Infrastructure Takes Center Stage in Comp Plan Talks

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Pickens County Public Relations Director Norman Pope said it may take hundreds of billions of dollars to fix the Nation’s infrastructure, citing a recent email he received. Made in passing, the comment came during Tuesday night’s special called meeting to discuss the county’s comprehensive plan required by the state to retain Qualified Local Government Status needed to receive state grants and loans. The comment, though, emphasized the concern of infrastructure, moving the topic to the center of the conversation. Delegates from Talking Rock, Nelson, and Jasper Mayor John Weaver attended the meeting, but, Pope was the only representative of the county government present.

The first public hearing for the plan was held on December 13th, which outlined the process for completing the plan and established benchmarks for the project. Tuesday night’s meeting, however, addressed specific aspects of the plan, which Pope called “crucial areas.” With input from citizens and city delegates, Pope made a list of crucial areas, which would be addressed in each city’s plan and later coalesced into a joint comp plan with the county. Although Economic Development was first on the list, Infrastructure—number-two on the list—received most of the focus.

Specifically, the infrastructure issue for Nelson and Talking Rock is sewage. Former Nelson Mayor David Leister said Nelson and Talking Rock have no sewage system of their own.

“We’re sandwiched between Ball Ground and Jasper,”

Leister said, noting with hyperbole that Jasper has annexed a third of the county into its city limits.

“Economic Development is skipping over us. It’s going to one of these other two areas,”

he lamented. Leister went on to say that Nelson and Talking Rock would be well served if they could tie into a sewage system.

“You would see a little more development in (our) areas and it would help sustain the rural area of Pickens.”

Pope said joint ventures between the county and private interests could offer a way to remedy the situation. Later though, Jasper Mayor John Weaver, who arrived a half hour late, noted the conversation of needed infrastructure to accommodate growth and foster economic development countered the citizens’ prior philosophy of expansion, saying in years past citizens rejected the notion of economic development to the rural county. The mayor, though, also said that water was one of the priorities of the county’s first comp plan in 1992-93, adding that the county has accomplished most the water objectives from the first plan.

Senior housing, downtown revitalization, and fire and police protection were also discussed during the meeting. Later in the meeting, Jasper resident and Pickens County Tea Party Member Nelson Mattern asked if the comp plan had any strings attached.

“When the (federal) government gets its fingers into this sort of thing,”

Mattern said,

“they will come and help you formulate your long-range plan and they’ll offer funds with strings attached. Is any of that going on behind the scenes?”

Comp plans have previously been implicated as part of Agenda 21, the George Soros’ plan for global socialism, granting the government rights over private property. Last February, citizens swarmed to a county planning and zoning meeting to show opposition to a part of the comp plan called character areas, where the government imposes certain aesthetic measures on private property owners. This part of the comp plan, though, was revised during last year’s legislative session, where character areas are now options. Pope denied any behind the scenes federal involvement. He also denied that the comp plan was part of Agenda 21.

Pope said the state has received the report of accomplishments from the cities and county. He also handed out a template of the community work program part of the plan to the city delegates and citizens in attendance. He said the template should be completed by the February 18th meeting, when Northwest Georgia Regional Commission Assistant Director of Regional Planning Barnett Chitwood will be in attendance to guide the planning process.

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