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Council weighs Azalea Street center
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Some Azalea Street residents apparently had a change of heart regarding a city proposal to build a community center in their neighborhood. On Thursday, these residents submitted a petition to the Hinesville City Council asking the city to consider building them a community center in the future.
Residents in the Azalea Street neighborhood had previously expressed opposition to the proposed community center. Hinesville has built affordable housing for low- to moderate-income families on Azalea as part of the Azalea Street redevelopment project.
The city began work on the street after a 2001
study recognized the neighborhood as Hinesville’s “worst.” The project was funded with money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.
Hinesville City Council member Keith Jenkins asked why there was a petition in favor of a community center on Azalea when residents had initially been opposed to such a project.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas replied it was merely placed on the agenda for the council’s information. The petition was brought to the city’s community development department, Thomas said.
Valarie Merritt, who attended the meeting with her mother, Azalea Street resident Vernie Luckey, told city officials Luckey had circulated a petition in opposition to a center two years ago. This petition, Merritt said, had been presented at a town hall meeting held in 2007 and was not officially entered into the City of Hinesville’s records.
“My mother gathered more than 60 signatures on this (initial) petition,” she said. Merritt added that some of the people who signed the petition in favor of a community center did not actually live on Azalea Street.
Merritt said residents had opposed a community center because they had experienced illegal drug activity in their neighborhood in the past, and were concerned a community center would only draw more criminal activity. She said the city should have considered other options, such as placing a police substation in the neighborhood.
“They (the city) did not accept our petition that night,” Merritt said in a phone interview Friday. “They listened to our concerns and said a community center would not be built. We thought it was a dead issue. We were just told that there was a new petition. We didn’t want (the city) to accept their petition because they didn’t accept ours.”
Some of the people who signed the recent petition in favor of a center are the grown children of Azalea Street residents, city officials said on Thursday.
Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards emphasized that funds were never allocated to build a community center on Azalea Street and that plans to build such a center never got past the discussion phase.
The mayor directed the community development department to research the issue further.
In other city business:
• Hinesville awarded a $6.9 million contract to Choate Construction to build a new city hall and renovate the city’s police station. Choate was one of seven companies to bid the project. The proposed city hall will have 48,000 square feet of space, costing the city about $138 a square foot, city officials said.
The council also approved Choate’s additions for energy efficient lighting, to cost an additional $24,380, and the purchase of an LCD (liquid crystal display) projector and screen for an added cost of $5,789.
The project will primarily be paid for with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds.
• The council approved the renewal of four alcohol beverage licenses for on premise consumption for 2010. Bull and Beach, Good 2 Go Jamaican Restaurant, Juan’s Mexicalli and Vann’s renewed their licenses for this coming year. The council also accepted USA Gas station’s alcohol beverage license renewal for off premise consumption.
• Edwards presented three lighting proposals for Frank Cochran Drive. The different types of street lights the city could purchase include Cobra Heads for an upfront installation cost of $107,558, Gallerias for an upfront cost of $68,000 and Mongoose Floods for an upfront cost of $81,000. The council will consider these options.
• The council has changed its regular meeting time to 3 p.m. the first and third Thursday of the month. The next regular council meeting will be held at 3 p.m. Jan. 7.
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