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Participate in the census, says Cordele’s Wiggins

By Neil B. McGahee

Dispatch Correspondent

City of Cordele Commission chairman John E. Wiggins had a few simple words of advice for anyone wanting Cordele and Crisp County to flourish.

“Participate in the census,” he urged. “We have to get out and inform people about the benefits the city receives because much of our funding will be derived from the census numbers.”

Along to help spread the word about the importance of the census was Giovante Riggins from the Census Fair Count Committee, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to assuring a fair count.

“I’m sure you all know the importance of the census,” Riggins said. “The census is only done very 10 years, so it’s important to get a fair and accurate count. Money follows the numbers, not the needs so if you don’t know the accurate number living in your city, you may not have the resources to provide a comfortable lifestyle.

Riggins went on to say that the Urban Institute estimates that nearly 177,000 Georgians will be missed by the census. At $2,300 per person that means the state loses $107 million each year. He said that previous census results showed that Cordele and Crisp County have historically been undercounted.

“That’s money that could be spent for education, health care and infrastructure,” he said. “We have to find ways to get that money to those who need it.”

Riggins reminded everyone that the census starts on March 12 and it can be done online.

“If you aren’t counted, you simply won’t count,” he said.

After hearing the census issue, the Commission turned to learn about a proposal from Blue Line Solutions, a Chattanooga-based company, to install and maintain cameras around the city schools that could be used by police officers to witness and capture images of traffic violations or capture a traffic violation and issue a citation by mail.

Capt. Andrew Roufs of the Cordele Police Department explained how the system operates and how its use could prove valuable to city police officers.

“What we are looking at is a proposal for speed detection cameras,” Roufs said, “in the school zones specifically within the city of Cordele.”

Roufs said the state has recently passed legislation approving the use of such systems.

The system features an officer-operated camera along with a laser speed detection device.

“There is no cost to the city of Cordele,” Roufs continued. “Blue Line Solutions provides the equipment up front and they collect a percentage of the citations issued. There will be a 30 day grace period with warnings issued, then citations are issued for any motorist traveling 11 miles per hour over the speed limit.”

Roufs noted that speed studies showed more than 2,000 violators along 24th Street in 4-day period. He also noted that signs would be erected warning motorists of the camera’s presence.

“You’re telling me that more than 2,000 speeders were seen near those schools,” Councilmember Royce Reeves, Sr. said. “How many tickets were issued?”

He expressed astonishment when he was told that no tickets were issued but data was taken to justify the use of the system.

Councilmember Wesley Rainey asked about the county’s new middle school being built near the city’s primary school. Would the county participate with the city and share some of the cost?

“That would be a different entity altogether to approve that,” Roufs said. “This is specifically for the City of Cordele within the city limits.”

Rainey replied that it seemed incredulous that a new school would join an area with a number of established schools and not share the Blue Line project.

“Why would we implement this in a school zone and leave one school zone out?” he asked. “We are building a brand spanking new school out there so you’re going to have two new schools but one is going to be left out.”

“So Blue Line is going to be at the next county commission meeting,” Reeves quipped.

Roufs said the sheriff’s department must apply to the GDOT for a permit to operate radar before it can apply for the Blue Line permit.

“I believe in the program,” Wiggins said. “I think it could possibly save some lives, but Commissioner Rainey’s concern is my concern also. It seems like there should have been some sort of cooperation between the city and the county and see if they can combine this Blue Line where it would cover the whole county. Then everybody benefits from it.”

“Message received,” Rouf replied.

In other business, the commission:

-Was told that city-owned property near Bethel Cemetery was being considered for use as a cemetery annex

-Learned that plans for playground equipment at Sunset Homes had been approved

-Learned the sidewalk project on 10th Street south of 24th was substantially complete

-Learned the sidewalk project for Pecan St. is underway although the main project hasn’t started due to the weather

-Learned the water treatment facilities were operating at 2 million gallons of wastewater every day and steps must be taken to prevent an overflow

-Approved a second reading of a property maintenance ordinance that gives the city more power to demand owners of dilapidated properties and junked vehicles clean up their mess

-Learned that U.S. Hwy 280 from Cordele to Americus would be undergoing widening through June

-Approved the first reading of a request from the Southwest Georgia United Empowerment Zone to annex the Christian Homes subdivision located at W. 25th Avenue

-Approved amending the city rezoning map and the city limits map.