Although development at the I-95 Exit 76 was set as the top priority at Liberty County’s annual planning workshop, the census and two tax matters were emphasized at the mid-year review of the designated goals.
County Administrator Joey Brown led reports at the Oct. 3 meeting by explaining the importance of the 2020 census and introducing Krystal Hart, the county’s census coordinator.
Hart pointed out that the origin of the census was determining how many members of the U.S. House of Representatives each state should have. Since then census figures have been used to apportion state legislatures and other bodies.
Government and business also use census numbers for program planning and in formulas for allocating funds and assigning resources. The census data controls the sharing out of $675 billion.
Liberty County’s Complete Count Committee is now hosting kickoff meetings and will be building awareness through 2019. Starting in January, target groups will be engaged. Census Day is April 1, April Fools’ Day.
People with questions or wanting to help with the census should contact Hart at 912-334-2790; Krystal.Hart@libertycountyga.com or visit www.census.libertycountyga.com
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This year’s census will largely be completed online, although telephone and paper data will be available if requested. Most people can answer the ten census questions in about ten minutes, Hart said.
The two tax matters were a referendum to exempt e-commerce inventory from taxes and the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. E-commerce will be voted on in November 2020 and TSPLOST will be on the March ballot.
Liberty County Development Authority Executive Director said fulfillment centers who ship merchandise to customers who order online are especially interested in e-commerce exemptions for their inventory. He explained that fulfillment centers will be more inclined to locate in Liberty County if the e-commerce tax break is available here.
Three counties bordering Liberty – Chatham, Bryan and McIntosh – already have exemptions in place, Tolley said.
While the e-commerce measure would end the taxes it covers, the new TSPLOST vote would impose an additional tax. In the discussion of the need for the extra tax Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown said, “The number one issue in Hinesville now is traffic, and it’s not going to get better.”
The major project to be funded by TSPLOST is the U.S. Highway 84 Bypass, now called the freight connector. It will lessen traffic on 84, diverting some of it south.
The bypass has been discussed for years, and Brown mentioned some less well known projects that could be helped by TSPLOST funds. These include a traffic circle in Riceboro and median work and safety islands, improvement of the dangerous intersection at Liberty Regional Medical Center and measures to “calm” traffic in Walthourville.
Jeff Ricketson, executive director of the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, introduced the Exit 76 presentation by saying, “It is our window on the world.” Ricketson said the interchange might make a practical project because a small number of stakeholders were involved: “Ten people represent 80 percent of the property.”
“The stakeholders kind of put it back on the governments,” he said. Property owners were cooperative and discussed future developments possible at Exit 76 but wanted to see tax money spent instead of their own funds.
Tolley said that there was progress, as one tract at the interchange had recently been sold and the development authority worked on recruiting businesses. He said two hotels were considering Exit 76 locations and discussions were continuing.
The next Countywide Planning Workshop is set for March 12-13 at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simons Island.
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