By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Hinesville to address construction concerns
Hinesville sign

A construction update was presented at the Aug. 5, City of Hinesville Council meeting informing the community of the continued work being done at Bradwell Park. 

The construction has caused some businesses to be impacted financially. At one point during the meeting, Councilman Keith Jenkins asked if the merchants are being compensated for their losses. 

Paul Simonton of Simonton Engineering, who was giving the update, said Donita Gaulden would be addressing the issue before the council.

Gaulden, who is the Director of the Hinesville Community Development Department, spoke about the America Rescue Plan Funds but noted those funds, in no way, could be used to fund losses by merchants caused by the construction. She said the Mayor and Council approved to allocate $250,000 of ARP funds to provide small business grants to recover from the adverse impacts of COVID. She said they received 54 applications, awarded 31 applicants with $5,000 each and declined 23 applicants. She said those that were declined were either missing documents, had not shown loss of income for the specified period of the application or were not within city limits. 

She said there is $95,000 that has yet to be awarded. She recommended the Council allow a second roll out for applicants and revise the in-operation dates, to allow businesses starting during the pandemic to apply.

“To your question earlier Councilman Jenkins, my presentation today is in reference to the American Rescue Plan,” she said. “It’s not related to the businesses on Commerce Street or anything of that nature. And these particular funds have to be used for COVID related activities and not related to those particular businesses. Hopefully those businesses will apply if any of those businesses were not previously funded.”

Jenkins said he had been told that the inconvenience caused by the construction provided the City the opportunity for effected businesses to receive funding.

“But now what I’m hearing is that no funds can be allocated to these folks downtown,” he said. 

Reid said they were also told the Council had the right to change the parameters on how the funds could be allocated. 

Gaulden said ARP funds cannot be used to address the losses caused by the construction.

“Those are two very separate things,” she said. “We cannot say we are going to use American Rescue Plan funds to address construction inconveniences because American Rescue Plan Funds are specifically addressed for COVID.”

Jenkins said this needs to be addressed because he was told otherwise by a credible source. Mayor Allen Brown said the City would have to find another funding source to address the losses caused by construction.

Brown noted that City Manager Kenneth Howard, who was absent from the meeting due to a medical issue, had plans to look for sources of funding upon his return.

Simonton talked about the entire process which started in with a strategic plan done by the Carl Vinson Institute in 2019. After various town meetings, design concepts and planning work got underway but a few delays stifled progress. One delay was due to rubble found buried under the old fountain. They also had four days lost because of weather. Simonton also noted delivery of materials has slowed down. He said most of the effected businesses are letting their customers use a rear door access to their businesses. He said, should the delivery of the brick pavers be delayed their plan is to fill the area so that the merchants could have their front door access, by Aug. 17, until the pavers arrive. Once the pavers arrive Simonton said they will be installed in small sections at a time to allow the sidewalks to stay open. 

Councilmembers Jason Floyd and Diana Reid both mentioned improving communication to the merchants. They pointed to a prior meeting held July 29, where many of the merchants and even council members were unaware of a scheduled meeting.

Board of Education member, Marcus Scott IV, from District two, spoke about the first day of school.

“Day one went as well as expected being that we are in a pandemic,” he said. Scott said the original plan was to return to school without a mask mandate but when the City and County reinstated mask use, so did the Board of Education. He said the BOE is monitoring all situations relating to the pandemic. He said while not system-wide if a parent is adamant in keeping their child in virtual learning, they should contact Central Office to make the necessary arrangements. All students are receiving free lunch and breakfast this school year. 

The City is considering an incentive program to increase the number of COVID Vaccinations. Only 22 percent of the people in Liberty County have been vaccinated despite rising COVID cases.

Mayor and Council approved a few zoning variances. They approved alcohol licenses and poly-carts uses for planned and permitted events. But City Assistant Manager Ryan Arnold said, should COVID cases continue to rise, most or all of those approved events may have to be cancelled. He said the City is once again reviewing new permit requests on a case-by-case basis.

Sign up for our e-newsletters