Monday, Mar. 20, 2023–6:53 p.m.
-Blake Silvers, Calhoun Times-
If a new bill is passed this legislative session, one Gordon County municipality may soon lose its status as a town. The legislation was introduced into the Georgia General Assembly this week with the intent of stripping Ranger of its municipal status after repeatedly not providing basic services for citizens, according to one local lawmaker.
A notice legal notice printed in Saturday’s Calhoun Times states the bill, introduced by State Representative Matt Barton, R-Calhoun, would repeal an April 1979 act for a new charter for the Town of Ranger. The bill, which had yet to be assigned a number Monday, saw its first reading during on the house floor in the State House morning session.
Barton said a citizen reached out to him last year who had bought a home in Ranger and had contacted Gordon County officials about mud on the road from a logging operation nearby.
They got out there and said ‘you’re in the City of Ranger, we can’t help you.’ And when he couldn’t get anything done through Ranger, he reached out to me,” Barton said.
While Barton was looking into the issue that originally started near the end of the last session, the same constituent had a similar issue while trying to apply for a business license. Due to having an address in the Ranger town limits, a license would have to be sought through that municipality. Again, Barton said, the citizen had no luck finding anyone to help him there.
“So now he can’t get a business license,” Barton said. “I’ve called the town’s number, and I even went out to Ranger and I couldn’t even find the City Hall building.”
Barton said he’s been trying to reach out to Ranger city officials for a year now, with no luck.
“If I was from Ranger, I’d be proud of living there too, but [the citizens] are not being served,” Barton said, adding that town officials should be easy for citizens to contact, and there should be an evident location for them to physically come to and inquire about services.
Barton dropped the bill Monday for a first reading.
The Calhoun Times independently verified Barton’s claims. An attempt to call the official number listed for the Town of Ranger on the Georgia Municipal Association’s website reveals that the official number has been disconnected. The building at 158 US Highway 411 which is listed as the town’s office no longer has any signage out front indicating a town office is located there.
The Ranger officials currently listed on the Georgia Municipal Association’s profile of the town are Mayor Chad Stamey, and council members James Haynes, Beatrice Nix, Jewell Thacker, as well as City Attorney Terry Miller, and City Clerk Sonja May.
In the 2018 Joint Comprehensive Plan, Ranger’s steering members for the process are listed as Mayor Michael Stamey, and council members April Bailey, Brian Crider, James Haynes, and Sonja May. At another point in the plan’s report, May is listed as Town Clerk. The town’s vision statement in that comprehensive plan is listed as “a tight-knit community where families will be able to live, work, play and thrive.”
On Jan. 28 of this year, a public notice was run by the Town of Ranger announcing its intent to hold an election for a mayor and four council members in the upcoming Nov. 7 election. The advertised qualifying fee is $35, but no location or contact information is listed in the ad.
Reached by the Calhoun Times via a personal phone number last week, Stamey said the town had been discussing with the Gordon County Elections Office the possibility of facilitating its August qualifying and November voting — a fact confirmed by Elections Chair Shea Hicks who said specifics had not yet been worked out as of late last week.
Ranger isn’t currently receiving special purpose local option sales tax dollars from the local allocation, but according to Northwest Regional Commission Director of Regional Planning Julianne Meadows, the town has been taking part in the current ongoing Joint Comprehension Plan process along with other Gordon County municipalities.
According to 2020 US Census Bureau estimates posted by the Georgia Municipal Association, Ranger’s 2020 population was around 137.