GRADY COUNTY LAKE AUTHORITY consultant Will Butler, right, talks with Dr. Ron Spooner and Nola Daughtry following a joint meeting of the Cairo Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs last week.
The Cairo Rotary and Kiwanis clubs held a rare joint meeting last week to hear an update from county officials on the Tired Creek Lake project.
Grady County administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, and Grady County Lake Authority consultant Will Butler presented the program at the Wednesday, June 19 luncheon that was held at the Cairo Masonic Lodge.
Butler explained to the audience his role with regard to the lake and briefed them on his ongoing communications with potential developers who have shown interest in development around the 960-acre lake.
The consultant also touched on the challenges the county commission and lake authority face in attracting development around the lake. Infrastructure, including water and sewer service, are major obstacles, but Butler said the county has the opportunity to meet those challenges in a variety of ways.
Butler also updated the Rotarians and Kiwanians on his efforts to bring Leon County and Grady County elected officials together.
The lake authority’s consultant said that a lack of communication between the two governing bodies had resulted in Leon County voicing its concerns through its representatives in Congress who in turn filed congressional inquires with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“No developer was going to get in the middle of this as long as Leon County was making congressional inquiries and stirring up the Corps,” Butler said.
The Leon County Commission voted unanimously last week to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Grady County that will bring the two bodies together in a cooperative spirit, according to Butler.
Butler said that Leon County resources will also be made available in ways that will boost Grady County and Tired Creek Lake. He said in the coming weeks local officials will be meeting with representatives of Leon County’s tourism division. “Leon County is interested in helping promote this lake as a regional asset,” Butler said.
Butler says that Leon County works with surrounding counties in a regional effort to address issues like transportation, and there may be opportunities for Leon County to work with Grady County in a similar fashion.
“We have to be creative to make this lake successful,” Butler told the assembled group of civic and business leaders.
According to Butler, half of the lake is in a federal opportunity zone and as a result of a recent meeting of local, area and state officials hosted by State Representative Darlene Taylor, an effort was underway to see about having the lines redrawn so that the entire lake is included in the opportunity zone.
Butler says that if that initiative is successful, developers would be eligible to attractive tax incentives they could not benefit from elsewhere. He said that such incentives would help him attract a different class of developer.
The county administrator told Rotarians and Kiwanians his goal was to make sure accurate and complete information is provided to the public. Johnson complained that too much inaccurate information about the lake and the county’s efforts to develop the lake was being put out by critics on social media.
“We want you all to know everything. We have nothing to hide,” Johnson said.
The county administrator touched on the county’s long term debt on the lake and acknowledged the county is dependent on the renewal of the one percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax this fall. According to Johnson, the bulk of the county’s annual bond payment, which is approximately $1.7 million annually, is financed through the sales tax.
Johnson informed the group that he had instructed Grady County road superintendent Stanley Elkins to get State Park Road passable as soon as possible, no later than year’s end. He acknowledged that the construction and pending paving of the road was taking too long and had to be wrapped up soon.
The county administrator also reported that the county is working on the possibility of establishing an RV park at the lake. “This is something we could do and would immediately begin to draw interest in the lake,” Johnson said.
Both Johnson and Butler fielded questions from the audience. Rotarian Chip Wells, who serves as the vice chairman of the lake authority, organized the joint meeting. Wells said afterwards that he thought the session had been informative and beneficial. “We’ve got to make this lake a success. We really have no other choice,” Wells commented.