Jasper Mayor John Weaver says county and city planning is nothing new. During the joint comprehensive plan meeting last Thursday, Mayor Weaver said that Jasper, along with other local governments, has been planning for more than twenty years. “In Pickens County alone,” Weaver said, “we have accomplished about everything on that list,” referring to project lists from previous comprehensive plans.
Present at the meeting, Barnett Chitwood from the North West Regional Planning Commission, explained the required comprehensive plans are the result of The Georgia Planning Act of 1989, which allows the Department of Community Affairs to establish certain rules. The comprehensive plans must be completed for local governments to maintain Quality Local Government Status in order to receive grants and loans from the state. Mayor Weaver wanted to let citizens know that this was not the first effort for government planning.
“This was written down years ago,”
“and we moved forward with it. Whether you were a newly elected county commissioner or whatever, you had a plan in front of you.”
A primary purpose of comp plans is to account for population growth, by indentifying projects that expand infrastructure, such as water and roads.
Weaver said Jasper already has a plan and has worked very hard for the past twenty years on its city planning. Later in the meeting, the mayor encouraged the county and cities to read their comp plans aloud, offering an opportunity for constituents to hear the projects and accomplishments of their governments. Leading the way, Weaver read Jasper’s project list. Previous Items such as establishing a Main Street program, building a golf course, and creating a reservoir are on hold. Here, he noted planning alone for a reservoir project would cost $20 million. Other items, such as bike paths, he said are in the works. Another project in progress is the expansion of the sewage collection system.
“The City of Jasper has already annexed areas north on 515,”
Weaver said, adding that the city has also applied for grants and constructed a water tank in the area. He also said he’d like to see a train connecting Jasper and Talking Rock, the way the Blue Ridge Train connects Blue Ridge and McCaysville in Fannin County. Two major projects the city has completed are: coordinating with the county to maintain a fulltime economic development professional, Gerry Nechvatal, and constructing two 500,000 gallon water tanks. Weaver boasted the city has already built three water tanks.
The county and the cities of Nelson and Talking Rock were also represented at the meeting. City Council Members Duane Cronic and Edith Portillo represented Nelson. Nelson’s projects include its current Park Bond Project with Cherokee County and correcting a drainage problem on Ray Mountain Road. Representing Talking Rock, Peter and Linda Cagle said their main project is finding ways of making their city a tourist destination, focusing on trains and heritage.
Speaking for the county, Information Director Norman Pope said the county’s main focus is job creation and promoting the county airport. He highlighted infrastructure projects, such as expanding the water and waste water system to accommodate and attract businesses that show interest in coming to the county. But, he also mentioned roads. Pickens will receive $356,000 from GDOT for road improvement this year, he said, noting this was insufficient for a county that needs to pave 100 miles of roads.
The deadline for comprehensive plan is June 30th of this year.