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Posted: July 21, 2012 9:22 p.m.

Social Circe plans for improved downtown

Social Circle officials develop strategic plan to improve downtown area

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Downtown Social Circle stands to get a major makeover during the next decade if city officials carry out the strategic plan they recently created.

Social Circle officials recently completed a strategic plan that will carry the city through 2020 and calls for several improvements including a more entertaining downtown with more small parks and retail stores, a new public library and an amphitheater.

Several million dollars worth of projects will be completed in three phases during the next nine years, including new buildings, sidewalks, equipment and vehicles and road and wastewater treatment plant expansions.

The projects with designated costs total $9.6 million, with the largest single project being a $6.5 million expansion for the city's wastewater treatment plant; however, several projects, including the amphitheatre, don't have specified costs. Projects have a variety of funding options, including the regular city budget, grants, bonds, SPLOST and the T-SPLOST, if it passes.

While the plan's scope is significant, Social Circle Mayor Hal Dally said the plan is built off sound, future financial planning.

"Two or three years down the road, we know we are going to be buying something," said Mayor Dally. "Instead of depending on borrowed money, we are creating sinking funds or savings accounts within each angle of the budget so we can just write a check for what we want rather than have to get a loan."

The first phase of the plan will be from cover July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, while the second phase will cover July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2016 and the final phase will cover July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2010. The plan is broken down by several categories including capital improvements, administrative, department of public safety, street department, water utilities, wastewater treatment plant and gas utilities.

"One thing about a strategic plan, it makes you focus on what you need to do," said Dally. "Every year we will update the plan, focus in on the upcoming year and make sure our budget is in line and moves us closer to our long-range goals."

The first phase includes a $30,000 pocket park at Marco Estate at Corinth for $30,000, the construction of the sidewalk-promenade from downtown to the Blue Willow Inn, the purchase of a new backhoe for $60,000 and the replacement of water lines under the railroad for $52,000.

The strategic plan encompasses the downtown improvement plan and railroad Depot plan, which Dally said would turn the city into an entertainment place.

"The key part of the Depot plan is to take out some warehouses that don't have much historic value and create an amphitheater that will hold 10,000 people," he said. The mayor added that the plan also includes "opening up some other older warehouses and make them into storefronts and dining places along with a new 12,000 square foot library and a new motel."

The amphitheatre is scheduled for the scheduled the second phase, while the library is set for the last phase.

Aside from the aesthetic improvements in the plan, there are also plans for some improvements to the infrastructure.

"In the plan, we plan to double the capacity of our sewer (wastewater) treatment plant which will take us to approximately 1.2 million gallons processed per day," he said. "We will also put in a closed loop which will take the fluid back to the plant as opposed to dumping it out in the creek and reprocess the water."

Dally said that one of the key aspects of the downtown development plan will be to place the Social Circle Better Hometown program in charge of recruiting five to six restaurants and making the downtown as popular of a destination as the Blue Willow is now.
Social Circle's strong sense of community also played an important part in the town's strategic plan as citizens contributed their ideas and desires.

"When we started these concept plans about seven or eight years ago, we had a large group of citizens, part of the mayoral council, building owners and a cross section of the community coming up with these plans," he said.

Dally believes the tight knit community of Social Circle is more than ready to move forward into a prosperous future with all these plans now in place.

To view the strategic plan visit covnews.com and to the city's other plans visit socialcirclega.com and click on the appropriate tab at the bottom of the left-hand navigation bar.

News Editor Gabriel Khouli contributed to this article.

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