The public hearing on the Community Assessment, which is part of Tift County’s 2028 Comprehensive Plan, was held Monday afternoon just prior to the Tifton City Council meeting and did not live up to its billing for some attendees.

Although advertised as a public hearing, at the outset of the meeting, Julia Shewchuk with the South Georgia Regional Development which has been tasked with putting the Comprehensive Plan together, said, “This is not really a public hearing, it is more of an informal joint city/county meeting.”

The majority of the 30 to 40 people present were elected officials or worked in public offices: Mayor Jamie Cater, Ty Ty Mayor Keith Beasley, City Manager Mike Vollmer, County Manager Jim Carter, County Commission Chairman Grady Thompson, Commissioners Robert Setters, Sherry Miley, Frankie Mathis and Buck Rigdon, City Council members Dave Hetzel, Joe Lewis, Marianna Keesee and Roosevelt Russell, County Clerk Glynda Hemby, County Special Projects Manager Jason Jordan and former commissioner Charlotte Bedell, among others. There were a few residents and business people in attendance.

After reviewing the 50-page Community Assessment in some detail, which Shewchuk called “an executive summary of it all,” she said that all of the Issues and Opportunities in the assessment would have to be ranked.

“All of the council members and commissioners will have homework to do,” she said. They are to rank the top 10 Issues and the top ten Opportunities in each of the nine categories. She said, “It will be like American Idol, those with the most votes will get in the Comprehensive Plan.”

Shewchuk said, “A copy of the Transportation Plan, which has been approved, will also be in the Comprehensive Plan.”

John Tibbetts, responded to Shewchuk’s comment by saying, “That’s shocking to me that you said it (Transportation Plan) has been approved.” Tibbetts said he had attended forums on the transportation study and he did not recall ever hearing that it had been approved.

Tibbetts voiced concern that the transportation study had not addressed the problem with the intersection where Virginia Avenue dumps into Highway 82.

Local businessman Crawford Little voiced other concerns in regard to an Issue in the assessment: Lack of first-class office buildings.

“It’s really important to be accurate,” Little said. He said he had some first-class office space available that was only 50% full.

Dale Sumner asked about vacant land around the interstate that was owned by UGA and how it could be utilized. Shewchuk said, “If it is privately owned there is a limit to what you can do.”

The meeting was closed after only a few remarks by the public.

On Wednesday, Tibbetts told The Gazette he didn’t think it had been a public hearing. “I applaud the efforts for developing the Comprehensive Plan,” he said. “I’m just not sure the process is serving the requirements to develop a viable plan. Sometimes process is as important as the final product. I’m going to continue to participate, however, because I believe in the importance of the plan, and I believe in the necessity for citizens to be involved.”

Tibbetts said he was in agreement with Little. He said, “I didn’t think some of the things represented as issues had been vetted as factual or not.”

Regarding the transportation study, Tibbetts said he had participated in those meetings and said, “The last meeting I am aware of was held at the Administration Building — a public forum — and they had boards up with some proposed changes and people could write comments.” He said, “As far as I know there was no follow up meeting.”

Tibbetts said some of the transportation plan was controversial, especially the widening of 8th Street and 12th Street, which he said had been opposed by some residents in the historic district.

Tibbetts said of the Monday meeting on the Community Assessment, “I was disappointed in it. It was a meeting about a meeting.” Tibbetts said he was glad to hear Shewchuk would be holding workshops on the subjects at a later date.

To contact reporter Jana Cone, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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