Public perception on the annual Liberty Countywide Planning Retreat seems to have caught up with Liberty leaders, as the phrase was thrown around several times Wednesday during a planning session.
Representatives from municipalities, authorities and organizations gathered at the Performing Arts Center for a progress update, and County Administrator Joey Brown asked for input on the coming workshop toward the tail end of the session.
“Participation in our workshops has been waning some,” Brown said. “Early times, when we first started these, 10 years ago, we had just basically all the elected officials were in there from the municipalities and the other agencies, and I guess my question to you is how do we get back there? What has caused the non-participation?”
Riceboro City Councilman Chris Stacy suggested that Brown conduct a survey to get a better feel.
Brown responded that asking the crowd was a type of survey. “I’m asking specifically, what makes you come or be able to come or not come? Money? Venue? What is it? Because without the overall participation, it doesn’t work.”
Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington said she considers the required participation time a lot to ask.
“We’re really using two days, but the manner in which they are split, I don’t know how other people feel,” Washington said.
Last year’s three-day event was at the King & Prince Resort on St. Simon’s Island. Overall cost, which included covering three facilitators was an estimated $16,000, which was shouldered by participants through $275 registration fees. That estimate does not include overnight stays, which typically are covered by the entity each participant represents.
Brown asked if keeping it in the county would be easier.
“One of the things we were told early on was, ‘Don’t hold it at home,’” Brown said. “Unless you can trap them … if we’re at home and we release you, you’re going to check on something, and you may come back, but you’re going to drift into a session somewhere and you’re half-lost.
“And that is a concern. Obviously, money’s a concern, i.e. the ability to hold it local would be better for the money, (for) public perception, obviously, in these times would be better,” Brown said. “There are pros and cons either way.”
Brown said planners were considering late April to allow a legislative update from area legislators, but Liberty County Chamber of Commerce CEO Leah Poole said the last week of April is Georgia Cities Week.
Likely venues are the Performing Arts Center and Richmond Hill City Center, Brown said. That prompted discussion over whether public perception would be any better with the session in Bryan County than in Glynn County.
Using either venue would eliminate overnight stays and cut costs, Brown said.
“If we’re looking at going someplace else, why not try it [at the Performing Arts Center] and see. If it doesn’t work out, then consider something for next year?” Washington said.
“Are the only options local?” Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards asked. “Going back to the traditional thought. Is that no longer an option? When we go out of town?”
Several murmured that the traditional getaway would complicate public perception.
The Performing Arts Center presents logistical complications but could work, Brown said. The Richmond Hill option has “no problem” and is “built for that.”
“The Richmond Hill center works out really well for groups,” Flemington City Councilwoman Gail Evans said. “But, we’re going out of the county still. So, we probably need to keep it here.”
Brown asked for a show of hands on meeting in or outside of the county. More hands went up for a local venue.