Planning for the 2020 census and working toward a new health department for Liberty County dominated a “report out” session of Liberty officials based on the countywide planning workshop.
Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel emphasized the importance of the census because the every-10-years count is used for planning and for allocation of funds and services.
“Everybody is a stakeholder in the census,” Sprinkel said, “It affects all of us.”
Sprinkel said it was estimated that Liberty County was undercounted by a minimum of 10,000 in the 2010 census. Officials say another problem is the Army’s method of counting deployed soldiers. When a soldier from Fort Stewart is deployed, he or she is counted in the home of record and that is frequently an old family home or a previous duty station. This means the soldier will not be counted in the census for Liberty County which provides services for soldiers and their families and to which the soldier will return when redeployed.
Sprinkel said a major deployment of Fort Stewart soldiers was under way during the 2010 census count.
The county has planning well under way for the 2020 count, Sprinkel said, and participated in a census test in 2015. The 2020 census will rely on the internet, he said.
Planners seemed to agree that the Liberty County Health Department needs a new facility more that twice the size of the current one but finding the money to pay for that goal appears difficult.
Two common methods of funding for health departments are community development block grants and special purpose local option sales taxes. Liberty County has already committed the money from these two sources to other projects, not a health department.
A preliminary rough cost estimate for a new health department is around $3 million. County Administrator Joey Brown said, “Largely that cost is going to fall back on the community.”
District Health Director Lawton Davis said he did not know of any alternative sources of funding but urged Liberty County officials to make their case to the General Assembly and other state officials.
“Keep it on their radar,” he said.
Davis said the health department had been able to put aside some money that could be used to help with a new facility.