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Hinesville council authorizes land purchase negotiations
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The Hinesville City Council voted Thursday to authorize the purchase of more than four acres of land along Frank Cochran Drive from 14 owners to accommodate the road’s widening.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will oversee the project, which entails reconstructing and widening a 2.7-acre stretch north of Highway 119 to McNeely Road.

During last week’s Liberty County-wide Planning Workshop, City Manager Billy Edwards presented an overview of the project, which has an estimated construction cost of $17 million.

The council’s resolution grants Edwards the authority to institute the right-of-way acquisition proceedings for seven driveway easements and 11 tracts of land at the cost and expense of the city.

The tracts combined equal 4.14 acres in addition to the listed easements, and a construction timetable has the final field plan review slated for September, the utilities relocation in the fall and deadline for construction bids in April 2013.

The vote came on the tail end of a meeting that spanned one-and-a-half hours and immediately following a 10-minute executive session to discuss the land acquisition.

The topic was listed on the agenda as an informational item. Because the vote was not specified on the agenda and was taken after most attendees left the city hall chamber, the Courier consulted Georgia Press Association attorney David E. Hudson about the legality of the vote.

Hudson said the move likely was lawful given that there was some notice that real estate would be at least discussed.

"Discussing acquisition of real estate in a closed meeting is lawful," he said. "Voting to purchase in a public session was the correct procedure that seems to have been followed here."

During last week’s retreat, Edwards also summarized annexation of approximately 1,925 acres of unincorporated county lands that dot the city’s west side in pockets.

Part of the reason for the annexation is that the areas create a "service-delivery nightmare" for emergency responders due to islands of county land being surrounded by city land, Edwards said.

The annexation request will be submitted to the General Assembly for the 2013 legislative session, but there will be an opportunity for residents in the affected area to provide input on the matter.

In other news:

• The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police recognized Hinesville Police Chief George Stagmeier and his department for achieving recertification under the State Certification Program.

• The council granted a rezoning petition to rezone .83 acre of land at 556 W. Oglethorpe Highway from office institutional district to general commercial district. Professional Eye Care owner Dr. Jody Pittman presented the request and agreed to comply with conditions on the types of businesses that can use the space.

• The council granted a peddler license to Vinyl Industries to offer home improvement products door to door and approved a request from Hard Knox Tattoo to relocate its business license to 447C W. Gen. Screven Way.

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