County and city officials traveled to Washington, D.C., in early March to speak with the U.S. Department of Agriculture about a proposed rural water system for Liberty County’s Holmestown area. In order to install the system, a proposal submitted by P.C. Simonton & Associates Inc. for a $1.1 million loan and a $3.2 million grant first would need to be approved by the USDA.
At Thursday’s Liberty County Commission meeting, Chairman John McIver briefed the other commissioners on the trip he took with Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards, Liberty County Development Authority CEO Ron Tolley, Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter Executive Director Paul Andreshak and The Heritage Bank President and CEO James M. Floyd Jr. The county paid only for McIver’s travel expenses.
The commission chairman said he and the others took the trip to make their water-system vision clear to those in Washington.
"We had a visit with the USDA in regard to our water system," McIver told the commissioners. "The meeting went well. We gave them some prior information in our discussion. There was no firm commitment (from the USDA)."
The $1.1 million loan and the $3.2 million grant would pay for a system that would provide water to residents with shallow wells.
County officials aren’t certain when they will learn whether the loan and grant are approved.
County Administrator Joey Brown said such trips generally are helpful in securing a favorable outcome for certain projects.
"It has been the experience of the county that these face-to-face meetings return great dividends in the long run for our residents. They allow our elected representatives the opportunity to explain first-hand problems that are being encountered on the local level," Brown said.
McIver said the trip, although short, seemed to go well. The group also met with Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and two senators.
"They also commended us for the work we have done thus far," McIver said. "I think we made our point to them and that we’re looking to get support from them. We want to move the project along. We have completed all phases of it."
In other meeting news:
The Citizens Advisory Council Chairman Neal Jones asked each commissioner to attend the town hall meetings in each district that start in two weeks. Discussion topics will vary at each location. The series of meetings will wrap up before the commissioners attend the countywide planning workshop at the end of April.
Commissioner Connie Thrift asked Jones to give each of the commissioners a heads up about the topics at least two weeks in advance so they could prepare and offer the correct facts and information to residents at the meetings. She also reminded Jones to have a moderator to ensure that the sessions run smoothly. "We’ve got to have structure," she said.
The first meeting will be for District 1 on March 29 at Riceboro Youth Center. Everyone is welcome to attend.