State of the City 2020 Mayor Gil McDougal The Villa Rica of the 21st Century
Members of the council, Mr. City Manager, Mr. City Attorney, my fellow Villa Ricans, thank you for being here. It is my duty to report on the state of the city, tonight I can confidently report, the state of our city is strong, and getting stronger.
I want to start by recognizing what is shaping up to be an outstanding staff, so much of what I will talk about tonight begins at the staff level. It is not lost on me, the city manager, nor on this council how many of you go above and beyond the call of duty to excel in your departments, we thank you for your service and your commitment to our city. To those who have seen a lot of me lately, I say get used to it, and to those who haven’t seen me that much, I say be patient, I’m coming.
I also want to thank our council members, your votes moved us from heavily taxpayer subsidized enterprise funds to a completely user funded system. This allowed us to plan for the increased bond payment in February 2020 from 1.7 M to 2.167 M and made many of the of the water and sewer upgrades and maintenance projects possible. You made the tough decisions to adopt a series of policies that have now realized about 80% of the implementation of the salary study for our hard working employees, and in 2019 you approved a 1.5% cost of living adjustment. The decision to go to a partially self funded insurance plan always had inherent risk, but together we have monitored the program and tweaked it when necessary ultimately resulting in over $1Million dollars in savings while continuing to maintain the insurance fund at over $700,000 in the bank. It has also been great for our employees resulting in zero dollar copays and lower deductibles.
Villa Rica uniquely sits in 2 counties, and that alone creates a hosts of opportunities, both positive and negative. Service Delivery Strategies are often complicated, and involve a number of moving parts and interests. For far too long Villa Rica has been underestimated as a player in these negotiations. In my role as the city’s Chief Executive, I have made a strong effort to be a part of both counties, and those efforts have been reciprocated, I can report that today we have very strong and committed relationships in Douglas County with Commission Chair Remona Jackson Jones as well as in Carroll County with Commission Chair Michelle Morgan.
In 2019, we saw an ever growing number of residential building permits as more homes are being constructed than at any time since the housing crash. Developers are busy building Villa Rica’s newest neighborhoods while also depleting our oversupply of vacant lots by building brand new houses on them. Responsible growth allows us to welcome new restaurants, businesses, industry, and residential growth. Last year we signed into law a new sign ordinance and this year we will adopt a new zoning ordinance and a transportation master plan, and tonight I am announcing the creation of a transportation/ traffic committee.
Our utilities department continued the engineering and design for the water plant upgrade and completed 80% of the water line improvement projects. This included utility relocation of the mini round about at Punkintown Road and Hwy 61, the 10 inch water line extension from Punkintown Road to North Avenue down Hwy 61 West and the bore and water line extension under the railroad at Hwy 78 to stone street. Among the goals for 2020 is the completion of the design and beginning of the construction of the water plant upgrade, the development of a preventive maintenance program to include emergency response plans, and a Boil Water Advisory Protocol as well as completion of the design and beginning of the upgrades to the North Plant. These initiatives will help ensure Villa Rican’s are living in and commuting to safe homes and attractive neighborhoods.
With more options than ever before, a greater number of people are now shopping and dining in Villa Rica. 2019 saw the expansion of 2 downtown business and the addition of 6 new businesses and more are on the way. Thanks in large part to our Downtown Development Authority and our Main Street board and countless volunteers who organize our Amphitheatre events including Concerts, Festivals, Parades, Movie Nights, Competitions and so much more, Villa Rica’s Main Street is becoming more vibrant every day. Thanks to our highly successful concert series which is largely funded through hotel motel tax and local sponsorship, our hotels are reporting no vacancies and our restaurants often run out of supply on concert nights. In Villa Rica, we are doing a lot of things right and we need to keep on this path. If we are not willing to invest in ourselves, how can we possibly expect others to invest in us. In October 2019 Villa Rica was awarded the Rural Zone Grant by the Department of Community affairs and both the Villa Rica Main Street and DDA were able to award over $19,000 in grant money to local businesses. Villa Rica will continue to commit resources that lead to investment in ourselves.
We’ve also committed significant resources to repairing and maintaining facilities and other infrastructure that affects our day-to-day lives, such as parks that include Gold Dust which saw the adoption of the Gold Dust Park Master Plan.
City Streets with City Crews and Contractors repairing or repaving miles of city roads. Our Library received almost 60K visitors last year, issuing 1013 new library cards and circulating 99,612 items in its collection.
Public safety is at the forefront of what we do and our Police work hard to protect and serve our community. Last year we created and filled a full time Training Officer position. Our department filled open positions to staff each patrol shift with at least 7 officers, we invested in a complete body camera program, and we have issued one to every patrol officer. I want our officers to know that they have my support, the support of this council, and most importantly, the support of our community. Tonight I will announce my support to proceed with developing a construction plan to build out and equip a police precinct, funded by the Douglas County SPLOST on the east side of town, and in keeping with our ongoing effort to attract and retain high quality officers, I will announce my support to extend the take home vehicle program from 15 miles to 20 miles in the upcoming budget cycle.
These are great steps but we’re just getting started. I remain committed to the design and completion of the Mirror Lake Connector and the North bypass just to name a few of the many ongoing projects in Villa Rica. This Council and I, along with city staff will continue to invest in our community to make sure Villa Rica remains a great place to live, work, and recreate. We’re committed to improving our neighborhoods, investing in our downtown, and embracing our parks and open space as we plan the Villa Rica of tomorrow while taking great care to preserve our unique past. I am proud of our community and the progress we have made toward the future and I look forward to taking on these opportunities in the new year.
It’s a great day in Villa Rica, and our best days are ahead.