Sue Chapman, coordinator of operations for the Archway Partnership with the University of Georgia, met with Grady County commissioners Tuesday to discuss a project utilizing students with UGA’s Grady College to develop a public relations campaign for the 960-acre Tired Creek lake project.
“Dean Cully Clark is a native of Grady County and he is most anxious to help out,” Dr. Chapman told Grady County commissioners, and said that Dean Clark has asked Public Relations Associate Professor Kaye Sweetser to have her PR class take on the Tired Creek campaign as a class project next semester.
According to Chapman, the class project is one of the last assignments given to PR students prior to graduation. The students will research, plan, evaluate and develop a PR campaign for the lake project at no cost to the county.
The only request from Dr. Chapman is for the county commission to appoint a contact person to work with and answer questions for the PR class.
“We would prefer to have the class work with one person, rather than having to come to the full board for an answer,” Dr. Chapman explained.
The UGA Archway executive said that nothing would be released to the various media without the full board approving of the campaign.
“It’s pretty low risk and no cost to you other than the time invested by the contact person,” Chapman said.
Commissioner Al Ball asked if there would be any associated expenses related to the project the county would be asked to pay for, but Chapman explained Archway would cover the travel and material expenses of the project.
“There may be recommendations moving forward that you could decide to do and there would be expenses related to that, but at this time your only investment is time,” she said.
With Grady County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers involved in a law suit over the permit authorizing the construction of the lake, Commissioner T.D. David questioned the timing of the project.
Grady County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley said the timing is actually “very good.” He added, “The past year has involved a lot of planning required under the permit and a lot of that is coming to completion now. A lot of details have been reported and discussed in open meetings, but it is easy for the public not to have a grasp of what has been accomplished and what is left to be done in order to finish the project. I’m excited about it and after discussing it with some of our other consultants, including Laura (Benz) and Tommy (Craig), they concur the timing is good.”
Cauley said that in previous conversations Chapman had suggested he serve as the point person on the PR project, but he said regardless of who the board appointed, it would be in the county’s best interest to keep him involved in the project because of the ongoing litigation.
“The county has invested a tremendous amount of money in the project over the last 60 years. Millions in research and time before we even got the permit. It is important the public understand the benefit of that investment now and understand this is not something we just came up with when we filed the application. This project has been going on a very long time and, hopefully, the fruit of our labor will soon be realized,” Cauley said.
Vice Chairman Elwyn Childs asked the county attorney if it is time to consider the creation of a Tired Creek Authority.
Cauley acknowledged the commission had discussed the idea previously and said that if the board wishes to proceed, now would be an excellent time with the Georgia General Assembly convening next month for the annual legislative session.
“I think we should consider it,” Childs said.
Chairman Charles Norton agreed it might be an opportune time, but asked if there is a deadline to implement the authority once the legislation creating one is passed. Cauley noted that even once the legislation is passed by the legislature, it would take time to implement. He also suggested that perhaps Archway could aid in its creation and the process of selecting members of the proposed authority.
Childs encouraged the board to move forward as far as possible without jeopardizing the permit. “I want the public to know as much as possible about this project,” he said.
The county attorney agreed and commented, “We’ve been accused all along by some of our objectors that we have a secret plan somewhere for a huge commercial development. We need to publicize the positive aspects of the project.”
Commissioner Billy Poitevint suggested publicizing the names of those who are involved in suing the county and Corps over the lake permit.
After some discussion, the board voted unanimously to appoint Cauley the contact person with the requirement he regularly brief the chairman, whoever that may be, throughout the process.
Chairman Norton says he is pleased to have a partner in the University of Georgia to work with the county on the Tired Creek project. “I will be very interested to see the results of the students’ work,” Norton said.
According to Chapman, the PR students will begin work in January and should complete the project sometime in April.
“They need real world experience and this project would provide the students that opportunity,” Dr. Chapman said.
Also in attendance Tuesday was Archway Executive Committee Chairman Mesha C. Wind.