ST. SIMONS ISLAND-The second day of Hinesville's annual city planning workshop in St. Simons Island started off with the Transportation Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax local officials hope to pass.
During the county-wide planning workshop in March, T-SPLOST was selected as an issue to focus on for the year.
Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown informed the gathered city council and administrators that the 1 percent sales tax will only be for roads.
If passed it's projected to earn $9 million annually for six years.
Brown said T-SPLOST would free up funds for road projects scheduled for SPLOST VI.
Council member Kenneth Shaw said it was very difficult to pass SPLOST VI, which went before voters during the general election last year, and the public might feel like they are being "taxed to death."
Council member Jason Floyd agreed and said people could revolt and not pass the next round of SPLOST.
Brown said there was talk of trying to push for a vote later this year, which many in the room agreed was too soon.
A referendum could be planned for next year.
Brown promised to keep the council informed about any upcoming T-SPLOST meetings.
The discussion then shifted to feral cats.
Code Enforcement has received complaints about feral cat colonies throughout the city maintained by citizens who set up feeding stations and makeshift shelters.
City manager Billy Edwards said some have created feeding stations on other people's private property, creating a nuisance of strays for the owners, such as cats climbing on cars, defecating in yards and odors.
Animal Haven of Hope Society, Inc., an organization which traps and neuters or spades animals then returns them asked the council to establish a trap-neuter-return program. Roaming cats would be caught, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and released back into their colony.
Edwards said the practice is supposed to reduce the number of offspring but studies show this type of program doesn't significantly reduce the number of feral cats.
If the city endorses this program they cannot give permission to trespass on private property to maintain the colonies.
Council members shared stories of neighbors and community members complaining of stray cats causing problems and understanding how many people are fond of cats.
Floyd said stray cats can reduce bird populations but also get rid of rats. He suggested the trap and release be done by a non-profit group.
Edwards recommended to not support the proposal and will give council members more information on the feral cat complaints.
The council reached their end of their 18-topic agenda for the workshop. They finished early and decided to talk about other issues not on the agenda.
City Engineer Paul Simonton talked about plans to pave Gibson Street, Mattie Street and realign McArthur Drive with South Main Street.
McArthur Drive currently stops at an angle to South Main Street.
Traffic volume on McArthur is expected to increase with the Cookout restaurant being constructed at the corner of McArthur and Oglethorpe Highway.
The Cookout is expected to be complete before the end of this year.
Council members will soon appoint a new deputy prosecuting attorney for Municipal Court.
Hinesville attorney Jeffrey Osteen, who serves in the position, was recently appointed State Court Judge for Liberty County.
Council members will provide names of possible candidates.
Shaw asked about the city's hiring practices for jobs.
He asked if jobs are advertised externally to the public or internally within city departments and if applicants are required to take a standardized test.
Edwards said jobs are advertised both internally and externally to give everyone a chance to apply. Departments which have a test require applicants, whether current employees or not, to take it, Edwards said.
Council member Diana Reid advocated for internal hiring and investing in current employees.
Edwards said when the city charter is updated the council can review department hiring policies and ordinances.
Other topics discussed during the workshop included updating policy procedure when Edwards and or Assistant City Manager Kenneth Howard is absent, updating the city's charter, social media policy review, getting an appraisal on the vacant lot between the Hinesville Police Department and Brantley Building along ML King Jr., Drive, the 2020 census, recycling and restructuring the human resource department.