Make your voice heard
Local leaders are encouraging residents to contact the following legislators to highlight the importance of educational opportunities:
- Sen. Jack Hill, Senate Appropriations Committee chairman
234 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334; 912-557-3811; 404-656-5038; email@example.com
- Rep. Terry England, House Appropriations Committee chairman
254 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334; 404-463-2247; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sen. Cecil Staton, Senate Higher Ed Appropriations Sub-Committee chairman
421-A State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334; 404-656-5039; www.cecilstaton.com
- Rep. Earl Ehrhart, House Higher Ed Appropriations Sub-Committee chairman
245 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334; 404-463-2247; 770-437-7536; email@example.com
The Pirates still are trying to stake their claim on Hinesville soil, but the $4.75 million funding request from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia still hangs in the balance.
Municipal and university leaders insist they are optimistic despite Gov. Nathan Deal stripping from the state budget a request for construction of a satellite Armstrong Atlantic State University campus.
“We went on Monday to talk to legislator (Rep.) Al Williams (D-Midway) and (Rep.) Ron Stephens (R-Garden City) and a gentleman from Brunswick regarding the school and getting that school back into the budget,” Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said Thursday. “We were told that it was a good possibility, and I think they’ve already put it back in on the legislative side. But the real fight is once that bill crosses over to the Senate side, we’ve got to have somebody fight for it there.”
Armstrong Liberty Center Director Col. Peter Hoffman on Wednesday did not have any updates on the project, but said that he and other Savannah-Chatham stakeholders were going to the capitol Thursday for Savannah Day.
“There’s still a lot of optimism from everybody we talk to,” Hoffman said, adding that the school does not consider the project to be dead.
The key, he said, is keeping the message alive about the positive impact the project would provide to Hinesville, Liberty County and surrounding areas as well as to the troops who serve on Fort Stewart.
“It’s hard for me to imagine any politician that would be opposed to it …,” Hoffman said. “We’re still confident that it can be put back into the budget.”
Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards last week encouraged community leaders during the Liberty Countywide Planning Update to reach out to legislators involved in education appropriations.
In a discussion, workshop attendees also said the project is vital to the region’s economic prosperity and has direct impacts upon residents’ quality of life and financial prospects.
Edwards presented a case for the campus, which already has received a $3.5 million taxpayer investment and “significant time toward a tremendous partnership in education.”
Overall, $6 million has been dedicated to developing Memorial Drive in the vicinity the campus would be located, Edwards said. The city owns the land and would deed it to the state for construction of the campus.
“We have a high percentage of folks in Liberty County that are low- to moderate-income, and the best way I know of to break out of that cycle, where children of low- to moderate-income families when they get to be adults, is to get them a good, quality education,” Edwards said.
“There are a bunch of kids in this community that qualify even for the HOPE Scholarship that did not have the financial means to either commute to Statesboro or to Savannah and get a four-year degree. Fortunately, we’ve got Savannah Tech, and that is a great asset to our community. We’ve got the Armstrong Center here, and that is a great asset to our community — but you can’t get a four-year degree there.”
While the Fort Stewart education center offers access, Edwards said the for-profit institutions there are cost-prohibitive.
“Hopefully our points are strong enough to keep it in the budget, because it’s really a quality of life thing for our community,” Thomas said. “But more importantly it’s a quality of life for the military, and I think it would be very hard for legislators to vote against something that would benefit the quality of life for our military.”
Williams, Stephens and Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, have indicated to Thomas that they are pushing for the project, he said.
And as for the Deal axing the project, Thomas said he thinks it’s a bit of a misnomer.
“I think there are people on the staff that may not think it has a high priority, but if it is an issue of quality of life for soldiers, I don’t think the governor would vote against it or pull it out of our budget, because he is very supportive of our veterans; he’s the honorary chair of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee,” Thomas said.