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Dougherty Commission chairman lauds 'potential' of downtown attractions

Thronateeska, RiverQuarium updates part of Dougherty Commission agenda

Dougherty County employees accept an award Monday for the best overall water station at the 2014 Snickers Marathon from Convention and Visitors Bureau officials Chuck Knight and Rashelle Beasley, center. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Dougherty County employees accept an award Monday for the best overall water station at the 2014 Snickers Marathon from Convention and Visitors Bureau officials Chuck Knight and Rashelle Beasley, center. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

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Thronateeska Heritage Center/Flint RiverQuarium and Environmental Education Center Director Tommy Gregors updates Dougherty County Commissioners on SPLOST-funded projects Monday. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — Both Thronateeska Heritage Center/Flint RiverQuarium and Environmental Education Center Director Tommy Gregors and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard used Gregors’ Monday-morning update on special tax projects to laud the potential of the downtown attractions, but their enthusiasm was tempered somewhat by warnings.

After Gregors said, “We can’t ‘save’ (the RiverQuarium) again (from financial ruin), we must continue to move forward,” Sinyard somberly noted, “There’s a lot of potential here, but potential doesn’t pay bills.”

Gregors updated commissioners on the ongoing stabilization of the heritage museum’s Tift Depot, which he said was one of only five antebellum brick depots left in the state, and the restoration of train cars that is being undertaken partially by students at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Both projects are being financed by county Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI funding.

Gregors also gave the board a brief summary of work completed on the Thronateeska archival building, work that was completed utilizing city SPLOST funds.

“This project allows us to make money (archiving and storing records) from our mission of preserving the history of Southwest Georgia,” Gregors said of the archive project. He also noted action at the state level that should increase awareness of the RiverQuarium.

“Our local delegation has introduced legislation that would recognize the RiverQuarium as an asset to the state Department of Natural Resources,” he said. “That gives us a lot of credibility. We’re not asking DNR for funding, we just want to be a dot on their map.”

Commissioners also were presented information on recommendations to purchase an F250 pickup from low bidder Sunbelt Ford-Lincoln of Albany for $22,958.60 for the county jail and to renew an annual agreement between the Dougherty Department of Family and Children Services and the commission funding 50 percent of a DEFACS case manager position at $15,373.68.

Following the work session, the county held a special called meeting to vote on approval of a $481,577 bid to complete renovation work on the Dougherty County Mental Health Facility. The board unanimously (5-0) approved the lone bid on the project by Newell Construction of Albany.

Prior to the “serious” business at the work session, Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Rashelle Beasley and businessman Chuck Knight, a member of the CVB board, presented the county a plaque recognizing its water station during the 2014 Snickers Marathon as the best overall station during the race.

“This marathon brings notoriety to Albany and Dougherty County like nothing else we do,” Sinyard said. As photos of the county’s water station, which carried an Old West theme, complete with jail and live horses, were projected, the commission chairman said, “This is what our community is all about.”