County/city leaders outline plans for Henry in 2018

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Local government leaders are hitting the ground running in 2018, with plans that they hope will contribute to a prosperous year for local residents.

Officials addressed their plans for the coming year in areas ranging from crime to transportation to economic development.

Board of Commissioners Chair June Wood said she wants to work toward ensuring that Henry County provides a place for families and businesses to thrive.

“My hope for Henry County in 2018 is that we continue to move forward in making Henry County the most desired place to live, work and play - a place where people want to raise their families, where businesses grow and continue to succeed and everyone enjoys an exceptional quality of life,” said Wood. “As a Board, we will continue to focus on important issues that affect our citizens, including public safety and health, transportation improvements, economic development and strengthening intergovernmental and metro region partnerships.”

Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer acknowledged that when it comes to keeping the community safe, there’s no such thing as a slow season or a busy one. That being said, he outlined a series of projects his agency has lined up to address crime locally in the coming year.

“For 2018, We will continue to stay proactive on crime,” said McBrayer. “We have seen a spike in fraud cases and especially people trying to con senior citizens. We are trying to educate our community as to what we are seeing but want to make sure that personal information is not given out to anyone over the phone for any reason. Social media gives crooks so much personal information and people seem to fall into a trap very often.”

The sheriff added that efforts are ongoing to protect residents from harm throughout the county, and called on the community to be a part of that process going forward.

“We will continue this year to have programs on church safety and security,” said McBrayer. “We will try hard to make sure that the community understands the responsibilities of law enforcement. We want to work with the citizens and have them assist in their neighborhoods to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. Everyone’s goal is to keep the county safe.

“We will continue to work at eliminating gangs in the County and will push for harsh sentences against gang members that try to terrorize their neighborhoods,” the sheriff continued. “Our resource officers will continue to help all of our 42,000 students in our schools to be safe, free from bullying, and hopefully have a great learning environment for learning. We have a great county and look forward to a great and prosperous 2018 for all of Henry County.”

Leaders in each of Henry County’s four cities are also working to identify ways to meet residents’ needs in 2018. McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland said he - along with his fellow mayors in Stock-bridge, Hampton and Locust Grove - will meet regularly with Wood to discuss issues affecting area residents.

“We’re having a retreat this week to lay out the cities’ plans for 2018,” said Copeland. “We’re going to meet quarterly, at least, and maybe sooner than that. If we can just sit down at the table and break bread, I think it’s going to be wonderful. Working together, that’s what it’s all about.”

Newly sworn-in Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford took office on January 8, and spoke with confidence regarding plans for his city. Those plans, he said, carry implications that extend well beyond 2018.

“We have a comprehensive plan for the growth and development of the city of Stockbridge,” said Ford. “It’s a 20-year plan, and we’ll have the citizens’ input in the process. It’s going to involve the downtown area, and it’s going to involve Jodeco South, which is the mixed use development area at Jodeco Road and I-75.”

Ford said Stockbridge will implement a beautification plan for Ga. Highway 138, and that the city is working to develop a service-delivery strategy to address public safety in the area. He said the city is also working to take the reins on building and permitting processes in the city.

“We’re taking the responsibility away from the county, and we’re doing it ourselves,” said Ford. “We have the capability to do it, and we want to become our own complete city.

He added that Stockbridge plans to use SPLOST funds for capital improvement projects and enhancements to local parks, as well the creation of a cultural community center.

“We’re going to adopt a new branding initiative to attract businesses to help with economic growth, and to attract more residents,” said Ford. “We’re trying to put a new twist on the city itself.”

Locust Grove Mayor Robert Price said transportation projects will take center stage in his city this year. He said the “biggest impact” in 2018 will center on a proposed interchange at Bethlehem Road at I-75.

“It’s just according to the canal in Panama opening up, which it’s doing, and the port in Savannah,” said Price. “That will have a big impact on train and truck traffic in the northern part of Locust Grove and the southern part of Henry County.”

He said transportation projects on Bill Gardner Parkway, as well as on Ga. Highway 42 and Peeksville Road, are among the projects that will contribute to improvements for the city.

“That will help during peak times of traffic,” said Price. “The city completed a new public safety building in 2017 and is in good shape to continue projects to enhance the city in 2018. We’re also expecting a big growth in new homes, to the tune of 400, in 2018. It could be more than that.”

In Hampton, Mayor Steve Hutchison said city leaders will be focused on improving the area’s infrastructure in the new year. He cited new sidewalks and road improvements as measures that will be taken to assist in accomplishing that goal.

“We just want to make sure we can handle anything for growth, or anything in the future,” said Hutchison. “People love to walk, and they love to ride their bikes. Since we have a new senior center, we’re getting a lot more traffic to the center.”

Hutchison said he and his City Council will be examining tools which can be used for economic growth in 2018.

We’re looking for a bright new year going forward,” he said.