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With a list of Cobb’s 2004 accomplishments in hand, Commission Chairman Sam Olens said the county should work to deal with future needs.

He addressed more than 300 attendees at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s First Monday breakfast in January.

Olens said the county needs to expand the capital budget to relieve congestion, add an additional courthouse and provide more room at the county jail. The issue is fulfilling needs without raising property taxes, he said. “Cobb has a history of meeting our challenges and paying as we go, rather than incurring debt that others pay in the future … A property tax increase is not acceptable.” He encouraged the community to continue to assist non-profit organizations in the area. He also stressed the importance of reaching out to the growing Hispanic population. “We are a team working to make Cobb County the best,” Olens said. “We will continue to provide the best quality of life in the region, lowest possible property taxes and a service-oriented philosophy.”

The cooperation of various entities in the county, strong leadership within the community and conservative fiscal policies helped Cobb weather uncertain economic times, he said. In fact, the Board of Commissioners announced in January a general fund budget surplus of $5.3 million. Olens’ State of the County address included many highlights, accomplishments, progresses and a vision for the future.

As the most educated county in Georgia and 15th in the nation, 45 percent of Cobb residents 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree. Cobb County has the third highest per capita income, and one of the lowest unemployment and crime rates in Georgia. Cobb has maintained a Triple A bond rating since 1997. The Water System is the first self-funded water system to achieve the rating and is now only one of three nationwide, he said. The triple “Triple A” rating affects the county’s interest rate on short term loans or tax anticipation notes. Olens said the county’s short-term interest rate last year was less than one percent as a result of the rating. He credited County Manager David Hankerson and county employees for the many accomplishments.

Olens cited the great relationship the county has with its six municipalities and the completion of HB 489 as a springboard for working towards a better future. “We have signed a 10-year deal and resolved it to the benefit of all in the county.”

Other significant accomplishments include an award from the International Association of Police Chiefs for Public Safety’s Homeland Security efforts, new 800 Mhz equipment and the success in getting $3.6 million in Homeland Security grants, which resulted in new HazMat equipment.

“Cobb County is so well thought of not only for receipt of the money but the knowledge on how to handle it,” he said. As part of Homeland Security Month last September, Gov. Sonny Perdue came to Cobb’s Precinct 1 to declare September as Homeland Security Month and toured the facility. The completion of the Chattahoochee Tunnel project and Sutton Water Reclamation Facility along with expansion of Noonday Water Reclamation Facility signals infrastructure improvements, despite the slow economy.

Olens proudly pointed out the completion of the Trolley Line Park, Clarkdale Park, Jean & Elwood Wright Environmental Education Center, a 25-year lease of almost 1,500 acres in northwest Cobb for greenspace, groundbreaking of a new regional library and aquatic center in south Cobb and acquisition of an additional 41 acres on Macland Road for a soccer complex.

Olens said the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) will be using Cobb’s water conservation plan as a model for the region. Cobb has the region’s first water conservation plan. The county is always seeking ways to better improve its services to the community. The last election saw a record voter turnout of 83 percent, with more advance voting locations than any other county in Atlanta. Many services and information are now available online including online meeting agendas, online minutes and Cobb Community Transit (CCT) ticket sales.

“I’m really excited about the next decade or two,” said Olens. The county is focused on redevelopment and took the first steps by converting the old Westpark Plaza into much needed office space.

General Growth Property’s $65 million redevelopment for Cumberland Mall and the new Performing Arts Center as well as The Strand renovation project will help reinvigorate their surrounding communities. “Due to our low property taxes, many existing companies in the region are moving to Cobb,” Olens said, citing the new FedEx Ground distribution facility as an example.

Olens’ entire speech is available as a video on demand feature on the county’s Web site, cobbcounty.org

This is Olens’ third state of the county address; he was re-elected last year to serve another four-year term. Olens is also the new chair of Atlanta Regional Commission.

The 2004 Cobb County Government Annual Report is now available to the public. Those interested in obtaining a copy can check at government service centers or call (770) 528-1000. The report is also available for download from the county Web site.

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