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Hinesville council discusses staggered elections, Fort Stewart annexation
Hinesville planning Day 1
Hinesville City Council members and staff discuss projects and city business during their planning workshop at the Sea Palms Resort and Conference Center on St. Simons Island on Thursday. - photo by Cailtin Kenney

ST. SIMONS ISLAND — Staggering Hinesville City Council elections and annexing Fort Stewart’s cantonment area were among the topics discussed Thursday during a council retreat.

The council is holding a two-day planning workshop at the Sea Palms Resort and Conference Center.

On Thursday, the first day, council members discussed 20 items on their 30-item agenda. Here are a few of the items discussed:

City Signage

The council discussed placing signage around the city to highlight places of interest to the public, such as parks and schools. The city will work on drawing up a concept of the Hinesville signs, possibly based on what is seen in downtown areas such as Memorial Drive.

Annexing Fort Stewart’s cantonment area

The council discussed the possibility of annexing Fort Stewart’s cantonment area into the city of Hinesville. The benefits of this include possibly increasing some of the services provided by the city to the post, increasing the tax base and recruitment of retail stores because of the increase to the population of the city. Mayor Jim Thomas said that in general, cities that annex parts of nearby installations see an increase in revenue. They will be looking into this in the future.

Staggered terms

The council also discussed the possibility of having staggered terms for council members because of a concern of continuity. Staggered terms wouldn’t happen for a few years, and elections for part of the council would have to take place every two years. Thomas said it should be up to the voters to decide whether they want to change out everyone in city government at once. Currently, all City Council members, who hold four-year terms are up for election at the same time.

New look for Bradwell Park

A concept drawing for a redesign of Bradwell Park was presented to the council. The park would have a new fountain and a small stage. The park — currently bounded by South Main Street, East Court Street, South Commerce Street and East Martin Luther King Jr. Drive — would extend across South Commerce Street in front of the Uncommon Grounds restaurant, making it a pedestrian-only area with the ability for outside dining. The city is going to apply for a $1 million Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to Kenneth Howard, Hinesville’s assistant city manager. It is estimated to cost around $337,000, and city officials won’t know until next year if they will be able to go forward with the redesign.

Business incubator

The other half of the $1 million funding from HUD would go toward a business incubator being proposed for the downtown area, according to Howard. The incubator would be a place for entrepreneurs to jump-start their business dreams with the support of the city. Business owners can rent space in the proposed building, the old Hinesville Bank, at South Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Statesboro and Georgia Southern University have partnered to develop a business incubator in that city’s downtown area, and Hinesville officials brought it up as a good model to follow. Hinesville officials plan to move forward with a feasibility study to determine whether this is something needed in the city.

Raising water tanks

The city plans to conduct a feasibility study on raising several water tanks up to the same elevation so they can increase water pressure for fire-suppression sprinkler systems. Currently buildings with two or more stories have to install pumps to increase the water pressure for their sprinkler systems. Raising the tanks would almost double the pressure. The city would apply for a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loan if the project is approved. The project would take a year from start to finish. 

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