Issues and challenges facing Hall County in 2002

Gainesville, Hall County and other municipalities face new and ongoing challenges in 2002.

Water – Lake Lanier and Northeast Georgia Water quality and quantity will continue to be in the forefront of state legislation and local ordinances. Water supply issues include: limited resources, the need for conservation and source protection, drought planning, the Tri-state water conflict and future sources.

Wastewater treatment issues include: a limited capacity for wastewater loads, new water quality requirements, combined sewer overflows, overloaded and aging infrastructure, operational reliability and septic tanks.

Storm-water issues include: runoff problems created by urbanization, impaired streams, the threat to recreational lakes and the threat to water supplies.

Myrtle Figueras, Mayor of the City of Gainesville and I serve on the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District Board. For several months, we have worked together with the other 16 county members from the Atlanta metro-area to address these many water issues – but it is an on-going, long project to develop a regional watershed-based effort.

Lake Lanier will continue to be a priority focus locally, as the drought has made us all aware of the need to conserve water and protect our most precious resource. The U.S. Corps of Engineers will soon be releasing their management study for Lake Lanier. The Lake Lanier Basin Advisory Group and the Lake Lanier Governance Council Committee will be addressing particular needs for Lake Lanier.

Transportation – It is certainly no surprise that transportation is high on the priority list for Hall County. If you are driving the roads and highways in our county, you know that we are in desperate need of upgrading some of our busiest roads – Hog Mountain Road and Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch, Hwy 53 from I-985 to I-85, Hwy 53 from Gainesville to GA 400. A perimeter road or alternative roads around the City of Gainesville is still a hot topic… we have been talking about this for years, but cannot seem to do anything about it.

The Northern ARC from I-75 to I-85 is badly needed. Hopefully, the state legislature will address this transportation issue positively and get it in the works.

Commuter and passenger rail will continue to be batted around, but in a tight budget year and an election year, it may be even longer before these are firm plans for this needed alternative transportation…infrastructure, commuter and passenger rail.

The Georgia Department of Transportation districts will change, and there may be new leadership in our 10th District for the State Board of Transportation. It would be helpful if we had representation from Hall County on that board.

Greenspace – Greenspace will continue to be a popular issue in the State of Georgia as it is pushed by Governor Barnes and the state leadership. Certainly Hall County should develop an ongoing , viable greenspace program – perhaps a public/ private partnership could unite to form a plan that all Hall County citizens will support.

Education – Education in Georgia and Hall County is the key to economic success for our citizens. Some initiatives from the Governor’s Education Reform Plan are just now taking effect. We need to monitor these initiatives locally, observe how they are working and measure the results.

Locally, we need to look at how the September 200l Education Splost funds will be used and make recommendations to school officials regarding new school locations and other projects. Of particular interest is the proposed new Career Academy and how those plans are progressing. This is the new initiative for a non-traditional high school to address specific workforce and offer a high school diploma. The business community is particularly interested in this initiative and will be working with local schools, elected officials and business leaders to plan for the Career Academy.

There are still facility needs at Lanier Technical College to up-grade buildings and plan for a new facility in the future. Planting seeds now is necessary to achieve the goals for the future.

Healthcare – The need for the U.S. Government and State Government to seriously address healthcare is of utmost importance. Reimbursement to hospitals for Medicaid and Medicare expenses is vital. The shortage of nurses and other healthcare personnel is becoming critical. Offering incentives to attract good healthcare workers might be a possibility.

Health insurance costs continue to increase annually for individuals and businesses. What can we do to stabilize these costs and still provide good healthcare insurance?

Locally, we anticipate positive progress in available healthcare services from Northeast Georgia Medical Center with the opening of a new heart facility. Also, the public looks forward to the long-term plans for the Lanier Park Campus.

Reapportionment – We will see more battles regarding reapportionment before it is settled, especially at the state level. 2002 is an election year and everyone is “jockeying” for political power. Hall County citizens are relatively satisfied with the local reapportionment districts for the Hall County Commission. U.S. Congressman Nathan Deal will now serve us in the 10th Congressional District.

Other Issues:

Tourism – The second largest industry in the State of Georgia, and certainly important here in Hall County, is tourism. Does Hall County need a permanent Welcome-Visitor’s Center on I-985 ? Can all involved entities work together to make this happen ?

The ’96 Olympic Rowing & Canoe-Kayak Venue Site – This wonderful Olympic Legacy is in need of facility upgrading. The 2003 World Championships in Flatwater Kayaking will be held here. With local and state support, we could have a world class venue site and attract competitors in rowing, canoeing and kayaking from all over the world.

Impact Fees – This past November, Hall County citizens voted in favor of impact fees for unincorporated Hall County. Though a non-binding vote, it is anticipated that the Hall County Commission will look toward implementing these fees in 2002 to help pay for part of new development to come to Hall County. Will the other municipalities also implement impact fees? What are these fees? What capital improvements will this fee income be used for? How will these impact fees effect business?

There will be many more challenges and issues facing businesses and individuals of this great county in 2002. Let’s work together to educate ourselves on the issues and move forward in keeping Hall County the best place to live, to work, to play and to stay!