In addition to dubbing fire protection its No. 1 priority during a retreat on Friday, the Liberty County Board of Commissioners defined eight other goals for the current year.
University of Georgia Fanning Institute Assistant Director Langford D. Holbrook facilitated the retreat, which was held Thursday evening and Friday morning at MidCoast Regional Airport.
County Administrator Joey Brown said the retreat cost about $2,200.
Commissioners met with department heads and administrators to identify priorities for the current year. Those present Friday — Chairman John McIver and commissioners Marion Stevens Sr., Donald Lovette, Connie Thrift and Pat Bowen — identified the following priorities:
2. Establish construction plans and schedules for a new library
The board wants to move ahead with plans for construction of a new library facility in Hinesville, which is in the current SPLOST project list. McIver said the cash flow for construction funds is scheduled to begin in 2014. Brown said they must finalize plans this year to meet the schedule. They will begin the architect-selection process this month with a request for qualifications, then look to select a firm in May. The goal is to have a site selected in August.
3. Renegotiate local option sales-tax revenues
According to Brown, the county is required to call a meeting before July 1 to renegotiate the disbursement of revenues drawn from the local option sales tax with the municipalities in the county. The new plan must be in place by Dec. 31. Under the current agreement, revenues are divided according to the population that each city occupies compared to the total county population, and the county’s share is the proportion of residents in unincorporated areas.
“We’re not anticipating any change, but we have not sat down with the cities to start negotiations yet,” Brown said. A recent report indicated that Hinesville receives 44.33 percent of the local revenues.
4. Update the employee evaluation process
Based on their conversations with department heads, the commissioners identified a need to update the employee evaluation process at all levels. They spoke of a need to move away from the current model, in which employees increase pay grades over time, and into a merit-based system.
The commissioners requested having the transition complete within the next three to six months.
5. Revise the County Charter and ordinances
On recommendation from County Attorney Kelly Davis, Brown said the commissioners should revise both the charter and ordinances to bring them in line with the modern governance and to eliminate some ordinances that may contradict other ordinances or conflict with state law. Options for achieving this include outsourcing the work to a firm that specializes in modernizing government documents and using templates provided by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.
6. Improve communication with the public
The board identified a need to increase communication with the public and with employees through multiple platforms. Brown said the county is considering a change in web portals that would make updating the county’s site easier and would better allow departments to spread messages relevant to residents. Commissioner Lovette suggested the county try to engage the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce for participation in a Progress Through People luncheon, similar to the Hinesville mayor’s annual State of the City address.
7. Move ahead with the animal control facility
With less discussion, the board pinpointed a need to stay on top of plans for construction of an animal control facility. Brown said the project has stalled at site selection. The board’s goal is to build a new facility within a $1 million budget.
8. Plan for the county marina
Brown said the board applied for a coastal incentive technical grant that would fund drawing and site planning for the project, but that they’re only in the first steps of a “complicated process” that includes seeking approval from multiple agencies.
9. Begin looking at a new health department
While much of the discussion on the health department was on Thursday, Brown said the board’s goal is to establish enough budget information to place construction of a new health department facility on the 2015 SPLOST referendum. To do so, the board will have to establish a project budget. The board also plans to seek community development block grant funds for the project, and to construct the facility adjacent to the new Department of Family and Children’s Services building on Highway 84.