Crews, Nations discuss county’s future, pay, workforce in election forum

Published 9:53 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2022

EDITOR’S NOTE: Eight candidates participated in a candidate forum hosted by The LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. The event was live-streamed on The LaGrange Daily News Facebook page. Stories on the other three races — Senate 29, House 136 and Commission District 5 — will be following later in the week.

Incumbent County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews and challenger Phil Nations participated in a forum Tuesday night in front of a small crowd at the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce and in front of a digital audience on The LaGrange Daily News Facebook page.

Whichever of the two candidates wins the Republican primary May 24 will have no opposition in November’s general election.  Crews is looking for a third term as commission chairman, while Nations hopes to hold public office for the first time.

Nations said he doesn’t think Crews has done a bad job, but he said he’d plug holes that exist in the county.

“There are holes that need to be plugged,” Nations said. “That’s what I’ll do, plug the holes, like the officers not making the money they need to make.”

In response to a question about the sheriff’s office, Nations said a professional law enforcement officer who has been working for two years should make a minimum of $65,000 a year.

Crews, who went first in responding to the question, said county employees, including Troup County Sheriff’s Office employees, have received a raise seven consecutive years, thanks to a result of two pay studies.

“We have rewarded our employees every year except for the very first year I was in office,” Crews said. “It took a little bit of time to get rolling, but we have rewarded our employees with pay increases. This year alone our pay increases will be about $2 million.”

Crews also said the commission stays in contact with Sheriff James Woodruff and the county is not in a crisis situation with staffing, noting that many other communities have it much worse right now.

Crews said if he gets another four years in office, he wants to see through projects like the Oakfuskee Center at West Point Lake. He said the lake is currently missing the opportunity to have corporate events and hold major fishing tournaments.

He also mentioned the continued use of the agricultural center, which is newly opened.

“I think for me there would a continuation of that, [plus] addressing the needs of workforce … and the issue of housing,” Crews said.

A question from the audience brought up the renovation of the Griggs Center and specifically the Griggs Pool. Crews said the project is being completed in three phases, with the second phase involving the pool.

The question asked why the county recently rolled the millage rate back, saving taxpayers $2 million total, rather than using that money for the pool project, or elsewhere.

Crews noted the county applied for an $8 million grant that is still pending, and the county is hoping that money will pay for the project.

“We have a plan, and I think that’s what people have overlooked,” Crews said.

Nations said he would do what was needed to get a pool built at the Griggs Center. In response to a question about keeping young people in Troup County earlier in the meeting, Nations had already said the county needed more swimming pools.

“I really feel like we could move some money around somewhere and get y’all a pool,” he said.

Nations said the county also needs more retail shopping that will keep people in the county instead of traveling to Newnan or Columbus.

“There’s nowhere to go anymore. Years ago, you had JC Penney, you had Belk downtown. The small businesses downtown were thriving and selling back when we grew up here,” Nations said.

Crews said he is dedicated to making Troup County a better community, noting his involvement in various nonprofit organizations over the years and his previous role on the DASH board. He said Troup County needs more rooftops in order to bring in big box stores.

“What all the developers tell us is we need 100,000 people,” Crews said. “We need to reach a population of 100,000 people. We have a lot of work to do to fill that gap and build our population … but we have 20,000 to 24,000 people a day who drive into this community to work, but then they go home. We’ve got to encourage them to stay here in our community.”

The candidates were also asked about workforce development, getting along with the three other city governments in Troup County, affordable housing, SPLOST and poverty.

To watch the full forum, visit the LDN Facebook page.