Liberty County leaders last week held their first-ever state-of-the-county luncheon address.
About 80 people attended Liberty County Chamber of Commerce Progress through People luncheon Thursday at CenturyLink.
Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette and County Administrator Joey Brown spearheaded the presentation on ongoing projects, such as the Hinesville branch library, an animal-control facility and the future of the Hinesville bypass.
“This idea was birthed during our first celebration of National County Government Month in April …,” Lovette said. “You may remember during the last Liberty County planning workshop, the consensus was we failed to tell our story. Well, today, within our time constraints, the county is going to tell some of its story.”
He turned the podium over to Brown to discuss ongoing projects, such as the rural water system in the Holmestown-Screven Fork area that should go out for construction bid soon, Brown said.
Among the larger items to receive attention was the next special-purpose local-option sales tax referendum, which will appear on ballots in 2014, Brown said.
“As a part of that, we’ll be soliciting some public input from some public listening sessions throughout the county,” he said. “We do have to meet with all of the municipalities, the municipalities help us decide what projects will finally be put on that ballot, and we have to strike an intergovernmental agreement.”
Though state law prevents governments from spending money to promote tax referenda, Brown stressed the importance of the tax to the government.
“People tell me they’re tired of seeing the buildings. Well, here’s the story, and I can only tell you one,” Brown said.
About eight years ago, Brown was called to meet with the grand jury and walked in to find all of the constitutional officers were in the meeting.
“We faced some terrible dilemmas with security in the old courthouse, there was no moving it around. We had a shooting that occurred; maybe you all were aware of that. … I was told when I sat down that, ‘Mr. Brown, we are going to build a new courthouse. It will be with or without the county-commission involvement, and without your involvement if you so desire. We’re prepared to court-order that to be done.’”
Brown said the tax funds projects that are mandated by law, and it also is the sole identifiable source in coming years for capital-improvement transportation projects.
“Federal funds are being cut for transit dollars; state funds are certainly cut for that,” he added. “This will be the only chance not only to enhance transportation, like the freight route, but also to maintain transportation.”
The Hinesville Bypass plans, which would have received funding under the TSPLOST referendum that did not pass within the Coastal Region last year, now have been transitioned to a plan known as Freight Route 119.
“A community depends on vital infrastructure to survive, not just roads. Remember that,” Brown said.
Other items likely to appear on the ballot include a Federal Communications Commission-required update to the 911 system that will enable people to text emergency notification to the department.
George Holtzman, owner of Coldwell Banker, Holtzman Realtors and several other business enterprises, asked Lovette and Brown what they make of Census data that shows the area’s population is not growing at the same rate as neighboring counties.
Lovette and Brown both took a long pause before answering, and there were some laughs and murmurs in the crowd. Lovette said he’s not sure that population estimate numbers were right.
“We don’t have any specifics to that, George,” Lovette said. “I think out population has been steady in Liberty County, because you know like I know, at 8 o’clock and 12 o’clock and 4 o’clock, you can’t tell that anybody is not here.”