Columbia County leaders share accomplishments, challenges, goals

Columbia County is growing and thriving, speakers said Tuesday at the chamber of commerce’s annual State of the Community Address.


“Everything overall in Columbia County is good,” county commission Chairman Ron Cross said. “We are a great county because we have a lot of great people.”

County officials, along with those from Grovetown, Harlem, the school system and Fort Gordon, were part of the event at Liberty Park Community Center.

Grovetown Mayor George James celebrated the passing of the Transportation In­vestment Act, whose 1-cent sales tax will fund more than $126 million worth of projects in the county over 10 years, including the extension of River Watch Parkway. The tax will also provide $11 million to improve Robinson Avenue and Wrightsboro Road, Grovetown’s main thoroughfares.

Though the 1-cent sales tax passed in the 13-county region that includes Columbia County, county voters rejected it.

“The TSPLOST passed, and we’re very fortunate for that,” James said.

Growth brings challenges, some noted.

Columbia County Superintendent Charles Nagle said that over the past five years, the school system has opened four schools and accommodated 2,600 new pupils with 10 fewer teachers and a decreasing budget.

“We’re a very lean machine,” Nagle said, noting that test scores and the system rank among the best in the state. “We’re giving the best bang for the buck in Columbia County.”

Fort Gordon garrison commander Col. Robert Barker assured the crowd that the military installation is flourishing.

Without giving specifics, Barker said he expects the $2.2 billion economic impact of the base, the area’s largest employer, to continue.

“What happens behind those gates is often a mystery,” he said. “Fort Gordon is a strategic asset for the nation.”