The Liberty County Commission focused on business development, drainage and road projects at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The board also passed a resolution to impose a 75-cent fee on all prepaid wireless retail purchases of $5 or less within the public safety jurisdiction to help cover the costs of operating 911 call centers, according to County Administrator Joey Brown. The ordinance will take effect Jan. 1.
Contract-based cell phone plans already have the charge built in at the rate of $1 per month in counties that offer automatic number identification, Brown said. Liberty County falls into that designation.
In other business-related matters, Anna Chafin, director of marketing and research for the Liberty County Development Authority, brought the commission good news about the Tradeport East Business Center in Midway being designated as an "Opportunity Zone."
The designation, recently awarded by the Georgia Development of Community Affairs, gives tax-based incentives for new or existing businesses to create new jobs at the center, she said. Businesses that create two or more jobs will receive the maximum tax credit of $3,500 per job, and those employers that are unable to use the credits against their Georgia income taxes may claim the excess against their withholding taxes.
Without the designation, Tradeport East employers received $1,750 in tax credits per job created, she said. The incentives are limited to the facility, which is currently home to Firth Rixson, Target, Tire Rack and a vacant 502,852-square-foot, Silver LEED-certified building owned by Industrial Developments International. There are five building pads of various sizes and 1,424 acres still available in the center.
"We’re going to use this very heavily as we go out and try to recruit new business to the community," Chafin said. The designation also levels the competition between Tradeport East and development sites in Bryan County, which already offered the incentive due to a "Military Zone" designation.
"This is the cutting edge of being competitive," Commissioner Donald Lovette said about the tax incentives attracting development to the county. "And they’re happy, happy, happy — those who are there now."
County engineer Trent Long also spoke to the board about funding an estimated $1,400 in repairs to a residential drainage system at Midway’s Arlen Oaks subdivision, but there was some confusion about which agency financially should be responsible for the repairs.
Long cited two necessary repairs to the ditch and runoff systems at the property, which is adjacent to Midway Middle School. The easement begins at the school and slopes down into the subdivision, and the original agreement was that the school and the developer would divide the ditch.
Commissioner Eddie Walden asked who initially built the ditch, and Long said it was his design.
"If it hasn’t been working, then what’s to say it will work now?" Walden asked.
"It’s a lack of maintenance," Long said.
When the board suggested that the city of Midway should fund the repairs, Mayor Clemontine Washington stepped in.
"It’s a problem that was not created by the city of Midway," she said. The board continued to discuss the origin of the problem and which agency approved the developer’s plans.
"If it’s the city’s ditch, the county’s ditch, the board of education’s ditch – we all need to work together," Washington said.
Chairman John McIver suggested that Washington and Long discuss the matter further with the BoE and retrieve estimates from private companies for the repairs. Pending estimates, the board agreed to discuss the matter later.
The board also heard from Citizen’s Advisory Council Chairman Neal Jones regarding vacancies on the panel. Jones also asked the board to consider creating a periodical publication designed to keep residents up to date on commission issues, and Walden suggested that Jones request copies of the meeting minutes and share them with other members of the council.
McIver briefed the commission on last week’s Coastal Regional Commission Transportation Roundtable Executive Committee meeting, where a "wish list" of infrastructure projects was added to the group’s constrained project list. A Hinesville bypass and safety improvements to Highway 196 are among the proposed projects. If approved internally, the list would go to public vote next summer.
The commission’s seven members, John McIver, Marion Stevens Sr., Donald Lovette, Connie Thrift, Pat Bowen, Gary Gilliard and Eddie Walden, attended Tuesday’s meeting.