Things get heated at Dougherty Co. Commission meeting

Things get heated at Dougherty Co. Commission meeting
Dougherty County Commission meeting.

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Things got pretty heated Monday at Dougherty County’s Commission meeting on the topic of economic growth.

Chairman Chris Cohilas discussed the work being done to address concerns about bringing opportunities, aside from big industrial jobs.

Some commissioners said economically suppressed areas lack opportunity.

Cohilas said conversations are happening to figure out how to bring industry to more areas of the county.

But during the meeting, Commissioner Victor Edwards and Commissioner Gloria Gaines were furious with the work being done with the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Authority.

Cohilas said the economic development commission has no authority to create economic opportunities outside industrial.

“It doesn’t have the authority or the funding to do what we are talking about. That’s my point,” said Cohilas.

Cohilas added that the entity who has the most flexibility to create economic opportunity is the Albany-Dougherty Payroll Development Authority. He said the authority could have a more aggressive view in declaring economic incentive zones.

However, Commissioner Victor Edwards believes the county’s economic development commission and the executive director should’ve been at the table.

“You should’ve had him here. You knew you should’ve had him here. When I tell people to come here, Mr. Chairman, and I know it’s a subject that I’m going to bring up about, and I know it’s very dear to my community and my commission, then I’m going to say, ‘Hey man, please come!’" said Edwards.

By the end of the meeting, all the commissioners agreed to formally discuss the issue in an executive retreat.

Every commissioner is tasked with writing their concerns to discuss at that future session.

More from the county commission meeting: Blighted home removal plan in the works

Some damaged homes and buildings in Dougherty County could soon come down in a new blighted home removal project.

The county administrator said this new blight demolition removal project is exciting and important for Dougherty County.

During the county commission meeting Monday, a man who lives in the unincorporated areas mentioned his concerns with blighted properties after the January 2017 tornado.

County Administrator Michael McCoy made a recommendation to fund blight removal and to hire a staff person to help in all the county’s unincorporated areas.

McCoy said they haven’t had funding to address the problem in the past but the proposed plan could actively remove those buildings from the neighborhoods.

“Previously, we’ve had no funding to address that. And so what we’re proposing is to fund blight removal where we will actively remove those structures from neighborhoods to address public health and safety,” said McCoy.

McCoy is recommending $50,000 for the project. He said on average, they expect to use $5,000 per building.

That means 10 properties could be demolished.

Officials told WALB that they are trying to allocate funds in the budget for July 1. Then they will have to go through a legal process to determine what can be demolished.

More from the county commission meeting: New traffic signs coming soon

People who live in the unincorporated areas of Dougherty County will soon see new traffic signs.

This comes after Hurricane Michael damaged many of them.

On Monday, county commissioners accepted a more-than $50,000 bid to install and repair those signs.

McCoy said the entire unincorporated area will get them because they were uprooted or damaged.

Leaders said the county went through this problem after the January 2017 tornado as well.

McCoy said he hopes the new signs will last longer this time.

“With the tornadoes and then we had an unexpected hurricane, the damage, what we had not long ago replaced. So now, we’re just going though that exercise to repair those and hopefully they’ll stand for some time without having to be replaced,” McCoy said.

The conversation will go to the board next week for approval.

Once approved, we will find out how soon the project will start.

More from the county commission meeting: New Dougherty County police chief sworn in

Chief Kenneth Johnson is officially the new chief of police for the Dougherty County Police Department. He was sworn in on Monday.

Chief Johnson started his role Friday after former Chief Jackie Battle announced her retirement.

Johnson started at the police department as a patrolmen over 30 years ago.

Johnson said his experience in a variety of roles and departments has him ready to take on any and all challenges.

“Cause I served in all facets of the department, especially with the drug unit. And dealing with the community as a whole and being here from Albany, with the 30 years of background, me knowing the people, knowing the community, I can better serve the community,” said Johnson.

Johnson was the former assistant chief of police for the department.

We’re told the former chief recommended Johnson for the new role.

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