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Commission tables furniture request, green space conversion
Tax board wants $14K for used furniture
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From furniture to green space, the Liberty County Commission discussed a host of items during its mid-month meeting, which spanned three hours.

Pat Garrow, chairwoman of the county tax assessors board, asked the commission to buy $14,000 in used furniture for the office.

“The problem that we’ve run into is that we have 18 people that work in the office, we’re going to be moving in to new offices, and 10 work stations currently are affixed to what is going to be the old office,” she said.

The department plans to move next month from its current location in the courthouse annex to the former office of Probate Judge Nancy Aspinwall in the same building.

Currently, the department uses a folding table as a conference table, and it must be moved whenever the staff wants to access file cabinets behind it, she said. The new facilities will be larger and more open.

While the move will benefit the department, its impacts will not be fully realized until the staff has furniture that accommodates its needs, according to Garrow. She showed the board full-page photos of the current workspace, as well as the items the department wishes to order.

The furniture, which is in “great condition,” includes 10 desks, a conference table and an unspecified number of chairs, according to chief appraiser Glenda Roberts. The price includes delivery and setup, Garrow said.

County Administrator Joey Brown cautioned that many departments will relocate once courthouse and annex are remodeled. He said executive officers had planned to assess the furniture needs for all departments and make one large purchase.

Furniture from previous offices in the courthouse, currently in storage, can be used temporarily until the bulk order is made, he said.

“We can get a better value for our buck and buy it all at one time versus piecing it all together,” Brown said. He also cited some budget issues with purchasing the items.

“Sir, my concern is that temporary is going to become permanent,” Garrow said. She emphasized that using old furniture in the interim and replacing it later will create more moving work, which is not efficient.

Commissioner Gary Gilliard said a more comprehensive plan seems to be in order, rather than addressing single requests at each meeting.

Chairman John McIver said the board will follow the recommendation from Brown and hold the issue for a later decision after taking a comprehensive look.

The board also approved a $46,000 bid to construct a fence around a county site where dirt is being excavated and sold to the Liberty County Board of Education for construction on the adjacent Liberty College and Career Academy site on Airport Road in Walthourville. 

The fence will be built in two phases around the borrow pit, county engineer Trent Long said. The area along the road will be fenced to prevent unauthorized access, and the builder for the academy site will place temporary fencing between the sites so the dirt can be moved between sites with ease.

County attorney Kelly Davis updated the board about its redistricting process and recommended that officials hold two public hearings on the proposed lines before the board votes to approve them. Hearings are not legally required but are recommended, he said.

Citizens who want to preview the districts can see them at the board office in the annex, Davis added.

Once the board approves the lines, they will be submitted to the state Legislature for approval and then sent to the U.S. Department of Justice for preclearance that effectively legalizes the districts.

“I anticipate it will be about 90 days total before you receive preclearance, but that’s well in advance of any elections you folks will be involved with in the foreseeable future,” he said.

The board also discussed a request to convert South Hampton Island land owned by Hampton Pastures LLC to green space preservation.

Brown said he understands the owners planned to develop a subdivision on the land, but the idea later was abandoned. In their request to convert the land, the owners requested to retain the rights to build three dwellings. 
“Why?” Commissioner Pat Bowen asked.

“It’s basically for tax breaks,” Brown said. The conversion would reduce both income and property taxes, though the estimated reduction in tax value is about $10 per acre.

“Currently, the entire 109-acre tract is valued at $917 an acre,” Brown said. “I talked to the tax assessors’ office; they said it really wouldn’t change the value much if we wanted to do it.”

After discussing how the transition would affect adjacent property owners, such as prohibiting future construction, the board decided to ask Hampton Pastures representatives to address its concerns at the next meeting.  

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