Patch: Would you like to see Sunday retail package alcohol sales on the Nov. 6 ballot? Why or why not? Would you like to see Sunday restaurant by-the-drink alcohol sales on the Nov. 6 ballot? Why or why not?
Tom Worthan: Personally, as a non-drinker, I think six days a week should be sufficient time to purchase alcohol. However, I see these as economic development issues. All surrounding counties have Sunday sales, and our local small businesses are losing sales and revenue to them if we do not pass Sunday retail package sales. Our citizens who wish to purchase alcohol simply have to drive only a few miles to get it, and we lose the sales tax revenue and the jobs that are created by the sales.
The Sunday restaurant sales issue is similar in that restaurants desire to have Sunday sales. The higher-end restaurants that we desire to have in our community will not move here unless we have Sunday by-the-drink sales. The City of Douglasville already has it, and most probably will annex County property into the City to attract a restaurant. When the City annexes a property, the surrounding County property owners have no say in what goes on that annexed property. If we have the same rules and regulations as the City, annexation does not become an issue, and County residents will have a say on what is to go on adjacent property.
I believe the citizens of the County should decide these issues, and I am in favor of putting the referenda on the November 6th ballot.
Rita Rainwater: The Board of Commissioners will have to vote on this it is not a one person decision.
Patch: How do you differ most from your opponent?
Rita Rainwater: I am a very active person and I have a lot of vision for the county. I make things happen. I also feel very strongly about taking care of the citizens when they have a problem. I visited many of our citizens in their homes when I was in office to get a look at the problems they may have had with run-off or neighbors, etc. When Mr. Worthan was a district commissioner he told me that wasn’t my job. I was shocked because the people elect us and we should be there when they need us.
This is the people’s government and I truly feel it needs to be open and transparent. I tackle big projects with a team effort. I am not a dictator I like to get input from the whole team and work together. The building of the courthouse is a prime example: when I realized we were going to have to build a courthouse, I felt overwhelmed and had no idea where to begin. How big? Where? The questions went on and on in my thought process. I decided to visit the counties who had recently built courthouses or jails and find out how you start the project and do it frugally. I came back feeling that the commissioners in the other counties had dictated to the courts and other elected officials what their office space would be like and how it would operate. There were so many unhappy judges and constitutional officers. I talked with commissioners and explained we could do this in a positive manner if we involved all elected officials and we all worked as a team and we didn’t try to tell everyone what they were getting. That is what happened and the courthouse was build under budget and ahead of time.
My opponent has blamed me for the housing bubble and as people see today this is a nationwide problem. The staff and I spent many hours changing ordinances to slow the development down. I have seen a lot of development in the last 8 years so he has had the same problem. I lowered the millage rate to half of what it was when I first took office.
You set the millage rate from your digest. The digest is the total value of all personal property, real estate and vehicles.
2004 digest was $2,969,379,398 the millage was 7.631
2005 digest was $3,295,119,197 the millage was 7.349
2006 digest was $3,635,574,058 the millage was 8.74
2007 digest was $4,079,056,796 the millage was 7.861
2008 digest was $4,300,264,819 the millage was 7.826
2009 digest was $4,313,732,890 the millage was 7.932
2010 digest was $3,736,859307 the millage was 10.028
2011 digest was $3,621,759,282 the millage was 9.900
Mr. Worthan has stated that he had lower digests to work with and that is why he had to raise taxes. Not true.
With our equipment in bad shape only 2 raises for county employees in 8 years. The roads in the shape they are in. Where is Mr. Worthan spending your money?
Tom Worthan: I have served as a District Commissioner, State Representative, and Commission Chairman for a period of time that spans three decades. I grew up in Douglas County, and I know our people because they have been my neighbors and friends for my whole life. I was brought up on Douglas County values, and I keep and honor them today.
During my terms of office as Commission Chairman, I have led this great County through the worst drought in our history, the greatest flood in our history, and the worst economic depression in our lifetime. We did not panic. We led with resolve and dedication, and we now have a reliable water system, better roads and bridges, and a financially stable County government.
In the past eight years, our County has gone from out-of-control and unmanageable growth to stability with quality development. We are no longer a community of almost exclusively starter homes as was the case when I took office, but a community of higher quality homes and commercial development.
Financially, we are in better shape than almost any county in the Nation because we have been fiscally conservative. The only long-term debt we have will be paid off in November 2013. Our employee pension plan is fully funded. We have a reserve fund to handle emergency situations.
That reserve fund was what kept us viable during the September 2009 floods. Over 178 roads and bridges were damaged/washed out, as well as our water system– and the repairs were up to us – FEMA only reimburses a percentage of costs and it sometimes takes years to get these funds. Conservative fiscal leadership made the difference.
Since 2005, the industrial value of the County tax digest has grown from $498 million (5.4% of the digest) to $844 million (8.4% of the digest) - growth in the middle of a devastating economic recession. We continue to market for and attract industrial development and jobs, including high-tech and high salary companies such as Google and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Economic development has been, and will continue to be, a top priority for me.
While other counties and cities were curtailing and canceling programs and activities due to the recession, Douglas County constructed three fire stations, opened the new Lithia Springs Recreational Park, revamped the Woodrow Wilson Park, constructed the new 911/Emergency Operations Center, and built and opened the beautiful new Dog River Library.
We communicate with our citizens at a level unheard of just about anywhere else in the Nation with monthly Chats with the Chairman, weekly newsletters, daily Facebook updates, live Commission meeting broadcasts, a dynamic web site with over 1,000 pages and documents, and more. This is what our citizens tell us they want our County to do and be – and I listen.
“If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards.” I pledge to keep Douglas County moving forward into a bright and positive future.
Patch: What major projects do you see facing the County in the next four years?
- Lee Road widening (to four lanes) from Interstate 20 to Fairburn Road
- Lee Road and South Sweetwater Road widening (turn lanes) from Interstate 20 to Bankhead Highway
- New Animal Shelter
- Expansion of the Woodie Fite Senior Center (grant-funded with construction start to begin this year)
- Renovation of the current Blake Gammill Building (after the Sheriff’s Department moves out) to house the Fire/EMS Administrative Offices (moving from Fire Station 5) and Development Services Departments (moving from Courthouse)
- Expansion of Court services inside the Courthouse (addition of a 4th Superior Court)
Rita Rainwater: As I have said earlier our roads are a big problem we need new roads, widened roads and many, many roads repaved. All dirt roads need to be paved. Bringing JOBS, JOBS, JOBS and more JOBS to Douglas County is very important. Our parks need a lot of improvements.
They were to get many things done with the SPLOST money and I see it didn’t happen. Mr. Worthan will tell you it is because the aquatic center cost so much but he added a lot of cost on at the end because of mistakes that were made after I left. I want to see that each park has what they need. Our children are our most precious assets and we need to make sure we have parks they enjoy participating in with all sports. It is very discouraging when they go to other counties who have parks so much nicer and safer than ours.
I want to see that all the walking trails are put in at Dog River Park and the walking and horse trails at Boundary Waters Park. The other parks should not be neglected because of these parks. There are many projects here in the county we need to prioritize. This needs to be done with a lot of citizen input. I want to change the second meeting each month back to an evening meeting so the public will have an opportunity to attend. I will also honor our children again at commission meetings for achievements that they have accomplished. People have told me how sterile the meetings are and how they miss the personal touch and the honoring of their children for accomplishments.
There is so much we can do to make things better in this county that will not cost money but will give the county and our citizens a feeling of pride for Douglas County. By electing me as your chairman you will not have more over development as Mr. Worthan Claims. You will have a chairman who will work with the community to make things better and improve our county so that everyone here will enjoy living here, working here and playing here. Remember in this economy we have to improve what we have because other than jobs development is at a standstill. As always I will work on lowering the millage rate and frugally prioritizing how we spend your tax dollars.
Democratic candidate Romona Jackson Jones did not respond to repeadted Douglasville Patch emails to participate in this Q & A.
Other Douglasville Patch articles on this matter: