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Wrapping up the year: 2018 was quiet, but forces for change lining up

As we head into a vacation hibernation, we’ll take a mostly objective look at how Pickens County fared in 2018.

Looking back over what we wanted for 2018 [presented in this space about this time last year], it appears the status quo is hard to dislodge. Yet, there seems to be a lot of forces lining up, so change may be afoot and coming in 2019.

Grading our 2018 wish list:

• More parks – Nope. The mountain bike park at Talking Rock keeps drawing more users and expanding. Thanks to this private Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land, our outdoor recreation has expanded. But, absolutely no thanks to the city of Jasper or Pickens County.

• Chattahoochee Tech playing a vital role – Not yet, but making progress. The technical college and high school are working together closely for the first time in years. And after enough citizens got angry at the always-empty parking lot, the tech school is making solid efforts by expanding their welding lab, beginning a carpentry program and assessing other needs. We rate this one going in the right direction.

• Fill the Buildings – We mentioned three prime commercial spots sitting empty in our 2018 wish list back in January. The former Hallmark store now contains the stylish Designs on Main. But the old NAPA building on the corner of downtown and the former Lawson Chevrolet site on Hwy. 515 are still not producing commercial spots. We get a 33 percent success rate here.

However, it can’t be ignored that two massive mixed-use developments on Highway 515, plus  a 96-unit apartment complex near Walmart, are moving along. We’d rate this one -  didn’t get it in 2018 but may get all we can handle in 2019.

 Other items sought in 2018:

• National championship for the Dawgs – best not discussed. 

•Pickens schools to improve system-wide test scores. A mixed bag here. It is refreshing to see the schools are very candid  about shortcomings, an honest attitude we have not seen from educators before, but unfortunately they have problem areas to discuss in the first place.

A few other points to ponder.  

It’s hard to tell how these bits of news may play out, but as Gandalf tells the Hobbits they may yet have a role to play in our future.

• By February of last year, the city found itself with a “historic power shift” at city hall with the mayor and city manager jobs being cleaved apart. Maybe this laid groundwork for improvement, maybe only rudderless. It’s hard to see any benefit so far.

• The county/city parted ways with their economic developer in February and thus far haven’t shown interest in filling that position. Commission Chair Rob Jones said Pickens is the only county in the area without a single person to direct economic development calls to, but he wasn’t sure what the  economic development councils/board wanted to do. Maybe we don’t need one.

• We were surprised when owners/developers of Potts Mountain (a 1,378 acre tract across the road from Big Canoe) decided to turn that area, once slated for additional phases of Big Canoe including a commercial area, into conservation property that will never be developed. While greenspace is always nice, we lament the loss of a future commercial area to capitalize off the successful gated community.

• Luckily for young couples they won’t have to wait to tie the knot until our county planning commission decides how to handle special event/wedding venues. Despite members of the commission acknowledging they need set guidelines and guidance, it’s still anyone’s guess how rezonings for venues will go.

•Kudos to Pickens County for landing a big one – water source that is. 2019 should see them filling water lines with 330,000 daily gallons from Grandview Lake. Finally a dedicated water source for the county system.