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McComas Named Vidalia’s July Sweet Onion Citizen

At its July 11 session, the Vidalia City Council recognized 2021 Greater Vidalia Chamber Chairman Steven McComas as the Sweet Onion Citizen for the month of July. This recognition comes after last week’s announcement of the creation of the Greater Vidalia Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, which McComas had a large part in developing. “For quite some time now, once we acquired and tore down the Econo Inn, the question throughout the community has been, ‘ What’s going there?’” Mayor Doug Roper explained. “For the entire time up until this past week, the answer has been ‘Well, we are working with our community partner.’ Through a grant with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), we are now able to announce through Michele ( Johnson) and the Chamber, what has been referred to as the ‘center project,’ which will be an entrepreneurship building that is going to bring a lot of growth, development, and stability to the downtown area of Vidalia.”

The Toombs County Development Authority has been granted $4,059,474 through the DCA Rural Downtown Development Fund, as well as $750,000 in OneGA funds to build the new project. The community will match $859,386 to help in the funding of this new resource. Roper continued to discuss the development, “There were a lot of people who worked diligently and together to see this project come to fruition. First and foremost, I want to say thank you to Michele ( Johnson) and her (Greater Vidalia Chamber) staff for everything they did; that was a 2+ year project. The [Toombs County] Development Authority, the Chamber, and the City of Vidalia all came together and worked to put that project where it will now go, which is on half of the property at the Econo Inn site.” The site of the former Econo Inn is located on East First Street (U.S. Highway 280), adjacent to the Ronnie A. Dixon City Park. The land was purchased by the City in August 2021, and transferred to the possession of the Downtown Development Authority, which then worked to have the former motel demolished. “This project never would have come to fruition without the hard, diligent work of you, Steven McComas,” Roper told the honoree. “You were instrumental from the word ‘go.’ What you on your own time, volunteering yourself, your effort, your energy to help us acquire that location, we, the city, myself, and this Council will forever be in debt for what you did for Vidalia.” Roper added, “We have been wanting to honor you for quite some time, but doing it with the timing of this announcement could not have been better. You are an integral part of the community. You serve in several capacities, but specific to this project, we will be forever grateful for what you did for our area.”

McComas thankd roper for the accolades, but shared his gratitude to Greater Vidalia Chamber President Michele Johnson for her role in creating the Center for Entrepreneurship. “I cannot even begin to express how patient, diligent, and balanced she is. We have a tremendous asset in this community regarding economic development. It goes without saying that she understands business owners, she understands the marketplace, and she understands the public and private sectors. Without her partnership and friendship, none of this would have been possible.”

McComas traced the development of a concept in 2019 that led to the development of a local center for entrepreneurship. “At the time, we weren’t even looking at any sites or anything like that, just the concept.” Members of the Chamber were surveyed for input on community growth and 5 initiatives that needed attention were identified: economic development, workforce development, economic entrepreneurship, K-12 (youth) investment, and advocacy. McComas said that through traveling with his business, he had learned that the communities that invest in their local businesses and new ideas for the future are the communities that are most successful. McComas said the Center for Entrepreneurship will mentor existing small businesses and potential entrepreneurs. He said his own company, Responsive Technology Partners, has signed on to invest in the resource.


Johnson also commented on the project during her report to the Council. “We were so happy to get word that we were awarded the Rural Downtown Development grant funds. We have been working on that project for almost four years now, and we are thrilled. We hope Council is thrilled, and we are very grateful for you all coming along with that project.”

She said that Georgia Power helped to fund the feasibility studies and focus groups for the community development. She said that while COVID was a challenge for the Chamber and Development Authority, it had provided the agencies with unique opportunities that would not have normally been available. She also thanked Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) for his work to help the community receive this funding.

“Now, it is up to us to make [the Center] our own,” Johnson emphasized. “You are not going to find a Center like this absent of a university presence in the state of Georgia. This will be another one of those special things we have to offer and another item in our tool belt that we have within our area, and we are very excited.”


Downtown Vidalia Association Executive Director Tonya Parker informed Council that she had recently visited the Small Business Development Center in Savannah with a potential business owner and learned what a great resource the facility currently is for the area. “As most of you know, I am a former educator – so, it was a great joy of mine to be able to take a former student to the Small Business Development Center in Savannah recently when they began asking questions about how to start a business,” she told Council.

Parker also told Council that the DVA had gained a great resource, as Georgia Power Senior Project Manager Eric Smith has joined the DVA Board.


Vidalia Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Alexa Britton shared with the Council that the fireworks that were previously purchased for the cancelled Independence Day celebration would now be used during a DVA event in October that has yet to be announced. Britton said she was unsure if the bands that had been scheduled for the event on July 4 would be able to attend the new event, but planned on looking into the possibility.

Fire Department

Fire Chief Brian Sikes told Council that the City had seen 47 more calls so far this year than last year. Currently, more fire calls are being made because of grass and brush fires, but Sikes said that the recently updated ordinance regarding burning within the city is helping to deal with that issue. According to Sikes, Vidalia Fire Department responded to two significant structure fires on Montgomery and West Second Streets on Sunday, June 10. These fires are now under investigation by the state fire marshals.

Waste Collection

Republic Operations Manager Amie Vassey spoke to Council about how the company ensures that their garbage trucks do not litter the streets, as she explained that the trucks have been equipped with a large blade that smashes the waste to ensure it does not fall out of the truck during transport. Vassey also said that drivers are taught to consistently check their mirrors to be sure that no waste is dropping, and that in the event of a spillage, they are required to clean up the litter when possible. Recreation Department

Recreation Director Scott Strickland informed Council members that the Recreation Department planned to make a change in the normal fall recreation football procedures, as the 7 & 8 year-old players will now play flag football instead of being in helmets and pads. Strickland said he believes this change will not only increase the amount of participation in this age group for the sport, but will also help to teach the kids more fundamental skills within the game.

Accepted Bids

The City Council unanimously accepted several purchase bids for projects within the City, all of which will be funded through the Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds.

City Hall

Currently, the City Annex is being renovated to include the offices of the City Hall. This renovation is expected to be completed by the end of August 2022, and the offices will begin to move into the area following that. To aid in the completion of this renovation, the Council approved the purchase of a camera system, push button door entry, and fire alarm system from ADS, a phone system from Pineland, and IT installation services from Responsive Technology Partners.

MMI construction was also approved to complete cosmetic repairs, as well as the installation of new ceiling tiles and lights, on the existing parts of the annex. This project cost $49,578.40 total.

Ed Smith Complex

The Council also approved the creation of a pedestrian crosswalk at the Ed Smith Complex. The new walkway will be ADA compliant, and will allow patrons to park across the street at the former location of the Captain’s Corner restaurant and walk safely to the Complex. Overstreet says that after reviewing the area with Mayor Roper and safety officials, it has been decided to place the crosswalk across from the door of the old restaurant, which is a site that gives both directions of traffic on Stockyard Road time to be warned of the area. The construction of this resource is a 3-part project because of the lack of a single vendor being able to provide all needed supplies and labor. Corbett Electrical will install the crosswalk beacons, McLendon Enterprises will demolish the existing sidewalk and install a new one that accesses the crosswalk, and Lamba Striping will complete the signage and striping for the walkway. The Council agreed to spend $29,442.75 on the project.


The DVA will have Coffee Before Hours from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. August 3 at the new site of Brown Realty/Brown Insurance on 406 Jackson Street. The Association will also hold its 5:05 event at Rural Roots Beauty Bar on Thursday, August 18. Poe Street will be blocked from First Avenue to Second Avenue from 12 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Saturday, August 13, for a family gathering/birthday party.

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