State of County: Address to focus on goals, success

CONYERS - "Don't Stop" is the title of a Fleetwood Mac song from the '70s, but it could also be the refrain of what Rockdale County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Middlebrooks will say during the annual State of the County address Monday.

The address is used to show off accomplishments by the county government over the past 12 months and to set goals for the coming year. A quick list of projects started or that have continued through the last year bear out the fact that 2007 was a busy year for Rockdale County.

Much of what is anticipated in Monday's speech will emphasize quality of life issues and a continuation of what's been done to keep up county services to meet demands of businesses and residents.

Construction projects funded by the special purpose local option sales tax drove a lot of the activity. The jail expansion and several parks projects are expected to be completed this year while the library expansion is scheduled to begin.

Transportation improvements, those that are sales-tax funded and others, are also slated to begin this year. The largest is the expansion of Parker Road. Plans are to widen the road to four lanes to Ga. Highway 138 and make improvements to its intersection with Flat Shoals Road.

Impact fees implemented in 2006 began to show returns in 2007 and were used to fund walking paths at Johnson and Pine Log parks. The county has earmarked $200,000 of impact fees toward the construction of the South River trail, built by Atlanta's PATH Foundation, that will connect the Arabia Mountain Nature Center in DeKalb County with the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in south Rockdale County.

Middlebrooks said he plans to point out in his address that growth has been brought under control thanks in part to the implementation of the county's unified development ordinance last year.

The ordinance brought all of the county's planning and zoning regulations, residential codes and development requirements under one piece of legislation. In the past, developers and county planners negotiated details of proposed developments often by adding conditions to new subdivisions, such as requiring developers to construct sidewalks and plant a certain number of trees per lot. The chairman said the ordinance takes all the negotiations out of developing land in the county.

"You can never stop growth, but you can do things to control it and make it in a way to how we want our community to develop," he said.

Challenges facing county over the next year include funding additional patrol deputies for the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office, as well as deputies to staff the expanded jail.

Middlebrooks said he wants to continue working with the city of Conyers and the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce to increase economic development and bring more commercial development to the county and expand the tax base.

The chairman said the county will continue working to make Rockdale Water Resources operate more efficiently. Reports that surfaced last year of missed billing and unaccounted-for water lost in the system caused the BOC to bring the utility's billing and collections staff under the umbrella of the county's Department of Finance. A meter maintenance program began this month and an engineering study has been commissioned to study ways to better manage the county's water distribution system.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.