Speaking for the city of Fort Oglethorpe was City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins, who will be leaving Dec. 3 to take a position as assistant city manager in Lilburn.
“I am honored,” said Simpkins, “to be here to provide the State of the City address on behalf of the mayor and city council of the city of Fort Oglethorpe.”
Simpkins described the fiscal policies of the city as conservative and said the city continues to add to its fund balance.
Among the information Simpkins shared about the state of the city was:
A 2019 budget of $18 million, $3.4 million of which is slated for capital projects.
A rollback of the millage (property tax) rate from 6.632 mils to 6.443 mils.
City Hall’s exterior was cleaned and painted and a renovation of the council chambers is almost complete.
A three-year plan to replace all 800-MHz radios for the police and fire departments was completed.
Three administrative vehicles for the fire department and two administrative vehicles and two patrol vehicles for the police department were purchased.
A new body camera policy was implemented for the police department and 26 body cameras were purchased.
A cloud-based GIS (Geographical Information System) project was completed and includes physical coordinates for storm water, water, sewer and roadway infrastructure.
Storm water improvement projects were completed along Alamar Street and behind the city shop, and a drainage improvement project is underway at Gilbert Stephenson Park.
The city designed a new ADA-compliant playground for Gilbert Stephenson Park and awarded a contract to construct it. It should be completed by spring 2020.
The city and the Bark City Committee opened the first dog park in Catoosa County.
Honor Park: A Tribute to Those Who Serve was completed and dedicated.
A major sewer inflow and infiltration reduction project was completed. The city rehabilitated 92 manholes with watertight castings and relining and raised them above flood elevations in order to reduce sewer overflows, thus reducing monthly payments to Chattanooga for treatment and disposal of sewage.
The Beaver Road and Westside pump stations were replaced.
Sewers along Scruggs Road were expanded and options explored for sewer extension along Highway 41.
With funding from the state’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant Forrest Road was repaved.
A roundabout at Mack Smith and Steele roads was completed.
New holiday decorations were purchased for light poles along Battlefield Parkway and Lafayette Road.
City Council adopted a new nuisance ordinance that will help resolve challenging property maintenance issues.
City Council adopted a new, expanded purchasing ordinance to codify important elements of competitive bidding.
City Council adopted a new fee schedule that has been placed on the city website for ease of use.
City Council completed a bond refunding and re-issuance at a lower interest rate resulting in substantial savings to the city over the life of the bond.
The council voted to establish a new department: The Department of Parks and Recreation, and hired a director for the department.
City Council approved a new deputy director of Water and Sewer position as a critical component of a succession plan for the current director’s retirement in 2020.
The city was awarded the 2019 Distinguished Budget Presentation Award by the Government Finance Officers Association.
“The state of the local economy is strong,” Simpkins continued. “We are proud to announce that the city is experiencing balanced growth in every direction:
“To the north, Highway 41 Food City and residential developments. To the east, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Your Pie and additional commercial developments are in the works. To the west, Jump Park and Del Taco. To the south, the Lafayette Road streetscape improvement project and additional investments happening in our developing downtown area.”
Simpkins expanded on the progress of the Lafayette Road project. She shared the history of it, beginning with a $3 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission in December 2013. She said there followed a series of designs and revisions and said the project will be open for bids on March 20, 2020. The bids will be opened a month later and the contract awarded no later than June.
Construction is slated to begin no later than July and will be complete no later than January 2021.
Simpkins went on to share yet more news.
64 new businesses have opened in the city so far this year.
The Cloud Springs Lodge has been purchased by an investor who is working to bring the facility up to code and make it into a modern hotel.
Developers and investors are redeveloping the Lafayette Road corridor to reestablish the area as the city’s downtown district.
A historic property on Lafayette Road is actively pursuing low-interest loans from the state Department of Community Affairs and financing from other sources for redevelopment into an entertainment venue.
A home builder plans to construct a new development including single family homes near the former Post hospital between North Thomas Road and Park City Drive.
The city is developing a Downtown Overlay District to provide design guidelines for the future look and feel of downtown.
“With growth comes challenges,” Simpkins said. “Traffic issues arise. The state is beginning to prepare to widen Cloud Springs Road. The city is designing capacity improvements for the intersection of Dietz Road and Battlefield Parkway. Additionally, the city is establishing a Unified Development Code to guide further development and redevelopment in a responsible way.”
“In summary,” Simpkins told the gathering, “The state of the city is strong. Our local economy is booming. Well-balanced growth is occurring in every direction — north, south, east and west.
“The key to our strength lies in our partnerships.
“Fort Oglethorpe is proud to be an engaged partner with Catoosa County, Ringgold, the Catoosa County public school system, and the Chamber of Commerce.
“We are blessed to live in a place where elected officials, appointed leaders, and leaders throughout our organizations work together to achieve common goals.
“Beyond working together, county, city, and state leaders are friends.
“We attend each other’s events, we dine together, we work out together, we laugh together, we cry together.
“Folks, we are a team. We are a family. Success does not result from any one of us. You have created a solid foundation, a culture of mutual trust and respect for community that will transcend each of us as individuals.
“And for that, Catoosa County will continue to thrive year after year after year. Thank you.”