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fields would then be open to hosting not only recreation football and soccer, but also travel soccer and high school 7-on-7 football passing camps. The design also features plans for a playground, walking trail, and other amenities.

The project would be completed with a grant, which the city is awaiting and, which would require an additional $750,000 of Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

“This will create a draw and truly be a regional sports complex when you look at that design along with the 18-hole golf course,” he remarked.

City Hall & Tourism

City Hall recently moved into the newly-renovated space at the Vidalia Municipal Annex, and the Vidalia Municipal Building, otherwise known as the old City Hall, is awaiting renovation to house the Vidalia Onion Committee, Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Downtown Vidalia Association.

“We are utilizing space we already own and helping to bring visitors and commerce to our downtown area,” Roper said.

According to Roper, last year, a total of over 2,400 from 45 states and 10 countries visited the Vidalia Onion Museum. By moving the museum downtown, those visitors are brought into the “heart” of the city, into the retail shops and restaurants to create economic growth and development.

Public Safety & Homelessness

Mayor Roper began this portion of his address by acknowledging the difficulty of the situation involving public safety and the homeless population. “This one is a tough one,” he remarked. “It is difficult on all of us, but it is something we have to figure out and address in the best way we possibly can.”

According to Roper, the hard part of the situation is balancing compassion with discipline. “We want to show compassion where compassion is needed, but experts will tell you, a lot of these individuals [that are homeless] struggle with mental illness and drug addiction. Some of these folks want to get out of the lifestyle, some of them don’t want to get out of the lifestyle – we do not have the resources like a major metropolitan community to address the total need of that person, so how do we partner with local agencies to provide for those who want help? How do we get those out of our community who do not want help?” he shared.

He said that the cities of Vidalia and Lyons, along with another unnamed organization, that creates a database on the homeless population. “We have to know and identify who these people are to point them in the right direction and get them the help they need,” Roper explained.

The City has been meeting with members of the faith-based community to work to feed and provide services and needs for the homeless community. “Yet, at the same time, we know we have a lot of camps that exist in our town and we cannot turn a blind eye to it,” Roper added.

Currently, the city administration is traveling to the locations of these camps and speaking with the property owners. They then get written permission from the property owners to police the property, and they then give the occupants a warning that they must leave, and the occupants may then be removed and arrested for trespassing if they continue to reside on the property.

“This is just tough love,” Roper emphasized. “If we continue to pick up people who do not want to change their lifestyle, maybe they will choose to reside somewhere else. That may sound harsh, but we are all for helping people who want help, and we have people who can provide great services if you’re willing. We want to help those folks, but at a certain point, you have to draw a line and get people out of here who have no desire to bring any fruit to the community or change their lifestyle.”

Onion Festival

The Vidalia Onion Festival, which is set for April 20-23, will be completely downtown this year, with no events being held at the airport. The Festival will feature two days of concerts, and a community worship night.

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