With a challenger and an early vote now starting in the November 2nd election, Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar seems to be taking nothing for granted. McCollar said Monday he had “exponentially more” volunteers working for him than for his 2017 win.
That challenger is Ernest Larry Lawton, 70, a truck driver, haulage owner, and Minister. McCollar, 47, commutes to work in Hinesville as the assistant campus director for Georgia Southern University’s Liberty campus, but has personally chaired nearly all Statesboro city council meetings and represented the city at many other events since he took office in January 2018.
At the beginning of November 2017, in an election with three candidates, he received almost 53% of the vote to 42% for the then mayor Jan Moore. Although the turnout at the time was only 15.8% of Statesboro’s registered voters, cheers from McCollar’s supporters could be heard several blocks away from the Watch Party.
âWe have exponentially more volunteers than we did four years ago,â said McCollar, âbut that only speaks to the success we’ve had over the past four years and people are getting what the People Over Politics movement is all about about transparent governance that aims to put people’s interests above all political motives or the like. “
He didn’t really count the volunteers because they are in “different groups working on different things,” from marketing and social media to calling Statesboro residents and knocking on doors to reach every voter, he said .
Sidewalks and parks
But as the basis of his appeal to remain in office, McCollar cites things that Statesboro and his city government have visibly and in some cases literally solidly accomplished, such as newly laid walkways to two redesigned parks.
“We provided guidance that people can see,” he said. âPeople are seeing their streets being paved again, we are building sidewalks where there have never been sidewalks, we are rebuilding parks and revitalizing neighborhoods. We’re moving this city forward in light years compared to where it was. “
With joint financial support from the county, the city government oversaw $ 4.5 million renovations to Luetta Moore Park and Rev. WD Kent Park, both on the west side of Statesboro, from March through this summer.
The district officers provided $ 1 million from special sale tax revenues for local options and the city provided an additional $ 1.1 million from the city’s share of SPLOST over a five-year period. The city then borrowed the full $ 4.5 million at a low interest rate on a 10-year bond issued by a newly formed urban redevelopment agency.
McCollar notes that at the beginning of his tenure, the city worked with the district commissioners to get voter support for both an extension of the SPLOST and the first local introduction of a separate 1% sales tax on transportation projects and equipment called T-SPLOST to win. This included $ 450,000 specifically earmarked for developing a public transportation system in Statesboro.
A minibus transport system is now planned, for which federal and state subsidies are required and the city is working with the Coastal Regional Commission (CRC). This is an element of McCollar’s major project list that has not yet been fully implemented as delivery of the four 10-passenger buses has been delayed later this year. However, CRC officials have attributed this to the shortage of vehicle microchips caused by the global supply chain disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
âWell, success lies in knowing it is coming. … âsaid McCollar. “We hope to have these buses operational by March next year, but we are now at the mercy of the supply chain.”
T-SPLOST’s revenue – the city’s total share of the city over five years is expected to be between $ 20.64 million and $ 25.8 million – will also be used to fund government grants for the pavement expansion and road renovation projects he mentioned to extend.
Living and eating
Recently, the bulk of the $ 12.3 million federal funding that Statesboro is eligible for under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was donated by City Manager Charles Penny and staff to renovating substandard housing and expanding urban sewers in the neighborhoods still proposed on private sewage treatment plants.
Local officials are also suggesting using $ 500,000 of the city’s ARPA funds and $ 500,000 of ARPA funds, as well as another $ 1 million grant that the county is hoping to raise to raise $ 2 million for Provide the construction of a permanent home for the Statesboro Food Bank.
Food insecurity and a lack of quality, affordable housing are two issues the city must address over the next four years, according to McCollar.
“These are two of the most important things we need to address, but both go back to what I identified as our city’s biggest problem in 2017, and that is poverty. …” he said Monday. “I think “We have made up a lot of ground, but the city of Statesboro still has a lot to do to further reduce poverty in our community.”
Before he took office in January 2018, his supporters put together three citizens’ committees, which were later adopted by the city council as city commissions. The Statesboro Works Personnel Development Commission was later consolidated into One Boro, also known as the Statesboro Commission on Diversity and Inclusion. The Youth Commission now uses the name Statesboro Community Youth Network.
Last year the city council passed an âequity packageâ proposed by One Boro and council members. It contains a non-discrimination regulation which, in addition to a system for handling complaints about discrimination in housing, public accommodation and workplaces, gives priority to local women-owned and minority businesses when applying for municipal contracts.
“The city of Statesboro has also made historic investments in its young people,” said McCollar. âLast summer we started our Youth Connect program, a vocational training program that lasts five weeks in the summer. We were able to pilot this program with 20 young people from the community. “
These high school-aged students received a federal minimum wage scholarship for hours spent training skills and work experience with the city government, their fire department, and the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Public Defenders Office.
In addition, in partnership with these schools and the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce, the city launched an internship program for students from Georgia Southern, Ogeechee Technical College, and East Georgia State College.