Athens City Manager C. Seth Sumner reflected on the course of the year while looking forward to continuing projects next year.

According to Sumner, the first thing that crossed his mind while thinking back through this year were the people who were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The first thing that I think about are the people that we had lost or that encountered difficulties in their family, home or business because of the pandemic,” Sumner said. “This pandemic has been a drain emotionally, physically and financially on too many of our friends and neighbors. It has brought out a greater need for service and for availability of feeding programs in our community. So for all those friends and neighbors that we had lost during the pandemic I would like to share my thoughts, my prayers, my well wishes and just let them know that we are here to support and care for them.”

Sumner noted the city had a good year in terms of projects and finances.

“Outside of the difficulties that we had from the pandemic, the City of Athens has had one of its best years ever,” he expressed. “Financially we had our best year ever. We had increased revenue in our sales tax, which means that we had more people shopping in our local businesses, the City of Athens has embarked on $50 million worth of capital improvements throughout our city and is working to improve our infrastructure, roads and streets, improving our schools with building two new schools at one time, rehabilitation of the public works building and city hall, and the renovation of downtown to make it more attractive for businesses and visitors.”

Sumner stated these were things the city has not actively engaged in for over 50 years.

“We are now actively building. We already have the financing in place for all of these projects and it is long overdue,” he expressed. “Our community deserves first class service and in order to do so we need to make sure that our environment and our infrastructure is in the best working order.”

He believes the city will have the “top seven” capital improvements completed in the next two years.

“One of the things that we have seen in the census data is that for the first time in 70 years we have seen some actual growth,” he noted. “We have a lot of new retail development started in town, we have several hundred new housing starts that have been proposed at the planning commission and our team has been preparing and planning to lead some of this growth for the last four years.”

According to Sumner, they have worked through internal “organizational kinks,” allowing the City of Athens to charge ahead.

“It is just incredible to be here and be part of these positive changes in our community,” he said. “Things that our citizens have asked for and those dreams that have been put out into the community are now being built.”

Looking ahead to next year, Sumner stated the city council will be considering their “strategic plan” when deciding how to move forward.

That is usually held in February.

“You will see some of the projects that are being bid out now such as downtown and city park traffic improvement, renovation of the public works building, the new animal shelter that will be in the old DPA building, all of these things will come into fruition over the coming year,” Sumner said. “We also want to start having the real conversations about what the city will do with the three school properties that we will inherit, with the lodging tax and how we are going to build programming and use those funds to help draw more visitors into our community and help strengthen our businesses. So those will be our key focuses next year.”

Email shane.duncan@

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