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LCDA adopts 2011 budget
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The Liberty County Development Authority adopted its FY 2011 budget Monday at the board's regular meeting by a majority vote, with board member Paul Krebs opposed the adoption.

The presented budget highlighted reductions in cost expenditures that were discussed at a workshop held two weeks ago. After modifications, the general fund balance sits at $9,388,045.

Among the amended line items are a reduction in expenditures at Tradeport East and Tradeport West, and a reduction in staff salary expenditures. Authority CEO Ron Tolley said the reduction comes from the elimination of a previously vacant staff post.

Additionally, the agency's marketing budget was reduced to allow additional funds to be made available for travel costs associated with pursuing new business for the county. Accounting and auditing costs, costs for using the services of engineering firm Thomas & Hutton, and office expenses also were trimmed.

The Liberty County Board of Education's expected infrastructure work at Hinesville Industrial Park, to make preparations for the construction of a new Career Academy on land donated by the Authority, also allowed for more cutbacks in the agency's budget.

In a separate item, the board approved a $30,000 increase in the water and sewer budget related to expenses for the use of services by engineering firm CH2M Hill. The funding is to cover work that's already been done and that's currently in progress.

Krebs questioned the necessity and cost of employing an out-of-town firm. "If it were up to me, I'd be working as locally as possible," he said. "What I've seen constructed is nothing special; in fact a lot of it I wouldn't have accepted."

Krebs went on to say the Authority should be cutting in every place. Board member and treasurer Brian Smith made the motion to approve, saying, "We obligated ourselves by hiring them, so I make the motion that we pay."

In other meeting action, the board approved an authorization request to pursue EIP grant funding to cover infrastructure costs at Tradeport East as the work relates to Firth Rixson, which the board approved.
Tolley said the Authority has already pledged $500,000 toward the project, but if they received the grant that money would be used in place of local funds.

The caveat to the grant funding is that Firth Rixson must meet a goal of employing 51 percent previously unemployed or low-income wage earners over the next three years to secure the funds. If the foundry doesn't, the county will be responsible for paying back the amount of the grant.

"The $30,000 application fee would only be expended if it were approved and it would come out of the grant," Tolley explained, leaving the agency with a net grant of $470,000.

Tolley said there are out-of-work engineers in the area who could help meet that requirement; additionally, nearly half the foundry's expected workforce of 200 would be made up of floor workers, who could be pulled from the low-income population.

"We've already planned to take $500,000 out of our cash reserve to apply to the project, but instead of spending it, you'd put it aside for now in case that 51 percent is not met," he said. "If we're successful, we get a net $470,000 to match funds, and to go toward the budget."

Board member and county commission Chairman John McIver questioned the cost of the application fee, but Carmen Cole, finance and administration director, said it falls within the standard 6 percent requested by grant application writers.

Board member Paul Krebs expressed reservations about pledging the $500,000 and pursuing the grant to offset local sending. "I have mixed emotions because of our financial situation," Krebs said. "I'm for it, but I'm not for putting up the $500,000 right now."

Tolley explained the money already has been committed to the project and must be applied. The next step for the board would be to approve pursuing and accepting the grant, to essentially be reimbursed for the expenditure. "It'll be the first of the year before you have to make a decision," he said.

The board also reviewed the budget presented by Midcoast Regional Airport for approval, but discussion prior to voting brought out concerns on spending by that entity. Krebs presented several areas where he said he would like to see spending cut, amounting to roughly $113,000.

Tolley informed Krebs that the authority board can't change the budget but the airport's partnership board can decide. Authority board member Alan Brown sits on the airport's board with Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas.

Brown offered to set up a meeting between Krebs and other members to discuss his recommendations.

In other meeting news, the board approved an inducement resolution for Firth Rixson's EDGE grant, which has been approved but which requires the agency's endorsement to execute. The Authority will also serve as the distributor of the funds.

A bond resolution for Firth Rixson related to the financing of equipment also was approved as a continuation of the company's $45 million bond, of which $22 million has already been issued for the land and the building. The agency, county and state are not liable for the bond, Tolley said.

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