Lee County official sees more growth

ALBANY -- Success to a Lee County leader means population growth with commercial interests following close behind.

Ed Duffy, County Commission chairman, told an Exchange Club luncheon audience Friday that the successful growth of his county owes a lot to good schools, low taxes and a responsible government.

"With cooperation of the county department heads, we went line by line through the budget," Duffy said. "We decreased budget expenses by $2,700,000. We balanced the budget with no tax increase by drawing from the reserves."

In 2006, Lee County was the eighth-fastest growing county in Georgia, Duffy said. It ranked 42nd fastest in the country, he added.

With figures at his fingertips, Duffy said the county population has increased by more than 18,000 since 1980 to more than 30,000 residents.

The school system was one of only two in the state where students made Adequate Yearly Progress for six straight years, Duffy said. With a good school system, families are more apt to move to Lee County, he added.

The figures bear Duffy out. The county has had 1,638 new homes built since 2004, he said.

Commercial growth usually follows population growth. In Lee County, a Publix supermarket with eight other stores are under construction, a Heritage Bank is planned and an IHOP restaurant is among the businesses that have recently opened.

Commercial operations pay taxes and use fewer services than residents. Lee County has taken steps to attract commercial growth to help keep the county taxes down.

"The greatest thing we've done since I've been in office is that Lee County has eliminated all industrial and impact fees to remove roadblocks and barriers to development," Duffy said."We are just trying to tell people we want you to build in Lee County."

The future looks good to Duffy. There are road projects that should aid in commercial development.

"Potential developers are excited to know residential areas are within distance of their new commercial developments," Duffy said. "We have invested more than $30 million putting infrastructure on our main roads (U.S.) 82, 19 and Ledo Road."

The county also obtained $2 million in matching funds from the state for a new library, put an emergency services response station in the Palmyra district, which cut response time by 17 minutes, and moved several county agencies into the refurbished old Lee County High School building.

Many of those in the audience said Lee County was doing a good job.

"It looks like they have taken good steps to build a quality community," said Dougherty County resident Derrell McGee. "It looks like they are doing a lot with their county."

The Albany Exchange Club, at 810 Westover Blvd., is part of a national organization that works to make the community a better place through involvement in preventing child abuse.