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Development panel plans long term
Debt reduction, water reclamation among focuses
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Liberty County Development Authority CEO Ron Tolley, left, and LCDA Chairman Allen Brown, right, discuss various topics during a development authority planning session Monday. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge

The Liberty County Development Authority updated a number of its long-range plans Monday, including debt reduction and divesting itself of the water-reclamation facility at Tradeport East. The authority board held a planning workshop following a regular meeting early this week at Coastal EMC in Midway.
Authority members agreed to explore the possibility of selling the facility to investors after first determining the status of the facility’s EPD permit.
The plant is permitted to process 1.4 million gallons per day in water and 100,000 gallons per day for the Midway Industrial Park sewer.
The authority previously discussed this topic at its board retreat in September. At that work session, the authority considered developing a plan to work with the city of Midway on sewer issues. Midway and the LCDA have had a long-running dispute over connection fees and waste-water-usage rates that has not been resolved. The city and development authority have an intergovernmental agreement in place to share water and sewer infrastructure.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, who serves on the board, advised the authority to develop a plan, solicit partners and ensure the permitting process is complete in order to move forward on a potential sale of the facility. Authority board members discussed issuing development or investment firms a request for proposal to analyze the facility’s value. Thomas also advised the authority to determine whether the water-reclamation facility needs to be refurbished before a potential sale and see what the cost for such maintenance might run. In addition, Thomas said the authority could dispose of its surplus water-reclamation-facility supplies on a governmental website. Authority member Robert Stokes suggested a 60-day period in which to inventory surplus items.
Authority members also touched on debt reduction. Reporting on the authority’s finances for fiscal year 2013, Chris Lightle with Karp, Ronning and Tindol CPAs, stated the authority has reduced a significant amount of debt and is on firmer financial footing now than was the case in recent years.  
“The year turned out to be much better than planned,” Lightle said.
The authority’s long-term liabilities decreased by $3,760,739 in fiscal year 2013 due to principal payments and to $1,335,000 in forgiven debt as a result of debt restructuring, he reported.
The authority’s financial advisor, Jim Hargrove, recommended the authority continue to explore restructuring its debt before interest rates rise. Hargrove also urged the LCDA to acquire three to six months worth of operating funds for contingencies. The authority has about two to three months in contingency now, he said.
During the regular business meeting, the LCDA approved an easement that would allow the county to extend a water/sewer line on Technology Drive to service the proposed site for a new animal-control facility.
County Administrator Joey Brown told authority board members the county commission is moving forward with the construction of a new animal-control facility as approved by voters under the current Special Local Option Sales Tax capital-project list.
“Our plan is to place this facility on property previously used as the airport so as to access municipal water and sewer, which are key components in efficient operation of the facility,” Brown said.
Costs associated with the easement will be shouldered by the county, he said.
Brown also told authority members the county hopes to partner with a local adoption agency so that group could locate next to the proposed animal-control facility, he said.
The authority also approved a resolution allowing Friendship Baptist Church to transfer its assets to Grace Christian Church of Midway Inc., which actually is the same church, but with a new name and corporate structure. The authority was given a right of first refusal because a 1.9-acre tract of the church’s property was bought from the LCDA and is adjacent to Midway Industrial Park.

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