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Commission approves $24M operating budget
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The Liberty County Commission reviewed current budgetary expenses and approved its next annual budget during Thursday’s mid-month meeting.

Commissioners approved an operating budget of $24,869,710 for fiscal year 2012 — the fiscal year begins July 1 and runs through June 30 — which is a 2.47 percent reduction compared with the fiscal year 2011 budget of $25,498,250.

Finance director Kim McGlothlin shared updates on budget expenditures among county departments and agencies. Areas currently hitting their budget ceilings are general public health, judicial administration, EMS and the public defender’s office, she said.

The majority of the departments still are coming in under budget, she said. Additionally, the solid waste department is reporting a net income to date of $294,000.

McGlothlin said it’s likely the county will end its fiscal year without spending its entire budget. The county’s fund balance holds five months’ operating reserve, which McGlothlin said is “a very good place to be in the summer and fall as revenues taper off.”

Other agencies delivering reports included the Liberty County Homeless Coalition, Liberty Regional Medical Center, rural transportation and Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission.

Pastor Hermon Scott updated commissioners on the demand for temporary shelter and assistance for the area’s homeless population and told the board that greater county involvement could help alleviate some of the burden on groups in Hinesville that shoulder much of the responsibility.

“We’re requesting you consider establishing a county housing authority” to help increase the number of public housing units that homeless residents can apply for, Scott said. He told commissioners the wait list for public and Section 8 housing in Hinesville is 12 months.

Scott also requested commissioners consider establishing a temporary shelter within the county, particularly for the benefit of homeless women with children because many shelters that do exist do not accommodate families.

Liberty Regional Medical Center CEO Scott Kroell presented updates on the hospital and unveiled its new logo, which has been designed in recognition of the hospital’s 50th anniversary and represents LRMC three areas of focus: the hospital, EMS and nursing-home care.

Kroell presented a list of recently recruited physicians, including family practice physician Dr. Ophelia Gherman, and also noted that cardiologist Dr. Bryan Ristow is a recipient of the Dr. Whitman Fraser award, which is given each year to an outstanding hospital staff member.

Kroell reported that LRMC’s revenues are ahead of budget and they have seen growth in their net assets. The fund balance is up $2 million, from being upside down $1.2 million. The medical center also has recorded $900,000 in expenses to date. Additionally, an audit shows revenues in 2009 were more than $2 million and in 2010 were $3.4 million.

Commissioners also heard a report on expansion plans for the medical center, which include expansion of the emergency department and more exam rooms, as well as a surgery room dedicated to Cesarean (C-section) patients and a larger infant nursery. Parking around the hospital also will be expanded, Kroell added.

County Administrator Joey Brown updated commissioners on several projects. Renovations on the old courthouse continue as scheduled, and the proposed roofing project for the senior citizens building is estimated at $24,000-$28,000.

Proposals for the west-end fire station open June 30 and should be before the commission by mid-July. Commissioners also can expect to see draft plans for the new animal-control facility within the month.

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