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2017 in review: SPLOST, controversy

POSTED: January 10, 2018 10:57 a.m.

May 3: Detective Suzie Jackson, who had been with the Hinesville Police Department for more than 30 years, retired. Her work was praised by coworkers and civilians.

Long County commissioners voted to put a special purpose local option sales tax before voters. If approved it was expected to raise $3.5 million over its life.

The Liberty Branch of the NAACP waded into the controversy in the Liberty County Board of Education, saying the community had been too quiet too long. Branch President Graylan Quarterman said a forum had been called to assure school officials knew the public’s opinion about what had been going on.

In sports, numerous Bradwell and Liberty athletes qualified for the state track meet during regionals. And the five-boy, one-girl FPCA track team earned medals at its state meet.

May 7: Twelve-year HPD veteran Tony Mitchner, currently a narcotics officer, sparked a controversy in the city after resigning and then appealing for reinstatement. Records showed the officer had been caught in an affair with an informant’s mother. After conversations with Police Chief George Stagmeier, who recommended Mitchner be fired, he resigned. After the appeal, however, City Manager Billy Edwards reinstated the Mitchner at a lower rank and less pay.

Sarah Victoria Scott Nephew of Long County turned 104. The Long County native is believed to be the area’s oldest resident.

The Liberty County Commission rezoned a tract on Islands Highway near Tradeport East for Liberty Regional Medical Center’s new east-end clinic.

May 10: Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas took over the 3rd Infantry Division and Fort Stewart as commander. Former commander, Maj. Gen. James Rainey, turned over the division colors at a change of command ceremony. Rainey headed to a job at the Pentagon. Quintas was preparing for a summer deployment to Afghanistan.

At a meeting, Midway officials said estimates for construction of a new city hall had more than doubled to over $2 million. They said they would ask the Liberty County Public Facilities Authority for a new bond request at the higher amount.

Long County officials announced they had narrowed a field of 19 applicants to be county administrators to three. The eventual administrator, who was named a week later, was former Pembroke city manager Frank Etheridge.

May 14: Liberty County Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker suspended board member Marcus Scott IV from board-related travel for a year after Scott registered and paid for a national conference in Colorado, but didn’t attend. Scott said a family emergency arose. The ban did not apply to Georgia School Board Association required training and meetings.

In other school news, the board announced it had narrowed a search for an interim superintendent to three candidates. The board did not renew current superintendent Dr. Valya Lee’s contract after she agreed to a severance package in the midst of an ongoing controversy. Also Toriano Gilbert, principal at Brunswick High, was named principal at Bradwell Institute.

The board also adopted a $101 million budget for the upcoming year, calling it tentative because administrators said they were relying on bookkeeping and projections that they questioned.

May 17: Separate fires claimed two residences, one in Hinesville and one in Gum Branch, displacing families and killing at least two pets. Both were ruled to be accidental.

May 21: A group made up primarily of former members and parents of members of House of Prayer Christian Church of Hinesville start staging protests outside the Airport Road church, claiming it is nothing more than a cult that has undue sway over members. Church officials, however, say the claims are false, that members are free to do as they wish.

In an effort to promote education and teaching among youth, Liberty County Schools staged a “signing day” for seniors who planned to become teachers, similar to ceremonies for athletes who are signing letters of intent to play sports for colleges. Ten students who highlighted during the day.

FPCA was the first school in the area to kickoff graduation season. The private Christian school graduated 25 students. In the coming week, Liberty County graduated 250, Long County graduated a record 184 and Bradwell sent 335 into the “real” world.

May 24: A Fort Stewart soldier killed earlier in the week in a motorcycle crash in Hinesville was identified as Pierre Ross, 25.

Modibo Kadalei is apparently one of the first in the area to hope to supply his home with solar power. He said that when he was planning his new, two-story home in Midway, he contacted Coastal Solar Co. of Hinesville to plan a solar panel array that should provide up to 95 percent of the power used in the Highway 84 home.

In sports, The First Presbyterian Christian Academy Lady Highlanders, fell one game short of winning the Georgia Independent School Association’s state soccer championship. The girls’ only loss during the season was the championship game against Augusta Prep.

May 28: The Liberty County Board of Education hired longtime educator Dr. Franklin Perry, who was in business and worked as a consultant for the past 10 years, as interim superintendent. A subsequent look at Perry’s contract showed he would be paid $800 a day starting June 1 and running through August.

May 31: Flemington recently passed a strict ordinance to protect live oak trees within its city limits, Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Director Jeff Ricketson announced at a meeting.

June 4: With little foreshadowing, the Hinesville City Council suspended City Manager Billy Edwards for two weeks without pay. There was no explanation of what prompted the action which followed an executive session that subsequent reporting revealed was rancorous. The vote was 3-1.

On his Facebook discussion show, Liberty BoE Member Marcus Scott IV, who had been involved in heated exchanges with other board members, announced he was considering running for the chairman seat in the next elections.

June 7: The Liberty County Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, in conjunction with the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, hosted a forum to explain issues surrounding “heir ownership” of property so that families who are unsure of who owns jointly-used property can resolve conflicts over the property.

June 11: In an interview with the Courier, Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards claims to be unsure what prompted the city council to suspended him.

Diversity Health Clinic, which offers care on a sliding scale based on income, announced plans to build a new facility at its Fraser Drive location. And its leaders are appealing to the public for donations to help pay for the construction.

June 14: The Georgia Secretary of State’s office issued a certificate saying the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce was a for-profit organization, and had been for 10 years. Attorney Joel Osteen said it was an apparent clerical mistake at the state office. County officials, however, cut funding to the business promotion organization, pending clarification.

June 18: The Liberty County Development Authority approved issuing $78 million in bonds for improvements at Interstate Paper’s Riceboro mill and nearby facilities. IP is one of the largest private employers in the county.

Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards reported back to work after a two-week suspension.

June 21: In school news, the Liberty County Board of Education approved its $101 million budget, including a 2 percent raise for teachers. Also, Interim Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry was sworn in.

Documents received by the Courier gave the first inkling of the root of a city of Hinesville dispute that led to the suspension of City Manager Billy Edwards. City code enforcement officer Rebecca Spier filed a grievance against Councilwoman Diana Reid.

June 25: After years of agreement, the Hinesville City Council voted 4-0 to move its money from the locally owned The Heritage Bank to Ameris Bank. The deciding factor, apparently, was Ameris agreeing to paying about a half of a percentage point more on the city’s accounts.

Fort Stewart officials took Elaine Boggs Realty Group off its off-limits list. Boggs said her group had gotten on the list because of actions by a former employee and that problems had been corrected.

June 28: The Hinesville Housing Authority announced it was fitting five-one bedroom apartments in Hineshouse Way Apartments for homeless veterans. The Rebecca Street accommodations were to house men for six to nine months while they qualify for VA approved housing.

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