stations in our county, that might have old tanks in the ground, and that is cur­rently an environmental liability on that property. Because of those old tanks you can’t do much with the property, and the property owner can’t sell it because they don’t want to transfer that liability to the next owner,” he said.

Stone noted that the legal ad­vantage of working through the Brownfield cleanup program with the EPA, is that when the work is complete the previous, current, and future property owners will have the liability on the property waived.

Conducting a new community as­sessment was also discussed by the commission, to which Stone noted that one was already conducted several years back.

“Every year there are two counties in the state that are designated to have a community assessment team come to that county. We already have one in Georgia this year, and we’ve applied to be the second,” Stone said. “This brings experts and officials, and business people, from around the state who are not from Lincolnton, into Lincolnton, for a period of time to talk to everyone here, and to look at our community with fresh eyes.”

From the assessment, the experts would then highlight their observa­tions and give recommendations on how to capitalize on what they see as advantages to Lincoln County, as well as providing a means to adjust issues that they could potentially deem as problems.

Last, the director brought atten­tion to the signage project that is already in the works through the Development Authority.

“We desperately need to update our signage here in the county,” Stone said, explaining that he recently contacted the state about putting up blue logo signs located around the interstate and on other federal highways that direct travel­ers to gas stations, restaurants, and other attractions.

“It turns out that we can’t have those in our county, because those are put up through a program on federal and state highways that have ramps, and since we don’t have a ramp, and we’re not on a federal highway or interstate, we’re not eligible. The good news is because we’re not we can do our own,” he continued. “The Development Au­thority has put out bids for the blue signs, we’ve funded it so the county doesn’t need to do anything there, and we’re ready to start putting up the signs as soon as we can get the Department of Transportation to approve the sign locations.”

Signs are expected to be erected at the edges of the county, and include businesses and local attrac­tions with the designated mileage away on them. In order to adhere to state guidelines, additional signage will be erected at turning points to continue directing drivers to the designated destinations.

In closing, Stone noted that future steps would have to be addressed through state legislators in order to get signage changed on Interstate 20 to include Lincolnton. Currently, the signage highlights Thomson, Washington, Appling, and Harlem as nearby towns at certain exits. He added that attraction signs for the parks, campgrounds, marinas, and other locations would also help in directing travelers to Lincolnton.

In other business, the board voted to purchase new voting machines and voting matching equipment for $8,100. l John W. Spratlin, LLC, was awarded the job to paint the exterior of the courthouse for$57,500. l JVR Construction was awarded the job to paint the exterior of the Lincoln County Library for $11,175. l The commission voted to have Thomson Roofing replace and war­ranty the roof of the Lincoln County jailhouse for $103,062. l The board voted to increase permit fees – a rate that has not increased since 2005 – in order to compete with surrounding coun­ties. Fees for new construction will increase to $515, and fees for al­terations and additions will increase to $400. The increase, while still lower than surrounding counties, is predicted to generate $20,000 in new monies. l A grant application to cover the cost of a five-year hazard mitigation plan renewal was approved. OES Director Casey Broom noted that the $34,000 grant will take in-kind funding from the county, and that the plan is required by FEMA, and requires periodic updates. l The commission voted to pur­chase a new OES vehicle, complete with lights, sirens, and decal for $32,313, along with approving the purchase of a new vehicle for the Sheriff’s Office for $30,603.98. l The board voted to have the parking lot at the Lincoln Center re­paved for $12,700, with the county paying for the asphalt, re-striping, and installation of stop bumpers for $28,000, which will come out of the T-SPLOST fund. l The upper and lower parking lots of the courthouse will be seal coated for $7,418, as voted by the commissioner, with the striping done by the county. l The board voted to surplus a portion of the OES building. While OES inhabits 13,000 square-feet of the former warehouse, 23,000 square-feet of the building will be sold at an upcoming public auction. The sale will help recoup some of the monies used to initially purchase the building. l The board approved an em­ployee exit and clearance procedure update. The procedure helps to guarantee that any county property used by the leaving employee is returned. The procedure also over­sees that certain action is reviewed by the county attorney – which is a request by liability carriers to reduce employee liability claims – as well as including an exit interview with the employer. It will also help with internal processing, according to Finance Director Traci Bussey. l The board approved a worker’s compensation resolution. l County Clerk Sherry McKellar informed the board that employee insurance renewals are ready to be presented to county workers, to which the board gave approval. l Director Bussey updated the board on a wage hour policy.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners will be held on Thursday, July 13, at 6 p.m. at the courthouse.

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