Author Archives: Kristy Johnson

What’s New

What's New 2021

More people, more housing, more businesses, more restaurants, more healthcare options and more recreational opportunities keep coming to Columbia County.

To no one’s surprise, the population in Columbia County just keeps on growing. After all, the county’s economic vitality and quality of life are selling points to new residents.

“People can come here and enjoy affordable housing, a lot of amenities, an award-winning school system and be governed by an award-winning government,” says Scott Johnson, county manager.

Scott Sterling, the county Planning Services director, agrees.

“The commissioners rolled back taxes again this year,” he says. “We’re getting to be one of the lower tax communities in the state.”

Columbia County’s estimated population is 161,988 in 2021 with a growth rate of 1.65% in the past year, according to the most recent U.S. Census data and worldpopulationreview.com. The county’s estimate population in 2020 was 159,351.

In Grovetown, the estimated population is 16,734 in 2021, with a growth rate of 4.96% in the past year, and 15,943 in 2020. Harlem’s estimated 2021 population is 3,591, with a growth rate of 3.16% in the past year, and 3,481 in 2020.

Of course, these new residents – along with existing residents – need places to live and work, and residential and commercial construction is keeping pace with the population growth.

From August 1, 2020 through August 15, 2021, Columbia County issued 997 residential building permits and 82 commercial building permits. From August 1, 2019 through August 15, 2020, Columbia County issued 867 residential building permits and 101 commercial building permits.

“The economy hasn’t done too much to slow us down,” says Sterling. “As with everything, the supply chain is slowing us down. For the most part, we’ve done as well as anybody has to keep going.”

Harlem issued 64 residential building permits, but no commercial building permits, from August 1, 2020 through August 15, 2021. The city issued 125 permits for new residential construction and a commercial renovation for the Cyber Center in conjunction with Fort Gordon from August 1, 2019 through August 15, 2020.

Debra Moore, the city manager, says people like Harlem’s hometown atmosphere. “Everybody knows everybody,” she says. “It’s just like one big family.”

From August 1, 2020 through August 15, 2021, Grovetown issued 260 residential building permits and seven commercial building permits. Of the residential building permits, 219 were for single-family dwellings and 41 were for multi-family units, primarily townhouses. Six of the seven commercial permits were issued for professional offices in the Brighton Landing development.

From August 1, 2019 to August 15, 2020, Grovetown issued 198 permits for new single-family residential homes and 81 permits for new multi-family townhouses and apartments. The city did not issue any permits for new commercial construction during that time frame.

Ronald Kurtz, the Grovetown director of Planning and Community Development, believes the city, which has seen a population increase of about 50% in the last 10 years, has a lot to offer to its residents.

“First and foremost, Grovetown is a warm, welcoming community,” says Kurtz, who started his position August 2 after moving to the area from suburban Atlanta. “It’s a community that is well-located to a lot of things.”

He says Fort Gordon and the Cyber Command Center, as well as the school system, are driving growth to the area.

“It is not as overloaded as the metro Atlanta area,” he adds. “We have an opportunity here to handle a lot of the expected growth in a responsible way.”

To balance the needs of longtime and new residents, he says, “We need to maintain positive lines of communication, provide a high-quality level of service at the city and do the best we can with the resources we have.”

The city is trying “to encourage a live, work, play environment” with its planned use development.

“We need to provide the proper infrastructure and handle growth in a controlled and calculated manner rather than figure it out afterward,” says Kurtz. “We are well-prepared to tackle that. Everyone in the city is excited to have these challenges, and we’re energized by them. We’re ready for it, and we’re looking forward to what lies ahead.”

By Leigh Howard

On the Home Front

What's New 2021

As the population of Columbia County keeps growing, so, too, does the residential inventory.

From single-family dwellings to apartment complexes, more rooftops in new and existing neighborhoods are continuing to dot the landscape in Columbia County.

Some parts of the county are seeing more residential growth than others, however.

“We’re still seeing a lot of westward expansion in Columbia County and in a 5-mile radius of Columbia Road and Lewiston Road,” says Scott Johnson, county manager. “We’re also seeing tremendous growth in the Harlem area, especially around Pumpkin Center outside of Harlem.”

One of those growing areas is Greenpoint, a 1,200-acre mixed-use development off of Appling Harlem Road that will include 600 homes, parks and walking trails, recreational and civic amenities and retail and commercial spaces.

New houses also could be going up soon in Cornerstone IV, which will include 90 single-family homes, says Debra Moore, Harlem city manager. About one-third of the townhomes in Amesbury Station, a 90-unit development on North Louisville Street, have been finished.

Future residential projects in Harlem include a small townhome development of 28 units on Bowdre Street, where construction should begin by the end of the year.

Construction in Hickory Woods, a neighborhood of 112 single-family homes at the corner of Sawdust Road and North Fairview Drive, also is expected to get underway in the next few months.

Moore says construction in Heritage Ridge, a mixed-use development on North Louisville Street, should begin next year. This development will include three or four commercial buildings as well as 76 townhomes.

In Grovetown, says Ronald Kurtz, the city’s director of Planning and Community Development, construction has started on more than 50 residential homes in the past year. Two of Grovetown’s biggest developments are Brighton Landing off of Horizon South Parkway and The Estates at Deer Hollow off of Wrightsboro Road.

Brighton Landing will include 140 single-family homes. Phase I, which includes 73 homes, is finished, and work is underway on the second phase, which will feature 67 new homes.

Kurtz says about 45% of the 113 units of Brighton Woods Townhomes has been completed. Future plans include the construction of housing for seniors on 7.17 acres in the neighborhood.

The Estates at Deer Hollow, a planned-unit development off of Wrightsboro Road, will feature 449 homes upon completion. Phase I, which includes 105 single-family homes, has been completed, and 43 of the 110 single-family homes in the second phase have been built in the past year.

Site work also has begun on phases III and IV, which will have a total of 234 single-family homes.

Other new neighborhoods also are coming to the Grovetown area.

Houses have been built in phase I of Wrights Farm off of Wrightsboro Road in Grovetown, says Scott Sterling, the county Planning Services director, and infrastructure construction has begun in phase II.

He also says homes should be under construction soon in Jackson Heights on Old Belair Lane.

Anderson Farms, off of Louisville Road north of Interstate 20, includes 43 home sites in the first phase, and construction in phase II has begun.

Phase I of construction is underway in Tillery Park, which will tie into the west end of Canterbury Farms and connect Baker Place and Chamblin roads, and houses could start to go up in the first quarter of 2022.

Evans remains a popular address for newcomers and existing residents alike, and construction is going strong in the community’s new and established neighborhoods.

Sterling says Crawford Creek is almost finished, and new homes still are going up in Whispering Pines off of William Few Parkway. Construction is underway in Highland Lakes, also off of William Few Parkway. The neighborhood will include walking trails, fishing ponds, a dog park, a resort-style swimming pool and pocket parks.

In addition, construction continues in Four Oaks off of Hereford Farm Road as well as in River Oaks off of Hardy McManus Road.

Site plans also have been approved for a mixed-used development in Evans Towne Center, an upscale neighborhood that will include ground-level retail stores and six apartment buildings on the former site of Marshall Square retirement community. Sterling says construction of the apartment buildings, which will feature four stories and 301 residential units, should begin soon.

More apartments are going up in other parts of the county as well. The first phase of a 328-unit apartment complex, The Station at Brighton in Grovetown, is finished, and work has begun on the 134 apartments in the second phase.

Construction of the second phase of Lullwater at Riverwood Apartments in Evans also is underway.

In addition, construction continues on a $45 million, 274-unit affordable housing apartment complex, Grand Oaks at River Island, on Blackstone Camp Road. The apartments are expected to be complete around October 2022.

In June the county adopted Revisions to Vision 2035, the county’s long-term strategic plan for growth and development. They include the addition of two new character areas – the lake area and in-town neighborhoods – which indicates how they should be developed or redeveloped, according to growth patterns and the availability of utilities.

“The county is transitioning into the implementation phase,” Sterling says.

Business as Usual

What's New 2021

More rooftops bring more commerce to Columbia County.

It’s business as usual for new businesses to find a home in Columbia County. Since the beginning of 2021, the county has approved more than 400 applications for business licenses. Enterprises range from barber shops and beauty salons to convenience stores and clothing boutiques to health and fitness and food services to landscaping and home improvement to storage units and cleaning services – and just about anything else imaginable.

“There are always going to be a lot of from-home type industries, but brick-and-mortar has not gone away,” says Scott Sterling, the county Planning Services director. “We’re still seeing interest in strip centers and multi-tenant buildings.”

Construction is nearing completion on two Amazon facilities – a distribution center and a sortation center – at White Oak Business Park in Appling. The five-story, 2.8 million-square-foot Amazon distribution center welcomed employees in September, and the 275,000-square-foot sortation center is expected to open at the end of October.

“From an economic standpoint, they will create a lot of job opportunities and career opportunities,” Sterling says. “I think Amazon is going to do wonderful things for the county.”

Robbie Bennett, executive director of the Development Authority of Columbia County, agrees.

“Both of them will add significant growth to our region – Columbia County specifically,” he says. “It also creates a wonderful tax base for our region, specifically the Board of Education.”

The Development Authority also is working with developers to construct additional buildings at White Oak to address the needs of incoming businesses, says Bennett. For instance, one developer has a contract on a piece of property at the business park to construct a 180,000-square-foot spec building that could be sold or leased to a tenant. The developer has an option on another tract of land at White Oak as well.

“Any time a developer builds a building like that, it creates a great marketing tool for us,” says Bennett.

He also says a cyber campus with four buildings totaling 480,000 square feet is coming to the area outside of Fort Gordon’s Gate 6.

Premier Networx, an IT management company, is building a state-of-the-art cyber technology center on the River Watch Parkway just across the county line in Richmond County.

However, small businesses have a place in Columbia County as well.

Apricot Lane Boutique, which carries women’s clothing, accessories, jewelry and gifts, opened in Mullins Colony Plaza in Evans, and Alta Paint & Décor opened in late August near the Evans Walmart.

In Martinez, Lace and Veil Bridal Boutique is opening in the Petersburg Shoppes near Final Cut on Furys Ferry Road in November.

Signature Shops of Furys Ferry, which includes Signature Interiors & Gifts, Signature Soles, Signature Interiors & Gifts Consignment and V’s Barbershop, opened on Furys Ferry Road in December. At the corner of Furys Ferry and Vaughn roads, Escape Outdoors has opened a location in the former RiteAid building.

Next door to Escape Outdoors, Pinnacle Bank is opening its first branch in the area in a former Cadence Bank location.

Revisions to Vision 2035, the county’s long-range comprehensive growth and development plan that originally was completed in 2016, were adopted in June, and the updates include the designation of Furys Ferry Road and River Watch Parkway as professional corridors.

“While they were primarily residential areas in the past, it became appropriate to consider some commercial activities there such as small offices and personal services,” Sterling says.

Washington Road continues to attract businesses as well. In-fill development in Martinez includes Batteries Plus, which opened in July after moving into the former Pizza Hut location.

For residents who need a place to keep their prized possessions, the county has no shortage of new storage facilities.

StoreEase opened on Furys Ferry Road in the spring. A mini storage facility is under construction on Columbia Road near the Flowing Wells Road intersection, and Eclipse at Riverwood, a multi-story facility for storage of big-ticket items such as boats or RVs, is going up on Washington Road near William Few Parkway.

“The lots in many subdivisions are not big enough to store some things, or neighborhood covenants restrict the storage of boats, etc.,” says Sterling.

Grovetown and Harlem also are getting their share of the action.

In Grovetown, 15 new businesses have opened in the past year. “The majority are service-type businesses,” says Ronald Kurtz, the Grovetown director of Planning and Community Development.

New businesses include Jimmy’s Home Furnishings in the former Food Lion location on Horizon South Parkway and Jiffy Lube, which reopened on Wrightsboro Road. A new Sparkle Car Wash also has come to Grovetown.

Brighton Park includes six units with a total of 17,600 square feet of office space, and another 3.68 acres is slated for future development of retail or office space. Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA also opened a Job Connection-Career Center on Gateway Boulevard in March.

Harlem’s main thoroughfare, North Louisville Street, has seen a lot of activity in the past year. New businesses include Boho Soul Boutique, which opened in March, and Southern Smoke Market, which opened its doors in June. The specialty shop sells rubs, barbecue sauces, brines, pellets and outdoor cooking utensils as well as home décor, soaps and fragrances.

“All of our storefronts downtown are full,” says Debra Moore, Harlem city manager.

New businesses also are coming to other parts of the community, as Car Collective, a car detail center and used car lot, opened on West Milledgeville Road in the summer.

As long as new rooftops keep coming to the county, Sterling believes businesses will take a good look at locating here as well.

“We’re the center of a lot of activity in the region,” he says. “That energy snowballs into more and more. We’ve landed on a lot of radars.”

He expects Columbia County to remain front and center for the foreseeable future.

“Columbia County is a desirable place to be with the growth and development of the past several years,” says Sterling. “Businesses want to be here to capture the demand.”

Residents can expect to see more growth in Evans as well.

“I think this time next year, there will be a lot of development in the downtown Evans area,” Scott Johnson, county manager, says.

Chow Down

What's New 2021

Columbia County steps up to the plate with its menu of dining options.

Eat in or take out. Columbia County has attracted a variety of new restaurants in the past year.

New locally owned eateries that opened in Martinez in the spring include Fresco Café and Funnel Cake Lounge. Fresco Café offers Mexican foods and pastries in its brick-and-mortar location and food truck on Columbia Road, and Funnel Cake Lounge, which originally launched as a Dominican restaurant, is located in Oakley Plaza shopping center on South Belair Road.

Mi Rancho Mexican Restaurant is moving from Augusta on Washington Road into the former site of St. Louis Original Hamburgers, a Furys Ferry Road location that has been vacant for several years.

In Evans, Charro’s Express Mex opened in the Shoppes at Camelot in the summer.

Vampire Penguin’s Shaved Snow and Desserts opened in Riverwood Town Center in late August. DJR’s Water Ice, which also serves the University of Georgia dining halls, opened its doors in the Market at Riverwood in early September.

The Fourth Rooftop Venue now operates from thåe top floor of The Plaza at Evans Towne Center. The 3,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor space will offer a place to hold weddings, private parties, corporate outings and public events.

In addition, the Plaza at Evans Towne Center will offer new dining opportunities with coming restaurants such as Roll On In and Buzzed Bull Creamery, which are slated to occupy a co-branded space. Roll On In will specialize in hibachi bowls, sushi burritos and other Asian fusion menu items. Buzzed Bull Creamery will offer buzzed, or alcohol infused, and non-buzzed ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

National chains seem to have an appetite for the county as well. Wendy’s built a new location that opened on Washington Road in Martinez this summer, and Columbia County is getting its second KFC, which is coming to North Belair Road in the former Bruster’s location. In late August, Slim Chickens opened a franchise in the former PDQ in Evans at the corner of Washington and North Belair roads.

The Healthy Hub, a national chain that offers healthy shakes, tea bombs and other beverages, opened its first local restaurant on Grovetown’s Gateway Center Boulevard in January. Doc’s Porchside, a casual dining restaurant, opened on Bluegrass Trail in the former Wild Wing Café location in August.

For quick stops, a new Sprint convenience store opened on Appling Harlem Road earlier this year. In downtown Harlem, Main Street Sweets opened in March by the North Louisville Street pocket park in the former Yoder’s Dairy Barn location.

A new location for an Augusta soul food restaurant, Sista Sista, opened on Wrightsboro Road in the city of Grovetown. In addition, a building permit also has been issued for a Dunkin’ Donuts near the intersection of West Robinson Avenue and Wrightsboro Road.

Columbia County residents can expect the construction of two new grocery stores in the future as well. In June the Board of Commissioners approved building variances that would allow for the construction of discount grocer Lidl’s by Waffle House in Evans at Washington Road and Rountree Way.

The following month, the board also approved a plan to rezone three properties on the corner of Columbia and Lewiston roads for construction of a 45,600-square-foot grocery store and a 4,898-square-foot convenience store with gas pumps across from Food Lion in the Village at Hereford Farms.

Class Acts

Whats New 2021

School expansions and online learning are making the grade in education.

When new families move to the county, this growth inevitably brings new students to the Columbia County School District. As a result, its building program remains busy.

For instance, the Board of Education approved a 22-classroom addition to Harlem High School in February and a 22-classroom addition to Grovetown High School in March. The additions will be financed by ESPLOST and state funding allocated for population growth.

School district personnel benefit from the building program as well. According to the school district’s back-to-school publication, the new Student Support Complex on River Watch Parkway was expected to be fully operational by September.

The 315,000-square-foot building will consolidate all student support departments including Transportation, Information Technology and support, and Nutrition Services. In addition, it will offer additional warehouse space for Facilities Maintenance and Operations as well as extra space for district-wide personnel training, professional development and other events.

The school district purchased the building, the former site of Greenfield Industries, in 2019 for $4 million with monies from its general fund.

Of course, not all learning takes place in brick-and-mortar locations – as the pandemic has taught us – and according to the back-to-school publication, the school district launched its new Columbia Virtual Academy this academic year. The CVA employs 11 teachers, and more than 400 students in grades 6 – 12 were expected to take classes online.

In September Augusta Christian Schools in Martinez moved into its new two-story building on its Baston Road campus. This project is the first phase of Augusta Christian’s long-range plan to address the aging facilities of the 63-year-old school.

The first story includes an elementary school office; a head of school and assistant office; an office suite for guidance, admissions, activities and middle school administration; an elementary school classroom and a new library. The second floor contains middle school classrooms and a new science lab.

With the opening of the new building, the original classrooms, offices and library can be repurposed into new classrooms.

Take Your Medicine

Whats New 2021

Increasing options for medical care is putting Columbia County in good shape.

Finally.

The billboard by Gateway Boulevard in Grovetown, the future home of Columbia County’s first hospital, says it all – in capital letters.

After a seven-year battle, a June ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court gave the go-ahead to Augusta University Health System to build a 100-bed hospital on the 82-acre site in Grovetown. In its ruling, the state Supreme Court denied a request to hear an appeal by Doctors Hospital of Augusta about the Georgia Department of Community Health’s awarding of a state license to AU Medical Center to build the facility.

The certificate of need originally was issued by the state in November 2014, but it has been delayed because of appeals and lawsuits filed by Doctors Hospital.

“A lot has changed since the process started, but I think it’s really exciting and a great opportunity,” says Katrina Keefer, the chief executive officer of Augusta University Health System.

Currently, AU Health is in the architectural selection process for the design of a master plan that initially will include the hospital as well as a medical office building.

“We really want to make sure we are consistent with the original terms of the certificate of need, but we’re also designing it so the capacity can easily be increased,” Keefer says of the hospital.

The 260,000-square-foot hospital is slated to provide acute care, surgery, a level II trauma center, ICU capacity, emergency services, traditional imaging services and ancillary services that support surgical and emergency care.

Construction should begin in late 2023, and the hospital is slated for completion in the summer of 2025. The project is estimated to cost $150 million.

“Columbia County is one of the largest counties in the state without a hospital,” says Keefer. “Hospitals are really economic engines for counties. They can be a reason that a supplier or an employer wants to move to a county.”

Keefer also says support from the county, which committed to pay 20% of the cost as a condition of getting the hospital, has been “tremendous” during the process.

“We are really excited that we can work with Columbia County to provide this additional service,” she says.

AU Health also has plans to build a $15 million, 17,000-square-foot, free-standing ER in the Greenbrier section of Evans.

Keefer says AU Health is attempting to schedule a hearing in early 2022 to pursue a certificate of need for this facility.

When the hospital opens in Grovetown, she says, AU Health also will have to determine how to share personnel and resources among its new facility, its downtown Augusta hospital and its various clinics that have opened in Columbia County.

“The clinics have been laying the pathway and groundwork for accommodating Columbia County patients closer to home,” says Keefer. “They also have been a strategic way to grow in Columbia County.”

University Health Care also is expanding its footprint in Columbia County with plans to build a $5.9 million, 12,250-square-foot prompt care and occupational medicine facility on a 2.6-acre site on Appling Harlem Road near Interstate 20.

Currently, says Scott Ansede, chief operating officer of University Health Care Physicians, plans are being finalized with the expectation of breaking ground around December. Depending on the ability to acquire construction materials during covid, he says, the facility should be complete in the fourth quarter of 2022 or the first quarter of 2023.

The prompt care portion will have about five fulltime employees, and the occupational medicine component will have about six fulltime employees.

In addition, the facility will have the capability to accommodate specialists who can rotate between this location and others in Evans, Grovetown and Thomson.

The building will be located near White Oak Business Park and Greenpoint, a mixed-use development that is under construction.

“Columbia County is a growing area, and University has always tried to grow with communities as they grow,” Ansede says. “We want to make sure those residents and those businesses get the healthcare they need.”

Other healthcare-related businesses also are finding a home in Columbia County. For instance, Da Vinci Foot & Ankle, a podiatry office, has opened in Grovetown in Brighton Professional Center.

In the early spring, Georgialina Physical Therapy opened a location in Harlem in the former Laurel & Hardy Museum. Plans also are underway to bring a new wellness center to North Louisville Street across from City Hall. In addition, Open Leaf, a new CBD store, opened in a Harlem shopping center on East Milledgeville Road.

State of Play

Whats New 2021

New recreational amenities let county residents enjoy their leisure time close to home.

Columbia County not only is a good place to live and work. It’s also a great place to play – and it’s going to get even better.

The county has embarked on a plan called Recreate Columbia County to seek input about recreational amenities from residents through public meetings, focus group meetings and its website, recreatecolumbiacounty.com.

“The last master plan for parks and recreation was done in 2002,” says John Luton, the director of Community & Leisure Services. “We’re well overdue for a plan to guide decisions and projects in that area for the next five to 10 years.”

Now, he adds, the county is entering the survey portion of the process. “We will use it to produce data and compile the information we gathered to formulate a plan forward,” Luton says. “We hope to have a plan to submit to the board of commissioners by the spring of 2022. We will plan on referring to it and using it on a daily basis. It won’t be a sitting-on-the-shelf type of plan.”

He says residents have expressed interest in a variety of recreational opportunities including trails and outdoor spaces, athletic fields and basketball, volleyball, tennis and pickleball courts.

“Historically, in this area, trails and outdoor recreation seem to be the highest demand,” says Luton. 

Residents also have expressed interest in a swimming facility, but ideas have ranged from a public swimming pool to an indoor leisure pool to an indoor Olympic-sized pool that would attract major events.

“A pool is one of the amenities that is being considered right now. Hopefully, the survey will tell the story about it,” Luton says. “The price could range from $5 million to $40 million. A large aquatics facility will have to be supported by membership fees.”

While people are equally passionate about their particular interests, Luton says, “The survey will give us the best indication if an amenity is a true countywide need.”

In the meantime, the 85,000-square-foot, $40 million Performing Arts Center, which anchors one end of The Plaza at Evans Towne Center, opened in May, and the first part of the two-phased Plaza Park construction, which includes a parking area and surrounding green space, has been completed.

The second phase will include a covered pavilion for use by the Farmers’ Market as well as for weddings, receptions, private parties and gatherings that will complement PAC events. Construction on phase II is expected to begin before the end of the year, and Luton hopes it will be finished by the spring in time for the new Farmers’ Market season.

Renovations to Blanchard Park in Martinez also are moving from the design to the early construction phase. Luton expects construction of a road to connect the park to Columbia Road to start soon.

“We want to transition it from a neighborhood park to one that has greater access,” he says. “It’s a very nice, wooded area with hardwoods and creeks. We want to maintain the natural feel. We want to add amenities without losing the natural serenity of the area.”

Amenities will include a dog park, walking trails and a nature-based playground area that takes advantage of the natural terrain. For instance, a slide could be built into a natural slope or tree logs could be used for climbing.

A section of undeveloped adjacent land, which is being called Martinez Park, also will be incorporated into the plan. Luton says the two parks could remain as separate entities or combined into one big park.

In March, the Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a motion to approve a $6 million purchase of a property of more than 100 acres on Hardy McManus Road for Riverwood Park.

“We’re just starting the design process, but we want to try to move as quickly as possible,” says Luton. “It’s a large parcel, but it’s not conducive to constructing typical park amenities. The terrain sets up well for some type of mountain bike trail system.”

Other amenities, which will be similar to those in Gateway Park, could include open, passive recreational space; walking trails; a playground and a large splashpad.

The Euchee Creek Greenway remains a popular recreational amenity. However, the second phase of the project, which will include design, land acquisition and construction, will not resume before 2023 when 2023-2032 TSPLOST funding becomes available.

“GDOT has not allowed us to bond ahead,” says Scott Sterling, the county Planning Services director. “We can’t do anything that wouldn’t be out-of-pocket with taxpayer dollars at this point.”

In Harlem, construction of phase I of Sandy Run Creek Trail got underway in July, and the project is about 50% complete. This portion of the asphalt trail, which is just less than 1/2 mile, begins on East Milledgeville Road and runs along Sandy Run Creek. The first phase was scheduled to be finished by the end of September.

The second and final phase of the trail, which is an additional 1/4 mile, should be complete within the next year, says Debra Moore, city manager. This portion will end at Phillips Crossing on South Louisville Street.

Goodale Park in Grovetown has added a new gazebo and a pickleball court. Plans are in the works to add an indoor pickleball court at Liberty Park as well. The city also has made improvements such as painting the gazebo at Veterans Park.

Local governments are not the only entities that are providing leisure opportunities for residents. For instance, D-BAT Baseball and Softball Academy is coming to a 20,000-square-foot vacated industrial building on North Belair Road near Evans Towne Center.

Feathered Friends Forever Rescue and Refuge, a Harlem nonprofit organization that provides temporary and permanent homes for tropical birds, is adding new amenities as well. They include a veterinary center, six horseshoe pits, a petting zoo, a 286-foot zipline, six tiny houses and a wildlife campground.

At Your Service

What's New 2021

Fiscal responsibility adds up to more benefits for county residents.

In the past year, Columbia County officials have made moves to improve services for its residents.

Effective July 1, the county established its own judicial circuit, known as Columbia Judicial Circuit. According to county, it is saving about $565,000 in its 2021-22 budget with the change.

The judicial circuit consists of three Superior Court judges – the Honorable Judge James G. Blanchard, Judge Sheryl B. Jolly, and Judge J. Wade Padgett; newly appointed district attorney, Bobby Christine; Mack Taylor, public defender, and the Community Services Division.

Offices for the district attorney, public defender, Community Services Division and juvenile court are located in the new Justice Center Annex, the former TaxSlayer building that the county purchased in late 2020 for $6.5 million, on Evans Town Center Boulevard. The annex also will house Juvenile Court.

With the purchase of the five-story, 32,000-square-foot building, the county can scale back renovations to the Justice Center on Ronald Reagan Drive. SPLOST monies originally were designated for a $13 million renovation, but bids for the work totaled about $29 million.

The purchase of the TaxSlayer building and renovations to the Justice Center, where Superior Court still operates, and the annex are saving the county more than $3 million. This plan also allows room for growth.

By moving Juvenile Court to the annex, the entire second floor of the Justice Center can be used for Superior Court hearings and provide dedicated space for the county’s probate and magistrate judges. The move also creates more space for the Superior Court clerk, district attorney and public defender offices.

Renovations to the second through fifth floors of the annex, where offices for the DA, public defender and Community Services Division are located, have been completed.

The county is in the design phase for renovations to the first floor, where Juvenile Court will have a courtroom and associated offices, and county officials hope to have it out for bid in October. Renovations to the Justice Center are in the design phase as well.

The 283-space parking garage at The Plaza at Evans Towne Center was completed earlier this year as well.

Construction on the new $6.14 million Columbia County Sheriff’s administrative office, which is financed by the 2017-22 SPLOST, was slated to begin in September. The three-story, 27,000-square-foot building will be located next to the detention center on County Camp Road in Appling, and it will house the investigations and interviews divisions, office space, and clerical and administrative support. The building is expected to be complete in early 2023.

In the summer, the county also purchased Harlem’s water distribution and wastewater collection system from the city for $7 million.

“The city was in the process of doing a water treatment expansion,” says Debra Moore, Harlem city manager. “The more we looked at it, it was something we weren’t sure we were going to be able to do. We would have had to pass costs on to the residents, but partnering with the county kept water costs under control.”

With Harlem’s significant growth, says Scott Johnson, county manager, its ability to meet customers’ needs had become an issue.

“The city was facing a costly water treatment expansion, and the county has the capability to do things that Harlem can’t. The county could provide additional infrastructure. We could respond a little more quickly to the rapid growth than they could,” he says.

The sale rather than an expansion of the system brought Harlem residents a couple of benefits. “Harlem got to reinvest that money into the city for other things,” says Johnson, “and everybody on that system saw a reduction in rates inside and outside the city.”

Johnson says the county always makes an effort to provide infrastructure such as water, sewer services and roads that responds to residents’ needs and to bring amenities closer to them.

Currently, county officials are in the process of planning for the 2023-27 SPLOST, which will be on the ballot in May, to determine where services are needed.

“We’re constantly reinventing ourselves here. We’re not stagnant,” says Johnson. “We’re not sitting back and letting growth happen.”

Care More Animal Hospital

Pet Care

Care More Animal Hospital is a full-service, AAHA accredited veterinary medical facility, located in Martinez, GA. The professional and courteous staff at Care More Animal Hospital seeks to provide the best possible medical, surgical and dental care for their highly-valued patients. We are committed to promoting responsible pet ownership, preventative health care and health-related educational opportunities for our clients.

Care More Animal Hospital strives to offer excellence in veterinary care to Augusta, GA and the surrounding areas.

Please take a moment to contact us today, to learn more about our veterinary practice and to find out more information about how Care More Animal Hospital can serve the needs of you and your cherished pet.

4016 Old Blackstone Camp Rd
Martinez, GA 30907
Phone: (706) 650-1839

Or visit our website at caremoreanimalhospital.vetstreet.com

Merry Maids

Pet Care

“Merry Maids is a locally owned small business and residential house cleaning service since 1992 in Augusta with our office located at 128 Davis Road. Recipient of the 2019 and 2020 Dallen Peterson Award of Distinction for Merry Maids Franchises. Voted Women’s Choice Award for America’s Most Recommended Cleaning Service every year since 2014, and Best Cleaning Service in Columbia County Magazine in 2018, 2019, and 2020! We serve all of Richmond and Columbia Counties in Georgia, Aiken and Edgefield Counties in South Carolina. Take back your time and give our team of cleaning professionals a call today!”

706.650.2409 Georgia
803.593.0077 S.C.

merrymaids.com

Paradise Kennels

Pet Care

Paradise Kennels
Bathing, grooming, or keeping your babies while you’re on vacation, you can rest assured that your pet will be loved and cared for as one of our own. We offer short and long term boarding.

3996 Belair Road | Augusta, GA 30909
706)860-1977

Visit us at www.paradisekennelsga.com

Martinez Animal Hospital

Pet Care

ALL THE BEST DAWGS GO TO Martinez Animal Hospital!
Services: • Preventative Health Programs • Wellness Exams • Orthopedics • Surgery • Laboratory • Ultrasound • Radiology • Thermal Imaging  • Vaccinations  • Dentistry  • Boarding • Equine  • Exotics

3942 Washington Road Martinez, GA 30907

(706) 863-1223

Please visit our website at  martinezanimalhospital.vet