Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts delivers the “State of the County” address May 7 at Flourish in Buckhead.

Fulton Chairman Robb Pitts touted the county’s contributions to transportation projects, library renovations and HIV/AIDS prevention at the “State of the County” address held May 7.

Pitts also announced a plan to expand the Fulton County airport. Longer-term goals for Pitts included bringing casinos, horse racing and cricket to the county, he said in the speech. The event was hosted by the Council for Quality Growth, a development lobbying group, at the Flourish, a Buckhead venue.

Traffic and transit options are “consistently” among the top challenges identified by residents, Pitts said.  But he lauded the significant funding that has been contributed by Fulton County over the years, and said committing more is under discussion.

The 14 cities in Fulton County outside Atlanta joined a TSPLOST in 2016 that is raising millions for transportation projects. And the commissioners and cities are now discussing another referendum in 2020 to raise more funds to expand transit in the county, Pitts said.

Pitts also praised the $2 billion investment the Georgia Department of Transportation is making with the I-285 and Ga. 400 toll lanes and reconstruction of that interchange.

He criticized the lack of Fulton representation on the board of The ATL, the new umbrella authority that launched last year and oversees all transit agencies in the metro area. Fulton has no direct elected representation on the board, he said.

“That must change,” Pitts said.

Pitts ended the speech with some predictions that the county will “soon” have horse racing and casinos, as well as a professional cricket team. The county’s also working to improve trade relations with India and Qatar, he said.

He announced plans to expand Fulton County Airport, also known as Charlie Brown Field, with a more hangar space, a new administrative office, an updated aircraft rescue and firefighting command center, a restaurant and a center for economic development. The airport is owned by the county and used for corporate and private jets, including Cox Media Group’s, Pitts said. It’s located west of Atlanta near I-20 and I-285.

The county is also significantly investing in other facilities, Pitts said. The branch libraries, including the Sandy Springs library and both in Buckhead, are undergoing major renovations in the 12-year, $275 million plan. The Sandy Springs library is expected to reopen in the coming months and all projects are planned to be complete by next year, Pitts said.

The Board of Commissioners voted on May 3 to begin a feasibility study on a constructing a new, “state-of-the-art” animal shelter, and the county’s courthouse is being renovated, he said.

The county will continue to reduce its carbon footprint, Pitts said, following the Board of Commissioner’s April vote to end using throwaway plastic items in its facilities. Reusable straws were the gift given to speech attendees as a symbol of this effort.

“Fulton County is taking a stand to protect not only our community, but the Earth itself,” Pitts said. “We are committed to reducing energy consumption and decrease our carbon footprint to leave our community better for our children and grandchildren.”

The county will continue working to address the opioid crisis, sex trafficking and high rates of HIV/AIDS, he said.

Fulton continues to lead the nation in new cases of HIV/AIDS, Pitts said.

“More than 30 years after the epidemic began, and with all of the progress in medicine to prevent and treat HIV, people are still contracting HIV and dying of AIDS in Fulton County,” he said.

The county has partnered with the Elton John AIDS Foundation with the goal to end AIDS in Fulton by 2030, he said. Fulton is also one of 48 counties that will receive additional federal funding to prevent and treat HIV, he said.

“Simply put, the continuation of this epidemic is unacceptable and must be stopped,” he said.