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Legislators talk MARTA, school capacity, Sharon Springs

Post-legislative breakfast gives officials chance to talk local issues



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Five Forsyth County legislators met April 18 over eggs and coffee to discuss local, state and national topics at the annual post-legislative session breakfast.

The event, hosted by the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce, gave officials a chance to talk about what they’ve accomplished over the past session and answer questions from the public. The attendees included Sen. Steve Gooch, Sen. Michael Williams, Rep. Geoff Duncan, Rep. Sheri Gilligan and Rep. Kevin Tanner.

Hot topics included MARTA’s expansion northward, local school capacity and the possibility of Sharon Springs becoming a city.

As MARTA is often brought up when discussing transportation and traffic, a question was asked regarding light-rail coming to the state. Gooch, vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said there were bills regarding this in both the House of Representatives and Senate this year that didn’t pass but will be worked on next year.

“The Senate did a study committee last year on public transit,” Gooch said. “We can’t fix the traffic problems in Atlanta simply by building more highways. If you believe that, then go down there this morning, ride around and look. We had the bridge collapse and Interstate 20 buckle. Next week could be another problem.”

The solution to traffic will be a hybrid solution, he said, involving buses, trains and rail.

“We have to look at Atlanta like an urban, metropolitan area because that’s what it is,” Gooch said. “It’s a very rapidly growing part of our state. By the year 2040, two million people will have moved to Georgia primarily for Atlanta. We have to prepare for that, invest in our infrastructure and provide more public transit options.”

Overcrowding in schools also was discussed at the event. Duncan said there are no guidelines to running one of the nation’s fastest growing counties, including how to cope with overcrowded schools.

“We have to figure out how to balance the schools and keep our taxes low while trying to educate our kids who beat the rest of the state,” Duncan said. “As I travel the state, we have the best education system. There are no two ways about it. You can measure it any way you want, but Forsyth County educates our kids better than anyone else in the state and I’d argue even in the country. It’s with a community effort.”

Incorporation of Sharon Springs was another topic raised at the breakfast.

In 2015, then State Rep. Mike Dudgeon introduced House Bill 660 that would initiate a referendum to incorporate the city of Sharon Springs in southern Forsyth County. However, in December 2015 at a pre-legislative breakfast, Dudgeon said the delegation decided the bill was “unconstitutional” due to it being a city-light. At that same event, Williams said the legislators wanted to regroup and find another way to create Sharon Springs. In January 2016, Williams announced that legislation was officially withdrawn to create the county’s second city of Sharon Springs.

“We all know Forsyth County is growing fast,” Williams said. “So we will soon have a lot of change. It’s a good thing to figure out how the county will look in the next 10-15 years. Will there be multiple cities? The more we come together, talk and discuss the issue, the better off we are. Growth is coming. We just have to learn how to deal with it.”

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