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Council recognizes unsung heroes, learns about homelessness
City council -- Jan. 15 002-1
Mayor Jim Thomas and city council members recognized public works contractor CH2MHILL employees, inspection department and HPD officers for working through a rainstorm on Dec. 23 to repair a 12-inch water main on General Screven Way during Thursday's council meeting. - photo by Randy C.Murray

The Hinesville City Council on Thursday recognized the dedication of some city departments during a recent utility emergency, and learned about the city’s upcoming participation in a nationwide homeless count.

At approximately 2:30 p.m. Dec. 23, a contractor discovered a damaged 12-inch water main on Gen. Screven Way. A team from public-works contractor CH2MHILL led by Robert Norby, project manager for water and underground utilities, assisted by Inspections Department Director Steve Welborn, and Hinesville police officers worked through a driving rainstorm Dec. 23 until the broken water main was repaired around 8:30 p.m. Mayor Jim Thomas and all five city councilmen recognized Norby and Welborn as well as Frank Wilson, Herman Holmes, Solomon Smith, Adam Parker, Clarence Stewart and Sam Houston.

“On behalf of the city council, I want to thank you for the support you always give us,” Thomas said, then read the citation for the award each man was presented. “I also want to thank you for the fact that this (happened just before) Christmas.”

Thomas noted that while many residents were celebrating Christmas, these “heroes” ensured the city had water before they began their own holiday vacations.

Following the award presentation, Homeless Prevention Coordinator Daisy Jones talked about the city’s participation in the 2015 Statewide Unsheltered Point in Time Homeless Count.Delete-Merge UpbodycopyAlthough the count will take place nationwide starting at 4 p.m. Jan. 26 through 4 a.m. Jan. 27, Georgia’s homeless count is being facilitated by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Jones said DCA is providing $1,000 to assist participating communities. She presented a young man, Jimmy Covington, whom she described as a success because her department was able to help him.

“He’s one of our rapid-rehousing clients,” Jones said. “I wanted you to have a face to go with some of our situational homeless.”

Covington said he was traveling through the state looking for an affordable place to live. Someone on the street told him about the city’s Homeless Prevention Program. Through its voucher system and rapid-rehousing program, Covington was placed in a local motel as temporary housing until he was able to eventually get a more permanent, affordable place to live.

Jones’ staff will coordinate this year’s homeless count in conjunction with local government service providers, civic agencies and faith-based organizations. She explained that the count is based on a census-like concept.

The DCA has partnered with Kennesaw State University to develop a sampling methodology and homeless survey, she said. The city will receive 200 surveys, which will be used by volunteers who’ll canvass the entire county seeking out those who will be seeking shelter for the night Jan. 26.

Assistant City Manager Ken Howard said the city ran out of vouchers around mid-December. He’s applying for more vouchers as well as federal funds to assist with homelessness.

“I want to thank Mr. Howard and Ms. Jones for (getting) those funds that allow us to house these folks who are temporarily homeless,” Thomas said. “For a lot of them, it’s not because of any fault on their part … If we don’t take care of these folks who are part of our city, we’re not doing what we should do.”

In other business Thursday, council members approved a sign variance requested by Berry Engineers LLC on behalf of Polestar Georgia Hinesville LLC for a proposed grocery store behind Dairy Queen on East Oglethorpe Highway. They also approved a peddler’s license for Melvin Todd to sell homegrown vegetables “business to business,” as opposed “door to door,” and approved to amend the city fiscal year 2015 budget.

Marcus Sack, project engineer with P.C. Simonton and Associates, provided an update on road-construction projects within the city, including the Veterans Parkway widening and utility relocation; interim UV-system equipment installation at the Hinesville/Fort Stewart Wastewater Treatment Plant; and Memorial Drive realignment, Phase IV.

During his report for Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier, CH2MHILL Director Guan Ellis noted they were responding to calls about potholes throughout the city. However, the patches and repairs are not lasting nearly as long as they should, so he’s seeking guidance to determine a better way to fix the problem.

City Manager Billy Edwards added to the agenda items a proposal to set the qualifying fees to run for mayor and city council at $720 and $360, respectively. The council approved.

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