Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis’ 2009 Inaugural Address

Pete Liakakis
Pete Liakakis

With our partners at project Step-up, Savannah Tech and the Homebuilders Association, the Commission hopes to add another few hundred to the roster of success.

An important part of economic self-sufficiency depends on reliable and efficient public transportation. I applaud the city of Savannah for its incentive program to get more of its employees on CAT buses to and from work, and the commission will consider the same partnership. In our roll with the Chatham Area Transit Authority, we are embarking on a new public private partnership to restructure an improved transit system. We will also continue to look at an innovative and necessary regional transportation program, which signals the beginning of a needed regional approach to other public services.

We must have more jobs for all our citizens to remain an economically vibrant market. As chairman of the economic development and transportation committee of the ACCG, which represents all 159 counties in Georgia, I am working with all my energy to get jobs to Chatham County. The county will continue to support the fine work of the Savannah Economic Development Authority and the Creative Coast Alliance in their job recruitment programs.

The youth of Chatham County have and will always be a major emphasis of this Commission. We will continue to add resources to the Chatham County Youth Commission, where most of the 300 participants have gone on to graduate from colleges and universities and are making an impact in our community. We are also working with other organizations, such the Youth Futures Authority and visionary enterprises like AWOL, to help our youth.

In 2009, CAT will take delivery of 13 hybrid buses which will provide better service to its riders, provide more efficiency to CAT and reduce the negative environmental impacts on our com- munity.

This leads me to another one of the commission’s goals during this next term– the greening of Chatham County. During this past week, the county closed on acquisitions of three more parcels which add to the county’s greenspace and open space program. This brings the total greenspace acquisitions to more than 1,000 acres during the past four years. The mainstay of acquisitions this past week, a purchase of 640 acres stretching from S.R. 204 to the Ogeechee River, becomes part of the lower Ogeechee River conservation corridor. This commission has helped to assemble more than 1,500 acres, which is the largest single assemblage of county property since the 1887 acquisition which led to the development of Bacon Park. The lower Ogeechee River conservation corridor not only means greenspace goals and helps to preserve a valuable river corridor from development, but also supports our commitment to Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart by helping to protect their flightline.

With this commission’s adoption of the Resources Protection Ordinance and appointment of a Resources Protection Commission, the structure remains in place to further the achievements of the past four years. Along a similar important course, the commission will also be hearing the report soon from the Chatham Environmental Forum on its recommendations for Chatham County to become “the greenest county in Georgia.”

Our commitment to green does not end there. In January, the commission will be presented with a staff plan to consider curbside recycling in the unincorporated areas. Furthermore, we are moving forward in partnership with the City of Savannah to develop a joint recycling and education center on Eisenhower Drive, which should be open this year on Earth Day. As an organization, the county has committed to a partnership with “Sustainable Georgia” with a goal of decreasing energy consumption and waste production by 20%. This admirable goal not only shows the county’s commitment but also provides the important benefit of reducing our costs to the benefit of the community’s taxpayers.

While this commission will continue its local initiatives to help make our community a better place to live and work, we will also continue to work on issues and programs in which we must depend upon the decisions of others. We will work with our state legislative delegation to continue the fight against unfunded state mandates. We will monitor with increased deligence recent actions by the state that severely impact the delivery of vital mental health services to our citizens. Tough economic times affect all levels of government, but we cannot sit by while the state attempts to solve its problems by curtailing funding of vital services which then puts it on the backs those of us at the local level.

As you can tell, the opportunities to provide better services are many. The challenge to meet them with fewer resources requires experience, the ability to work together for the common good, the support of a professional staff and a track record of accomplishment. That is what you got when you re-elected this board of commissioners. We are awed and excited to get started.

Before concluding tonight, on a personal note, when you hear all that has been done and all that will be done it is apparent that many people help get it done, like county manager Russ Abolt, his assistant manager Pat Monahan and the great staff throughout the county government. They do their jobs very well. I thank them all.

I would be remiss if I did not also thank the one person in my life who makes it possible for me to work for you, who supports my every endeavor. The love of my life, my wife Mary Jean.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

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