By Jason A. Smith
McDONOUGH — Henry County started the new year by owing millions of dollars, the new commission chairman told a group of business and government leaders Wednesday.
“How many people do you know that owe $52 million and are still standing?” Chairman Tommy Smith asked a group of 60 business and government leaders at a Henry Council for Quality Growth luncheon at Eagle’s Landing Country Club in Stockbridge.
The county’s financial obligations include the Atlanta South Regional Airport, Nash Farm Park in Hampton and the Cotton Fields Golf Course in McDonough. Smith said county employees were hit with layoffs as recently as last month and there is “no quick fix” to Henry’s economic woes.
“This is not a new game for me,” Smith said.
Steve Cash, the council’s executive director, said the organization plans to work with Smith and other county leaders going forward in an effort to bolster the county’s economic future.
“We can no longer look forward to monies from Washington or our state legislature,” Cash said. “They are no longer relevant to our immediate transportation needs to improve our quality of life of the citizens of Henry County.”
Smith plans to focus much of his efforts attracting small businesses to Henry. He said a Southern Crescent Technical College campus, breaking ground in McDonough this week, will help put people to work by combating a “one size fits all” mode of education.
“Everybody’s not going to college,” said Smith. “Everybody’s not college material.”
He said he will work with businesses and the Henry County Chamber of Commerce to make Southern Crescent Technical the best it can be.
The county will soon begin working on plans for how to use funds from the upcoming fourth installment of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax IV program. Smith said he already has plans for how the majority of those funds should be used.
“I would advocate probably 90 percent for roads,” he said. “Roads are going to be significant.”
Smith said SPLOST IV funds would be used to improve local roads and not state roads.
He also reiterated his campaign pledge to improve compensation for county employees who have not gotten a raise in the last five years, including those at the Henry County Police Department.
“If we don’t protect the police department, none of this is going to matter,” he said.