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Lawrence County officials reflect on year ending

The year just ending had some high notes and some low ones and much to be thankful for, county officials said last week at the regular Lawrence County Commission meeting.

Officials noted the year just ending was difficult financially because of dwindling revenues, job losses and escalating costs for necessities and this in turn created even greater financial challenges for elected officials.

“It’s been a tough year for government,” Commissioner Doug Malone said. “It’s been a tough year for the country, tough year for the state, tough year for the county.”

Lawrence County’s unemployment rate last month was 7.9 percent and while officials concede that’s higher than they would like, it’s better than the jobless rate in other areas of the state and nation.

Next year promises to be another tight financial year for the county and the recently approved 2010 budget calls for a 10 percent cut in almost every office’s salaries line item. Still, Commissioner Les Boggs pointed out the 2010 budget was approved weeks ahead of time — the earliest in recent history the commission has approved a general fund budget — thus giving officeholders ample time to adjust.

Even with government dollars at a low mark, commissioners noted area business and civic groups have been and continue to be a force for positive change.

Malone said he was thankful for the county’s economic development leaders who have been working together to attract and keep jobs and he said he was thankful for groups such as the Coal Grove Betterment Club and Concerned Citizens of Burlington who have also worked to make their communities a better place to live.

He noted both the Paul Porter Park and Burlington Commons were both beautifully decorated for the Christmas season and were both credits to their communities.

Commissioner Jason Stephens agreed this year was probably one of the toughest in terms of making ends meet.

But he said there were some bright spots and some of them came from such organizations as the Young Professionals Group, associated with the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, that raised money and helped provide Christmas presents to more than 400 needy families.

“It’s good to see the Young Professionals step up to the plate for Lawrence County to donate,” Stephens said. “It was a really positive thing.”

Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the chamber of commerce, said YP raised more than $30,000 to help those in need.

“They raised money and bought more than 70 bicycles, 300-plus coats, pajamas, things parents were asking for. It was more than just toys,” Dingus said.

Officials noted Lawrence County’s generosity was seen and felt in all corners of the county.

Lawrence County Clerk of Courts Mike Patterson noted the Symmes Valley Beta Club was the driving force behind Christmas giving in that portion of the county, and has been for years.

“Mr. (Ken) Shipley and the Beta Club came through again this year. It’s a tremendous benefit to have Mr. Shipley and our schools do get involved (in the community),” Patterson said.