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County picks site for new library
Hospital adds to bond debt for expansion project
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The Liberty County Commission Thursday approved Memorial Drive as the location for a new library in Hinesville.
The library, which operates under the Live Oak Public Library System, will continue operating in its current 9,000-square-foot building while a new one is built on adjacent property. Construction will be funded by SPLOST.
Buckley & Associates architect David Holton presented site analysis information on the Memorial Drive site and the other contender, at the intersection of South Main Street and M.L. King Jr. Drive.
“There are pros and cons to both of them,” Holton said. “One, you have a high level of synergy downtown, you know, with your new building and construction, and having another public building downtown does add some appeal … but you also could say the same for Memorial Drive because you actually would like to create the synergy.”
However, the Main Street location would require additional land acquisition and has property constraints that would require it to be built three floors tall, which would increase operating and staffing costs, Holton said.
In contrast, the Memorial Drive land has already been acquired. The site has potential for a 25,000-square-foot building and could be expanded, Holton said.  
A site selection committee recommended the Memorial Drive location, and the BoC unanimously agreed. County Administrator Joey Brown said the next step is to schedule meetings with the library board, county officials and designers.
Liberty County Library Board of Trustees Chairwoman LaFayne May thanked the commissioners.
“I believe that everybody will be pleased to see a beautiful library down on Memorial Drive,” May said.
The board also revisited a request from the tax assessor’s office to hire a third-party to conduct commercial property tax assessments.
The request from Chief Appraiser Glenda Roberts was tabled on Nov. 6. Thursday, after much discussion, which at times became heated, over whether the money would be better spent on training staff members, the board approved a contract with G.M.A.S.S. with $25,000 to be paid the first year. Options to continue the contract the next two years would cost $35,000 and $40,000, respectively.
Commissioners Marion Stevens Sr., Connie Thrift, John McIver and Gary Gilliard approved. Pat Bowen opposed, and Eddie Walden excused himself from the meeting before the vote came up.
The tax assessor’s office has $25,000 in its current fiscal-year budget to cover the contract, but would need additional funds to continue it.
Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones and Roberts also spoke about an ongoing dispute with the Liberty County Development Authority over unpaid personal property taxes from a former industrial tenant.
The company, Bioagra, leased a building in the LCDA-owned Hinesville Technology Park from 2005-10, when the company was administratively dissolved. It was in arrears to the authority.
Earlier this year, the authority auctioned some equipment the company had installed. Jones read about the auction in the Courier and realized the property had been under a lien, so he asked the authority to pay $137,721 in back-taxes, penalties and interest on the property.
In April, the authority voted to pay $61,000 to cover the assessed value of the items from 2007-09, when the items were property of the private company. The authority argues the items should be tax-exempt from the time it took ownership in 2010.
Jones and Roberts, however, defended their position that the taxes are owed in full with interest and reiterated that the county is not the only entity that anticipated revenue from the assessed property.
“We had no knowledge that the development authority — now, after much discussion — they claim ownership in the property,” Roberts said.
A request for refund came up as a possible solution, but it would require that the authority pay and then request a reimbursement, but refunds only are available for the three most recent years.
The board tabled the matter, but agreed it will seek full payment.
In other business Thursday, the BoC also:
• Amended an existing debt service agreement with the Liberty County Hospital Authority to cover issuance of bonds not to exceed $14.7 million to pay for an ongoing expansion project. That amount would be on top of the hospital’s current $10 million bonded debt, which would be refinanced for a longer time. The estimated annual payments would be $1.7 million until 2032.
• Authorized the chairman to negotiate with Woodrow Sapp Water Management Inc. to maintain and operates the new rural water system.
• Provided disclosure on possible conflicts of interest in the rural water system construction, a move that is required by one of the project’s funding sources. Due to residence, land ownership or immediate relatives within the service area, Commissioners Marion Stevens Sr. and Gary Gilliard must recuse themselves from discussion or votes on the matter.

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