Taking Pride in the City of Aragon

Editor’s note: This letter was received back in July from Mrs. Dora Williams, who helps run the local 4-H program as Polk County’s Extension Program Assistant. This letter was found in past weeks during a search of e-mail archives on a completely different topic, and we asked Mrs. Williams if she still wished us to print this response to a summer-time column by former Aragon Mayor Ken Suffridge. We do apologize to Mrs. Williams for the delay. – KM

Dear Editor,

“I live in a place known for being created out of nothing but farmland and springs. I have lived in the city of Aragon since I was three months old and my childhood is deeply rooted within this town. As a child, I never really thought much about the old buildings of the mill at the end of my street nor did I ever question where the mill pond came from.

Our history is filled with growth, disappointment, tragedy and triumph. People have chipped away at our history until all we have left is a smokestack. Our motto is “A Proud Past and a Promising Future.” This is the story of Aragon, Georgia.”

This is the beginning of my daughter’s 4-H History project on Aragon, Georgia from two years ago. She would go on to achieve State recognition for her speech. Throughout her speech you can feel the emotion and pride that is felt for our community. The quotes that are included are excerpts from her speech.

That is what is missing from your article, Mr. Suffridge, pride. I don’t understand why or what happened that prompted you to decide to write such a biased and insulting article that would be seen by thousands of people who do not know or understand our town.

But first I want to respond some of your ‘facts” that you so boldly shared with the world.

You said when you were elected, that it came as a surprise to you that Aragon had a large amount of debt. How did you not know? The citizens of Aragon did. It was not a well-kept secret, why would it have been? We have nothing to hide. Our debt has been a hot topic for several years. I remember when Frank Rayburn was Mayor several years ago, he did not how we were going to pay the electric bill for the streetlights or city employees.

Former Mayor Brenda Gazaway, mentioned the ever-increasing debt frequently for years at every council meeting and the minutes were always published in the local paper. One time, the garbage truck broke down and there was not enough money to fix it.

As for the “occasional drive by of the Aragon police”, we get more than that for our taxes. Just like all other cities, the taxes go toward taking care of our city expenses, taking care of the employees and maintenance of city buildings and property.

Yes, we pay for our garbage pickup just like everyone else in almost every city in America.

As for the “thefts”, why was that so important to bring up? Those issues have been resolved by investigating and either exonerating the individual or by punishment. This was all done by outsiders so they could no accusations of bias.

Our current mayor, Mr. Garry Baldwin has worked hard to do everything he can for us. We have had city wide clean up days and he has set in motion several solutions for the abandoned houses and back taxes.

“Everyone thought that the closing would “sound the death knell” for the tiny textile community, and was even predicted that it would become a “ghost town”… However, the town of 1000 beat the odds. It should have followed other towns in similar situations down that dusty Georgia road to oblivion.”

“In the next 18 months after United Merchants Inc. closed its doors, the citizens off the small community reactivated the charter and took control of the public services.”

“Everyone knew it would not be easy and could not happen overnight, but the town was in good shape for a new mayor and council in 1972. Larry Pittman, a local school teacher, was elected mayor and stayed mayor until 1984, which amounts to six terms in office.”

I just want to ask Mr. Suffridge, where were you, in October of 1974, when the train hit the busload of local children? I was locked in Ms. Keller’s 5th grade classroom scared and confused and wondering why the teachers were crying.

Where were you in 1999 when the Aragon school burned down? I was watching from my kitchen window remembering my first day of school and meeting my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Linda Boggs, who would be a life-long friend.

And where were you August 2002 when the Aragon Mill burned down? I was a block away worrying if the Christmas tree my father planted at the mill’s gate, when I was a small child, would survive.

“We still refer to the houses on my street by the names of the people who originally lived there, Mrs. Stewart, Ms. Hattie, Mr. Mears, Ms. Woods and more. They will not be forgotten and neither will my town. I hope you take a moment to truly think about you and your family’s heritage.”

We the few, are still here and fighting for our way of life and that is why Aragon is still a city and our home.

We fight for our past, present and future.

Dora Williams, Aragon

SPLOST not being used for its purpose

DEAR EDITOR:

The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) was designed and intended as a rare funding mechanism for special projects that may arise every decade or so, such as expanding water and sewer systems or building new roads.

Unfortunately, in Polk County, the SPLOST has been transformed into a system of shifting more and more items from the regular budgeting process to the SPLOST mechanism for which it was never intended. This practice has resulted in treating the SPLOST as a super credit card for which the payments are made by the taxpayers.

To argue that it is, in fact, taxpayers that ultimately approve a SPLOST one has to consider that Polk County SPLOST promoters, whether the school system or local governments, take particular care to put these repeated SPLOST initiatives on off year elections, never on Presidential elections where most people turn out.

The ease of passing these SPLOSTS in off elections has tempted our local governments to load up these SPLOST initiatives with a wide array of goods, from furniture to computers to new vehicles.

This is the third county wide non-school SPLOST in the last ten years. That is not special purpose, that is over spending.

Perry T. Barrett, Rockmart