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Hinesville passes 2017 budget
Hinesville City Hall
Hinesville City Hall is at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Commerce Street downtown. - photo by File photo

Hinesville City Council adopted a budget of $36,514,056 for the 2017 fiscal year at Thursday’s council meeting. The city’s millage rate is 11.51.

Property taxes are the city’s highest revenue generator with $7.7 million and the highest expenditure is $7.4 million budgeted to the Hinesville Police Department.

Kimberly Ryon, Hinesville’s chief financial officer, reviewed changes made to different line items in the budget, such as a decrease in general fund costs due changing from CH2M to ESG Operations, Inc. The city’s budget is balanced, she said.

Investing in Hinesville

Joe Minicozzi of Urban 3, a consulting firm in Asheville, North Carolina, presented to the council information on where they should invest funds and do enhancement projects. He consulted the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority and used local tax data to show what part of the county is bringing in the most tax revenue. Hinesville is the main revenue generator for Liberty County, and suggested the city focus on downtown Hinesville for future projects, especially those funded through the Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax.

Goodbye to CH2M Hill

Leonard Scoggins of CH2M gave his last public works department report. The city recently awarded the new contract to ESG Operations, Inc. to provide public works services.

Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown said to Scoggins, "We will miss you, not because of the work you do but because of the man you are."

Other councilmembers expressed their gratitude for Scoggins’ work as well.

Communicating through the storm

Brittany McClure, city public relations manager, gave an after action report on communication during Hurricane Matthew. There were 107 hurricane updates, with 53 on Facebook, over 1,000 comments on posts and a gain of 1,373 new followers. There were 54 updates on Twitter and a gain of 74 new followers.

McClure said the city is still sending out information about cleanup and relief efforts.

She noted communication barriers, such as internet and cell phone outages, and shared other ways she can update council members in the future.

Promoting Liberty

Leah Poole, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau, gave an update on the CVB’s continued activities to promote Liberty County.

In August the CVB’s Southern Cooks video series, episodes 8 and 9, featured two ladies from England making Southern England pastries. Poole was awarded the Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award in September and the CVB was also awarded $8,200 from the state for tourism product development. Poole said the funds will be used for beautifying the gazebos at exit 76 off of Interstate 95, Barrington Ferry, Hall’s Knoll and in Sunbury.

Travel writer and photographer Bill Vanderford will be hosted in Liberty this month. Future activities include hosting Christmas in the Park, advertising in the Jacksonville Jaguars season guide and giving a tour to the Savannah Area Film Office.

Other business

City council approved adopting the 2040 Liberty County Joint Comprehensive Plan, the final plat for Oglethorpe Square, which is currently under construction, and the final plat of phase I for Pineridge Subdivision, off of Airport Road.

Approved the Hinesville Police Department’s purchase of a new generator from Caterpillar for $117,560. City Manager Billy Edwards said the budget will have to be amended for the purchase of the generator.

Certificates were presented to the volunteers of the 4th annual Tied to Success Empowerment Workshop. Youth men from Youth Challenge who attended the workshop were also given a certificate for their participation in the workshop.

Resident Joe Stuart asked for the city to consider implementing a homeowner’s tax exemption as a reward to homeowners who maintain their own yards. He also asked if section 8 housing can be interspersed in neighborhoods. Councilwoman Vicky Nelson said it is up to the homeowner to allow section 8 recipients into the home.

Stuart asked why the discussion of real estate matters happens during executive session and not in the public. Council members told him it was legal to talk about real estate matters during executive session, and whatever is decided on is brought before the public.

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