The Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership, which was created earlier this year to oversee community development in preparation for a 5th brigade, will remain intact, despite a deep cut in expected new troops.
Director Jeff Ricketson said while the number of troops has dwindled to an estimated 860 (1,500 when family members are included) it’s still an increase that needs preparation.
“These are the latest numbers,” he said. “1,500 in growth is not bad in a particularly bad economic climate.”
Ricketson said there’s also still a possibility that one of two additional brigades currently stationed in Europe could come to the installation.
But besides preparing for the growth, Ricketson said he, as well as the others involved in the partnership have their hands full with another big job.
Under direction of the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment, Ricketson and employees with EDaw, the consulting firm contracted to help the area deal with the growth, are beginning a massive survey in hopes of assessing the damage from the loss.
“We have 60 days to provide a report on what kind of damage has been done.” Ricketson said.
The survey will include interviews with developers who invested in growth projects to determine how much of their losses were caused by the lost brigade and how much was lost due to natural business cycles or the recent economic downturn.
Ricketson said the OEA will then use the report to determine how best to appropriate the $75 million it has budgeted into the next fiscal year for Liberty County.
On the bright side, however, Ricketson said the loss of the brigade might be in the area’s best interest as it allows for more time to prepare, instead of opting for rapid development plans. He admits when he first took the position in late April, he was concerned with the tight schedule.
“I was feeling the heat,” he said.
A $700,000 grant from the OEA will continue to fund the majority of the expenses involved in keeping the partnership active.
Ricketson said the grant will provide funding until next June. Afterward he will seek more funding to maintain the partnership.