Thornton holds first town hall

Published 9:07 pm Friday, March 9, 2018

City employees outnumbered citizens at LaGrange’s town hall on Thursday, but Mayor Jim Thornton still spoke on the status of the city and answered questions from the audience and Facebook commenters.

The event was the first of four mayor town halls that will be hosted in LaGrange this year, and topics ranging from new businesses to litter to intergovernmental partnerships were discussed. However, the two overarching themes seemed to be infrastructure and business.

Thornton discussed possible solutions to traffic on Vernon Road, including a bypass that the city is currently working on, and he talked about what the city is doing about outdated storm drains.

“One of the things that the city council did when passing the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) in November was to put in a million dollars for storm water improvements because we know that that is becoming an issue,” Thornton said. “It is particularly an issue in some of the older neighborhoods where, like you said, the system was not designed to handle the volume of water that we receive. The roads have been resurfaced, and some of the storm drains are not functioning.”

A citizen also requested that the city push phone and cable companies to remove unnecessary phone poles from the Azalea Drive neighborhood. Thornton said that the city cannot force the companies to remove the poles, but he promised that city staff would discuss the removal with the companies.

Billy Nestor asked through Facebook when the Georgia Department of Transportation plans to start the expansion on U.S. 27.

“The 27 widening — which is the Hamilton Road widening — is currently in the property acquisition phase, and the DOT thinks that should take up to two years because they are affecting 210 private property owners, so they have to first negotiate a sale,” Thornton said. “Then if they are not successful in negotiating the sale, then they go to court to try to do a condemnation. The DOT is working on that. I believe they told us the other day 2020 or possibly 2021.”

Nester also asked about the status of Sentury Tire North America.

“They are moving forward,” Thornton said. “They have started clearing land, cutting timber burning the land, etc., which is down there off of Pegasus Parkway to the right and behind Badcock distribution center. I believe that they are expecting to start moving dirt this summer.”

According to Thornton, Sentury Tire is expected to begin construction in January 2019 and open in January 2020.

People also asked about chains like Target coming to the area, but Thornton could not confirm any possible store or restaurant openings. Pam Murphy Bruce asked if the city could ask developers to post signs indicating what will be built on the property.

“It is ultimately up to the private developer and private business to decide when they want to reveal that, so I guess the short answer to your question is no we can’t have developers post signs telling what they are going to do there,” Thornton said. “It is their decision as to when they want to go public with it.”

Carol Whatley asked about rumors of an Olive Garden locating in LaGrange.

“I am not aware of any Olive Garden locating in the community,” Thornton said. “In fact, I don’t think that Olive Garden is opening new stores. From what I’ve read nationally, I don’t think there are a lot of new Olive Gardens being opened anywhere.”

Thornton said that the city is working to attract major restaurants and retailers to the area, but ultimately the decision is up to those businesses to decide if they think they will make money in LaGrange.

The remaining town halls will be hosted on the following dates:

Monday, March 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Berta Weathersbee School at 1200 Forrest Avenue.

Thursday, March 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the William Griggs Recreation Center at 716 Glenn Robertson Drive.

Tuesday, March 20 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Division of Family and Children Services Building at 1220 Hogansville Road.

The meetings will also be broadcasted live on Facebook, and questions from both the live audience and social media will be answered at the meeting. For additional updates on the town halls or other city events, visit the City of LaGrange on Facebook @lagrangegagov.