Last week we reviewed what we wanted in 2017 (some small progress such as a reinvigorated Marble Festival) but mostly we saw the status quo keep a tight grip here.
Undaunted, we again suggest improvements and wishes for Pickens County.
• More parks – Like a present you hadn’t expected, Pickens County got a top-notch mountain bike park in the last quarter of 2017, all thanks to a private group with private money. Nothing from local sources/governments, other than words of appreciation (after most of the work was done) moved The Talking Rock Nature Preserve along.
Unfortunately this new park with benches, fields and walking area at the Gilmer line is a lonely beacon in new recreation options for this county. Talking Rock has a nice park; Nelson has upgraded walking trails, and Jasper started and then mostly abandoned their own wooded trails on Hood Road. What’s missing is the county adding anything significant to our recreation facilities. When the community center opened at Roper Park in late 2011, it was as though someone strode out and declared “mission accomplished.”
You actually can’t say we want more focus on improving parks/recreation as there is no focus except for maintenance. We’ll simply ask for any attention to recreation.
Lesser request in same category -- More classes at rec. center at Roper Park. How about some new offerings? It seems we don’t even fully utilize what little we do have.
Chattahoochee Tech playing a vital role here again – In December we reported that the dismal usage of our tech school had blown up with everyone from the speaker of the state house to our chief magistrate judge exhorting the college to get back into the education game.
At the most fundamental level we need a strong technical college. Courses meet the needs of industry; this encourages expansion and attracts new businesses. The growth in industry will drive residential growth which drives commercial growth. Imagine what a steady stream of educated, young people coming out of a local tech school could mean for the county?
Fill the buildings – The rise of several boutiques in the retail sector, a new restaurant in the massive Sidebar building beside the courthouse gives a little hope, but there are simply too many empty buildings in Jasper and around the county. The former home of Day’s Chevrolet, the NAPA building on Main Street, the former Hallmark store across the street from it all sit empty - not to mention the empty acres and acres of graded property on the four-lane.
Whatever it takes to help developers/owners get these spots into action, we would support it -- tax abatements, incentives, help with utilities. In cases where a property is sitting empty, we would happily urge the local governments to defer some immediate taxes to see a vital business there hiring and paying sales tax.
A few other items:
• A healthy discussion and open-minded approach on both sides for the coming debate on senior school exemptions. Rather than both sides seeking exactly what they want (full exemption versus no additional exemption), let’s find what satisfies the community as a whole and for the long term.
• For the Dawgs to bring that national championship home later this month. (One reader has requested a front page headline in the Progress if this happens. We’ll see.)
• To see our Pickens schools post scores on state tests that reflect the quality of the system. Last year, the students here beat the national and state averages on the SAT (the most reliable indicator of a system’s competency) but Pickens students still struggle on other required tests. Not acceptable.
• Let’s have some fun and well-attended events across the county. This is a two-way street. Organizers need to raise their games like the Marble Festival did last year. But the public must support them. Shop local also means attend local. You can’t expect a group to shell out resources for a fickle public that may or may not show up.
Finally, we wish for 2018 to be a great one for Pickens County and the people who call this place home.