Leaders look to improve county in 2016
While Cherokee County has already garnered recognition as one of the top places to live in the state, the Board of Commissioners and county manager are working to make sure plans are in place for continued success in years to come.
At the start of the New Year, a common objective among leaders is to establish a long-term financial plan and boost economic development.
County Manager Jerry Cooper said the county’s strategic intent is to be the best local government, adding that implementing a long-term strategic plan will be instrumental in ensuring continual improvement and success.
In 2016, Cooper plans to present 10 Principles of Sound Financial Management, which would then need to be adopted by the Board of Commissioners as the guiding document for creation of the long-term financial plan.
“We will embark on a concerted effort to establish a long-term financial plan, basically mission impossible given the downturn since 2007,” Chairman Buzz Ahrens said. “Now that we have bottomed out and can see the future with much more clarity and confidence, I know that Jerry wants very much to draft this type of forward-looking financial view.”
Ahrens praised Cooper’s efforts. “As we have in the past several years, Cherokee County presents a very conservative budget based on a lot of behind the scenes, very professional work with all departments,” Ahrens said, adding that another objective is to exceed revenue and undershoot expenses. “Jerry does a terrific job of setting criteria, expectations, justifications and flexibility.”
The county welcomed a new chief financial officer in 2015, and Ahrens said he expects that the commission will review county financials on a monthly basis in the New Year.
Economic development has always been a top priority for Cherokee County leaders and that’s won’t change in 2016. “Economic development has been our No. 1 priority since I took office in January 2007. It remains our No. 1 priority,” Ahrens said. “It is also the most challenging goal to achieve, based on competition, complexity, confidentiality, financing options, expectation levels, etc.” The chairman said linked to economic development is the need to establish an innovation center in a collaborative effort with the Cherokee County Office of Economic Development, Chamber of Commerce, the school district, Chattahoochee Tech, Reinhardt and Kennesaw State University.
With new leadership at the Cherokee County Senior Center, Ahrens said he also would like re-ignite the Lifelong Communities initiative.
“This is an Atlanta Regional Commission product and Cherokee County was one of the very first to become involved. Regretfully, it was halted due to the economy and leadership gaps,” he said. “It focuses specifically on the 55-plus community and the huge expansion expected in the next 20 years or so.”
Other top goals for the chairman this year include creating diverse job opportunities and ensuring a balance between unincorporated and municipal boundaries for new business choices, not expansion of existing businesses. “We must continue efforts to ensure consistency of priorities and support with the cities within our county,” he said. “I tout our five diverse cities and their uniqueness. Jerry meets with the city managers monthly to ensure no major gaps, but we still need to send a consistent message of support for their initiatives and progress, and to be open to their initiatives such as Holly Springs’ recent communications about their Tax Allocation District.”
Cooper said he would like to build upon the county’s already successful public safety agencies.“Cherokee County has the best public safety personnel/operations in the region, and we would like to continue to build on that success in 2016, to include building three replacement fire stations and locating a volunteer fire operation at the former forestry property location on state Route 20,” Cooper said.
Cooper said he also would like to see the marshal’s office become the third CALEA-accredited agency in the country, begin construction of the Emergency Communication (E-911) backup center and continue to pursue fire and emergency services public protection rating of 2.
District 4 Commissioner Scott Gordon said 2016 will also bring an updated parks and recreation master plan, and the two remaining capital projects of the parks bond will be underway, with Patriots Park and improvements to Hobgood and Sequoyah parks expected to be completed by the year’s end. Veterans Park will follow close behind, he said.
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