Hurricane safety was the first topic tackled during a lengthy Liberty County Board of Commissioners meeting last Thursday.
Prior to working through the commission agenda, county officials welcomed back District 2 Commissioner Justin L. Frasier. Frasier had been absent due to the passing of his father, former Hinesville City Council member Charles Frasier.
Liberty County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Larry Logan reported there was no loss of life, no property damage and no need for FEMA in the Liberty County area due to Hurricane Florence. Logan discussed how EMA reached 22,006 people through Facebook live and 256 shares. He also discussed the positives of utilizing social media in emergency situations and covered the extensive damage in North Carolina.
Chief Finance Officer Kim McGlothlin offered commissioners an August financial report. She informed them that 16 percent of budgeted expenditures had been used and was on target.
Tense discussion among some commissioners was sparked over the distribution of road funds. Currently, road funds are distributed evenly between the seven commissioners. District 1 Commissioner Marion Stevens expressed his frustrations about the evenly distributed funds.
“It’s where the needs are,” said District 6 commissioner Gary Gilliard.
“In reality I can do one mile a road within this sales tax,” Stevens said. “It costs almost a million dollars to do a road.”
The commissioners agreed to hold a separate meeting to discuss how road funds are allocated among the districts.
Trent Long of T R. Long Engineering informed the commission the contractors for John Wells Road, East Coast Asphalt, would like to begin working on the project even though funding hadn’t yet been received. The 2018 and 2019 Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant, and sales tax are funding the project. Long expressed the LMIG funds would be available by the time the project was completed. The commission approved the contractors to begin working on the project.
Long also introduced an exhibit for an Airport Road Community Park for recreational use. Long expressed that he wanted to have more meetings with commissioners to see if it is of interest.
“We see that now Airport road, with the new sidewalks, we see a lot more people out or just enjoying the outdoors,” said Thrift. “It is in the mix of several subdivisions out there and I believe that it would be used.”
“I know that area; but is it in the city limits?” Lovette asked.
Long said he would see if it was indeed within the city limits, and was asked to mention it in upcoming reports.
Glenda Roberts proposed holding a Liberty County Day. One possible snag in funding the project could be accepting money from public vendors who conduct business with the county. Adhering to the ethics ordinance and public perception were main issues for event to receive funding, county officials said. Still, commissioners agreed on supporting the effort of the project.
Commissioners also discussed the layout of the new Head Start Program building, an item that was not listed on the meeting agenda. Tres Hamilton asked for the approval of layout which included 12 classrooms, eight of which would be Head Start and four would be early Head Start classrooms. The building is along Highway 17, north of the youth center in Riceboro. The motion was approved.
Long took the podium again to inform the commissioners of the Local Bridge Replacement Program for the bridge on Screven Fork Road over Peacock Creek. The Georgia Department of Transportation provides funding for the construction of locally owned bridges across the state. The motion was approved although commissioners brought up concerns of altered school bus routes and storm water retention.
County Administrator Joseph Brown informed the commissioners that Midway City Council was asked to look over a plan to incorporate the city into the county-wide fire protection plan. Brown informed commissioners meetings with the city were well received regarding the county being responsible for the hiring of the department, and the proposed fee.
“In order for that fee to stand up a department by the year 2020, and for the revenue to start coming in that fee would have to be on the tax bills next year,” Brown said.
He expressed that there was an 18-month lead time and commissioners would have to come to a final decision by Jan. 1, 2019. He added that certain municipalities questioned if it was an all or nothing deal, and could they decide later to the plan.
Frasier expressed his frustration over certain municipalities not making the best decisions for citizens and territorial issues when concerning the county-wide fire plan.
“We’ve all seen the data about calls not being answered,” Frasier said.
Brown advised they would revisit the topic again and have a special meeting before the deadline passed to enroll in the plan for 2019.
Judge Robert L. Russell sent a letter concerning the lack of security cameras in the rear parking lot of the Justice Center. Brown responded the county would look at costs to get cameras installed before presenting it to the commissioners.
The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau are both back in good standing with the IRS. Leah Poole sent a thank you letter to the commissioners for their patience in the matter.
Commissioners were updated on the success of the runaway extension, renewed designation of being a DCA PlanFirst community and success of the Hinesville Live Oak Public Library.