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County eyes parking, roads, sales tax
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The Liberty County Board of Commissioners did not take action Thursday but agreed to move ahead with downtown parking projects and road improvements. They also received an update on negotiations for distribution of local option sales tax revenues.

Downtown parking
The board plans to move ahead with two of three downtown parking projects county engineer Trent Long presented last month.
The projects include improvements to the existing lot north of the Courthouse Annex and construction of a lot on North Commerce Street, where a county-owned building was razed last summer.
Long presented an updated estimate of $248,942 for the Commerce Street lot, which includes pavement demolition, drainage improvements, lot construction and landscaping.
County Administrator Joey Brown said they have about $160,000 currently allocated for the parking improvements, but because the plan would alter Commerce Street, the county must seek approval from the city of Hinesville before moving forward.
As part of seeking the city’s blessing, Brown said they will ask the city to participate in funding the project, which would extend the downtown design scheme.
The concept is made to complement the city’s Bradwell Park redesign, which also awaits funding. Long’s plan would extend the length of one-way north-bound traffic through to Central Avenue with diagonal parking on either side.
The estimate for the existing lot, $207,121, would cover additional drainage improvements, connect two adjacent lots and add more spaces.
The county also is looking for other sources of funding for the project, but it may be scaled back if none become available. A third lot that Long initially presented has been put off for the future, though he said the county currently has 206 spaces, fewer than the 280 required by the Hinesville city parking ordinance.

Road improvements
The board also gave Long the green light to move ahead with plans to improve Barrington Ferry Road and to repair the box culvert on Islands Highway over Tidal Creek.
Improvements to Barrington Ferry Road would have received funding through T-SPLOST if it had passed, but now Long will work on project plans using an estimated $726,000 allocated for the project.
Once the repair plan is compiled, Brown said they will ask the Georgia Department of Transportation if it can offer any contributions toward intersection improvements or for the road’s bridge over Peacock Creek.
Long also will seek proposals for the culvert repair, which is estimated to run about $30,000.

LOST negotiations
Brown also updated the board on the ongoing negotiations for allocation of local option sales tax revenues, which must be determined by Dec. 31.
Under the current agreement, revenues are divided according to the population that each city occupies compared to the total county population, and the county’s share is the proportion of residents in unincorporated areas.
The county and participating governments Hinesville, Midway, Riceboro, Walthourville and Flemington decided to hire Sutton Consulting LLC of Flowery Branch to conduct a $20,000 survey to guide the negotiations.
The survey will assess each governments’ cost of offering mandated services and identify where the revenue is collected.
“This consultant is going to come in and look at every aspect of what we do to include all things and see what is a fair distribution of that LOST tax. It will probably be the best way to do it so that no one jurisdiction, no one municipality thinks they’ve been raked over the coals,” Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel said.
The entities will share the cost of the survey according to the last Census count, with the county footing about 42 percent, or $8,000, of the cost.  
Commission Chairman John McIver said he thinks the survey will help demonstrate how much the county’s costs are for mandatory countywide services. Animal control and 911 are examples of such services, Sprinkel said. 

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