Near the end of a routine county-commission meeting, Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown asked commissioners to consider approving a request for a letter of support for the city of Hinesville in its efforts to annex Fort Stewart’s cantonment area into the city. The request for a letter of support was not listed on the meeting agenda, nor was the agenda amended during the meeting to include the action item.
“I don’t know why it has to be an action item tonight,” Commissioner Pat Bowen said.
Brown responded that the county received the request from the city just three days prior.
The commission voted to table the request for 30 days and will reconsider it Oct. 1, the county’s first meeting in October.
“This is the first I’ve heard of this (request),” Commissioner Eddie Walden said.
He said allowing the city to annex any part of Fort Stewart would not benefit the county. The vast Army installation stretches across Liberty, Long, Bryan and Tattnall counties.
Walden also said he wants to be sure other municipalities in Liberty County, like Flemington, are aware of the city’s annexation bid.
Brown told commissioners the city wants to gain population because Hinesville could not count deployed soldiers in its population during the 2010 census. At that time, most of the 3rd Infantry Division was deployed to Iraq.
The county administrator said the city’s decreased population during the past several years has caused Hinesville to lose its entitlement status, making the city ineligible for some federal funds.
“Fort Stewart is not counted in the MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area),” Brown said. He said the city last proposed annexing the post’s cantonment area in 1999.
Brown added city leaders think Hinesville could more effectively attract retailers if Fort Stewart’s cantonment area was inside city limits.
Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said increased revenues for Hinesville “helps all of us.”
Commissioners said they need more time to consider the city’s request for a letter of support.
They asked if annexation might affect the county’s share of tax revenue, specifically Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money. Brown said SPLOST would not come up for renegotiation until 2022.
Fort Stewart residents would not be able to vote, nor would an annexation affect commissioners’ district lines, the county administrator said.
Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said the Georgia General Assembly passed a local act in 2000 to allow the annexation. Those early efforts were abandoned due to security concerns following the 9/11 attacks, Edwards said. The city now is starting the annexation process over, he said.
Edwards estimated Fort Stewart has a population of around 17,000-18,000 active-duty military members and dependents.
Paul Andresak, executive director of Friends of Liberty and Fort Stewart, placed the cantonment population numbers a bit lower. In an email, Andresak said there are 8,877 soldiers and 7,413 dependents living on post for a total of 16,290.
In other county business:
• The commission approved three contracts for the Liberty County water-system project, overseen by engineer Matthew Barrow of P.C. Simonton & Associates Inc. Astra Grading and Pipe will handle the bulk of the project for $3,280,706, Barrow said. Woodrow Sapp Well Drillers will install wells and pumps at a cost of $348,999, and Phoenix Fabricators will provide an elevated water-storage tank for $573,400, he said. Barrow told commissioners construction would begin in November and should be completed in January or February 2015.
• Commissioners approved D.A.T.E. (Drug Abuse Treatment and Education) fund applications for the Fraser Center and Save Our Children. The Fraser Center treats adults with substance-abuse problems, and Save Our Children provides drug-abuse treatment and education services to middle- and high-school students. The funding limit per agency is $5,000.
• The commission discussed forming a dangerous-dog committee to fulfill a requirement for the county’s new dangerous-dog ordinance. Brown said a committee of three or five members could be appointed by commissioners or an existing board could serve as a committee. The committee only would meet if the owner of a dog that was cited as dangerous wished to appeal, the county administrator said.