February 17, 2021

Why do you live in Oglethorpe County?

 Do you ever ask yourself, “Why do I live in Oglethorpe County?”

Maybe you were born here and never left.

Maybe you moved here with your parents.

Maybe a job attracted you.

Maybe you married someone from here.

Maybe you moved away and then came back.

Here’s why we chose to live in Smithonia, a tiny historic crossroads community in the northeast corner of Oglethorpe County’s 442 square miles. The answer is three words: quality of life. For different people, quality of life is different things. For us, it is:    

Oglethorpe County gives us the best of both worlds. We have wide-open spaces, with the amenities of Athens and the University of Georgia 20 minutes away.

Oglethorpe County’s geographical location is a major asset. Besides Athens, Atlanta and other cities aren’t that far way. Mountains, lakes and state parks are easy daytrips.

People are the heartbeat of a community. One of my UGA freshman roommates—55 years ago—was Bill Cabaniss of Maxey. Without knowing it, Bill and his wife, Barbara, helped us decide: “We want to live here.”They are Oglethorpe’s ultimate goodwill ambassadors.

We love history. And we love the importance Oglethorpe County places on history.

We’ll never have children in school here, but we’re proud of Oglethorpe’s school system. Quality education is an essential.

We believe Oglethorpe County’s strategy is smart. Few rural counties have been as proactive in their planning and zoning. Willy-nilly growth would take away from our county’s quality of life. Instead, Oglethorpe strives to balance residential and commercial development with our biggest and most important industry—agriculture.

Cost of living is a plus for Oglethorpe County. Taxes, comparatively, are moderate. In 2020 the county commissioners rolled back the ad valorem taxes to zero. That’s right: zero. Of course, we paid our school taxes, but you and I paid zilch on regular property taxes. I have never seen that before.

Oglethorpe County is family-oriented. Count the churches. Consider the recreational opportunities. And how about the new gymnasium?

Oglethorpe’s environment—with its abundant natural resources—is a big attraction. But we cannot take these for granted. In fact, the quality of our air, water and soil is under assault. 

In recent years, we’ve seen out-of-town companies dump awful industrial sludge in Oglethorpe County. We must continue our fight against this unwanted pollution. If we don’t stand up for our quality of life, it will be sacrificed for the benefit of people who don’t live here.

Do you remember Jerry Reed’s hit song “She got the gold mine; I got the shaft”? That’s what I think about when I hear the clang-clang noise and see the smoke belching from stacks of Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) in Colbert. Some people in Madison County believe they were “sold a bill of goods” by inviting GRP, without the advocates’ being forthright about the negatives.

Yes, there’s a gold mine in taxes and jobs for our friends and neighbors across Beaverdam Creek. But on our side of the stream, we are getting the shaft of pollution. And now, GRP wants to dump mega amounts of wastewater—daily—into Beaverdam Creek, which empties into the Broad River which flows under Georgia’s longest covered bridge at Watson Mill State Park.

If you have an opinion on this issue, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has extended the public-comment deadline to March 5. Email your thoughts to: EPDcomments@dnr.ga.gov. And then there’s a public Zoom meeting on March 2. Check The Oglethorpe Echo for the details.

Quality of life. 

That’s why we live here.

How about you?