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Albany State section of Flint River Trail up for final approval from University System
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ALBANY — Another piece in the Radium Springs-to-downtown-Albany trail could be falling into place, with the next component in the overall plan being a more-than-two-mile section linking Albany State University to downtown.

Dougherty County has submitted paperwork to the University System of Georgia seeking permission to access university property for the portion of the Flint River Trail System.

The university system previously agreed to provide $750,000 toward the project, which has an estimated $1.9 million price tag. The balance will come from 1 percent special-purpose local-option sales tax funds.

“It’s a great project with Dougherty County and the University System of Georgia and Albany State University to make this happen,” Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said. “It’s going to establish a safe way for college students to come downtown.”

With the trail passing underneath the Oglethorpe Boulevard bridge, pedestrians and cyclists can avoid crossing the busy street.

The county also needs to acquire easements from the city of Albany, the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority and a private business along the route to route the trail. Once completed, the trail will provide a source of recreation and add an economic boost to the entire area, Cohilas said.

“If you can imagine being able to wake up in the morning in Radium Springs, ride a bike, run or jog, and do it safely,” he said. “That’s going to be a tremendous asset and provide greater access to downtown.”

Studies show that similar projects in other areas have had a “tremendous economic impact,” he said.

The trail will link to a section of trail completed by the city of Albany that stretches from downtown to Monroe Avenue.

The county completed a visitor’s center with restrooms last year at the Radium Springs trailhead and is renovating the Spring Run Bridge that crosses Skywater Creek near its intersection with the Flint River.

The county also has invested heavily in the area, including renovation of the gazebo and former ticket booth at the Radium Springs Casino site and exercise equipment at the adjacent park.


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State of the State: More for education, health care, law enforcement
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ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp asked Georgia lawmakers Thursday to use a record budget surplus to raise the salaries of teachers and state employees and hire more nurses and state troopers.

In his fourth and final State of the State address of a four-year term, Kemp told a joint session of the Georgia House and Senate education, health care and public safety will top his agenda as he seeks re-election.

“It invests historic levels of resources in our students and educators,” the governor said toward the end of a 26-minute speech. “It reduces the cost of health insurance for Georgia families [and] recruits 1,300 new nurses and doctors into communities where they’re needed most.”

Kemp recommended a $2,000 raise for Georgia teachers, the final installment of a $5,000 increase he promised four years ago on the campaign trail.

“Teachers are asked to do more and more every year,” Kemp said. “And the need for a world-class K-12 education to prepare our children for an ever-changing work force has never been greater.”

Kemp also announced his Fiscal 2022 mid-year budget will include $425 million to fully fund the K-12 school funding formula, doing away with “austerity” cuts that have plagued Georgia school systems for most of the last two decades.

The governor also endorsed legislative efforts to enact a parental bill of rights to ensure parents are involved in their children’s education and a bill prohibiting the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Georgia schools, which teaches that racism has played and continues to play a major role in American history and culture.

“I look forward to working with members of the General Assembly this legislative session to protect our students from divisive ideologies — like Critical Race Theory — that pit kids against each other,” he said.

On health care, Kemp asked for $1 million for the University System of Georgia to expand nursing programs to support up to 500 students a year for five years and funds for the Technical College System of Georgia to add up to 700 nursing students.

“Physicians and nurses are in short supply across the country, but especially in rural Georgia,” he said.

The governor also proposed a $5,000 pay raise for state employees to make it easier to hire and retain workers, including law enforcement personnel, and requested $3 million to support an additional state trooper class of 75 cadets during the coming year.

“With many urban — and some rural — counties facing alarming levels of violent crime, we have the responsibility to act,” he said.

Kemp also used the State of the State pulpit to tout his efforts to keep Georgia’s economy open during the coronavirus pandemic, a stand he said has played a key role in the recovery Georgia is now enjoying.

“Because Georgia protected both lives and livelihoods, our best and most prosperous days are ahead,” the governor said. “Georgia is on the move because we chose freedom over government shutdowns.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.


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Albany Area Chamber of Commerce earns state accreditation
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ALBANY — The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce has been awarded re-accreditation through the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ (GACCE) “Georgia Certified Chamber” program.

Chambers must meet standards in organization, service intent and capacity, professional administration, financial management, communications and advocacy in order to achieve the designation. The certification program promotes continuing excellence in the Chamber of Commerce industry and helps to foster a pro-business environment across the state of Georgia.

“Re-accreditation from GACCE serves as a stamp of approval that we’re on the right track, in terms of organizational excellence and service delivery,” Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber, the region’s largest business advocacy organization, SAID IN A NEWS RELEASE. “The Albany Area Chamber has implemented a three-year strategic plan, ‘#ImpactABY2023,’ which provided many of the directives evaluated in the accreditation process.

“Through implementing this plan, we have been able to grow as an organization and better serve the Albany Area in our mission to foster an environment for business and community success.”

Out of more than 150 Chambers of Commerce in Georgia, 16 are distinguished as 2021 Georgia Certified Chambers. The 2021 class of Georgia Certified Chambers includes:

1. Albany Area Chamber of Commerce

2. Carroll County Chamber of Commerce

3. Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce

4. Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce

5. Columbia County Chamber of Commerce

6. Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce

7. Douglas County Chamber of Commerce

8. Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce

9. Effingham County Chamber of Commerce

10. Fayette Chamber of Commerce

11. Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce

12. Pickens County Chamber of Commerce

13. Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce

14. Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce

15. Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce

16. Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce also holds the distinction of being a nationally accredited chamber through the United States Chamber of Commerce. Of more than 7,000 chambers in the U.S., 200 are nationally accredited, with the Albany Chamber’s four-star rating landing it in the top tier of chambers of commerce in the country.


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Scam alert: Dougherty Sheriff warns against fraudulent warrant payments
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ALBANY — When the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office or other law enforcement agency looks to settle an outstanding warrant, a phone call requesting the numbers from store-purchased plastic cards is not the route they take.

Recently, the sheriff’s office issued a reminder to the public that the scam, which pops up from time to time, is still around and warned individuals not to fall prey to it. Further, no one should give any personal or financial information to a stranger on the phone.

“We’ve had three phone calls, and we wanted to communicate that it is a scam,” Assistant Chief Deputy Pamela Johnson said. “We’ve had this type of scam going on for four or five years.”

This particular scam has several variations. It could be someone on the phone claiming to be from Immigration and Naturalization Services or a law enforcement agency, with the caller requesting immediate payment in order for the recipient to avoid going to jail.

The caller invariably asks for payment in gift cards or other cards over the telephone.

In the recent attempts, the caller has been using the names of actual Dougherty County deputies. Fortunately, the sheriff’s office is not aware of anyone who fell for the pitch recently.

Johnson’s advice for anyone who receives a suspicious call is to hang up and report the incident to the sheriff’s office by calling (229) 431-2166 and asking for the Investigations Division.

While traffic tickets can be settled online, an outstanding warrant is not something that can be handled over the phone or via computer.

“You have to come in and pay (those),” Johnson said.

With tax season in full swing, she also warned about another, similar scheme in which the caller claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service and demands payment of delinquent taxes.

“It will always be in written form from the IRS,” Johnson said. “(Also), don’t give out any information. It would be our recommendation to never give out personal information over the phone — Social Security number, address or account numbers. Hang up and block the number and call the sheriff’s office.”


Brayden H., Lake Park Elementary School


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