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Council plans to tackle new budget with SPLOST failure
Homeless  Hunger Awareness Month proclamation-1
Following a proclamation by Mayor Jim Thomas calling November Homeless and Hunger Awareness Month, members of the city's Homeless Prevention Program and the Homeless Coalition were joined by city council and the mayor for a photo opportunity.

Failure of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum to pass in last week’s election was hardly mentioned until the end of Thursday’s city council meeting.

With an agenda of 11 information items and only five action items, city leaders kept their comments brief throughout the meeting.

Then during his report, Mayor Jim Thomas recognized that Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Lovette was attending the meeting then vaguely mentioned the results of Tuesday’s election, suggesting the election results had consequences for the city and county. During his report, Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier was more direct.

“Many of us who supported renewal of (SPLOST) are certainly disappointed,” Frasier said. “At some point we need to go back and look at our financial situation. Perhaps our constituents didn’t understand what would happen if it didn’t pass, but it does put us in a precarious situation.”

At that point, Thomas and City Manager Billy Edwards said city leaders needed to meet next week to discuss what to do about the budget, given the apparent loss of about $1.3 million anticipated from passing SPLOST. In his report, Edwards noted he was supposed to propose city leaders adopt next year’s millage rate, but the failure of SPLOST to pass would affect the millage rate, so he recommended postponing that discussion until after next week’s special meeting.

Chief Financial Officer Kim Ryon advised the council that in accordance with state law the city needed to advertise the new millage rate in the Coastal Courier by Nov. 19 in order to be able to adopt it by the Dec. 4 meeting, regardless whether they increased the rate or kept it the same.

Council members Keith Jenkins, Kenneth Shaw and Jason Floyd had no report, but Councilman David Anderson, who is also chairman of the Hinesville Military Affairs Committee, thanked city leaders and the community for their support during Veterans Salute on Nov. 1. Despite the cold weather, he said the event was a success, saying more than $5,000 was raised to go toward the construction of Veterans Memorial Walk at Bryant Commons.

All action items considered by the council were approved Thursday, including renewal applications from nine businesses for alcoholic beverage licenses for consumption on and off premises. The council also approved a rezoning petition and special permit request on behalf of Douglas Burgess, Jr. to operate a church and outreach ministry at 939 E.G. Miles Parkway.

Edwards asked the council to approve CenturyLink’s bid for the Voice Over Internet Protocol contract for an on-premises IP telephony solution. That contract amount is $398,193. Edwards said the new system would save the city about $18,000 a year.

Among the information items heard by the council was a proclamation signing by the mayor, designating November as Homeless and Hunger Awareness Month. Homeless Prevention Program Coordinator Daisy Jones told the council this year’s theme is “Collaborate, Communicate and Connect.”

In collaboration with civic organizations and churches, the city will support a diaper drive and nonperishable food drive, Nov. 6-28. There will also be a “Lunch and Learn” event at the YMCA on Nov. 18. Additionally, the city recognized two recent “graduates” from its homeless prevention program, Cynthia Pickens and Janequah Racine, who’ve transitioned to permanent housing.

“It’s critical that our faith-based organizations and our community come together to prevent homelessness and feed the hungry,” Thomas said. “Thank you all for what you do.”

Another information item heard by the council was first mentioned during the city’s annual planning workshop. At that time Frasier recommended re-naming West Mills Avenue as Odel Osgood Street.

“I’ve talked with a number of residents on that street and found there is no opposition to renaming it,” Frasier said. “I’d recommend we go ahead and take action on it today.”

Edwards recommended if they decided to rename the street, they set an effective date for the new name to allow for sign changes and residents to change their address. Thomas suggested they decide on the name change at the next meeting, Nov. 20, then if approved, make the effective date of the new street name Jan. 1, 2015.


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