Liberty County commissioners met Wednesday for a daylong planning workshop to review the status of several projects either in the planning or execution stages, and to discuss their place in a long-range vision for the county.
The board heard updates on SPLOST funds that provided commissioners with an overview of remaining items under SPLOST 4, as well as a look ahead to project under SPLOST 5, which began in April 2009.
“The main discussion focused on completion of the Liberty County Justice Center, Record Center Expansion Project, 911 roofing and the interoperable communication network,” County Administrator Joey Brown said. “The board also discussed next phases of work associated with the Liberty Annex East End, with emphasis being placed on getting the Midway/Riceboro branch library relocated.”
Brown said long-range objectives discussed at the end of the session will be briefed to the countywide body at a workshop later this month. Other items were discussed for their short range focus planning.
• Public safety communication plans update
The Liberty County EMA/public safety communications office is upgrading to a digital public safety network, with two towers and 10 initial talk groups to be used by various law enforcement and public safety agencies in Liberty County. “Our public service agencies currently have ‘dead zones’ where they cannot receive or transmit via frequency-based radios,” Brown said.
The initial four-channel system will eventually be expanded to 12 channels over the next 5-10 years. Once the system is established it will be tied into a regional system via microwave, allowing users to communicate from positions throughout the region.
The FAA has approved placement of one tower at the former county airport site, and user agreements for the east-end site are being finalized with Coastal EMC. They have erected a tower and will allow the county agency to occupy space on the tower for the network. West-end tower construction is expected to begin soon, and the projected go-live date for the digital network is Dec. 1.
The network upgrade will be paid for using grant and SPLOST money, at a total estimated cost of $2 million.
• Fire protection plans update
Design plans have been initiated for a new fire station in Gum Branch. Brown said he anticipates plans to be complete in approximately 60 days. The estimated project cost and funding source have not yet been determined. Discussions continue on the possibility of establishing a county fire station near Midway to help lower ISO ratings for rural homeowners. Both projects are being eyed in an effort to lower ISO rates for those areas served by the stations, Brown said.
• Courthouse Annex and old courthouse renovation plans update
The commission reviewed possible planning scenarios related to renovation of the old courthouse and annex buildings. The annex will see some office relocations on the first floor, primarily with tax services, while the upstairs would retain the same layout. In the courthouse, it is anticipated that voter registration and vote-counting operations will be moved to the southwest corner of the first floor, as will 4-H and county extension services.
The upstairs courtroom will be resized to allow for a waiting area outside, and offices for the juvenile judge and law library will be provided. The upstairs sector also could be occupied by the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission. Renovation to these two facilities is expected to begin following completion of the new justice center.
The major focus of the old courthouse project is to “shore up” an aging structure and provide changes to energy systems, using an energy systems grant, in order to improve efficiency. The projects will be funded though grant and SPLOST dollars with cost expected to be approximately $2.1 million.
• Rural water initiative update
The initiative is currently in the planning and approval process. It is expected to take approximately four years before construction can begin on the project, which includes an area stretching from Holmestown to Lewis Frasier Road along Highway 84. Simonton & Associates, the project engineer, has begun the grant-application process through the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. Commission Chairman John McIver suggested pursuing Department of Community Affairs funding as well, in order to help lower any anticipated rate structure that may be developed.
• Liberty County Community Complex update
Cost estimates to construct a new community complex on the site of the former Liberty Elementary School in Midway are being revised and updated. The county is also finalizing space plans for areas of the complex, called the Liberty Annex East End, including a public library branch, media center, swimming pool and recreational fields. SPLOST 4 and 5 funds are expected to cover the cost of the project.
• Countywide poly cart service update
The BoC has discussed for some time the possibility of offering countywide poly cart service, Brown said. “The detailed analysis presented at the planning session was a first analysis of the potential costs of providing that service. Following discussion on several alternatives for delivery of the service, the BoC has asked us to provide costing,” he said.