Mary Charles Howard, a Sandersville woman leading the charge for the Georgia Hi-Lo Trail, attended Swainsboro’s city council meeting Monday night and informed the governing board about its mission, requesting the town become the 10th of 19 municipalities to commit to the project. The Georgia Hi-Lo Trail, once completed, will essentially connect two trail projects to form a 250-mile paved, road-separated path through small Georgia towns from Athens to Savannah.
The first of those two trails is the Firefly Trail, which begins in Athens and will end in Union Point for a distance of 39 miles when completed. Firefly Trail, Inc. began its work in 2007 and have become “true Trail Blazers” across small communities in Georgia, and Georgia Hi-Lo, the second trail, is looking to follow in those footsteps by connecting to the Firefly Trail in Union Point and continuing on to Savannah, a 211-mile stretch through rural Georgia. Should Swainsboro participate, the Georgia Hi-Lo Trail will pass through the Crossroads of the Great South, potentially bringing fiber-optic internet with construction and providing opportunities to partner and utilize area railway lines once completed. Howard also indicated to council there is much movement and support at the state level for Georgia Hi-Lo.
Howard explained to council she theorized the idea for the Georgia Hi-Lo Trail when she moved back to her hometown of Sandersville and found there were no safe cycling opportunities in the Kaolin City. Since starting the project in 2019, she and other leaders of the project have targeted 19 cities and counties along the proposed trail and requested funding with private fundraising to occur later down the road, The committed funds will be used to fund the completion of a comprehensive master plan; that plan will provide details such as grand total cost and who receives what costs, overall timeline, an overall map of all participating counties, a concentrated map for each municipality, a steering committee comprised of representatives from each city and county, trail standards to keep the aesthetic synonymous as the trail moves through each community, and, finally, an implementation strategy. Her request of Swainsboro City Council on Monday night totaled $1,625.
The project leader indicated to council that she had spoken with approximately 15 cities to date, 9 of which had already agreed to do the project, reportedly including the County of Emanuel and the City of Twin City.
Five other municipalities, she said, had elected to wait and give a final answer at a later date. The City of Swainsboro fell into that category, Mayor Charles Schwabe stated once her project presentation was finished.
In other news, council opened the one submittal received for the bid to run the City of Swainsboro’s water and waste water operations. The city included specific requirements when the job was let out to bid, and Clearwater, who is currently running the city’s water and waste water operations on a month-to-month basis, was the only company to respond with a formal proposal.
Recognizing the importance of selecting the right company for the job due to its significance in the city’s operation and given how detailed the proposal was, council elected not to vote on the matter Monday night. Instead, the group will study the proposal book given by Clearwater and revisit the business item with questions and discussion at a later date.
Mayor Schwabe also gave council and attending members of the public information about a citywide clean-up day slated for April 17. The City of Swainsboro did not hold this event last year due to COVID and looks forward to the resumption this year. Hours for the clean-up will run from 8 a.m. to noon. During these hours, dumpsters will be provided and citizens may discard of old tires. Pizza will be provided afterward. To sign up, visit City of Swainsboro.org/stashthetrash.
Next, City Administrator Al Lawson took the floor and gave a brief update about the city’s upcoming CDBG. According to Lawson, the city is working with the project’s engineer, Turnipseed, to create a target area to pursue. As of late, that target area is “very similar” to that of four years ago but will be an “expanded area” this year. Some of the areas Lawson mentioned were being looked at include drainage issues, water lines, and sewer lines in the McMillan area, Gumlog community, and Carver Street.
The Community Development Block Grant Program through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs is a federally funded block grant that focuses on benefitting low- to moderate-income people by providing resources for livable neighborhoods, economic empowerment, and decent housing. Cities must submit applications to be considered for the competitive program, and those applications are graded. To put together the best possible application, the City of Swainsboro is looking to choose the best area by looking at the number of complaints and work orders a particular area has received historically. The City of Swainsboro’s records, however, according to Lawson, are nonexistent prior to Clearwater taking over when the city and former water/waste water operations company Jacobs parted ways in September 2020.
No action was required in regard to the CDBG business item Monday night. Look for The Crossroads Chronicle to provide updates accordingly.
Council then held a second public hearing for an ordinance change that will give Swainsboro Police Department, through the city charter, authority to act in regard to businesses operating without required licensure. Julian Sconyers motioned to adopt the ordinance change, Ricky Stevens, attended the meeting virtually, seconded, and the vote was 5-0.
Finally, council briefly discussed two other matters: continuing the discussion about citations and fines for city code compliance in regard to blighted properties from the March council meeting as well as the theatre and gym projects. Councilperson John E. Parker requested updates about all three of those points.
In reference to Parker’s first inquiry, Mayor Schwabe indicated that a work session was needed to “fine tune” the way city code enforcement is handling citations and fines. This work session will take place at a later date.
In reference to the Dixie Theatre project and the Gumlog Road gym project, the mayor stated both of those were moving along well and “big changes” should be seen in the next 30 to 45 days.
Council also unanimously approved the minutes from the March meeting and unanimously voted to enter executive session. The invocation was delivered by Bertha Jones.
Swainsboro City Council will next meet May 3, 2021 at 6 p.m. at Swainsboro Fire Department.