During his City report, at the Sept. 2, Hinesville City Council Meeting, City Manager Kenneth Howard said his recent medical issue gave him a first-hand look at just how bad COVID is affecting the community.
“I can tell you that during the time I visited the hospital around Aug. 3, timeframe, the numbers were half of what they are now. If I was in the predicament that I was in then, If I was in that predicament now, I would be in serious trouble,” Howard said. “Because the hospital is overflowing with patients. In fact, they brought in additional beds. We have a 25-bed hospital and I think they had roughly 40 patients.”
As the COVID cases continue to increase the Mayor and Council approved to extend the emergency order outlining mitigation efforts to help slow the spread of COVID-19 within the city of Hinesville. The emergency order requires all persons, regardless of their vaccination status, within the city limits to wear a face covering or mask in City-owned buildings and facilities, when attending a City-permitted event (indoor and outdoor) and while riding federally regulated transportation options, including Liberty Transit.
While discussing the matter, council woman Vicky Nelson asked if the Blues, Brews and BBQ event was being cancelled. Howard said his prior recommendation was that those events be cancelled but that Mayor and Council voted otherwise at the last meeting.
Councilman Keith Jenkins said large events would be hard to manage in terms of keeping people safe. He said he would support smaller events which would be easier to manage and enforce.
Councilman Karl Riles said until more people get vaccinated the numbers will continue to rise even if they shut down all events.
The Mayor and Council decided to keep the current plan in place for events which means that all events, currently approved, need to provide a mitigation plan on how they plan to offer social distancing, masks requirements and sanitation methods.
Prior to the adjournment Councilwoman Diana Reid asked Howard about the suggestion box they had previously discussed to give City employees an opportunity to express their views.
Howard said the City has a system in place to handle the matter. He said they’ve designed a plan that encourages employees to have input. Howard outlined a plan he said will improve communication and give employees an avenue to affect change. He said the plan would include diversity training and sensitivity training and explore providing incentives for the employees.
Reid asked why the plan had to be complex when all she asked for, back in June, was a simple suggestion box.
“Because I saw the exit interviews and they were outrageous,” she said. Reid said she wanted a suggestion box where people could freely express their concerns or complaints and that the Council and City attorney could address the issues since, per what she stated at the meeting, some of the complaints were about Howard.
“You were included in some of the issues,” she said. “That’s why I wanted something suggestive without your knowledge because people fear being honest and losing their job.”
Howard said it was his staff who felt that they were being attacked.
“No that’s not true,” Reid said.
“They feel that they are being attacked and we all know that,” Howard replied.
“Your staff is not being attacked and you are not being attacked,” Reid said. “I’m just trying to find a way to cut down to those who are leaving.”
The Mayor and Council approved the following:
The masterplan for Southside Park on 4 acres of land off Airport Road. The land was donated by Paul Krebs. The new park is scheduled to include two basketball courts, two tennis courts, walking trail along the perimeter of the park, two playgrounds, two multi-use fields, a pavilion, batting cage, skate park, dog park, parking and restrooms.
Approved to rezone a combined 1.5 acres of land, more or less, from R-2 (Single-Family Dwelling District) and MH (Manufactured Home Park Dwelling District) to C-3 (Highway Commercial District) for a retail/restaurant commercial development on the North side of Brantley Drive and Highway 84.
Granted a variance for a proposed carport for a homeowner in the 700 block of Madison Drive.
Approved a petition to rezone 1.0 acre of land, more or less, from MH (Manufactured Home Park District) to R-4 (Single-, and Two-Family Dwelling District) so the existing residence can be rehabilitated for residential use. Property is located at the intersection of Hollywood and Live Oak Drive.
Approved a request for a One-Day Special Permit to serve beer and wine during the 2nd Annual Food Truck Festival Event on Oct. 30. This event will take place in Downtown Hinesville area from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Listened to a proposed amendment to section 2-50 of the City of Hinesville, Georgia code of ordinances to provide that the term of office of the Mayor Pro Tempore (pro tem) shall be two (2) years. They will vote on the matter in an upcoming meeting.