Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown gave folks an update on the state of the County during a June 18, Zoom meeting hosted by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce.
Brown said the County Commission was set to finalizing the plans to adopt the 2021 Fiscal Year budget of 35.5 million. He said the budget was 2.8 million more than the FY 2020 budget.
Brown explained how most of the increase will be used to fund their growing Emergency Services Department. Brown said they plan to add 18 full-time firefighters. He said they are nearly complete on the construction of the Islands Highway Fire Station and Isle of Wight Sub-Station and they plan to purchase more equipment. He said Emergency Services experienced an 18 percent increase in call volumes last from last year.
Brown said the Island Highway station should be completed in October. He said the Isle of Wight sub-station will greatly improve the Insurance Services Office rating for everyone in that community. Brown said the County still has contracts with Riceboro and Walthourville Volunteer Fire Departments.
Brown said the Public Safety Department took up 40 percent of the budget. He said 64 percent or 22.6 million is mandated by state law. Essential Services represent 33% percent of the proposed budget and 3 percent is discretionary funds.
After discussing the budget Brown started talking about the preparations being made for the current Hurricane season.
Brown added said the county received a Disaster Recovery Grant that helped them during the after math of previous storms and tornadoes. He said those funds were the building blocks for creating local recovery teams and rebuilding plans. Brown thanked everyone that was recently involved in helping the County develop the Hazard Mitigation Plan which was funded by a grant. He said the plan helped identify potential hazards, such as flooding ahead of time so the County could mitigate the circumstances and recognize hazards before they occur.
He reminded everyone that this Hurricane season the folks at the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management must take into consideration the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He said the folks at L-EMA are making sure the residents will be safe and ready this year.
Brown said County offices reopened this week but with traffic limitations and safety precautions in place. He said they only allowed a certain amount of people in the building at one time which caused long lines to spill out of the County annex and on to the streets as people renewed their vehicle tags. Brown encouraged people to use online services whenever possible noting there was only a $1 surcharged for online services.
He said folks can watch the weekly County / City COVID-19 updates on the County’s Facebook page to stay informed on the latest changes due to the virus.
Brown briefly talked about the re-opening of the Liberty County Recreation Department’s open-air recreation areas such as pools, parks and playgrounds. He said all indoor facilities remain closed. The County and LCRD are discussing the possibility for a shortened summer day camp but need to make sure they can be complaint with the 32 items required by the CDC.
They are also in talks on what type of organized programming, like softball and baseball, can restart and how to do so safely.
He said the Sunbury Public Boat ramp is completed and open. The ramp was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. The restoration was completely funded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Brown said they anticipate more expansions at Mid-Coast Regional Airport. He said takeoff and landing traffic reached more than 10,000 which was up from last year. He said all the hangars are occupied and have a waiting list. The plans call for another 12-unit hangar and the County will seek funding from the Georgia Department of Transportation and The Federal Aviation Administration.
Brown said he was pleased that the community voted in the TSPLOST. He said it goes into effect Oct 1, 2020 and Liberty County will likely receive funding beginning in November.
The five-year proceeds are projected to bring in about 43 million of which 30 percent is going toward statewide transportation strategic plan projects. Some will go to project management and the rest will be dispersed to the County’s municipalities as per their respective agreements.
Brown added that the long-anticipated freight connector Hinesville by-pass project is expected to start in 2022.
Assistant County Manager Joseph Mosley talked about the Youth Commission.
He said the Youth Commission attended the 2020 State Legislature and met State Representative Al Williams. They are taking leadership training and development. Mosley said they are scheduling a session where the Youth Commission will be educated about policy development. They are also planning to meet with local law enforcement officers to learn about their jobs.
Brown said the Commissioners meetings are still being held virtually and it will likely continue that way for the foreseeable future.
Brown mentioned that Liberty County and the entire state had a lot of challenges on Election Day June 9. He said the local Election Board held a meeting and did an after-action review to be better prepared for November. But he noted that expecting to have the results of upcoming elections, amid the pandemic and voting changes, will be impossible and folks need to be patient to be able to report accurate results.