Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown and City Manager Kenneth Howard gave their state of the city address Thursday at the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Progress Through People Luncheon.
The luncheon was at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center on Thursday.
Brown said the new Oglethorpe Shopping Center has increased the city’s sales tax revenues by 10 percent.
He said the city was able to reduce the millage rate the past two years and added they are currently working on expanding the city’s military zone for the local businesses in downtown Hinesville.
“On Main Street, we have a partial military zone right now,” he said. “But the way the division is right now some of the businesses on one side of the street are able to get the benefits while the others don’t, so we are working on that.”
Businesses located in a designated military zone receive a $3,500 tax credit on every employee the business has, the mayor explained.
The mayor said the city has repaved 26 miles of the city’s street, which was funded through SPLOST. He added they plan to repave another 10 miles.
“And we are going to widen South Main Street from Second Street to Ralph Quarterman and that will include sidewalks,” he said.
He said SPLOST funds will be used to work on the entrance to Bryant Commons. He said the park entrance needs to be widened to accommodate the traffic which has which has increased steadily since the playground, dog park and Veterans Memorial Walk opened.
“When it opened in 2015 we got about 31,000 visitors that year,” he said. “Last year we had over 85,000 and this year we are estimating 150,000.”
The Mayor said there will be upcoming discussion to propose the transportation special purpose local option sales tax. He said if the referendum is passed, it could generate $45 million which the city would use to alleviate some of the traffic issues that have come along with the city’s growth.
The mayor added they completed the upgrades and renovations that were needed at the Fort Stewart waste water plant. The project cost $22 million. He said they still need to replace a few lines that will cost $6 million.
Howard said the city was looking to hire a new assistant city manager, a director of community development and a new police chief.
He added that once the chief was in place they would focus on recruiting and retaining police officers to keep the city’s department fully staffed. Right now the department is about 10 officers short.
Howard said they also plan to move forward with community policing programs, are working toward getting the plans developed for a family entertainment center and will start construction of the city’s business incubator center.
Howard said the city’s computer systems are now fully functional after the city got hit with a ransomware attack Feb. 20. He said the ransomware attacked some computers that were left on with encrypted files, demanding eight bit coins per machine to resolve the issues. Howard said that would be the equivalent of asking for $56,000. He said the city hired a cyber security firm to resolve the issue.
Howard said hackers did not compromise sensitive information. He added that the city plans to move to a cloud-based system for extra security.
The Courier has filed an open records request for information regarding the attack.