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LCDA contract flap settled
Former employee contracted for minority work
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Mayor urges residents to petition DoD for new brigade

Jim Thomas, who is on Liberty County Development Authority as mayor of Hinesville, encouraged officials to continue petitioning state and federal officials to get a new brigade stationed on Fort Stewart.  
“I think it’s in the hands of the Army, but the elected officials … we’re asking them to get us a meeting with the secretary of defense,” Thomas said at Monday’s authority meeting.
Thomas plans to go back to Washington next week.
“From what I heard, the secretary of defense has turned it back over to the Army,” Thomas said.
He said post officials have gotten confirmation that construction contracts for facilities for the 3,500 or so new troops were still coming.
“And that’s a good sign,” the mayor said. “They issued about $297 million Friday.”
“As long as they keep building something, something’s got to come,” authority member Jeff Arnold said.
After previous hesitations, the Liberty County Development Authority unanimously decided to contract with Strategic Business Solutions Unlimited for work on a minority and women business enterprise initiative.
The company is owned by Delisa Espada, who until recently worked for the authority.
Last month, LCDA member Jeff Arnold questioned whether it was fair to contract with a former employee without bidding the work out. He suggested they check with County Attorney Kelly Davis.
At its May meeting Monday, LCDA CEO Ron Tolley said the contract was cleared by Davis and reported the services will cost $35 per hour on an as-needed basis.
“Given the amount of work anticipated, it would be significantly less than the [salary] paid,” Tolley said.
As work force development director, Espada suggested and then helped implement most of the
M/WBE policies.
Tolley said the job became “quite time consuming,” during Espada’s employment because the authority was in the middle of a lot of contracts.
Arnold also moved to accept Espada’s request to rent office space.
Starting June 1, the authority will lease an office for $433 month with an annual increase in July for the occupant’s share of utilities, maintenance and insurance.
On another subject, authority members learned the entrance at Tradeport East could be delayed as the authority awaits construction of the right turn lane on Islands Highway.
The county is funding the estimated $560,000 project, with state DOT funds, but LCDA agreed to pay any overages, explained Carmen Cole, LCDA director of administration and finance.
“Based on design changes that have come to light, there is a possibility there are some cost overruns that the authority will need to handle,” Cole said.
The delay won’t mean extra charges to the LCDA project, she said.
“So they shouldn’t be charging us for their choice,” Cole said.
“I just get a lot of people asking me questions, when those orange barrels are going away,” LCDA Chairman Allen Brown said.
Plans are to still have the project complete by this summer.
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