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Candidates weigh in on T-SPLOST
T-SPLOST discussions were held during the previous election period across the city. - photo by Photo by Danielle Hipps

The final T-SPLOST town hall meeting Wednesday drew more opponents, though the crowd was more amicable than at last week’s meeting.
Two candidates for Liberty County Board of Commission seats were among the audience of about 20 for the event, coordinated by the Hinesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and held at the Dorchester Village Civic Center.
Chairman candidate Maxie R. Jones IV, who will face opponent Donald Lovette in the July 31 Democrat primary, said he does not support the measure.
“Speaking about the transit system, … I hear that we may extend it out to trade port; what about the other unincorporated areas? We have a big county, and for it just to be supplying service to one part of the county, I wouldn’t think is a wise use of money …,” Jones said. “If we’re not going to supply that service to the rest of the county, I think it’s a waste of time and a waste of money.”
HAMPO Director Sonny Timmerman said that service is covered through the Coastal Regional Coaches program, which provides van service to customers in rural areas. Though not listed as a Liberty County project, that service would receive funding under the regional list.
BoC Chairman John McIver added that the only municipalities that currently pay for Liberty Transit operations are Hinesville and Flemington, which is part of the reason the transit system is confined to those areas.
Jones also expressed displeasure at the fact that only two representatives, McIver and Flemington Mayor Sandra Martin, sat on the Regional Transportation Roundtable that finalized the regional project list.
“If you wanted citizens’ input, I would think you would have more than two representatives to represent the county, and also, if this is such an important need for the community and for the citizens, why are we holding the referendum during a primary when we always have scarce voter participation?” Jones said.
The regional representative structure and timing of the vote were mandates included in Transportation Investment Act of 2010 legislation that created the tax.
Transportation planner Rachel Hatcher said the projects have been publicly vetted because the law requires projects to come from the Liberty and Long County Transportation Long Range Plan, which was updated in October 2010 with public participation.
District 4 Republican candidate Ted Eby, whose race against incumbent Democrat Pat Bowen will be determined in the Nov. 6 election, said the referendum has some positive attributes but is being presented at the wrong time.
“The country’s in a recession. I don’t think it’s a good time to raise taxes … we’ve got to live in the now sometimes, rather than 30 years from now,” he said, adding that the additional tax would impact those already struggling to get by more than the middle class.
Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Chairman Don Hartley asked what would happen if a project fell by the wayside.
Georgia Department of Transportation Jesup District Preconstruction Engineer Brad Saxon said the projects on the list will be delivered, even if the project amount of revenue is not raised by the end of the 10-year period.
“The Department of Revenue collects the tax. It will then go to the Georgia State Finance and Investment Commission, which is the bonding arm of state government; they will essentially be the back,” Saxon said. “As GDoT delivers these projects, we ask for reimbursement. Money never comes to DoT. We have to do work in order to ask for the money back.”
Saxon also said a National Cooperative Highway Research Program study of 39 states over 10 years found that Georgia is No. 2 for delivering projects on time and first in delivering projects on budget.
“We do have our hiccups, … but we do deliver projects, and we can deliver them on time,” Saxon said.
Coastal area resident Edgar Alexander read a prepared statement to express his dissatisfaction with the tax.
“I will be voting no, there’s no question about it,” Alexander said. “First of all, I’m very disappointed with the fact that you folks did not advertise at all this meeting tonight; … 50 percent of the people that are here are people that represent you. … Prior town-hall type meetings, you’ve said it’s your job to educate us, but from my opinion, you’re not educating, you’re trying to sell.”
He also said the high percentage of people below poverty level in Liberty County would be hurt by the tax and that there has been little explanation of terms such as “safety improvements.”
Before the meeting, Alexander chatted with fellow resident Dennis Christiansen about the tax.
 “I read a lot in the papers about it, pros and cons — more cons than pros in the newspaper articles — so just curious to see what they have to say about these projects,” Christiansen said.
Does that mean Christiansen came to the meeting with an open mind?
“Not really,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve got too much government already.”

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