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11-21-09 - Proposed (Economic) Partnership is opposed by many in Oconee County

..industry coming to a community has lost much of its old appeal. Oh, we still hear that we need jobs and payrolls. It is hard to understand that argument for a county that has the highest median income in Georgia! .. According to the AB-H article (11.21.09), Athens-Clarke has a 30.8 % poverty rate and Oconee has 6.9 %! Are we going to move some of the poor to our dormant or dead subdivisions?

AVOC

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November 21, 2009

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Proposed (Economic) Partnership is opposed by many in Oconee

County

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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Many readers have expressed agreement with AVOC’s article on October 30, 2009.

10-30-09 Oconee – Athens-Clarke Economic Partnership idea needs more reflection

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Some who attended the “Town Hall” meeting in Oconee indicated that some of the speakers were some of the same special interests that helped bring on the housing crash (and financial crisis) in Oconee County.   Self-interest and unbridled greed of many drove this county to the point of having 1,000 to 1,500 developed lots sitting empty along with 100’s more ready for Final Platting.  

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Several knowledgeable sources have indicated that Oconee County will be several years overcoming the surplus of residential development in the County.   Commercial and office space is sitting empty all over the county.    Many businesses are hurting – in Oconee and Clarke.

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As to industry, most of that has left the country.   That is very obvious in driving through urban areas of the mid-west, especially Michigan and Detroit.   Truthfully, industry coming to a community has lost much of its old appeal.    Oh, we still hear that we need jobs and payrolls.   It is hard to understand that argument for a county that has the highest median income in Georgia!

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It is difficult to see any real advantage to Oconee County in formally partnering with Athens-Clarke County.   Oconee is drawing commercial business and Athens-Clarke is losing business.   Clarke has one of the highest poverty rates in the State.   Economic development has not reduced property taxes or provided a ‘recession-proof’ budget.   According to a November 21, 2009, AB-H article, Athens-Clarke has a 30.8 % poverty rate and Oconee has 6.9 %!   Are we going to move some of the poor to our dormant or dead subdivisions?   Poverty tightens grip on Clarke AB-H – 11-21-09.   

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Commissioners who vote for this and who help “Move the Courthouse” will face fierce opposition in the next election(s).   That we can “TAKE to THE BANK”!

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Larry Ward

1060 Fambrough Bridge Road

Watkinsville, GA30677

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14 Nov 2009

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To:   Mr. J.R. Whitfield, President

Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, and

Community Leaders

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Dear Everyone:

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            When visiting with you and discussing your new position as President of The Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, I reminded you that one of things that angers many in this well educated community is the dissemination of misinformation. You were quoted in this week'sOconee Enterprise as saying the following: “The Chamber undeniably supports economic growth. It creates new jobs and tax relief--------.”  New jobs it can create.But tax relief under our present property tax system it does not/has not.   In fact, the exact opposite is true. Considerable effort has gone into correcting this false premise.

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            Please consider the following facts. Look carefully at what the past ten years of accelerated growth and development has achieved.  Oconee County now finds itself in debt in excess of one hundred million dollars, almost unbelievable as compared to a few years ago. Our schools are suffering from growing pains which traditionally have led to poorer quality. We have traffic congestion. Our property taxes have increased at an alarming rate, with more increases likely coming soon.  We have many vacant or partially developed pieces of real estate.   We are one of the few counties with two of our banks in serious trouble. Why?  The answer is obvious.  These are the direct results of out of control economic growth/development and related politics and a very unfair transfer of wealth and assets from one group of Oconee citizens to others. Our leaders have been heavily influenced by a small group, often the same ones that continue to stand and speak at Commission meetings in favor of more and larger development. 

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            Do you not see what this direction of thinking and moving is doing to our community and our quality of life?  We have enjoyed one of the most desirable places on earth to live for many years with favorable tax rates until this political faction took control of our County a few years ago. Are we going to allow a few to destroy all of that for which we have worked? Our citizens turned out in significant numbers at the last election to address this specific issue. I trust that our Commissioners will not abandon the majority of Oconee citizens that put them in office for the specific purpose of stopping the decline of our community. Among this group of citizens are those that believe the promotion of economic growth and development should be a function of the private sector and not government.  It should not be funded with taxpayer money.  

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            We want desperately to support our Chamber of Commerce and local businesses and to get our County out of debt, but this will never happen until we eliminate all false propaganda related to accelerated growth and development.  Please look carefully at Athens-Clarke County, a major player in this recent effort. This is the smallest county in Georgia, yet it is celebrated as the major center of economic growth and development in Northeast Georgia. It has had most of the major industrial growth and development for the past fifty years.   Look at it from any perspective you choose. Is it any better in any respect than Oconee County?   Is this what we want Oconee County to become? Without UGA, it would be in serious trouble. Why would we want to go down this same path?

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            We in Oconee are a unique County compared to our neighbors.  What is incorrect about trying to protect that quality from those that attempt to exploit our envied status for economic gain? Our children will thank us for preserving such a beautiful place for them to come home to even if they have to leave each day to work as many of us do. We must protect our home from this culture, from those obsessed with the greedy philosophy that development is our only salvation. Places as desirable as Oconee County are becoming more difficult to find each day.  I cannot sit quietly by and see my way of life and County destroyed. I will continue to speak out as long as I am able.

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            There are members of the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce who share a love for the Oconee County I know and love.  I respectfully ask that the Chamber discuss this matter and allow for open debate.  I and a number of individuals I know would gladly participate in such a forum. We need and appreciate your leadership in the best sort of business: that which helps citizens and the quality of life, not just a few. We need a wise, open-minded, and informed Chamber representing the best interests of all Oconee County citizens.

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Respectfully Submitted,

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Larry S. Ward       

 


Larry Ward Letter on Joint Oconee-Clarke Econ Dev Office 10.29.09

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                                                                                        October 29, 2009

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To: Oconee County Citizens

From: The Winners Only Teams For Better Government

Subject: Merger with Clarke County on Economic Growth and Development

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     Every Oconee Citizen should know that substantial pressure is being applied to our Oconee County Board of Commissioners for their approval of a project that involves Clarke County and thousands of our tax dollars.  The cost of this project could possibly reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from Clarke and Oconee citizen’s wallets. There is what I consider to be an attempt to quickly fly this under the radar of we citizens and get it approved..  Oconee County commissioner Chuck Horton has admirably fought back clearly stating that he would vote against this expenditure of taxpayers money at least until more is known about this project and its goals and objectives more clearly defined.   A local newspaper even took cheap shots a Commissioner Horton for his stance. A commissioners meeting has been schedule for this coming Tuesday, Nov.3 at the courthouse to discuss this issue and could possibly involve a vote.

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      Unless you want more of  the same unwise decisions that has brought us double and triple property tax increases, acres of vacant undeveloped subdivisions, county debt reaching into one hundred million dollar range or more and two of our banks in serious trouble as a result of bad commercial loans we request and advise you to take a few hours of you time and attend the Commissioners meeting on Tuesday Nov 3.

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      All you have to do is stand up and say you want no part of this merger with Clarke County. We need more time for study. The Commissioners need to hear from you.Those in favor of the merger, many of which are there to pad their wallets at you expense, will be there in numbers and without your support at this meeting it may be too late.

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       Please email this message to as many citizens as possible and encourage them to pass this on to a friend.It is most important that you attend, bring a friend, and stop this merger.

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        In conclusion, I /we are not opposed to good healthy controlled growth and development in our county but we do oppose throwing thousands of taxpayer dollars into a black hole with no clearly defined objectives or guaranteed outcome.There are simply far better options.

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        Sincerely,

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        Larry S Ward

        706-769-6123

         lszerocat@hotmail.com

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The Athens Banner-Herald

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/102909/new_510103396.shtml

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Partnership idea still divides Oconee panel

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By JOE VANHOOSE 

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WATKINSVILLE - Oconee County commissioners still are split on whether to leap into a new economic development partnership with Clarke County.

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Commissioners Jim Luke and John Daniell want to create a regional development agency with Athens-Clarke that would lure new businesses to the area.

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But Commissioner Chuck Horton and commission Chairman Melvin Davis aren't ready to join forces just yet. Both question the cost and benefit of any regional partnership.

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An AVOC Reader on 10-30-09

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Only ACC would benefit from partnership with Oconee. As one who was present at one of the initial meetings to consider this issue, I was struck by obvious conclusion that ACC realized that Oconee had taken the right path, and the only way to recover the lost revenue was to propose partnership.

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In short; Oconee, don't do it.

W B


Partnership idea still divides Oconee panel   The Athens Banner-Herald 10-30-09

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LOOK AT COMMENTS ON THE ARTICLE IN 10-30-09 AB-H

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AVOC Comment:The arrogance of some of the comments is not atypical of many I knew in 25 years of "working" with Athens-Clarke County. This woman seems to think the UGA belongs to ACC!

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The Athens Banner-Herald
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Partnership idea still divides Oconee panel

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Comments
athensmother at Oct. 29, 2009 at 11:01:22 am
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I am still not convinced Clarke County needs this. I would think ACC is much more marketable than Oconee. Much has been made of ACC's supposed anti-business stance. I honestly haven't seen that much of that. What I have seen instead, is the intention of maintaining control over the historic parts of ACC. Do you really think the Commission would have much problem with a business locating on Atlanta Hwy, or off Chase Street or Newton Bridge, or along Lexington Highway.
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If you are going to build on Prince Avenue you are (I think rightfully) going to get some flack from the Commission to ensure it is in keeping with the other things on that street (where were they when the Georgia Power building was built?).
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I suspect Oconee would be the same way if a business was attempting to locate in downtown Watkinsville - they just have less historic or tourist type property to protect.
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From an economic development standpoint, what does Oconee have to offer? Athens has a vibrant downtown, the Classic Center, Cine, the University, lots of good restaurants, one of the top 5 chefs in the Southeast, the Georgia Museum of Art, the Botanical Gardens, Memorial Park zoo, the World of Wonder playground, two hospitals, a great country club and golf course (the Georgia Club is in Barrow county), etc. All the reasons we decided NOT to live in Oconee.


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