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McDuffie County Commission Chairman explains the details of paying off the bonds for the construction of the Government Complex at Saturday’s Camellia City Festival.

While it may be customary for officials to burn the note when a milestone project is paid off, in McDuffie County that was done with a slightly different twist Saturday afternoon.

Thomson-McDuffie leaders basically detonated the two bond notes rather than burning them. The loan documents had to be kept in tack, but portions of pages were trimmed off from the edges then sent aloft in the form of fireworks, which burst into small puffs of smoke against a blue sky near the end of the Camellia City Festival.

McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newsome explained the significance prior to the ceremonial detonations.

“This is the celebration of the 150th anniversary of McDuffie County being carved from the best and brightest folks in Columbia and Warren County to create what we call God’s country right here in McDuffie County,” Newton said. “The 150th was actually last year. Because of COVID we couldn’t do it so we’re very happy to do it this year and this has been a wonderful day to do it on so it’s been worth waiting for.”

State Sen. Max Burns, Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry, several city council members, and several county commissioners, joined Newton on the stage. Burns presented a resolution that the state senate enacted in February to recognize the 150th anniversary of McDuffie County.

He told the audience how McDuffie County was established Oct. 18, 1870 by an act of the Georgia General Assembly, has many cultural and historical sites, and is the birthplace of Rear Admiral Richard E. Hawes, Ray Guy, and Blind Willie McTell.

“The good news about McDuffie County is it’s a vibrant, active place, where people live, work, and enjoy their families,” the state senator said.

He then presented the resolution to Newton.

“As we said, last year marked the 150th anniversary of McDuffie County being created. I think the leadership and the citizens over the last 150 years have done a great job in turning this into a wonderful place to live, raise your children, and retire and enjoy yourself,” Newton add.

He continued and explained another milestone achievement last year — the bond used to construct the Government Complex was paid off. Newton said talk of a new government center started in 2005 when there was a need to have better security than what could be provided at the old courthouse. In 2007 a committee formed and began the planning process.

“Not only did this facility clean up an area of Thomson that was in bad, bad shape - we built a new courthouse that had all of the modern security that you need and we have an administrative building that makes it so much easier for our citizens to do business with the city and county in one location,” Newton said.

He further explained that the grounds around the Government Complex also provide a great venue for festivals and events. Newton then gave a timeline and details of the project.

•In 2008, a SPLOST was passed to fund the first portion of the debt service, started buying property, and started looking at architects and builders for the project. The original bond was over $17 million.

•Construction began in 2009.

•On Aug. 5, 2011, there was a dedication ceremony for the new building.

•In 2016 more than $5 million of the loan balance was refinanced because County Manager David Crawley and the finance department realized rates were down. That move saved McDuffie County $830,000 in interest.

•The project came in under budget around $13.5 million total cost and excess funds were used for renovations on other facilities.

•March 2021 the final payment of about $1.8 million was made.

“From now forward, this wonderful facility belongs to the citizens of McDuffie County at no debt. It’s paid for,” added Newton.

The chairman said in commemoration of paying off the debt, he would have liked to have burned the notes. But, those documents needed to be kept so he clipped portions of the title pages of both documents and had them attached to fireworks.

“We’ve got one string of fireworks with the original note taped to it and the second string’s got the second note taped to it,” he explained.

He then led a countdown and the fireworks were launched as the elected officials and audience applauded.