The Liberty County Board of Commissioners on Thursday weighed projects that will continue downtown Hinesville’s visual transformation.
The board approved J.W. Buckley and Associates architects, which has a Savannah office, to aid with site selection and design for the new Hinesville library.
The company was among eight firms that submitted proposals for the project, which the BoC deemed its No. 2 priority this year during a March retreat.
Funding for the library is in the current SPLOST projects list, and County Administrator Joey Brown previously said the plans must be finalized this year to meet the 2014 construction schedule.
The next step is for Buckley and Associates to help with site selection, which is part of its 6 percent fee for services related to the design.
Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel said three sites are under consideration.
First is the current site of the Voter Registration and Elections office on Memorial Drive. Sprinkel said that property jointly is owned by the county, city of Hinesville and the Liberty County Board of Education and was purchased with the library in mind.
Other sites include on Fort Stewart property near the Army Education Center at the end of Memorial Drive and the former Department of Labor site at South Main Street and M.L. King Jr. Drive, Sprinkel said.
The firm also is the project architect for the old courthouse renovations, which should be complete this week, and the East End Community Complex, currently under way.
The board also heard preliminary plans for downtown parking improvements from county engineer Trent Long.
His preferred plan would include: improving drainage and uniting the two separate lots north of the annex; converting the empty lot east of the annex to parking and a green space; and adding a lot on North Commerce Street across from the existing lot.
Long provided the board with an estimate of the plan that exceeded $500,000, but he stressed that the numbers were deliberately high and would come down as the plans solidify.
The work also would include sidewalk improvements and an extension of downtown lighting in the parking areas.
Brown said there is about $166,000 earmarked for the parking and one option is to do the work in phases.
The commissioners asked for more information about the number of spaces that would be added and the number of employees in the county buildings.
“We’ve got to do something, but I’d like to know how many employees we have in this building and how many employees we have next door,” Commissioner Connie Thrift said.
The board did not take action on the proposal.
When asked after the meeting if the county has considered asking employees to park in the county-owned lot that spans West Court Street to M.L. King Drive behind the South Main Street businesses, Brown said the county has asked employees to do so.
“In fact, many years ago we assigned parking spaces and decals. Without a decal policeman, it is very difficult to enforce,” Brown said.
Sprinkel added that the lot was built to accommodate the Liberty County Justice Center at full capacity and that he stills sees parking as an issue.
“We try to park back away from where the citizens come in, but … it’s hard to mandate where people park,” Sprinkel said. “I am pleased that they are increasing the handicap parking; they need to increase that.”
In other business, the board also:
• approved an Urban Redevelopment plan required for the Liberty County Development Authority to apply for Opportunity Zone status.
• approved a request to have a third-party surveyor aid in settling a plat dispute with a Butter Blount Road resident.
• approved a new personnel evaluation form.