Putnam County High School graduates Jake Morris and Deon Hill, who are Kiwanis scholarship recipients, joined their benefactors at an Aug. 9 Eatonton Kiwanis Club meeting before they head off to college.
The Putnam County Charter School alumni were guests of Chris Lawton and Rev. Avis Williams -- PCCSS educators who helped guide the young men toward success.
Assistant School Superintendent Derick Austin, who is president of the Eatonton Kiwanis Club, said Morris was a 2017 Kiwanis scholarship recipient who had originally planned to go to Kentucky.
However, last year, Morris was blindsided by the death of his father just before he left to begin a new chapter in his life.
After taking a year off, Morris decided to stay closer to home, and family, switching to a college in neighboring Milledgeville.
“The club was gracious enough to hold his scholarship and he’s going to be starting school August 20 at Georgia College and State University, where he will major in physics,” Austin said.
Hill graduated from PCHS last year and received the Alice Walker Scholarship and Mothers Against Crime Scholarship, along with the Kiwanis Club Scholarship. He plans to attend Georgia State University in Atlanta.
Austin told the students that when they get to college they should seek out and get involved in Circle K, a feeder to the Kiwanis Club.
He also announced that administrators had created the PCCSS Education Foundation, a 501(C)(3) program for students who head to college and might need help getting them started with some amenities.
“A couple of years ago a graduate was moving into an apartment and didn’t have pots and pans,” Austin said, inviting Kiwanians to participate in the Education Foundation program.
Kiwanis Club member, George Barrett, who announced that he and wife, Jocelyn were celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary on Aug. 11, said he wanted to speak to what kind of person Eatonton Kiwanis gave its scholarship to.
“The day after graduation Mr. Morris was at the Baptist Church helping with community service,” Barrett said.“I want to congratulate him for his efforts today. How lucky we are to have made that decision.”
Kiwanis Lieutenant Governor Rev. Keithen Tucker invited the speaker —Putnam County District 3 Commissioner-elect Bill Sharp, who is Chairman of the Putnam Development Authority.
After serving on the PDA for eight years, Sharp recently announced he would be leaving that board, the Eatonton Putnam Water and Sewer Authority and Board of Equalization when a he takes office on the BOC in January.
Sharp is also a member of The First Baptist Church where Tucker is pastor and has served that church in various capacities.
“I was asked why I was volunteering my time,” said Sharp, who is a retired engineer and former international business development manager for Enkel.“Well, I played golf three times a week and decided I wasn’t getting better and therefore I should try to do something that could help Putnam County. I looked around and there were a lot of needs.”
For Enkel, Sharp traveled throughout several locations, in the U.S. and abroad, to develop businesses in targeted areas.
“We had doom and gloom when I first started (on the PDA),” Sharp said, noting that with the closing of Georgia Power a few years ago the county lost more than 30 percent of its taxes.
“Then, last year, we had a bomb dropped on us when Georgia Power quit paying another $500,000,” he said.“You’d think we’d have to have a tax increase, but because of new business the PDA has done, we made up that $500,000 and went up another $50,000.”
Sharp said the future of economic development looked good for Putnam County.
He cited a recent announcement by Interfor to invest in a $50 million mill equipment upgrade project at its Eatonton facility.
“Since I’ve been in this county, I’ve never had an investment as large as was committed,” Sharp said about the Interfor executive’s decision to choose the local plant as one of its focused expansions.
“It will take a while to bring it up, but they’re going to do a lot of things, like get brand new equipment. That brings opportunity to our school system, to the residents of Putnam County.”
Sharp said the local facility has permission to donate its old equipment and that the PDA was working with School Superintendent Eric Arena to come up with a training program for Interfor and other like industries that could be conducted on PCHS campus.
Sharp also said that the PDA announced a couple of weeks earlier that they were authority awarded a $500,000 grant to complete a pad-ready site at the South Industrial Park.
“We own more than a hundred acres of property across from the old Horton Homes and in the last couple of years we have put five new industries in there that are paying taxes and working,” Sharp said, noting the state of Georgia will not recommend any type of development to Putnam County unless it has a padready site.
As Sharp finished speaking, he urged Kiwanis Club members to reinstate the regular Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on Nov. 6.
“We recently passed a TSPLOST and every penny that goes toward road repair in Putnam County,” Sharp said.“SPLOST 9 will simply replace the existing SPLOST that is running now and, if we vote it in, we will have that money to work on the county.”