At the Jan. 20 Liberty County Board of Commissioners’ mid-month meeting and the City of Hinesville Council meeting held the same day, the city council and mayor and county commission voted to recognize June 19 as a paid holiday to celebrate Juneteenth.
Juneteenth was made a federal holiday by President Joe Biden on June 17, 2021. It is the 11th federal holiday in the US and the first new federal holiday in nearly 40 years after Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated in 1983. Juneteenth is celebrated annually on June 19. It commemorates the final end of slavery in the US on June 19, 1865.
At the Liberty County Board of Commissioners’ mid-month meeting, a resolution to rename the VA Clinic in Hinesville after two local veterans, the John Gibson/Dan James VA Clinic was presented. County Administrator Joey Brown said the request came from local resident Bruce A. McCartney.
The two Liberty County veterans fought in the Vietnam War and have their names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
Commissioner Gary Gilliard said this was a matter that should be done at the federal or state level, not petitioned by the county board. However, Commissioner Marion Stevens said he was a veteran and would proudly support the board being the ones to move a resolution forward, which could then be taken to the state level by local state Representative Al Williams.
“From my standpoint, I think it is well-deserved,” Stevens said.
He said other veterans like McCartney brought the matter to his attention, and he plans to pursue it on their behalf.
“All we are asking this board of commissioners to do is start the process,” he said. “It may not go anywhere, but at least start the process. We say we are Liberty County proud, and we need to show it to these vets.” Commissioners Eddie Walden and Connie Thrift agreed with Gilliard, noting veterans and those interested in having the facility renamed should go directly to Williams if a majority of veterans agreed to the name change. The board voted to not move forward with the renaming resolution. Stevens opposed.
The board approved the final plat for the Colonies of Habersham Plantations phase 3C. They also decided that the county financial officer may enter into a contract agreement to switch payroll processes to Automatic Data Processing (ADP). The board reviewed their fiscal year 2021 audit report, done by Mauldin and Jenkins CPA Advisors and presented by Trey Scott. According to Brown, county employees are able to receive a $200 incentive for getting their COVID vaccines. Employees would need to provide proof of getting both shots and the booster. The incentive is for full-time and permanent part-time employees.
At the Hinesville City Council meeting, Jeff Clark of Safe Harbor presented information on the upcoming Point-in-Time count planned for Feb. 24. The Point-in-Time (PIT) count is a measure of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness. Like the Census, this count measures the city’s experience of un-housed individuals. The data collected is transmitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is used to allocate resources. Safe Harbor, the City of Hinesville and the Manna House will conduct the annual count.
“The reality is, homelessness has several different looks,” Clark said. “It’s generally not the person that you see walking on the street with just a bag or a cart. It could be a family. It could be a veteran. It could be someone you wouldn’t think is homeless. It could be a youth.”
Clark said they would canvas the area and conduct a proper count to present to HUD.
He said his organization will be conducting the count in five different counties, including Liberty County. He said they are seeking several community partners and volunteers to aide in the count. The purpose of the count is to receive the proper funding from HUD to address housing and shelter needs within the city.
“We do realize we have a lack of affordable housing in our communities,” Clark said. Councilwoman Diana Reid asked whether the count would help those who are homeless but are currently living with other people for the time being. Clark said there is a need to address people who are cohabitating but otherwise homeless. He said sometimes when people double up, they tend to lose some services otherwise provided to homeless clients. Clark said they are also looking into homeless people who are dealing with domestic violence. Clark said they have programs to help restore people by not only providing short-term housing but also addressing educational needs and job training so they can learn to sustain a personal livelihood.