Troup County looks at 2019, 2020

Published 1:38 pm Wednesday, January 1, 2020

As citizens ring in the new year, Troup County Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Crews reflected on the county’s achievements in 2019, and its hopes for 2020.

One of the biggest projects completed by the county during 2019 was Spinks Field at the LaGrange-Callaway Airport. Locals first began working on the project more than 20 years ago, and officials celebrated its grand opening in September.

“I think probably one of the greatest things is finally seeing the airport project being opened up for plane usage, air traffic,” Crews said. “That has been an ongoing project for a long, long time, and so I’m really excited to see that project finished. I think this will mean some great things for the airport area. … I believe that has been a great win for the community.”

The airport was estimated to have an economic impact of more than $8.7 million annually, and the runway expansion project is expected to add to that amount.

“We’ve seen an expansion of existing industry, and we’ve had a record low unemployment rate for our area,” Crews said. “We’ve got a lot of great projects out there that are in the works.”

Crews said other important improvements included the resurfacing many of its roads in 2019, increased convenience center hours and continuing efforts to ensure that the county remains financially solid.

Meanwhile, the county is also looking forward to a number of projects in 2020, including additional progress toward a major event center at Pyne Road Park.

“I’m really excited for 2020, looking at those SPLOST projects and the celebration center out at Pyne Road Park and our work with the Ag Center,” Crews said.

The celebration center will be an event center in Pyne Road Park, which will be paid for using SPLOST and grant funding. One of the major grants that the county hopes to use to fund the project will be announced in February, and construction may begin late in 2020, according to Crews.

“The idea originally came out of the [LaGrange-Troup County] Chamber of Commerce looking at how to increase tourism,” Crews said. “I like to say that I’ve lived here for 30 plus years now, and there’ve been no real major developments inside Pyne Road Park, and if we are ever going to step out and try to make that lake attractive and get people in, we feel like this center — which can be used for fishing tournaments, corporate events, the chamber Early Bird Breakfast — [means] that we are making an investment in that park to attract more tourists to West Point Lake.”

Crews said that based on Del’Avant Event Center’s packed weekend bookings, the county believes there is a strong demand for event spaces in Troup County. He said the county hopes that the event center will provide a location to host major events, ranging from corporate parties to dinners for bass fishing tournaments. 

“We think there is a strong demand, and with this sitting at Pyne Road Park with a beautiful view of West Point Lake, we think it’ll be very attractive to a lot of groups to come over,” Crews said. “There is really nothing like that on West Point Lake, so that is why we feel strongly about it.”

The county has also applied for grant funding to improve camping areas at the park.

Major projects won’t be confined to just the park though. Crews said the county is also working with local partners — including the City of LaGrange and the Troup County School System — to provide a soccer complex.

“We know that there is a need for a soccer complex or square fields,” Crews said. “So, we’ve just been finding the right opportunity.”

Even with a list of exciting projects expected to move forward in 2020, Crews said the county would still face challenges in the upcoming year.

“I think we’ve got to take a hard look at how we manage our sanitation here in the unincorporated area, so that is going to be a challenge for us,” Crews said. 

Crews said that improving countywide water and ensuring that it is able to maintain and attract personnel are also important issues that county officials are working to solve. However, he said that the countywide raises have left Troup County in better shape regarding employee retention than many of its neighbors.

“Some counties are fighting battles of trying to find deputies or employees. We seem to have done a very good job of managing that for the county,” Crews said. 

He also noted some of the changes to county staff in the past year, including Troup County Fire Chief John Ekaitis. That new hire was paired with several improvements to the department.

“We’ve made several improvements in the fire department with new personnel, additional personnel, the new fire chief,” Crews said. 

Troup County also welcomed Court Services Director Lindsey Fenn, County Planner Erin Johnson, Parks and Recreation Director Lance Dennis and Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent Johnathan Lillebo. 

Additionally, the county hired 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent Laura Mirarchi, who started Jan. 1.