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Barrow mayors discuss state of county's cities

WINDER - Revitalizing downtown areas, creating walker friendly towns and growing business bases are goals toward which Barrow County's municipalities are working.

More than 200 community leaders heard reports from five of Barrow County's mayors Tuesday morning at the annual State of the Cities breakfast, sponsored by the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce.

Auburn

Auburn city officials are compiling a downtown overlay district that preserves the historic area of the town straddling the Barrow-Gwinnett county line.

"It will capture Auburn's early days," said Mayor Linda Blechinger. "We have beautiful homes and buildings that we must preserve."

Blechinger visualizes each historic building holding a little museum that will tell visitors its story.

Auburn workers in 2007 completed phase one of Shackelford Park's revitalization. The wooded acreage now holds grills, pavilions and camping spots.

A sports park holding a soccer field, skate park and walking trails remains in the planning stages, Blechinger said.

Bethlehem

Bethlehem opened a city park in 2007 with a pavilion and a picnic area.

"We need to work on our infrastructure so we can have a Waffle House of our own," said Mayor Sandy McNab.

Carl

Using one-cent sales tax funds, Carl and its surrounding residents now enjoy an upgraded park with a children's playground and walking trails. In 2007, the city constructed a white gazebo made of low-maintenance materials next to the park.

"Things are going well in spite of the economy," said Mayor David Brock.

Statham

On the farthest end of Barrow County, Statham is busy upgrading its historic buildings while keeping a sense of community.

"Many people say they appreciate our home safety check," said Mayor Robert Bridges. "People can sign up to get a call a day to check on their well-being."

Statham is working on a sewer expansion project. The town boasts a large library that recently moved into a historic building, for which Walton EMC contributed a $2,500 grant, a redeveloped community building, walking trails and a successful Sunflower Festival and Christmas Tour of Homes.

"Business development is growing downtown," Bridges said.

Winder

The largest town in Barrow County expects to have its new wastewater treatment facility on line shortly, said Mayor Chip Thompson. Meanwhile, city officials are compiling the 2009 budget and focusing on its 2020 Vision plan. That plan outlines streetscapes, a traffic underpass, intersection improvements, renovations to the granite hotel, a walking path from Fort Yargo to downtown Winder and passive recreation opportunities along Cedar Creek.

Business of the Month

The Barrow County Chamber of Commerce named Larry's Furniture as Business of the Month for February. Larry's Furniture has operated in downtown Winder since 1948 and has been a chamber member for 50 years.