Mayor's Update 2020

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MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR he oft-quoted Athenian Oath includes the pledge to “transmit this City not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.” In the City of LaGrange, we have slightly modified the language but held to the spirit of that ancient oath by pledging to “leave LaGrange better than we found it.” That commitment, adopted by our city council, staff, and residents, is currently a work in progress, but make no mistake, progress is being made. In these pages you will read about many of the initiatives underway in LaGrange. People across the community are pouring their heart and soul into these initiatives. The leadership of our city is committed to making deliberate decisions and strategic investments to ensure a vibrant and prosperous future for all of LaGrange. I am personally excited about the many great things happening in LaGrange, and I hope that you will learn more about them and find ways to support these efforts. I also want to encourage residents to get involved and to propose new ways to improve our city. Working together, we can honor the ancient oath and ensure a better future for our city. Thank you for allowing me the honor of leading this great city.

Mayor Jim Thornton

LAGRANGE CITY COUNCIL The council is the legislative body; its members are the community’s decision makers. The council focuses on the community’s goals, major projects, and long-term considerations such as community growth, land use development, capital improvements, capital financing, and strategic planning. The council hires a professional manager to carry out the administrative responsibilities and supervises the manager’s performance.

The LaGrange City Council: front row (from left), Tom Gore, Mayor Jim Thornton, LeGree McCamey; back row, Willie Edmondson, Jim Arrington, Mark Mitchell, Nathan Gaskin 2 CITY OF LAGRANGE

City Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 208 Ridley Ave. Council work sessions are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 11 a.m. in the city manager’s third floor conference room in City Hall, 200 Ridley Avenue.

BEAUTIFICATION LEAV I N G L AGR A NGE B ET TER T H A N WE F O U ND IT In April 2019, the city once again closed business and hundreds of employees picked up litter throughout the community. This year, dozens of businesses and organizations joined and pledged to partner throughout the year. Each monthly cleanup included at least one community partner. Community partners include Caterpillar, Calumet Bank, LaGrange Academy, Duracell, Bowman Hollis, Jindal Films, McKeen Realty, Houze and Associates, Motel 6, Pure Life Studios, LaGrange Housing Authority, Friends of The Thread, Hollis Hand Elementary, Berta Weathersbee Elementary, Army Corps of Engineers, DASH, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, LaGrange College, Kiwanis Club of LaGrange, First Baptist Church on the Square, First Presbyterian Church, Smyrna Baptist Church, Heart to Heart and the United Methodist Church Boy Scouts Pack 21.

Hundreds of City Employees participated in the April 2019 event

11 year old picks up litter along The Thread

Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation honored the City of LaGrange’s litter cleanup initiative.

LaGrange Youth Council members participate in a city monthly litter cleanup


Scout Will Bartlett stands in front of his trash trap he built and installed in Blue John Creek

Scout Will Bartlett from Troop #3 constructed and installed a trash trap in Blue John Creek as part of his Eagle Scout project. Bartlett was inspired to help clean up his community after participating in one of the city’s 2018 monthly litter cleanups. The trash collection system was constructed out of PVC piping, and the city provided anti-erosion material. “I realized there was a need in our community to help clean up the trash and how harmful the trash is to our community,” said Bartlett. The city will help clean out the trash trap every few weeks. MAYOR’S UPDATE 2020 3



Callaway Foundation celebrated the ribbon cutting of Southbend Park on February 14th. This 5-acre park includes the city’s first skatepark, first dog park, playground equipped with toddler area, pavilion, and passive green supported by new parking, lighting and landscaping. Callaway Foundation has approved grant funding to the city for construction of a new restroom facility. Construction will be completed in Fall of 2020.

The city held the grand opening for its new stateof-the-art skatepark on April 20th. The skatepark, funded in part by a Tony Hawk Foundation grant, was designed by Stantec Action Sports Group and constructed by New Line Skateparks. This skatepark provides a safe, designated place for wheeled-sport enthusiasts including skateboarders, BMX bike riders, inline skaters, wheel chairs and scooter riders.



Barge Design Group is working with the City to develop a system-wide park plan. This plan is intended to provide a vision for future park development, an understanding of operational and staffing needs to support that vision and budget estimates for both the capital improvement and maintenance costs associated with implementing the plan. At this point, the consultant has inventoried the existing parks, held a public meeting to gauge community desire, and conducted a survey to further reach community members to garner feedback on park preferences. The survey has closed and is now being analyzed, and the data that is generated from the survey will help inform the plan.

After neighborhood meetings, city staff began addressing concerns surrounding Jones Street Park. The concession stand was demolished, fencing removed around the ball field, cameras installed and the parking lot resurfaced. City staff worked with neighborhood representatives to collaborate on improvements to the existing basketball courts, including creating a new logo design on the courts. Construction on this project is expected Spring of 2020.

E A S T SI D E PA R K Implementation of the Eastside Park Plan continues. City crews constructed two new basketball courts in late 2019. More construction is expected in 2020. 4 CITY OF LAGRANGE

Former LaGrange City Councilwoman and Neighborhood Leader Norma Tucker talks to LPD Chief Lou Dekmar and Lt. Dale Strickland about improvements

THE THREAD The Thread is a trail network consisting of 29 miles of multi-use trail connecting key destinations – downtown, neighborhoods, parks, the college and the hospital. The goal of The Thread is to enhance the health and overall quality of life for LaGrange citizens and visitors. The Granger Park “Model Mile” opened July 2017. The second segment, 2.1 miles stretching from Eastside Park to Mike Daniel Recreation Center, was completed in April 2018. The third segment along Broad Street connecting the first segment to LaGrange College extends from West Haralson, North Greenwood Street, Broad Street, Panther Way to Vernon Street.

S EG M E N T 3B The LaGrange College segment, known as 3B, connects the north and south campus along Panther Way. The ribbon cutting was held with LaGrange College April 2019. The city received a $200,000 Recreational Trails Program grant from the Department of Natural Resources to assist in the financing of this segment.

S EG M E N T 4 The fourth segment of The Thread includes 1.6 miles extending from the roundabout at Country Club Road and Broad Street to Cherokee Road. Friends of The Thread and Callaway Foundation held a ribbon cutting ceremony in September 2019. The ceremony included a dedication to long-time Callaway Foundation employee Bruce Pearson whose name is also displayed on the boardwalk. This topdown boardwalk is a show piece in the trail system because of its scenic beauty.

S EG M E N T 5 The fifth segment begins at the trail head of Twin Cedars, runs through Calumet Park and ends at Union Street. This portion of the trail contains a very scenic greenway that meanders through the Twin Cedars-Wilcox property. This half-mile segment, connecting Eastside Park to Calumet Park, was completed December 2019.

S EG M E N T 6 The sixth segment will connect the Granger Park “Model Mile” to Southbend Park. It will continue on West Haralson to South Lewis Street, navigating through the LSPA campus on Bull Street on its way to Southbend Park. Expected completion is February 2020.

S EG M E N T 7 The seventh segment will continue the trail from Southbend Park to the Callaway Clock Tower and end at City Light Church on Dunson Street. This 1.1 mile segment will include a spur to the Mulberry Street Cemetery where legendary bridge builder Horace King is buried.

Boardwalk on Country Club Road Segment 4




LaGrange Fire Station #5 on Vernon Road came online October 2019. The new station is named for former LaGrange City Councilwoman Kay Durand. The addition of this station will assist in reducing response times and provide better coverage for the northwest side of the city.

LFD’s new burn building and training center is expected to be completed in early 2020. This facility will provide training opportunities for staff and provide a regional training site for the Georgia Public Training Center. This project was funded by SPLOST & Callaway Foundation.

LFD Burn Building

COMMUNI T Y ENG AG EME N T - Conducted 122 public education events - Installed 74 smoke alarms - Conducted 992 blood pressure checks - Hosted 6th Annual Citizens’ Day



LFD has reduced response time by 16 seconds. This decrease is extremely important because the time could mean crews are on the scene seconds faster in situations of life and death.

The LaGrange Fire Department hosted its 2nd annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb Challenge on September 11th at Callaway Stadium. The public was invited to join this year. All participants ran 110 flights of stairs up and 110 stadium flights down while listening to the 9/11 radio traffic.


INCIDENTS fire and medical calls



2K 1K 0




2008 2009 2010



2013 2014






PUBLIC SAFETY / POLICE LP D L E A D S THE WAY A Georgia Legislative Committee came to LaGrange and took testimony from the police department regarding LPD’s Gang Squad and related antigang initiatives. This Legislative Committee recognized LPD and the City of LaGrange as a model for the state in dealing with this challenging threat to public safety. Gang Initiatives • LEADS programs offered in schools that educate youth about gangs and bullying

ME NTAL HEALT H COMMI SSI ON LPD Chief Lou Dekmar was one of twenty-four members across the state appointed by Governor Brian Kemp to serve on the inaugural Georgia Mental Health Commission. The commission’s task is to take a deeper look at mental health in the state.

• “Earn to Learn” program partnering with New Ventures. First time offenders spend four hours a day working for pay and four hours working on a GED • Teen Fusion: Initiative through Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia providing a safe environment for teens to be involved in sports, after school programs, and an alternative to street life • Gang Squad, LPD officers volunteer as community coaches • Collaboration with FBI Safe Streets Task Force in the relocation of active gang members seeking to leave the lifestyle • Gang awareness presentations to churches, civic groups, schools, businesses, and other private organizations throughout community • Collaboration with the Georgia Gang Investigator’s Association and POST in writing lesson plans and core curriculum to train officers throughout the state in gang investigations PART I CRIME

2007 2015 2016 2017




1 3 4 1 9 6 5 4 51 66 66 61 52 71 94 54 381 359 289 270 1,274 1,433 1,295 1,260 130 85 95 77 10 3 5 4 1,908 2,026 1,853 1,731

5 4 41 88 162 1,263 70 0 1,633

4 5 33 107 179 1,331 112 4 1,775

LPD Chief Lou Dekmar is sworn into the Mental Health Commission by Governor Brian Kemp

LPD BUI LDING RE N OVAT I ON Renovation plans are underway for the LPD building. The first phase of the construction is at the bottom level of the building and will include the construction of a new evidence storage and processing room, two large evidence processing bays, two office areas with storage, and a multi-use functional fitness room. The first phase will be completed by June 2020.

S C H OO L S A FET Y LPD offered C.R.A.S.E., or Civilian Response to Active Shooter Event, classes for schools and the public. Threat Vulnerability Assessments were conducted for every school in Troup County, including Burwell and ThINC Academy. LPD attended and participated in developing a TCSS protocol related to active shooters.

LPD’S THERAPY K9 LaGrange Police adopted its new Therapy K9, Donut, in November 2019. He began basic training and will be required to meet certain standards to become an official Therapy K9. Donut visits community events, schools, and other programs with the department. MAYOR’S UPDATE 2020 7

HOUSING M I L L C R E E K A PA R TMENTS The City permitted this 240-unit garden-style apartment complex on Mill Creek Parkway. This development is the first large market-rate multi-family project under construction in the last ten years.

Dixie Mill Lofts will look similar to the West Village Lofts in Greenville, SC


Mill Creek Construction Site

P HO E N I X L A ND ING The LaGrange Housing Authority is under construction with a 70-unit senior housing project located just south of the Benjamin Harvey Hills development on Whitesville Street. This project was awarded the competitive 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credit and will ultimately replace some of the existing Ben Hill homes and create an opportunity for a linear park along the Whitesville Street frontage of the existing Ben Hill development.

H OU S I N G MA R KET A NA LYS IS In May, The Bleakly Advisory Group held three public meetings at each of the three cities to present the findings of the housing market analysis and strategy. The deliverable of this project will provide a perspective on how current and future residential market trends will impact the county and its cities over the coming years and provide key inputs for making future land use, planning, and real estate development policy decisions. The scope included the following key tasks: 1.) analysis of housing supply and demand in Troup County and its cities, 2019-2024; 2.) assessment of the Troup County workforce; 3.) housing competitiveness analysis; 4.) identification of housing needs/gaps; and 5.) housing strategy. Recommendations included 1) encouraging production of new quality for-sale and rental units to broaden housing options including smaller single family detached homes, downtown multifamily units and missing middle housing 2) supporting renovation and rehabilitation of existing housing stock and the continued investment in downtown and in-town areas. 8 CITY OF LAGRANGE

Dixie Mill was built in 1896 and was in use until 2004 when West Point Stevens, who owned the mill at that time, announced that the mill would be closing. It has since been used for storage until its recent sale to a developer with a portfolio of mill redevelopment projects. The new owner is currently seeking historic designation for the mill and intends to preserve the historic nature of the impressive structure’s architecture while renovating the building to create 103 loftstyle apartments, a needed housing product in the LaGrange market as identified in the recent Housing Market Analysis and Strategy.

GI CH Staff along with members of the GICH Community Housing Team have continued to work on three areas related to housing: ensuring all housing needs are met, eliminating blight and raising awareness about housing issues. Focus has also been placed on accessing available funding for housing developments. A CHIP application was funded by DCA in the amount of roughly $464,000 for the new construction of three houses in the Hillside neighborhood.

UNIF I ED DE VE LOPME N T ORDINANCE & ZONI N G ORDINANCE OVE RHAUL For over a year and half, city staff and a team of consultants have been working to modernize LaGrange’s development regulations. As we move forward with adoption, we anticipate growing with the ordinance and making modifications where necessary.



New sidewalks continue to be constructed along Colquitt Street. These sidewalks connect the second segment of The Thread to the Greenwich, Tamarack and Tucker Cottage communities. Sidewalk construction on Colquitt to Hamilton Road is expected to be completed in Spring 2020.

The new Hills & Dales Farm Road and Country Club Road roundabout officially opened to traffic August 2019. Hills & Dales Farm Road, a twomile roadway, connects Country Club Road and Vernon Road.

Country Club Road Roundabout at Hills & Dales Farm Road

COUNTRY CLUB ROAD New sidewalks along Colquitt Street near Tucker Cottages

Construction along 1.5 miles of Country Club Road was resurfaced in conjunction with the fourth segment of The Thread.

HAMI LTON ROAD WI D EN I N G The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) plans to add three lanes to Hamilton Road from its intersection at Morgan Street to Auburn Avenue near Lukken Industrial Drive. GDOT representatives continue rightof-way acquisition. Final utility plans have been submitted and approved by GDOT.

Greenville Street Bridge Construction


GDOT rendering of proposed Hamilton Road Widening

Construction continues on the Greenville Street Bridge. Crews are in the process of completing the superstructure and expect to start pouring concrete for the bridge deck in mid-January 2020. Construction on the barrier walls are expected in late February, early March. The roadway portion of the project is expected to begin in March and be wrapped up by May 2020. MAYOR’S UPDATE 2020 9


L AG R A N G E 101 The city hosted its second LaGrange 101 class in October 2019. This six-week class gives local citizens an opportunity to experience an inside look at city government. Each week participants learn about two departments of city government.

In 2015, the Mayor and Council created the LaGrange Youth Council to provide the youth of our community with a more formal role in decision making, offer real world experiences with elected bodies, provide leadership opportunities and enhance civic education. The current Youth Council is composed of 24 juniors and seniors representing LaGrange High, Troup High, LaGrange Academy and the Sound Doctrine. The 2019-2020 class focused on five issues including hosting a LIFE 101 class, promoting mental health awareness, creating a community garden, leading an anti-vaping campaign and holding a puppy parade.

LaGrange 101 members participate in an activity


Pictured from left to right: 2019 Interns Iyanla Mosely and Olivia Smith.

During the summer of 2019, the Marketing/ Communications Department hosted two interns: Iyanla Mosley, a junior at University of Alabama, and Olivia Smith, a freshman at Auburn University. The two students created a video about why they love their hometown of LaGrange.

NEWSLETTER The City of LaGrange distributed an informational monthly newsletter included in monthly utility bills. Newsletters will continue to be distributed in 2020 but on a quarterly basis – January, April, July and October.

S OC I A L M ED IA The City of LaGrange and LGTV are on social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 10 CITY OF LAGRANGE

The 2019-2020 LaGrange Youth Council leadership with Mayor Jim Thornton. Pictured from left to right: Secretary Gabe Martinez, Chair Emma Strickland, Mayor Thornton, Vice-Chair Libby Criswell & Historian Jack DeVane.

LG T V This year LGTV added two new segments including “This Brief Moment in LaGrange History” and “City Scenes.” In 2020, LGTV will showcase LPD Cold Cases in its new segment “Cold Cases”.

THE WISHI NG TRE E The City of LaGrange started a new Wishing Tree tradition. The community was invited to write down their wishes on tags provided and place them on one of two wishing trees located in front of City Hall during the holiday season.

VISIT LAGRANGE A N E W V I SIO N In 2019, the LaGrange City Council voted to make changes to the use of hotel/motel tax dollars to promote and advertise LaGrange. With the rise of travelers to the area visiting local attractions, attending events, and growing hotel revenues, the Council sought to accomplish several goals. First, to assemble a first class team of experts to lead and advise our community’s efforts in building our destination brand. Second, assist local businesses to thrive and in turn grow tax revenues. And lastly, create a long term, sustain tourism and destination marketing plan. In August of 2019, a new Convention and Visitors Bureau was established -- Visit LaGrange. A Board of Directors was appointed by the Mayor and Council comprised of diverse credentialed and qualified local subject matter experts. Membership currently includes Chairman Bobby Carmichael, Kathy Tilley, Carleton Woods, Tabitha Coverson, Katie Van Schoor, Rob Goldstein, and Greg Hall. The Board is currently hiring a President/CEO who will be responsible for contracting all experts, coordinators, public relations services, media buyers, meeting planners and marketing firms necessary to attract visitors and tax revenue required to show a positive return on investment. Plans call for Visit LaGrange to operate a new visitor’s center in the near future. The center will include office, meeting and exhibit space. Final details and location should be determined by late spring of 2020. In the meantime, expanded marketing efforts are already underway to attract visitors from around the region. A larger online presence has been established with a website, social media activity, and targeted advertising reaching individuals all over the Southeast.

SWEETL AND ON ICE For the third year, Sweetland Amphitheatre hosted Sweetland on Ice December 6th through February 17th. In 2019, the Mayor and Council allocated funding to create a permanent pad for the facility, as it has become a “LaGrange Tradition”. The ice rink is a popular venue and has become a regional draw for visitors to our community. Sweetland is looking forward to adding bumper cars to the rink in the 20-21 season.

GEORGI A G OVE RNOR’S TOURISM CONF EREN C E The City of LaGrange hosted the 2019 Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference September 8-11 at Great Wolf Lodge. This annual event is the state’s largest tourism conference. The three-day conference provides educational sessions and keynote speakers relevant to the tourism industry. Hundreds of political and tourism leaders visited LaGrange and were able to experience our community tourist attractions during this time.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks at the Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference in LaGrange September 2019 MAYOR’S UPDATE 2020 11

WHAT DOES IT COST? HOW DO WE PAY FOR IT? The City’s operational and financial performance is very strong. Since 1998, municipal operations have been financed largely by sales tax and utility revenues. This allows the City to operate entirely without property taxes. Businesses and homeowners in LaGrange enjoy a lower tax burden and higher level of service than other comparable communities throughout the Southeastern United States. The City has historically offered utility rates that are very competitive when compared to other area suppliers. Tax exempt financing and efficient operations help us maintain low rates for our customers.




UTILITIES 86% charges for service





2019-2020 EXPENS ES $107,377,968



lagrangegagov cityoflagrange



lagrangegagov cityoflagrangeutility lagrangepolicedept lagrangefiredept cityoflagrangeanimalshelter

UTILITIES 50% purchases / supplies G E O R G I A

200 Ridley Avenue • LaGrange, GA 30240

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