Editor’s note: The final edition of the Aragonian read in such a way, we decided to include it as a column from Mayor Ken Suffridge on the Commentary page instead of an item by itself. -KM
Qualifying to run for elected office in the November 3, 2015 City elections are; Brenda Gazaway, for mayor, and incumbent councilman Curtis Burrus for re-election. Both are unopposed. No one qualified for the seat being vacated by Councilman Hunter Spinks. The Board of Elections will determine the process for opening up a second qualifying period. Thus, as you are reading this, my term as mayor is rapidly drawing to a conclusion.
This is something we all should consider. Regrettably for us all, Aragon as a city, has been in steady decline for at least the past 40 years, however, over the past four years, and especially the last two years, the city has experienced many accomplishments. Among those were the hiring of a retired CPA as the City Clerk/Finance Officer, along with a Finance Clerk/Assistant City Clerk.
Having a new retail business locate in Aragon is a shot in the arm. Dollar General’s new store is the first commercial building to be constructed in the City in over a decade. Hopefully, this is an omen for the City’s future.
Without additional revenue generated by new business or industry, coupled with aggressive property tax and fees collection, Aragon will continue facing financial challenges.
I have had conversations with more than one company about annexing into the City, and I will continue my dialog with them as long as I am serving as mayor .
It is paramount the citizens of Aragon determine the direction they want their city to move. Many believe, as do I, that being without a downtown is a serious detriment to the future well being of the city.
We have, with limited funds, made improvements to our parks and sports venues. Future county grant funds for recreation from the 2014 SPLOST, along with what we receive annually from LOST, will greatly improve those facilities.
Without question, there is need for new fencing, more playground equipment, a new press box, safety netting along the third base side, more athletic event spectator seating, along with additional restrooms, and an enlarged and updated concession stand.
In the stage and entertainment area there is a need for new picnic tables, and shaded seating. I have long said, The Pittman Recreation Center is under utilized, and more events need to be planned to take advantage of this valuable City asset. The Stage@Aragon, a 20’x30’ covered stage, constructed with volunteer labor, should be marketed as a “go to” place for outdoor entertainment in Polk County.
In the area of delinquent taxes, over the last three years and nine months, because of newly implemented collection procedures, property tax revenue received by the city has increased dramatically. This is important for a couple of reasons.
First, it shows an aggressive stance taken by the City for collecting delinquent taxes, starting with the first interest and penalty amnesty program of 2013. Secondly, property tax revenue is a part of the city government’s income. It is the basis of what allows the city government to maintain and increase services to its citizens and to improve infrastructure.
I believe a city never stays the same. It either grows, or it dies. Serving as a member of Aragon’s Planning Commission, and then mayor, I chose to work hard to make this city live and grow. I am proud to have been part of it, I am proud of the stature Aragon has gained in the region and in the state over the past four years,
I’m proud we have an attractive city seal, and a beautiful city flag. I’m proud to have been the mayor as we celebrated Aragon’s Centennial in 2014.
Unlike many, Aragon is my chosen home, and I am proud to be a part of it.
For all of the success, there is still much to do. Aragon, the smallest of the three cities in Polk, has been recognized for the first time in many years as a viable partner in the future of this County, and that needs to continue.
Prior to my time as mayor, talks were held with service providers without an Aragon representative present. Consequently, Aragon was considered by a majority of County officials to be willing to accept “crumbs”.
As mayor, I attended those type meetings, and changed their mind set, even to the point of suing the County for breaching an agreement with the City. We won, and I am happy and proud the City prevailed. I made it very clear, Aragon would no longer settle for the “crumbs”. Our endeavors for the most part, have been successful.
Our population has decreased since the census in 2010 to less than 1,200 people, the lowest its been in modern history, yet approximately 8,000 people are within a five-mile radius, and this number is growing.
With current service providers having facilities near Aragon, they are serving Aragon residents well. Some citizens, and others have had a difficult time seeing a benefit in losing a service, such as the Volunteer Fire Department. For the record, the Department was closed because we had no firefighters residing, or working in the city to respond to fire calls. It is real simple, you cannot fight a fire without firefighters. Ironically, because of the mutual aid agreement between Polk County, Rockmart, Aragon is subject to better fire services today, than before.
Over the past two years I have steadily introduced legislation to prepare Aragon for its future. All the tools necessary for the city to grow and prosper, are in place. As the population continues to decrease, along with decreasing revenues, the City residents and their leaders need to be thinking “outside the box” for new ideas that will continue to change things for the better.
My passion for the job has never wavered. I am proud of the recognition Aragon has received across the region and the state because of my willingness to serve on committees and promote Aragon, not only in Polk County but, in the Georgia Municipal Association and other State agencies representing mu-nicipal governments.
The demands of being mayor have meant there were times I wasn’t around as much as I would have liked to be for my wife and family, but we adjusted.
I hope your new mayor and city council will continue to support Aragon to help it grow and prosper. It is important for them, as well as you, to know that being an elected official requires more of the office holder than just having a title and showing up for a meeting once a month. I urge you to support them and help in any way you can.
I am proud to have served as mayor of Aragon, and as I prepare to leave office I know I’m leaving the city in far better shape than I found it.
Most people acknowledge our accomplishments, and salute our efforts. Because we made some hard financial decisions, our bills are paid, and for the first time in several years, we have a surplus. God Bless Aragon.