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City weighs impact of DOT cuts
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The Hinesville City Council and Mayor Jim Thomas learned at a Sept. 18 meeting that cuts to the state Department of Transportation may force cities to re-examine and prioritize some projects slated to receive state aid, according to Matthew Barrow of P.C. Simonton & Associates.
Barrow and Hinesville Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Thomas briefed the council on the DOT $40 million shortfall. The reduction of available funds will have GDOT exercising additional caution when reviewing aid requests.
The revamped state aid grant program will allocate $4 million for each of the 13 congressional districts and $750,000 per city for non-state road projects.
Barrow said this change would only affect future projects. Those already started will be completed.
"We wouldn't start any projects without having fundings secured," Barrow said.
New state restrictions don't stop with funding.
Application changes will have Hinesville competing with other cities to justify its projects. To be eligible for state grants, cities must now submit requests that fit into certain categories.
"If everybody is going for just roads, and there's only 20 percent allocated to roads, then you may not get it," Thomas said. "You have to really understand where that money is coming from and then you can get it."
The DOT will then score the applications and decide which municipalities will receive funds, based on a priority ranking and fund availability.
City Manager Billy Edwards agreed with Thomas that cities will have to be more specific to improve the chances of securing a grant.
"The basic idea there is to slot your project so that it's in the area that has the least competition," Edwards said.
Projects are no longer approved on a case-by-case basis throughout the year. Applications for aid for the upcoming year will be accepted Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 and the DOT will review applications next spring for fiscal year 2010 projects.
"That's an important thing for this group," Edwards said. "We need to identify and apply for that during that window of opportunity or we've missed it for a whole year."
Thomas said the new program would fund entire projects with no match requirement from municipalities. However, cities may still want to consider a match.
"You're just more apt to get it (grants) if you leverage it with some of your (city's) own funds," Thomas said.
The DOT also will crack down on cities sitting on award funds, requiring cities to provide construction supervision, a set project schedule and completion within 30 months. Additionally, awards cannot be increased, as allowed before.
"It's only one street per application and you can only have the maximum of eight applications annually," Thomas said.
In other business at the meeting, engineer Paul Simonton updated the council on the status of the city's corrugated metal pipes, which stemmed from an issue councilman Keith Jenkins raised at the Sept. 4 meeting.
Jenkins was concerned with drainage issues because of wear on piping in a subdivision in his district and wanted to know more about the pipes' condition.
During the Sept. 4 meeting, Simonton said information on Hinesville areas that have corrugated metal pipes is stored in the city's Geographic Information System. After conducting an inspection to locate any pipes in need of repair, Simonton recommended replacing some pipes, citing the Seminole Drive area as a high priority location.
Simonton said the pipes were cracked and debris had caused sitting water to erode the pipes, rusting them out from the inside out.
"That's what happens to metal pipe," Simonton said. "It served its useful life."
He said the metal pipes were about 30 years old.
Thomas agreed action is necessary. If deterioration leads to cave-in, the city's previous work on the pipes could lead to liability issues.
The mayor and council also appointed Babs Holtzman to fill Brian Smith's unexpired term on the Hinesville Downtown Development Board.

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