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Local leaders sit on stage at the state of the community address held at Augusta Technical College in Thomson Jan. 7.

Thomson-McDuffie needs infrastructure improvements and is calling on city and county residents to pass two efforts this spring that will allow projects to be funded from sales tax dollars over the next 10 years.

At the State of Community event Jan. 7, Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry and County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton encouraged support for the 2023-2033 TSPOLST, a regional transportation penny sales tax that allows citizens to support transportation improvement projects and a special purpose local option sales tax to fund capitol projects. The SPLOST is a funding mechanism for capitol projects that would otherwise be paid for with general fund and property tax revenues, which in many cases would present a large burden to local taxpayers.

Voters will be asked to reauthorize the one-cent transportation special purpose local option sales tax (TSPLOST) on March 24.  This tax would raise approximately $40 million for transportation improvements in McDuffie County. As the vote gets closer, special town hall meetings will be held to outline the proposed projects in much greater detail.

On May 19, during the Georgia General Primary, voters will be asked to reauthorize the one cent special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for major capitol improvements within McDuffie County.  In Thomson, Dearing and McDuffie County the areas under consideration include water-sewer, public safety and public works equipment, recreation, the Rock House, information technology, community facilities and broadband access. As the vote gets closer, town hall meetings will be held to provide information and monetary specifics to each project under consideration.

The State of Community event gave citizens the opportunity to hear first hand from representatives from municipal government, military, healthcare and education regarding current and future happening in McDuffie and in the region. There was also a business showcase that allowed local businesses to spotlight their business and network.

Bob Kepshire, administrator and chief nursing officer at University Hospital McDuffie reported the growth of the hospital in a seven-year period. He said in 2012 when University Healthcare took over McDuffie’s hospital, the hospital averaged 4.18 patients a day.  In 2019, the hospital’s inpatient average was 16.06.

The administrator also said a community needs assessment revealed McDuffie County’s citizens are not well.  Citizens suffer from heart failure, high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, other psychosis, diabetes, cancer, stroke, asthma and infectious diseases.

“How can we improve the health of the community?” he asked.  

In terms of the future, he said, University Hospital McDuffie is stable while rural hospitals across the country and in the state are closing.  In Georgia alone, eight hospitals closed between 2008 and 2018. The negative operating budgets are the results of Medicare Cuts and the fact that rural residents are older, poorer and sicker, and are more likely to be dependent on Medicaid and Medicare than employer sponsored insurance.  He ended by urging people to choose University Hospital McDuffie for healthcare services.

Col. James Clifford, Garrison Commander at Fort Gordon provided an overview of the growth of the installation, particularly the growth of its cyber security operation and other major projects underway. He said Fort Gordon is poised to reach a population of 123,173, making it the sixth largest city in Georgia.   Of significance to McDuffie County, he said, is the new gate 6, which will open in 2021 on Hwy. 378. “This is going to drive a lot of traffic and opportunities west of the post,” he said.

Other presenters included McDuffie County Schools Superintendent Mychele Rhodes and Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley who gave an update about the town and who also announced that he would not seek reelection for another term.  

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