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Decision makers to get more 'focused' training for coast, thanks to survey
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Coastal Georgia’s decision makers may soon have new training available to provide them with specific information about ways to address the coastal region.

Tom Beppler, who works for the research firm Responsive Management, went before the Bryan County commissioners April 1 to discuss a study the firm conducted regarding public opinion and the coast. The survey was done for the Georgia Coastal Management Program on behalf of the DNR and the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

"This will hopefully help organizations refine and focus information and training, for now and in the future," Beppler said.

The firm distributed a questionnaire to decision makers in 11 coastal counties, including Bryan County. County Administrator Phil Jones was one local decision maker who took the survey.

"It identified some areas of interest by all the decision makers in the coastal region and identified some critical shortfalls," he said. "I think the results may help develop more training for the coastal region. There is a lot of training done around the state, but I think there’s a consensus that not enough training is done specifically on the coast. This study should help get some of those training shortfalls met in this area."

Beppler said there were three main areas that the survey focused on: the coastal issues, subjects and topic areas; the decision makers and their organizations; and different strategies, technologies and formats to reach those decision makers with training and information. A "decision maker" was defined as anyone in a professional or volunteer capacity that makes decisions that affect the health of coastal counties, Beppler said.

Survey takers were asked to rate topic areas that they felt were of the greatest concern from high to low, focusing on seven specific areas. Water quantity ranked highest of importance and other areas were land use planning, zoning, ordinances/regulations, stormwater management, water quality and coastal community development.

Commissioner Toby Roberts both said all of these areas are vitally important.

"I base my statement on the main issues we’re working on in Bryan County, which touches upon every one of the issues he mentioned," Roberts said. "The county has done work on most of these - and is in the process of working on all of them."

As far as shortfalls in training for the coast, Roberts said it seems as though training doesn’t always get to Bryan County as fast as other areas.

"This research firm is doing good work and they’re going to be a big help," he said. "We’re looking forward to getting more involved."

The assessment was designed to identify any overlaps among coastal training efforts and the range of coastal issues that need to be addressed through future training and information.

The data from the study will be used as an ongoing resource for formatting upcoming training. Several groups who were found to have unmet needs included county commissioners, city planners, engineers and managers, planning commission members and code enforcement officers, among others. In response to the findings from the survey, these groups will be used as a focal point for future training and information.

In other business:

- County Engineer Dale Dudley gave road updates. He said Hendrix Park grass, irrigation and fence contracts will all be underway by May. He addressed the Sterling Woods turning lane and Publix complex intersection, saying the decision for now is, until Hwy. 144 is four-laned, they’re going to re-stripe the lane to be a split turning lane for both Publix and Sterling Woods.

- Henderson Park’s grading, grassing, drainage and irrigation of the sports complex opened bids and Medalist Gold’s low bid was $1 million. Dudley said there will be a performance bond to have the project completed in 60 days. The board unanimously approved the bid and the project will be funded by SPLOST V recreation.

- The county received revised plans for Phase I of the PUD and Parkers development at the Blitchton Crossings. Dudley recommended the developer conduct a traffic study to determine the need for a turning lane but Ed Bacon said it will be necessary in the future, so there was no point in waiting. He made the motion to approve the preliminary PUD plan and the partial breakout for Phase I and it passed unanimously.



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