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County-wide planning workshop under way
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ST. SIMONS ISLAND — The 2012 Liberty County Planning Workshop started Wednesday on St. Simons Island with about 45 participants.

The three-day retreat, which is being held at the King and Price Beach & Golf Resort, has the help of three facilitators from the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute to keep the meetings on track and guide participants.

Participating entities include the cities of Hinesville, Flemington, Riceboro, Midway and Walthourville; the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority; the Liberty County Development Authority; Liberty Regional Medical Center; the board of education and Savannah Technical College; the chamber of commerce and convention and visitors’ bureau; the library and Fort Stewart.

The workshop began with representatives presenting summaries of their previous years’ work and with government entities each presenting a briefing on their current priorities.

Langford Holbrook, who facilitated the board of commissioners’ retreat earlier this month, said the event offers a chance for the governments and leaders to establish working relationships that are vital to community planning.

Another benefit of the workshop is that it offers a chance to assess performance, he said.

“We talked about what we did this morning, but we didn’t talk about what we didn’t do,” Holbrook said, adding that the facilitators are there to help identify areas that need improvement.

“I want to really force them to think about how they have accountability in implementation this year — they didn’t really have it last year,” Holbrook added.

He commended the county and its stakeholders for their ability to come to a table and work collaboratively.

“I think that it’s unique what this community does,” he said. “Getting together with the governments and all of the private sector …. There are some counties and cities in the state that you couldn’t get them to sit in the room for five minutes together.”

Facilitator David Hooker, who specializes in mediation, said such planning events can prevent conflicts and ensure there is a comprehensive discussion of projects before they advance.

During the last 45 minutes of Wednesday’s workshop, Hooker asked the attendants to discuss potential community issues among their tables and write the ideas on large sheets of paper.

The session resumed Thursday morning with general session presentations on education, community health and the Transportation Investment Act referendum. Prioritizing and discussing the issues identified on Wednesday also was on Thursday’s agenda.

For more coverage on the county-wide planning retreat, see Sunday’s Courier.

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