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Locals at St. Simons retreat

County and city leaders have gathered on St. Simons Island for the annual county-wide planning workshop to discuss initiatives, community issues and updates on topics from last year’s meeting. Jeff Ricketson, executive director of Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, opened the meeting by having everyone sharing what makes them Liberty County-proud.

Some of the sentiments expressed were: progress, friendships, recreation, sense of community, great people, rich history, receptive to newcomers, impacting workforce developments and more.

The first session was a recap of some initiatives and issues brought up at last year’s meeting, such as the Georgia Initiative and Community Housing Program, Education Connection, county-wide fire service and reduction of troops at Fort Stewart.

Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee said the district has a grant that allows all students, regardless of their family's income level, to have free breakfast, yet many don’t take advantage of it. She said there will be kiosks with warming stations at the schools, where students can get breakfast and then go to class.

Ricketson gave a summary of several construction projects and initiatives that have been successfully completed.

After a morning of recaps, workshop attendees broke for lunch.

The leaders and department representatives came back together for an open forum during which they expressed their opinions on what issues in Liberty County require an action plan. The forum was facilitated by Lupita McClenning, Dionne Lovett and Don Masisak, representatives of the Coastal Regional Commission.

They listed the proposed suggestions such as branding Liberty County, preserving history, policy on filmmaking, infrastructure upgrades, renewing the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and beautification of Highway 84 from Interstate 95 to Flemington. The ideas were then consolidated and attendees voted on their top three issues to discuss on day 2 of the workshop. The top three issues chosen were: renewing SPLOST, branding Liberty County and business development.

The leaders gathered for dinner in the evening and heard from state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, give an overview of significant action that took place during the recently completed legislative session.

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