To help keep its new bus system running, the Hinesville City Council approved the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission’s recommendation to apply for a federal transit assistance grant.
LCPC planner Rachel Hatcher told the council the LCPC has applied for and been awarded the Urbanized Area Transit Operations Assistance grant for three consecutive fiscal years. Hinesville is considered an urbanized area because it is an incorporated area with a population greater than 50,000, Hatcher explained.
The grant for fiscal year 2012 is in the amount of $1,465,822 for operations assistance and $100,000 for planning assistance, Hatcher informed council members.
The city would be responsible for a 50 percent match for the operations-assistance portion of the grant, she said.
Therefore, the city will be committed to funding $732,911 for operations-assistance funds. Hinesville would only have to match 20 percent, or $20,000, for the planning-assistance portion of the grant, Hatcher said.
The grant request is consistent with the approved transit budget for fiscal years 2011-14, she added.
Hinesville Mayor Pro-Tem Charles Frasier, District 2 City Council Member Jason Floyd and District 4 City Council Member Keith Jenkins voiced concerns about the sustainability of the bus system and the city’s commitment to matching 50 percent of the operations-assistance portion of the grant.
The Liberty Transit bus system began operating in October 2010. City officials expect to have the results of a survey next month at the bus system’s six-month anniversary, detailing ridership numbers and the system’s strengths and flaws.
The new bus system has been criticized for what some in the community see as low ridership.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas has said it takes time for a new bus system to acquire high ridership because residents are not used to having public transportation. Thomas has said the city must do a better job of promoting Liberty Transit.
In other city business:
• The council approved amending two ordinances, both dealing with distance requirements — one for tattoo studios and the other for businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.
Tattoo studios may not be located in the city’s Downtown Redevelopment Overlay District, an area bordered by Oglethorpe Highway, General Stewart Way and General Screven Way. Tattoo studios must be located at least 300 feet from any church or other tattoo business, at least 600 feet from any public or private school and at least 200 feet from residential property. The distances are measured in a straight line from property line to property line.
Distance requirements from restaurants, bars and nightclubs likewise would be measured from churches, schools, libraries and homes, according to the city’s amended alcoholic beverage ordinance. A restaurant with a full kitchen but no bar must be a least 25 feet from the property line of any church, school, library or home. A restaurant with a bar must be at least 80 feet from any church, school, library or home and at least 120 feet from a home on residentially zoned property.
For nightclubs, taverns, bars, bowling alleys and billiard parlors, the distance requirement goes to 300 feet from churches and schools and 200 from homes.
• The city agreed to a property swap with the Liberty County Board of Education. The BoE plans to improve its football practice field at Olvey Field and replace the current football field house.
To accomplish these improvements, the school board has requested acquiring an unused parcel of city property. The BoE also asked to take the right of way of East Mills Street.
In return, the BoE will grant the city utility easements for two existing gravity sewer mains that border school board property.