State of the County

Carroll County Commission Chairman Michelle Morgan, left, chats with Carrollton attorney Phil Wilkins following her presentation of the “State of the County” at Tuesday’s membership breakfast held at Carroll EMC’s Robert D. Tisinger Community Center.

Carroll County Commission Chairman Michelle Morgan presented a broad overview of the current state of the county during a presentation made at the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce’s annual membership breakfast held Tuesday morning at Carroll EMC’s Robert D. Tisinger Community Center.

Citing a recent article from the Journal of Emergency Dispatch that called Carroll County a “golden place to live,” Morgan reflected on some of the major improvements that have been made recently in regard to county services, as well as future plans that will enable Carroll County to continue the progress that has been made in recent years.

The following are highlights from the commission chairman’s comments:

Emergency Management Agency

While some cities have their own 911 call center, Carroll County dispatches for each city and for West Georgia Ambulance.

New County Fire Chief Chuck Barnwell, a Villa Rica resident who has been working with the Gwinnett County Fire Department for the past 22 years, was introduced.

Staffing for the county’s 13 fire stations has been challenging, especially for the two newest facilities in the Tyus-Carrollton Road and Jones Mill Road areas.

Turned down twice for a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Grant from FEMA, the commissioners have made a commitment to financially support the hiring of 16 new firefighters and support staff in the upcoming budget.

Other staffing challenges are also being experienced. Overall, the county has budgeted 626 full-time and 143 part-time employees for the current fiscal year (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022), but currently has 546 full-time employed. While the Sheriff’s Department is budgeted for 195 staff members, there are currently 20 openings. The county prison has 18 openings with a need for 7 correctional officers.

The Carroll County Fire Department has 26 openings. A new training class is set to begin Jan. 24.

$11 million grant received

Among other comments made by Morgan in regard to budgeting, she said that an $11 million grant was received from the American Rescue Plan. One of the areas in which the commission decided to utilize the funds is to improve access to clean drinking water and stormwater infrastructure in northern Carroll County that will include the area of US 27 to Bremen and toward Mt. Zion. The county will be partnering with the Carroll County Water Authority on this project.

Additionally, Morgan noted that providing a solution for sewer access in the same area will not only better the quality of life for citizens who live there, but will also serve as a major plus to businesses and industry looking to grow in the area.

Also, funds have been allocated to the county’s court system. The National Center for State Courts has been engaged to assist in the renovation planning and programming needed to finish the 5th floor of the Carroll County Courthouse. Tentatively, it is expected that the Superior Court will move to the 5th floor with the State Court relocating to the 4th floor.

The Public Defender’s Office and Magistrate Court could also be affected in anticipated moves following the renovations.

Morgan explained that the county is paying rent for the public defender’s space that has become inadequate.

“In the next few months, we should have a plan to review and make a decision on how to proceed to better serve those utilizing services such as passports, marriage licenses and other functions of the court,” Chairman Morgan said.

Because of the funds received through the American Rescue Plan, a second Mental Health Mobile Crisis Unit will be added. The unit consists of a certified peace officer/EMT and a licensed mental health clinician.

“This endeavor has been a wonderful partnership with the City of Carrollton, Tanner Health System, Steve Adams, and Pathways, a behavioral health care organization serving children, adolescents, and adults, to address an array of mental health and substance abuse issues,” noted Morgan.

The county commission chairman began the next segment of her “State of the County” address Tuesday with the comment, “Let’s talk trash for a moment.”

Beginning with an introduction of Jaqueline Dost as Carroll County’s new solid waste manager, Morgan said that the county owns 10 convenience centers strategically located across the county’s 504 square miles at which residents can drop off trash and have recycling opportunities. Approximately

$2.2 million annually from the county’s general fund is devoted to running the centers that are manned by

SLM Recycling to take care of the expenses associated with hauling the trash and recycling from the centers.

Last year, Morgan noted that all of the trash from the 10 convenience centers across the county and the City of Carrollton, as well as from many independent companies, residents and trash haulers, crossed the transfer station scales at an average of 2,000 tons per month. Funds generated by the transfer station, which operates as an enterprise fund, generated approximately

$3.5 million which funded the salaries of five employees, the operation of the station, and its equipment.

Carroll County also renewed its glass recycling program during 2021 at the request of many citizens, Morgan said. She explained that the program is too new at this time to provide meaningful statistics, but it is a cost saving measure for the county since the heavy weight of glass is being diverted from the landfill.

During 2021 county residents recycled 531 tons of cardboard and 591 tons of metal.

Chairman Morgan reported that the recent (2020) census showed that Carroll County’s population grew by 9,000 people and that most of the growth was in the Center Point, Temple and northern Carroll County area. Building permits indicated that 203 new homes were constructed last year, almost doubling the 105 units that went up during 2020.

“We have approximately 800 buildable final platted lots in Carroll County now and one new subdivision where the homes are four-acre lots advertised at $670,000,” Morgan said.

“For the record, Carroll County has 180 subdivisions, and this number does not include subdivisions within the various city limits in the county,” she added.

Chairman Morgan said that she was thankful to the citizens for renewing SPLOST which is making possible some building improvements to better serve citizens in county facilities, as well as provide a good working environment for employees.

Singled out as upcoming projects were: renovations to the Temple convenience center that will include two new trash compactors, the addition of glass recycling, and a safer traffic flow accomplished by a second point of access — completion expected by the end of March anticipated plans, drawings and ground breaking for the new fire station in Villa Rica site selection and due diligence phase for a new county administration building — the current administration building located on College Street in Carrollton (the city’s old College Street Elementary School) has been used since 1992

Susan A. Mabry Citizens Academy, which will provide participants with a behind-the scenes look at how Carroll County provides high quality services to its residents, will begin in February. Mabry, who served as executive director of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners for many years, passed away last September.

Carroll County has a population of 119,148 people, according to the 2020 U.S. Census, making it the 21st most populated county among Georgia’s 159 counties.

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