NORTH AUGUSTA — Community leaders met in North Augusta on Friday to look back on the year’s accomplishments while looking ahead to future challenges.
North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit, Gary Bunker, chairman of Aiken County Council, Chief John Thomas of North Augusta Public Safety, Dr. Sean Alford, Aiken County School Superintendent and Col. Todd Turner, Fort Gordon Garrison Commander were part of a panel at the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce’s annual state of the community breakfast at the Municipal Complex.
Some of the biggest news for North Augusta in 2017 was the passage of bonds and the start of construction on the Riverside Village which includes SRP Park.
“On May 25, we had the groundbreaking, and opening day is only four months away. A lot has to be done,” said Pettit, who was elected mayor in February.
The park should be ready for opening day, but other aspects of the project, such as the parking deck and some of the retail businesses and condominiums will still be under construction.
North Augusta’s riverfront isn’t the only spot seeing growth. The area near Interstate 20 Exit 5 has also seen commercial growth with the opening of a Holiday Inn express as well as a few fast food restaurants and a new gas station.
Pettit said there has been residential growth in other areas and was tight-lipped about another residential development that is in the works.
Growth often brings challenges, and Chief John Thomas of North Augusta Public Safety is working to anticipate those challenges such as the traffic issues likely to come with the baseball stadium.
Thomas touted his department which received the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA) certification last month. It usually takes three years for a department to complete all the requirements for the national certification; however, Thomas said North Augusta’s public safety department did it in two.
Aiken County School Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford called North Augusta’s growth the “western migration.”
“The core population of Aiken County has shifted,” he said. “It used to be closer to the city of Aiken, but it’s been moving toward the river.”
While the school population has remained stable for about 30 years, enrollment is expected to grow in correlation with increased cyber presence at Fort Gordon.
Alford said the district is committed to producing a future workforce able to meet the demands of industry whether it’s in manufacturing, information orcyber security.
“We are generalists, but we also have to be specialized.”
And with growth, there’s the need for more services. Aiken County Council Chairman Bunker said an important issue that will be on the ballot next year will be the Capital Project Sales Tax 4.
Bunker said he will work to ensure that the proposal only covers the needs and not any extraneous wants.
“We want to make sure it’s a tight ballot,” he said.