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Richard Higgins reflects on county’s progress during State of the County address
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Richard Higgins, the chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners

The recurring themes at the annual State of the County Address on Saturday were growth, progress and Hall County’s recent and upcoming projects to address that growth.

Richard Higgins, the chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners, delivered the address at a Hall County Republican Party meeting. Several county commissioners, Sheriff Gerald Couch and other local officials attended.

“To be successful, you kind of need to plan where you’re going, and we’re trying to do much more of that than we have in the past,” Higgins said.

Current projects include the Tumbling Creek Bridge, set for completion in March, and the widening of Spout Springs Road in South Hall, where the county is working on acquiring the right of way needed for the project. Hall County is responsible for $4 million of the $21.5 million Phase I, from Hog Mountain Road to Union Circle, with the Georgia Department of Transportation covering the rest.

Also on the agenda were renovations at the downtown Gainesville library, which will be starting this spring, a roundabout at Martin and JM Turk roads that is in the design phase, and the parks and leisure department’s master plan.

Higgins reflected on changes in 2018, including new Fire Chief Chris Armstrong, who joined the county in October from Colorado.

County Administrator Jock Connell, who attended and answered questions Saturday, said the Fire Services Department is almost at full staff. Connell said officials were working to raise retention rates in the fire department’s recruiting classes.

“Our vacancy situation has improved greatly there,” he said. “…Recruiting today for a lot of positions, particularly that one, is very complicated because we’re recruiting a new generation of people. … When they come to work for us, their expectations are sometimes not what our expectations are.”

Other updates for Fire Services included new thermal imaging cameras for vehicles and three new engines.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office added a new electronic targeting system at its shooting range.

“This will provide decades and decades of area for us to train,” Couch said.

The Sheriff’s Office also added a full-time marine patrol, and county officials approved the use of body cameras and Tasers for officers, an effort to remain transparent and protect officers.

A new records management system for the Sheriff’s Office has helped with efficiency and data retrieval times, Couch said.