December 30, 2022 | News

City manager looks back on 2022

Writer: Taylor Cooper

Published December 30, 2022
The Brunswick News, from yahoo!news

Brunswick City Manager Regina McDuffie is thankful for a lot of things the municipal government was able to accomplish this year.

"It's hard to summarize everything at the end of the year," she told The News.

The city negotiated with the county to keep the two entities' sales tax takes the same as they've been for the last 10 years, voters approved SPLOST 2022, if by a narrow margin, and many major infrastructure projects are well underway.

Glynn County took over the city's recreation program in 2012 in exchange for a larger percentage of sales tax revenue. The county takeover of the program followed a 2011 report by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government that the Brunswick Parks and Recreation Department was operating inefficiently and costing the city a great deal of money.

Current city officials, however, feel the county isn't offering the kind of programming city residents deserve, and while it may cost more they feel it's an important issue for constituents.

In a past interview with The News, McDuffie said the city plans to go further than sports leagues. It wants to offer opportunities to enrich kids in the arts and technology. The state Department of Community Affairs awarded $6 million for St. Mark's Towers and $10.6 million for College Park.

She also noted some major grants that came in for a drainage improvement project in the College Park neighborhood and renovations to St. Mark's Towers, a senior independent living development.

Both are in preparation for weather. College Park's drainage system always suffers under major storms and especially hurricanes, McDuffie said, while the renovations and upgrades at St. Mark's Towers include installing studier windows.

Glynn County is doing preliminary work to secure easements and right of way for a new drainage system in College Park and the city has only begun working with contractors to prepare for the St. Mark's job.

Another $1.5 million public safety grant and $2 million neighborhood improvement grant may be coming in January, she said, both through the state governor's office.

"We are in a competitive process so they're not guaranteed, but we're hopeful we'll get both of those," McDuffie said.

Hurricane Ian left the Isles nearly unscathed as it passed by in early November. McDuffie patted the city's boots on the ground on the back for their hard work in getting ready for the worst.

"We did a lot of planning in terms of looking at places that were prone to flood even in just strong rain and making sure we prepare properly, staying on our schedules and cleaning the ditches, making sure debris was cleaned up properly throughout the year and sandbagging," she said. "We intensified it this year to make sure we were providing as much support to the citizens as we could."

This year also saw the beginning of a city-wide road repaving project. The prep work for that started late last year, McDuffie said.

"The assessment was done in 2021, and we got all the projects lined up and funding for them," she continued.

Perhaps two of the most visible improvements in the city, however, are new direction signs and Christmas lights.

The wayfinding signs were part of a partnership between the city, county and Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau. The green signs around town and on St. Simons Island point the way to various points of interest, including Brunswick's downtown.

McDuffie's office and the Downtown Development Authority started working as early as March on new Christmas lighting. It hit some snags due to equipment arriving late, but all told the lights looked good, in her opinion. They'll look even better next year when the city also plans to turn Hanover Square into a veritable winter wonderland.

"That caused some minor difficulties in the program. We didn't get everything in on time, but we did a good showing," she said.

Looking ahead, McDuffie thinks her biggest preoccupation is going to be getting the city's recreation wing kick-started and upgrading several of the city's major parks, including Mary Ross Waterfront Park and Orange Square.

"2023 is going to be a very busy year," McDuffie said.