State of the City of Jackson
My City of Jackson friends,
Georgia Cities Week is celebrated in April and it is my pleasure to share with you the “State of ‘your’ City.”
At the outset, I thank the residents, business owners/operators, churches, civic organizations, and young citizens in the City of Jackson for being our partners in keeping our City CLEAN, GREEN & SAFE! Thank you for your engagement and vision. We appreciate each one of you!
I also want to recognize and thank all other elected and appointed officials serving our community, including my colleagues on the Jackson City Council…Theodore Patterson, Lewis Sims, Ricky Johnson, Don Cook and Beth Weaver….who make the tough decisions that allow us to move forward. And a special appreciation to our Municipal Court Judge Byron Smith, City Attorney Byrd Garland, City Clerk/Financial Administrator Jeanette Riley, Director of Administration Cindy Murray, and Department Heads – Chip Garrison/Electric, Dawson Heath/Public Works, Sam Walker/Water & Sewer Maintenance, Ben Walker, Waste Water Management, Chief Harvey Norris/Fire and Chief James Morgan, Police Department. They lead a small, but mighty force of 39 employees who get up each day committed to working for you so that you need not worry about the civic infrastructure that enables your day and your life. We have a remarkable team and it is my honor and privilege to serve along side of them.
I could not be more proud to report to you that we now have seventy-seven (77) streets adopted in the City of Jackson! Businesses, churches, civic and service organizations, youth groups, athletic teams, families and individuals who are giving of their time and energy to pick up litter from our streets and roadsides at least quarterly, and in many cases far more often. These wonderful volunteers are not only making our environment look better, they are keeping trash from entering our storm water runoff and polluting our streams. Thank you Clean City Task Force members and adopt-a-street volunteers!
We have removed, or caused to be removed, more than 70 blighted houses, trailers and buildings, graded lots and planted grass seeds leaving behind clean, green spaces instead of overgrown, dilapidated structures attracting wild life…both animal and human!
We have adopted new ordinances banning semi-trucks from parking in our neighborhoods, ordinances governing blight, overgrown properties, abandoned vehicles, and other debris some property owners have allowed to be collected on their property. We have even established a “tree bank” ordinance to help grow and protect our tree population.
New roofs have been placed on our Police Headquarters and on the historic Hawkes Library Building which is being restored for future generations to enjoy. We have installed a new landscape around the Municipal Court Building and repaired the aging walls and roof of the mausoleum at the City Cemetery as well as other cemetery repairs. We have landscaped the entry to the City Cemetery, planted trees at the Pep Cemetery, and now working on signage for both, making these final resting places of near 5,000 loved ones more attractive and respectable.
Downtown is brighter thanks to the installation of LED lights on Third Street and more to be installed. Jackson is an “electric city” and one of the 49 cities comprising the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG). Our Electric Department, comprised of 4 employees, maintains 80 miles of electrical transmission lines and keeps the lights on 24/7 for over 2,000 homes and businesses with power outages averaging less than 2 hours per outage.
We have made major repairs to water and sewer lines, and new installations on McDonough Road, Cherry and Henderson Streets will be completed in the next 90 days. We have applied for a federal grant to jumpstart sorely needed and major sewer infrastructure improvements in targeted areas and will know in August if we are grant recipients. The City operates 3 sewer plants, all of which are in need of repairs; we have added new equipment and repairs have begun at the Southside Plant, and others are planned.
A new 700’ decel lane constructed by the City’s Public Works Department, helps with traffic flow and accommodates the approximate 13,000 vehicles per day on West Third Street. We have also resurfaced 18 streets and will pave 11 more in 2016. The same staff keeps the grass trimmed along 50 miles of roadsides and removes tons of vegetation and trash left curbside by residents.
For the third consecutive year, the City of Jackson was designated one of the top 20 safest cities in Georgia, becoming the 16th safest in 2015! We have a police chief and law enforcement staff of 14 working 24/7 to serve and protect us, our homes and businesses while also policing 46 miles of streets. We have joined the Butts County 911 program, closed an antiquated jail, and are now using the Butts County Jail to house city detainees while working in concert with the Butts County Sheriff’s Department.
Our town square has been spruced up with the installation of over 50 flowering hanging baskets, new plantings in the ground planters/pots, and appropriately groomed trees. The city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has been reorganized, trained and reinvigorated and now offers a façade grant to encourage and assist the remodeling of downtown store fronts…the first to take advantage was Flooring by Chip on Second Street and it looks fabulous. Three (3) movies have been filmed in downtown in the last 18 months contributing to our local economy, bringing positive recognition to our city as well as newly painted store fronts. We have adopted a new ordinance allowing the development of the over 50,000 square feet of available space upstairs in our downtown buildings into businesses or loft apartments.
The City issued 68 new business licenses in the last 2 years bringing the total number issued annually to 279 and more in the works. A new user friendly website with the option to pay utility bills online and read minutes of all city council meetings has been developed. New job descriptions have been written for all positions, a new market sensitive salary schedule and a complete updating all personnel policies have been developed and implemented. We have segregated banking and financial accounting duties among multiple employees assuring greater accountability of all public funds while new competitive bidding processes and enforcement of significant cost savings have enabled more stable budgeting.
All of this has been done without a property tax making 2016 Jackson’s 41st year without a property tax and Jackson’s 3rd consecutive year without an increase in electric rates. Unlike the federal government, we balance our budget each and every year, and we maintain a healthy rainy-day fund. We budget our revenues low and make our expenses realistic and justified.
And these are just our highlights…our City has accomplished so much more!
Indeed we are proud of our accomplishments, and we have learned that we must find new ways of doing things if we are to continue to not just survive, but to thrive. We are at a crossroads. We can cling to “the way things have always been” or we can build on our new changes, policies and directions. We must invest in ourselves if we expect others to invest in us. We have to work together to develop new policies and ways of doing things that will allow us to reap the benefits of our investments and our potential.
It is for these reasons that we have planned for a busy 2016. Here are a dozen of our goals for 2016:
1. 2016 will be the year of the sewer in the City of Jackson. We will undertake some serious measures to update and make improvements to our municipal sewer system infrastructure including developing a long-term improvement plan.
2. Continue to work with appropriate organizations to bring more new businesses to Jackson; host visits of economic developers; develop materials and information promoting our City.
3. Continue to review resources and expenses to continue to operate in a fiscally responsible manner.
4. Continue to study, update and enforce City ordinances.
5. Develop and implement a plan for improving gateways/entrances into our City
6. Continue to make Jackson Clean, Green & Safe – litter removal, blighted property removal, new vegetation and tree plantings, sidewalk repairs and construction, LED lighting, continue training for police officers in “community policing.”
7. Continue working with Friends of the Hawkes Library Building to restore and repurpose that historic property.
8. Begin to build pocket parks in identified neighborhoods
9. Make improvements at Pepperton Park
10. Study best use of city owned acreage and properties.
11. Continue to foster productive working relationships with all local governing bodies and the Butts County Sheriff’s Office.
12. Continue to build on successful working relationships with local churches and civic organizations.
We are a City of Strong Faith and we believe the seemingly impossible is possible, we will find a way forward. We will not tolerate naysaying to derail our opportunities. We, the Mayor and Council, city employees and civic minded citizens, with the help of the Butts County Board of Commissioners and our other government partners, will pick up the mantle and take responsibility for putting our community’s future on solid, more fertile ground.
Yes, the State of our City is strong, and with everyone’s help, it will be stronger. Jackson is geared for progress!
Kay Pippin, Mayor