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The Monroe County Reporter
Forsyth, Georgia
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November 13, 2019     The Monroe County Reporter
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November 13, 2019
 

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November l3, 20l9 Forsyth Gardens to get $1] million makeover; By Diane Glidewell news©mymcmet Forsyth council approved a resolution to allow the Athens Housing Authority to issue bonds not to exceed $11 million for the “acquisition, rehabilitation and development” of Forsyth Gar— , dens Apartments at 500 Cabaniss Road, Forsyth. The resolution places the city of Forsyth under necessary so that the Athens Housing Authority could issue the bonds for a project in an area outside its jurisdiction. Iamie Garner of Macon, bonding counsel for the Athens Housing Authority handling the legalities of the bond issuance, explained that Forsyth Gardens Apartments are part of a portfolio of six properties that are being re- habilitated by a company. He said the Forsyth Housing Authority has given approval to the project and approval by council is the “last piece of the puzzle.” Garner said the company plans to spend about $62,000 per unit at Forsyth Gardens, putting in new cabinets, new appliances and making other improvements in the apartments plus improving lighting and sidewalks through— out the complex, putting new asphalt in the parking areas, re- placing flooring in the commons room, replacing playground equipment, fitness equipment and computers in the common areas. He said there are 78 units in Forsyth Gardens. Garner said $11 million is the amount of tax exempt bonds to be issued; the total project, in- cluding equity, is $12.6 million. “It’s a substantial project,” said Garner. No one expressed any interest at the public hearing held before Page 7C . inane council voted. Council member: Mike Dodd compared the project to the improvements currently underway at the 52-unit Pied- mont Hills Apartments, which was bonded under the Macon Housing Authority. “Piedmont Apartments look wonderful,” said' Dodd. Information was not available on when work on Forsyth Gar- dens might begin. no financial obligation but was Local leaders give updates at 'One Monroe' By Diane Glidewell news©mymcrnet Forsyth, Culloden and Monroe County lead- ers came together for a One Monroe meeting on Oct. 29 at Monroe County Middle School lunchroom, with Board of Education Chair Nolen Howard preparing a low country boil for those attending. One Monroe meets each month that has a fifth Tuesday to bring leadership from the cities and county together for updates and conversation. Culloden Mayor Lynn Miller said that use of Culloden’s new Com- munity Center is grow- ing rapidly. The city is regularly holding a Food Bank, is begining quilt- ing classes, has students using the computers at the Community Center for school projects and has had residents inter- ested in holding reunions at the building. Monroe County Library has plans for computer classes at the Center in Culloden, and Culloden is partner— ing with other groups to help in Monroe County Schools Backpack Buddies program, a project to send home food over weekends with students that might go hungry. Culloden hosted Mon- roe County Board of Edu— cation for its first ‘rolling meeting’ in September. Culloden will host its 2nd Annual Christmas Party on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 5 pm. at the Commu- nity Center. The city will honor a special citizen at that event. Miller said Culloden is eager to part- ner in other events and projects that will make the community better. Executive Director of Forsyth Convention & Visitors Bureau Gilda Stanbery showed the group the video produced by the CVB to promote tourism and said it is available for local groups to post to websites. She provided a hand-out of 2018 tourist information for both Middle Geor- gia and Monroe County and pomted out that all numbers are up, to the benefit of the economy in the area. Mayor Pro Tem Chris Hewitt updated the group on the city of Forsyth. He said the city has concrete down for the new dog park and is waiting on fencing; Forsyth council has reviewed the first draft of a park master plan. The city received a Commu- nity Block Development grant for water lines on Blount Street. Hewett said the city has awarded a demolition contract on the building that stands where it plans to build a new city hall, and demolition should be finished by Dec. 31. The city is still under Drought Response Level 2 watering restrictions. There will be a hometown connections meeting with legislators on Nov. 12 from 12 noon— 2 pm. that will include discussion of commercial vehicle lanes. Monroe County Com— mission Chair Greg Tapley said the county has pur- chased needed equipment, signed a lease agreement for the Bolingbroke Com- munity Building and the Bolingbroke Fire Depart- ment, slightly lowered the tax millage rate for prop- erty owners and finalized the 2020 SPLOST bond issuance. Tapley said the county is in the midst of a salary study for county employ- ees being done by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. He said the commission’s intent is to do the best thing for both employees and constitu- ents but there are a lot of “moving parts” to take into consideration. The county is also involved in a water rate study and in plans for the new District Attorney building. It is seeking a grant to construct public restrooms in Iuliette. It has received results of an energy audit of county buildings. Tapley said concrete has been poured at the county’s new fire station, and an early December move-in is expected. The county is supporting the Bicentennial Commit- tee led by Gilda Stanbery and Ralph Bass to plan celebration of 200 years since Monroe County’s founding. The county has signed all paperwork on the $750,000 Commu- nity Block Development grant to renovate Monroe County Health Depart- ment. The county has $530,000 in water projects for the southern part of the county planned. Monroe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman and the Board of Education members pres- ent (Eva Bilderback, Stuart Pippin, Nolen Howard, Iudy Pettigrew, Greg Head) thanked Forsyth- Monroe County Chamber of Commerce President/ CEO Cheri Lance for being a “true partner” to BOE. Lance had an- nounced that she would leave her position with the Chamber-on Nov. 1. Hickman said that Lance not only partnered with Monroe County Schools in projects they had in place, like the STAR Stu- dent at Mary Persons and the Rising Star program at Monroe County Middle School but also offered good ideas for additional partnerships. She sug- gested literacy awards for the youngest students, to include both those read- ing at the highest level and those most improved. “She has always re- sponded,” said Hickman. “We’re going to miss her.” Hickman shared that Monroe County Schools had just received complete data from state testing and evaluation for 2018-19 and is now rated 9th in the state. The data includes student content mastery, growth, high school grad- uation rate and closure of gaps between differ- ent demographic groups. Hickman said Monroe County schools have the largest percentage of eco- nomically disadvantaged and special needs students of school systems in the top ten in the state. “We’re making sure all kids get it, and this is what we’re charged to do,” said Hickman. “This is a com- munity award.” He talked about the new “Readers to Leaders” program where volun- teers help students pre-K to 2nd grade with read- ing. The first group of 20 volunteers has trained and the second group was ready for training. Hick- man thanked the Board of Commissioners and espe- cially Commissioner Ed— die Rowland for helping with the traffic problems at Monroe County Middle School. Hickman said the next phase of improvements at MCMS will begin this summer as the lunch- room is expanded and 14 classrooms are added. The project will prob; ably be completed in the spring of 2021; classes will continue at MCMS during the work. Hickman said Monroe County’s three Monroe County Board of Education thanked For- syth-Monroe County Board of Education President/CEO ” Cheri Lance ' for her support of Monroe County Schools at the One Monroe meet- ing on Oct. 29. Pictured are Board mem- bers Stuart Pippin, Eva Bilderback, Judy Petti- grew, Lance, Nolen Howard, Supt. Dr. Mike ‘ Hickman, Gred' ' Head. (Photo/ ‘3‘ Diane Glide- ' well) elementary schools have room for growth, but the " middle school is at capac- : ity with about 970 stu- E dents. The main campus of Mary Persons has room for more students, but a new freshman building is needed. Chamber of Commerce Chair Keith Anthony reminded everyone to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 5 in city elections and the T— SPLOST referendum. On Election Day, voting for both city and county is at Monroe County Recre- ation Department. City and county voters cast all ballots at the County An- nex during early voting. Commissioner George Emami said he attended a committee meeting of state legislators in Moult- rie about expanding Inter-V: net access in rural areas. ‘, He said Monroe County . was mentioned a lot in the meeting as an example ~ of where expansion is A needed. A statewide meet- ing on Internet expansion is scheduled at the Geor- gia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth. “We hope there will be some good things to announce,” said Emami. “The meeting will bring attention here and push things along.” aflf!‘ i ,\ Forsyth hears about Middle Ga. Clean Air Coalition By Diane Glidewell news@mymcr.net Ray Clark, senior advisor to the Middle Georgia Clean Air Coali- tion (MGCAC), spoke to Forsyth city council on Oct. 21 to tell council what the Clean Air Coali— tion does. Clark said 11 counties are members and that Forsyth Mayor Eric Wilson and Mon- roe CountyCommission Chair Greg Tapley are both officers of MGCAC. Clark said MGCAC was formed in 2003 after Houston, Bibb and Monroe Counties were warned they could receive a non-attainment rating from the US. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not meeting ozone standards. Plant Scherer in Monroe County was a significant part of the reason. Clark said he was working for the Department of the Army in Washington, DC, where he was involved with closing military installations and helping with economic development in the regions affected by closures. Ron Smith, who was then commander at Robins Air Force Base, called him to help because he knew how costly it would be to develop a plan to get back an attainment rating. Clark said the US. Armed Forces won’t put any new mis- sions in non-attainment regions. Clark said he suggested a re- gional organization that included elected officials, not just volun— teers, to work with US. EPA. The Middle Georgia Clean Air Coali- tion was formed, and Clark nego- tiated with EPA to keep Houston and Monroe counties from being designated non-attainment. He has continued to work with the group as its senior advisor for the last 16 years. “Keeping in attainment is worth an extraordinarily lot of money,” said Clark He said Middle Georgia Clean Air Coalition has been successful because it is regional, includes elected officials and has been in place for 16 years. One of its initiatives is the 138 megawatt solar array on en- croachment lands around Robins AFB. During 2019 it sponsored the Solarize Middle Georgia project, partnering with residents and commercial property owners to bring them information about solar power and help them obtain proposals for installing solar. Pro- grams about solar were held in cities around the 11—county area. MGCAC has pioneered in ad- vocating LED lighting for street lights. Clark said it lasts longer, requiring less labor to change bulbs, and provides better light. MGCAC secured a $4.5 million grant to partner with Norfolk Southern to get a ‘clean’ locomo- tive to reduce emissions at the rail yard in Macon. Clark said every county had a project; he remembered the Forsyth police chief asked for a Segway scooter to reduce emissions traveling around the city, and the Forsyth Police Department also got two hybrid cars. Forsyth partnered y, l with MGCAC to install an electric car charging station, with MGCAC paying half of the cost up to $10,000. Stations were also ‘. installed in Macon, Jones County? and Warner Robins. “There’s a whole energy revolu- ‘ 1 tion going on. Electric cars are v coming,” said Clark “Utilities ‘ may become the new filling sta- ” tions.” He said MGCAC has saved Forsyth an annual cumulative .2 , savings of $65,000 to $72,000. ;: MGCAC has awarded three 41'? u "a II scholarships to environmental I studies majors at Mercer Univer‘ai sity. It has an on-going offer of at; 50 percent matching grant up to" ' $5,000 for projects in any of its member cities or counties that , will improve the quality of air. {, - was i