The Hinesville City Council heard a legislative update from state Rep. Al Williams during Thursday’s meeting. Williams, D-Midway, told the council that as the state continues to cut its budget, the legislature will be forced to pass the cuts to local governments.
“We’re in a constant battle listening to the (Georgia Municipal Association) and listening to county commissioners,” Williams said. “Transportation continues to be a big issue because the transportation bill didn’t pass ... There are few things more important right now than deepening the port in Savannah.”
Mayor Jim Thomas told Williams he agreed and asked questions about state funding for municipal projects and the progress toward getting the port deepened. Williams talked about the limited funds that can be allocated by the state to support any project, but said the port project was in line for completion. Williams said the port needs to be ready to accept larger ships that will be able to come through the widened Panama Canal in 2015.
Thomas said the port project was “extremely important” to Hinesville not only because of industry it would attract, but also because the military would see the deepened port as incentive for keeping Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield if there was another Base Realignment and Closure in 2015.
Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier noted Williams’ comments about the state budget not having enough to go around. He added that Chatham County sends a delegation to Atlanta to push their needs and asked if Williams recommended Hinesville and Liberty County to send a delegation.
Williams’ response was not a clear yes or no, so Frasier asked him again if it would help to send a delegation.
“I would recommend that you come up,” Williams responded. “Come and see me during the next session.”
In other business, the council held the third and final public hearing on the proposed millage-rate increase. One resident asked if there was or was not an actual property-tax increase and was told the rate will remain at 10.5 mills.
City Manager Billy Edwards said that due to a re-assessment of property, some homeowners may see a decrease in their property taxes, while some business owners may see an increase. The resident said he was satisfied there was no increase. The council then voted to adopt the rate for the 2013 tax digest.
The council approved a resolution for the Liberty County Consolidated Comprehensive Plan for the five-year Short Term Work Program and a resolution for the fiscal year 2014 Community Home Improvement Investment Program grant application.
Frasier and Councilman Keith Jenkins discussed the 10 eligible homes chosen for the $306,000 grant funds. They agreed not to hold the application for a review of the selected homes, but asked to see pictures of the homes at a later date. Grant writer Michelle Lane said the city’s matching funds for the grant are 15 percent, or $45,900, which could be allocated from the city’s general-fund budget.