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County audit calls for tighter grant reporting

Developer also announces plans for more than 1,000 apartments

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POSTED: April 22, 2013 9:40 a.m.

Liberty County gets a lot of grant money but needs help accounting for the funds and ensuring grant guidelines are met.
That’s the consensus of a discussion Thursday between the Liberty County Board of Commissioners, County Administrator Joey Brown, Finance Officer Kim McGlothlin and Mauldin & Jenkins auditor Chris Moye.
Moye presented his findings on the county’s fiscal-year 2012 audit. The presentation was about 10 months delayed, he said, but much of the holdup was the result of an unresolved issue from fiscal-year 2011 that stemmed from a grant awarded in 2007.
Moye commended the county’s compliance with reporting requirements, saying they go “above and beyond their requirements.”
“We were waiting for the grants schedule to be completed,” Moye said about the delay. “One thing I will tell you all is you have about $3 million in federal rewards, and you have various departments that oversee these grants. For our purposes, we have to combine them into one nice schedule, and we have to audit them and then we have to do compliance-audit procedures on them. There is no one person who is overseeing your grant activity, so to compile all of that information into one grant schedule tends to be cumbersome.”
Part of the issue is that some agencies — like court offices, the public defender, emergency-management agency and sheriff’s office — seek grants but do not communicate the grants or their requirements to the county finance office, McGlothlin and Brown said.
The DUI and drug courts together have multiple grants that were not being overseen within the county, but McGlothlin said that issue is being remedied as the judges are in the process of hiring someone to oversee the grants.
“It was like an unbelievable amount of grant activity, … it’s a lot to keep up with,” McGlothlin said, adding that her department of six oversees 21 accounts and she had a period where two employees were on Family and Medical Leave Act simultaneously.
Further, the grants vary on the frequency of their reporting requirements.
“It’s a lot to keep up with, and I don’t want to discourage us from getting the grants,” she added.
The board also heard a request from Mike Khepiesa of the Khepiesa Group about a multi-million dollar planned community along Highway 84 near Joseph Miller Park.
Khepiesa asked that the county authorize him to extend Hinesville sewer service out to the development site. His plan would tie into the municipal line at Liberty County High School, and the extension would be at his cost.
The development, which he said is slated for several phases over six years, would include a large rental subdivision with handicap-accessible units and would feature commercial space intended to include a medical center, physical-therapy center, nursing home, assisted living, a gym, daycare, restaurants and a social hall as well as space for a grocery store and bank.
The project would begin in 2014 with residential construction that eventually would include 1,704 apartments with one-, two- and three-bedroom floor-plans and an entertainment area with pools and recreation areas.
Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. expressed reservations about whether granting Khepiesa’s request would inhibit future county sewer-service expansions or whether it could require or prohibit residents from receiving the service.
Other commissioners peppered Khepiesa about how the utilities would work and costs associated with the project, and he explained that he currently is looking into the feasibility of utilities and such before he is able to answer those questions.
Commissioner Eddie Walden said the project reminds him of the “15th Street project,” where the county allowed the municipal service lines to be extended only for the area to later be annexed into Hinesville.
Nonetheless, Walden pointed out that the commission talks about needing development and Khepiesa is heeding that call.
“As far as the county goes, we need more projects in the county,” Chairman Donald Lovette said. “We support the concept, but as far as Commissioner Stevens goes, in his district, we need to be mindful [of residents].”
“We want to serve the community,” Khepiesa said, explaining he has a pool of local and foreign investors and businesses interested in the commercial plaza.
After much discussion, Brown suggested that he draft a letter to Khepiesa and Hinesville stating the county’s concerns and asking that they be addressed.
In other business Thursday, the BoC also:  
• Hosted the Young Adult Liberty Leaders, or YALL, group for National County Government Month
• Heard a report from the mosquito-control department, which will begin spraying Monday
• Approved a $49,873 bid from Southern Playground for construction of a play area at the Liberty County Community Complex under construction in Midway
• Discussed a request from Liberty County Historical Society president Randy Branch asking that its current lease of 101 Commerce St. be extended and revised to include the second floor
• Heard a presentation from University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government representatives about its compensation-plan analysis. Currently, the county is in the 75th percentile for public- and private-sector pay within the region, a standing the staff called “great.”

 

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