Sharply reversing its previous stand, the Liberty County Commission on Thursday voted — unanimously — to join the Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership.
Proponents of the planning group aimed at handling the influx of soldiers and related growth into the area were dismayed when the commission deadlocked in a 3-3 tie vote at its regular August meeting.
Liberty County was slated to lead the partnership with Commission Chairman John McIver serving as head of the temporary steering committee that is assembling the partnership.
Commissioner Eddie Walden, who originally voted against joining the partnership, said, “I have taken the opportunity to educate myself with the help of the Friends of Liberty and other sources and I am now in favor.
“Since I was the one who got the ball rolling the other night, I would like to be the one to make the motion now.”
Another commissioner who had previously voted no, Marion Stephens, said, “I think Liberty County stands in a win-win situation with this.”
The Office of Economic Adjustment of the Defense Department will provide planning grants and technical assistance to areas impacted by the military. Bryan, Liberty, Long and Tattnall counties, and their municipalities are the targeted participants in the Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership.
Paul Andreshak, executive director of the Friends of Liberty and Fort Stewart, told the commissioners he thought the growth management organization would be complementary to the Friends.
The growth management organization will go away when the communities have absorbed the military impact. “I don’t think they will be here for more than two or three years; the Friends will be here forever.”
McIver said, “I think we are channeled in the right direction now.”
The temporary steering committee organizing the partnership is headed by McIver and includes a member from each county. Mike Melton, Richmond Hill city manager, representing Bryan County; Faye Hussey, Tattnall county manager; and Mike Riddle representing Long County.