City Council agrees to help fund county-wide strategic study

Published 2:18 pm Thursday, January 20, 2022

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Editors note: This article was written and published on Nov. 27, 2021.

At its Tuesday work session, the LaGrange City Council discussed the possibility of helping fund a $70,000 study at the request of the Troup County Center for Strategic Planning that will reevaluate aspects such as education and of the Troup County community. Through the study, the city, as well as other surrounding cities and county heads, can pinpoint areas that may be in need of change.

Maryann Lovejoy, executive director of the Troup County Center for Strategic Planning, spearhead the conversation. Her request was to ask the city to contribute $14,000 to the $70,000 study. Lovejoy has also asked the cities of West Point and Hogansville and the county to contribute. The Callaway Foundation has already agreed to match the amounts if each municipality donates their share, she said.

The last study of this magnitude was taken in 2007 by Georgia Technical College and was complete by 2009, Lovejoy said, at the request of former board members of the center during that period. At that time, Troup County had approximately 65,000 residents compared to the over 69,900 it has as of 2019.

“It’s trying to get an update what’s going on in the local communities compared to what the framework was at that point,” she said.

The group that would conduct the study is Atlanta and Arkansas-based Boyette Strategic Advisors. The 2009 study stated that planning and growth management was the most frequently identified challenge affecting Troup County, followed by challenges relating to transportation, K-12 education, water and sewer infrastructure, and addressing the needs of the at-risk population.  The study also noted that local jurisdictions and institutional partners needed to work jointly in addressing those issues.   When asked to identify the most serious issue affecting Troup County’s ability to prepare for the future, the quality of the workforce was mentioned by community stakeholders more frequently than any other.  At that time, KIA had set up its new plant in West Point, and the community was expecting substantial growth with its presence, Lovejoy explained.

“There was this idea there was this explosive growth and congestion, [but] great things went on as this came to this sleepy town,” she said.

“And they wanted to have a well-planned vision of what the community would look like.”

The study noted that KIA, and related opportunities, was largely seen as the catalyst for the county “to come together around a common goal, and as being responsible for relationships that are becoming stronger over time.”

Per the study, the job growth was anticipated to yield a population increase of nearly 50,000 by 2030.

In its regular meeting Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously to support the study.

Councilmember Jim Arrington is on the center’s current board in lieu of Mayor Jim Thornton, who has a seat but voted Arrington in his place. Arrington said he supports the idea of a new study.

“I think it’s time,” he said. “I think it’s time to re-look at our community as a whole and get an outsider’s opinion what we can be, where we can go. I think everyone feels that there is a strong need to redo this amongst all the other cities and the county.”

Mayor Jim Thornton seconded the idea, noting the Great Recession of 2008 dampened progress during the study’s peak.

“A lot of the assumptions that were made during that study have not proven accurate over the 13 years, so it’s pretty dated material that we want to revisit,” he said.