Although the county has seen significant growth since 2000, Smith said the economic recession beginning around 2008 is beginning to thaw.
“For the first time in the past five years, we’ve been able to give full-time county employees a 1.8 percent raise. It was long overdue and those employees were very appreciative,” he said.
Elected officials, Smith said, did not receive a pay raise.
Throughout 2013, Smith said his goal was to keep spending down and not raise taxes.
“Since my election to the board [of commissioners] in January 2013, I feel I’ve met my goal of running the county efficiently and effectively while keeping spending down. I certainly plan on counting this throughout 2014,” he said.
On a positive note, he said, building permits and building inspections rose in 2013, indicating more growth for the county.
“Since January of 2013, Henry County has seen an increase in both residential building and commercial buildings permits as well as inspections. Compared to October of 2012, building permits have almost doubled from about 300 to 500. That’s good for one year. In October of 2012 there were about 1,000 building inspections which increased to 3,000 in 2013, so it appears the growth trend is slowly but surely going up,” Smith said.
He also spoke about situations the county faced this year, the most recent being the declaration of a county wide state of emergency Jan. 6 and 7 due to extremely cold weather.
“In order to protect life, it’s predicated on the chair to declare a local emergency. I did so during that time. We met with churches who took people in who needed shelter. We went to places where homeless people are known to stay and offered a warm place to sleep. Police went through the woods searching for these people,” Smith said. “Good or bad, if it costs overtime, money isn’t a factor if it saves lives. Thankfully, no one was injured or died because of the weather and I feel good about that.”
Since voters approved an extension of the special purpose local option sales tax in November, Smith said in 2014 the county will work on prioritizing a list of projects to be completed.
Steve Cash, council executive director, asked if the public would have input in the prioritizing process.
“Something that is very important to us is having public input on those projects,” Cash said.
Smith said the commissioners were not seeking public input about SPLOST-related projects at this time because a committee representing the public already included residents’ and business owners’ input.