The Liberty County Board of Commissioners approved $520,227 in bids to purchase two custom fire trucks and discussed proposed district lines during its meeting Thursday.
Because County Fire Coordinator James Ashdown had another engagement, Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel presented bids to the board for two new fire trucks.
The bids, one from Pierce Manufacturing and another from American LaFrance, were for a 3,000-gallon tanker and a new pumper response truck that will be placed at the county’s west-end fire station in Gum Branch.
Sprinkel recommended that the board accept the bids from Pierce because the company scored higher on experience and qualifications and will allow the county to customize the vehicles. He also said that the county owns some vehicles from American LaFrance and has had warranty and maintenance issues in the past.
The bids were placed at $286,862 for the pumper and $251,563 for the 3,000-gallon tanker, but Pierce also offered a combined $18,200 discount for paying with cash, bringing the total price down to $520,227, Sprinkel said.
The commissioners discussed the purchase at length, with Pat Bowen requesting to see more information up front and take up the matter later. Commissioner Eddie Walden pointed out that the agenda listed the topic as a discussion item, not an action one.
Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. spoke in support of Pierce, and Connie Thrift explained that the fire authority was hoping to get a vote from the county during the meeting.
"Pierce is willing to design the truck the way Liberty County wants it," Stevens said. "It’s not just off the lot and here you go."
The last time the county purchased a fire truck was about three or four years ago, and it was about $345,000, Stevens said. The new Pierce models will have the same specifications as trucks in the county fleet, with fuel upgrades being the major difference.
Turnaround time on the purchase is about 300 days, Sprinkel said.
The board also held a public hearing for proposed boundary lines that will define the county’s six representation districts for both the county commission and the board of education.
During the hearing, Sprinkel explained that the boundaries needed to be redrawn according to 2010 U.S. Census population figures to ensure each district represents proportionate populations.
The ideal number for each of the six districts is 10,575, or 16.67 percent of the county population, Sprinkel said. Under the current lines, District 4 has the greatest number of residents, with 13,387, while District 6 only had 7,527.
The U.S. Department of Justice mandates that the population deviations must be 1 percent or less, Sprinkel said.
Much of the growth was inside Hinesville and Fort Stewart, but each of the six districts is affected by the changes, Sprinkel said. Few residents were affected in District 1, which is along the coastal areas. All of the changes were west of the intersection of Highways 196 and 84 in the McIntosh community.
The objective behind equalizing the populations is that each vote carries equal weight in determining election outcomes, but officials are not allowed to take into account the number of registered voters within districts, Sprinkel said after the meeting. Consequently, areas of Fort Stewart where soldiers still may be registered to vote in their hometowns still are allotted the same weight as other areas in the county.
Stevens asked Sprinkel to explain which proposed districts are considered to be minority ones.
By Justice Department parameters, a district whose population is close to 50 percent minority is considered to be "heavily influenced." District 6, with a 53 percent minority population, and District 1 with 48 percent, both are designated as heavily influenced.
Districts that have more than 60 percent minority populations are considered to be "majority minority," and District 4 falls into that category with 64 percent, Sprinkel said.
The board is expected to vote on the boundaries in December, and then the proposal will be submitted to the state Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office for analysis.
Once approved by the reapportionment office, the General Assembly will vote on the lines and they will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for preclearance.