The state of the city is continuing on a path of recovery.
“I just want you to know I am extremely proud of where the city is today,” Palmer said.
Just like the rest of America the city of Calhoun was hit hard during the economic downturn and had to make important decisions to get back on the track to prosperity.
“The past few years we have had to make several decisions, often several hard decisions, that affect each department and the city of Calhoun. In every department we have reduced the budget by at least 10 percent,” Palmer said. “We’ve had a hiring freeze and no capital purchases.”
The city isn’t back to where it was before the recession but there are signs of improvement and growth.
“There are signs that we are recovering. The Local Option Sales Tax revenues, which is an indicator of consumer spending, are increasing, even though slightly,” Palmer said. “Manufacturing growth and economic growth have increased by about nine percent.”
Palmer added, another sign of growth is business license and building permits have also increased.
“When we talk to industry they always have two concerns, energy and they want to know about the school system. I am always very happy to stand and talk about either one of them,” Palmer said.
The city is in a position of growth due to price of property and capacity of water, sewer and electricity provided at some of the lowest rates in the state; Palmer is also very proud of the school system.
“We are a leader in public education and I am proud of our school and the commitment they have made in educating our children. We are able to provide a quality education for some of the lowest cost per student than most of the surrounding systems,” Palmer said.
In 2012 the city did see the millage rate go back to previous levels going from 1.591 up to 1.98, which according to Palmer, is still some of the lowest rates around.
“This was an increase of about $16 on a $100,000 house,” Palmer said. “A $100,000 dollar house in the city of Calhoun pays $79. To give you a comparison, in Dalton it’s $270 for the same house and in Rome would be $348.”
Various city departments received grants for a combined total of more than $1.6 million for equipment updates and improvements.
A $500,000 grant along with $9 million in tax credits for Downtown Development Authority to renovate the O Jay Mill building into a 60 unit loft complex. A $600,000 grant for Streetscape, which phase three was just completed and phase four will soon begin. A $300,000 for the energy department for energy conservation. The street department received a $93,000 from the GDOT for stripping and reflectors. The police department received a total of $26,000 for equipment and communications and the fire department received $50,000 for equipment and the ability to maintain the Georgia Search and Rescue team.
“Grants are important to every community because they are dollars that do not have to be repaid,” Palmer said.
Palmer then went on to talk about the public service that was provided in 2012, and the impact it had on the community.
The police department answered approximately 60,000 calls and removed 13 pounds of methamphetamine, ten pounds of marijuana, three and a half ounces of cocaine and numerous prescription drugs from the streets of Calhoun.
The fire department answered 1,900 calls and is the home to a Georgia Search and Rescue unit and also trained personnel to respond to emergency events across Northwest Georgia. Their services were utilized during the tornadoes.
Palmer thanked the GSAR unit along with all the city employees and volunteers that continue to help in the tornado recovery, “I can not tell you how many people have come to me and told me positive things about the effort from this community stepping up and making a difference.”
Palmer went on to talk about the increase in tourism and entertainment and the economic impact it is having on the community.
He said, the DDA worked with the GEM Theatre and the Harris Arts Center to promote events and provide quality entertainment, and the recreation department hosted events including district and state GRPA tournaments as well as national qualifying events.
“These tournaments brought almost 3,000 participants into our community and 6,000 spectators. The estimated economic impact from these events was $435,000,” Palmer said.
He added, “I also want to thank you and the difference you make in making our city better. One of those being the passage of the 2011 SPLOST.”
The 2011 SPLOST has allowed the city to build restroom facilities and pave a 1.4 mile trail around the recreation department. The revenue stream will also allow for the renovation and enlargement of the library.
“The planning is almost complete and we hope to begin in the Spring,” Palmer said.
The other projects that SPLOST is funding include improving Peters St., other recreation projects and utility projects.
“There are many-many good things happening in the city and I am proud to be apart of it, and thank you for the opportunity,” Palmer said.
He closed with a statement from Jerry Crawford, a city employee, “It’s not just one department that places Calhoun high on the list of successful cities, it is the school system, the utilities, the police, fire, and public works that have achieved excellence in performance. We are a team, even though separated financially, we must work together to provide a quality of life that surpasses that of other cities.”