Photo by Michael Buckelew
CONYERS -- After a year of tough budget decisions in a difficult economy, Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden plans to focus on the future in his third State of the County address Monday with the theme "Looking Forward to the Road Ahead."
The address will be held at 7 p.m., Monday, in the Rockdale County Auditorium, at 903 N. Main St. Matt Hicks, associate legislative director of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, will speak briefly before Oden's speech.
Typically, the annual speech is used to list accomplishments and set the agenda for the county in the coming year.
Rockdale County spokeswoman Erica Fatima said Oden plans to highlight the good works of the county's Finance Department, the continuing progress to improve the county-owned water and sewer utility, Rockdale Water Resources, and other accomplishments in 2010.
The Finance Department received its first certificate of excellence from the Georgia Government Financial Officers Association for 2009 and has worked to improve internal processes and reporting procedures during the past year.
Those efforts were done during the worst budget crisis the county has faced in recent memory. Dropping property values caused an expected revenue gap of $4 million in the 2010 county budget and it took a series of spending cuts, unpaid holidays and a work force reduction to get finances back in balance.
RWR continued to face challenges in 2010 as officials switched over to a new software system. The pain worsened due to delayed billing to customers early in the year as accounts were moved from one computer system to another.
The new system also offers new opportunities in the coming year for RWR. An online pay option is expected to be available to water and sewer customers by this spring.
RWR was recognized for quality of operations for its drinking and wastewater treatment facilities in 2010 by the Georgia Association of Water Professionals. The Scott Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant was named the best operated plant of the year for its size.
Also, the county's drinking water was recognized for the best-tasting drinking water in GAWP's district 3, which covers 14 counties and includes all of the metropolitan Atlanta area.
However, challenges remain for the water department in 2011. RWR presented a balanced budget for this year but warned depreciation in net assets remains a concern. The RWR budget has no consideration in 2011 for capital investments to the distribution system and facilities.
Attracting business will likely be a priority for Oden in the coming year to improve the county's tax base and create jobs. The term "Perfectly Positioned" was unveiled in 2009 as part of the county government's marketing efforts.
Oden may also discuss the new $75 million SPLOST program that was approved by voters last year. The SPLOST will run through 2017 to fund capital improvement projects in public safety, transportation, senior services and recreation.
Also, the recipient of the Charlie P. Cole Citizen Involvement Award is traditionally announced at the annual State of the County address.
The Board of Commissioners established the award in 2004 in honor of the late Charlie Cole, a longtime activist and north Rockdale resident. The purpose of the award is to recognize outstanding, civic-minded individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to the betterment of Rockdale County.
Janice and Tolbert Morris were recognized last year for their work in operating the Helping Hands Education Outreach and Clinic in Lakeview Estates. Also awarded was long-time county resident Don Patterson, who was recognized for his volunteer efforts in recreation in the county and for serving on several authorities and citizen boards.