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Commission tables request for new batting cages
Board also hears from development authority executive
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The Liberty County Board of Commissioners on Thursday voted unanimously to table a request from the Liberty County Recreation Department for new batting cages at Liberty Independent Troop Park.

Recreation Director Jimmy Martin said the project would cost about $179,000 and include a concrete bottom and overhead cover.

District 1 Commissioner Marion Stevens asked Martin what was wrong with the current batting cages.

“There’s nothing wrong with them,” Martin explained, noting that the current cages were built from recycled materials. “They work; we would like some that are a little wider.”

Stevens also questioned the need for the concrete bottom and overhead cover, since baseball is played on dirt outdoors.

Martin responded that the concrete bottom and overhead cover would make the cages accessible year-round, even during rainy days when dirt bottoms would make the cages unusable. He said the cover also would provide shelter from the summer sun.

Stevens also expressed hesitance to fund a project at Independent Troop Park when the “eyesore” at Miller Park remains.

“I wish that your board would just reconsider that,” Stevens said.

While the commissioners agreed that they would like to see the project funded, they asked Martin to “shave it down” and bring back a less costly proposal.

LCDA executive gives overview of tax incentives

The commission also heard from Liberty County Development Authority Executive Director Ron Tolley, who gave an overview of tax incentives offered by the county to incoming industries.

According to Tolley, industrial-sector jobs in Liberty County have increased since 1981 from 500 to approximately 3,039. A major reason for that increase, he said, is that the development authority offers incentives such as the Freeport Tax Exemption.

Tolley said that attracting industry is an extremely competitive endeavor, with some communities going so far as to offer free land or even up-front cash in order to lure manufacturers to their areas.

For context, Tolley provided an example of a middle-Georgia county that drew a major distribution center in 2012. He said the center created 200 jobs paying $844 a week.

According to Tolley, the county offered the company a free site worth $5.7 million, a $1 million grant to help develop the site, a 15-year real property-tax abatement worth $4 million and a personal-property tax abatement worth $1.6 million, among other waivers. The community’s total investment, Tolley said, was $12.8 million.

Following Tolley’s presentation, Stevens asked whether the Freeport Tax Exemption could be restructured on a graduated scale.

Tolley responded that such a move would be impractical, as it would make Liberty County less attractive to industries looking to locate to the area.

Stevens also asked whether memorandums of understanding concerning lease agreements were approved by the full development-authority board or by one individual. Tolley answered that the full board approves MOUs.

Although Stevens had more questions for Tolley, the meeting had to be adjourned before he could ask them, due to the scheduled swearing-in ceremony for three commissioners and the district attorney.

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