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Holmestown water system moves foward
County, cities working on fire protection
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The planned Holmestown-Screven Forks rural water system, a project in the works for years, will move ahead to the design and preparation stages thanks to good news from the United States Department of Agriculture.
USDA Rural Development Area Specialist Tommy Hatcher presented the Liberty County Board of Commissioners with a list of conditions that must be met in order to secure a $1,040,000 loan and $3,196,740 grant during their meeting on Tuesday.
“The funds are there, and it will be finalized once they’ve signed their letter of intent to agree with the conditions,” Hatcher said Thursday. “And that has happened; everything’s in the state office waiting for approval.”
The funds, along with a $470,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, will go toward the first county-owned public water system in an unincorporated area of the county, according to Matthew Barrow, P.C. Simonton & Associates vice president and civil engineer.
Another $250,000 in local SPLOST funds also will go toward the project, Barrow said. The project schedule is forthcoming.
The project will serve 432 residents west of Midway who currently get their water from wells that have various levels of contamination and will have potential for future expansion.
The water project has been in the works for a long time, Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel said. A number of years ago, residents of the affected areas approached the BoC and voiced their concerns about the wells.
“At the time, there was nothing we could do,” he said. “It’s always been on our minds to try and do something.”
A subsequent study conducted with the University of Georgia identified contamination issues in the drinking water, such as wells pumping contaminants to wells being too close to septic tanks, the Courier previously reported. 
The commission also discussed requests from the city of Hinesville to change their fire service agreement, under which the Hinesville Fire Department provided service to Flemington and unincorporated areas in the county to the east and west of Hinesville for $30,000 per year.
The city requested to increase the amount for services to $179,722 annually. The proposed agreement also would require the county to adopt a false-alarm ordinance that would require them to collect funds and submit a portion to the city, County Administrator Joey Brown said.
Commission Chairman John McIver said the amount was “out of range” for the county’s expenses, and the commissioners asked County Fire Coordinator James Ashdown whether the volunteer fire departments would be able to handle calls in the areas previously covered by HFD.
On the eastern borders of Hinesville and Flemington, the volunteer firefighters from Midway, Fleming and Lake George would respond, and those from Gum Branch would respond to some areas to the west.
The issue challenges the county to expedite the implementation of its countywide fire plan, Commissioner Donald Lovette said.
During the discussion, Commissioner Connie Thrift confirmed with Ashdown that ambulance and emergency medical responders still would respond to calls beyond the city’s fire service area.
“I don’t see us paying those funds to the city when we can pay that same amount of money to our countywide fire plan,” McIver said.
The board approved a motion by Commissioner Marion Stevens to write back to the city and request a 30-day extension to the $30,000 rate to allow them to negotiate and consider options.
If the county and Hinesville do not extend their agreement, it could leave Flemington, which previously was covered under the plan, in a lurch.
Flemington Mayor Sandra Martin said she and City Attorney Craig Stafford are in negotiations with Hinesville officials to create a new agreement between the cities with the same coverage as before.
“We are looking at options, but they have provided excellent service in the past, and we would like to maintain that relationship,” Martin said. “Hopefully it will be resolved within the next couple weeks.”
Other items of note during the meeting:
• The county transferred a 3,751-square-foot tract of land to the Liberty County Board of Education for an access road at the Liberty College and Career Academy, currently under construction on Airport Road.
• The BoC approved a revised agreement to sell dirt to the BoE at $3 per cubic yard for construction at the career academy. The board previously approved an agreement, but the BoE opposed some language in the contract. It is up to the BoE to decide whether it will accept the deal. 
• Dwight Newbould, president of the Liberty County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, asked the board to consider changes to its personnel policy that would allow employees appealing their termination to be aided by the counsel of their choosing. The current policy says they may have a lawyer or attorney present.

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