LAWRENCEVILLE — Three months after setting priorities for their work, commissioners met in a day-long work session to get updates on the issues.
Since the May strategic planning sessions, county officials have met to devise some strategies on the goals, including taking another look at a slate of ethics rules, as leaders work to regain public trust after a series of criminal proceedings involving commissioners.
The most concrete work has come from a combined goal of economic development and revitalization, with officials showing how a renewed effort on infrastructure has helped some of the county’s older areas.
While the addition of sidewalks along areas with a lot of foot traffic and upgrades to damaged curbs have helped people see renewed investments in the community, Transportation Director Kim Conroy said his department has also seen recent gains in rehabbing old speed humps and street lights as well as replacing rusty and dingy signs.
“The predominant reason we did this was not to make it look pretty,” he said, pointing out that many of the old, dilapidated structures and signs were causing safety problems. “But it makes a big difference. We like to think it helps to revitalize the area, and encourage people to take better care of their own property.”
Officials discussed taking a sampling of 10 to 20 older neighborhoods to see if a concerted effort can make a difference in decaying communities.
With a “recalibration” coming of a long-range plan approved just as the economy began to dip several years ago, officials are also considering a resetting of the local tax allocation districts, which were approved in 2009 but never implemented because property values dropped so low that any redevelopment project would have a hard time making enough of an improvement in values to actually gain any money for the project.
Despite a priority to build and retain a quality work force, leaders were slow to discuss any potential raises for county employees, since officials are now grappling with the cost of health care during a budgeting process currently under way.
But after four years without an increase, leaders acknowledged that many employees are beginning to leave the organization.
Despite an increase in help from volunteers, officials said the retention of staff is a big problem, and training costs are high because of the turn-over.
For the final priority of ensuring the water supply, Water Resources Director Ron Siebenhenner said the county’s short term needs for the next couple of decades are safe, but the foundation is being laid for the long-term, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers devises a new plan for Lake Lanier.
“I think there is a lot of good information that has gone around,” Commissioner Lynette Howard said of the planning session. “It’s a good, positive, ‘moving forward’ experience for me.”
Officials talked about receiving quarterly updates to the goals.
“Going through this process has helped us focus our resources,” Howard said.