By BRIAN GRAVES
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis gave his annual State of the County address Thursday, noting growth and low taxes, and displaying a wry sense of humor.The mayor, as has been his tradition, gave …
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis gave his annual State of the County address Thursday, noting growth and low taxes, and displaying a wry sense of humor.
The mayor, as has been his tradition, gave the remarks at the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland.
One of the year’s successes, according to Davis, was that the net position of the county exceeded its liabilities by $44 million.
“Our long-term debt increased by $11 million,” he said. “We did pay down our debt. We pay down our debt every year and this year we paid it down $4,744,000.”
He noted the schools borrowed $16.2 million for their energy-saving renovations which will be paid back in large part by the savings in energy costs.
“Eighty-four percent of the county’s debt is for schools,” Davis said, adding the new $16.5 million debt for the new Lake Forest classroom facility and for education “is a good investment.”
Davis said the development of Spring Branch Industrial Park “is going well” as the new interchange on APD 40 has now been completed.
“There has been a lot of interest it, but a lot of that was before we actually had something to show them,” he said. “Now that it’s cleared, there is one section that will be pad ready. It is supposed to be ready this year and that makes it more likely to bring more jobs for our community.”
The mayor said the value of county property has risen, as opposed to some neighboring counties.
“You grow your community. You grow your values. And you pay for things as opposed to a 28-percent tax increase like some people like to brag about,” Davis said.
The county has also experienced record low unemployment, which is now hovering at 3 percent.
“There are 388 metropolitan areas in the nation and ours is ranked eighth in job growth,” Davis said. “We are to the point where people like Amazon are begging. If somebody doesn’t have a job, I’m sorry, there are jobs out there.”
The mayor said the county also continues to maintain the highest bond rating possible.
“On fire service, we now have eight paid fire stations across the county,” Davis noted. “There is now a paid battalion coming no matter where you live. No other county can say that.”
The mayor also spoke of Wacker and how that original $5 million investment by the county, which was paid off in two years, is making a difference in the local economy.
“Even after the explosion, no one has lost their job and everyone is still going to work,” he said. “There are 650 well-paid employees up there and it will be 700 once their expansion is finished. So, Wacker remains a very good project.”
Davis reported the new workhouse at the Justice Center is “working out to be self-supporting.”
“That project, I think, was well worth it,” he said.
The mayor also said all of these accomplishments have been made with a tax rate that is lower than it was when he took office two decades ago.
Davis also spoke of the repairs and energy renovations to the Bradley County Courthouse, and recalled how that Saturday morning started and got big laughs as he described the humorous side of the situation.
“I went to the grocery store, I check my phone and leave it in the truck,” he recalled. “When I come out it’s all lit up with lots of text messages, so I knew what the problem was.”
Davis said when he EMA director told him about the fire, he asked if the fire department was on the scene and was told it was.
“I asked, ‘What do you expect me to do when I get there?’” he said, getting laughs from the audience. “In the meantime, media is reporting the courthouse is on fire and we can’t reach the county mayor. And, this is nine months before an election. But, I got there and stood in the street for four hours, like everybody else.”
Davis lauded the elected officials who had courts running by that Monday, and satellite locations set up a few days later.
“In the end, the citizens were taken care of,” he said.
Davis said there was at least one perception issue.
“When someone starts passing anonymous letters in your building, and there are cameras all over the building and they deny doing it, then they say maybe they did it but didn’t write it, and it’s implying that you somehow wanted this fire so you could get glory in the news media,” he said. “I promise you after being there all these years, this was one glory I never wanted.”
“This same person went on Facebook and gave a dissertation of how we wouldn’t have these problems if the mayor had done his job and kept the courthouse from burning,” Davis added. “Well, for 20 years it didn’t burn,” he said, to laughter.
He reviewed that between the repairs and the energy-savings improvements, it will be the first major renovation for the 56-year-old building.
“If the heating and air units arrive on time, they should be installed by March and we should be back in the building by April,” Davis said.
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