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County discusses progress

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SWEDA update focus of county meeting

By John Overby

SWEDA Executive Director Daniel Carney was present to give the organization’s annual report to the Washington County fiscal court during Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

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Carney mentioned that one of their main objectives this past year was retaining the factories that are currently in Washington County and encouraging them to expand, areas that have already seen some promising results.

“There are a lot of good things going on right now with hiring within the current (companies) that we already have,” Carney said.

While retention is a high priority for SWEDA, according to Carney, they have also been actively involved in recruiting other corporations to come to the Washington County area.

One problem that some companies have cited to Carney, though, is a problem with the community’s workforce, as in the number of workers available.

Carney referred to the companies’ fear that, once they have moved in and have a need for a large quantity of workers in a short amount of time, this area will not be able to fill that requirement.

While Carney also stated that this has been a dilemma in many different areas, they are still looking in to different ways of quelling those concerns.

Another problem that some of the existing companies have noticed with students coming out of high school is “a little bit of a lack of soft skills” (responsibility, communication skills, etc.).

Improving this type of skill set has been one of the focuses for SWEDA at the high-school level, along with educating the students about the upside of getting a technical degree.

Other notes:
• The playground equipment at the ‘Burg Park has officially been installed.

When this project was first approved in October, the thought was that the county would be able to find enough donors to make the over-$19,000 project cost around $10,000.

As District 6 Greg Simms pointed out, many of these possible contributors were unable to help curb the cost for “one reason or another.”

However, the county did receive a $2,000 donation from the Holy Trinity Parish Council, and Simms also noted that, since the cost is higher than he expected when it was first proposed, he will donate three months of his salary to help lighten the financial burden for the court.

A grant that the county applied for to put in a waste tire crumb rubber surface is also still under consideration, according to Settles.

• While no action could be taken on the matter, Judge-Executive John Settles and the magistrates discussed the Chamber of Commerce’s proposal to move the newly renamed Sorghum Festival up three weeks.

The general consensus was that this idea would be hard to execute with the Washington County BBQ Cookoff—an event with a date that has little-to-no flexibility—around the same time.

The two typically occur on the same weekend, which eases the cost of the community because it only needs to prepare for one festival weekend rather than two.

• The Washington County Tourism Board agreed to shoulder half of the cost of signage for the Lincoln Legacy Museum.

The original motion by Magistrate 3 Hal B. Goode during the Dec. 9 meeting was that the WC fiscal court would pay for half of the cost of two signs — one that would be visible from the National Scenic Byway and one at the front entrance of the building — contingent on tourism agreeing to split the other half of the bill.

With the assurance that tourism would now pay for half of the expenses, the court voted again on the motion to pay for the remaining half.

All magistrates were in favor, save for District 5 Magistrate Billy Riney, Jr., who still contended that two signs would be “over coverage” and thus unnecessary.

• Settles applauded Road Department Supervisor Dale Mann and his crew for their foresight in stocking up on several tons of salt (estimated to be around 400 tons). He mentioned that, according to several other judges, some counties have been left with little-to-no salt to help combat the poor road conditions because of the high demand across the country.

All magistrates were in attendance.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be Friday, Feb. 28.