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Low turnout for first SPLOST meeting
County Administrator Joey Brown discusses the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which goes up for a vote in November, at the first of four community meetings Thursday at the Hinesville Area Arts Council gallery. - photo by Photo by Jeremy McAbee

The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce officially kicked off its Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VI campaign Thursday with the first of four community meetings scheduled ahead of the November elections.

County Commission Chair-man Donald Lovette and County Administrator Joey Brown proceeded with their full presentation Thursday evening, despite a thin turnout.

Chamber CEO Leah Poole acknowledged the fact that everyone in attendance — a total of 15 people — already had heard the presentation, either at Thursday morning’s chamber-sponsored “Eggs and Issues” breakfast or in prior SPLOST planning meetings.

As Liberty County citizens strolled around the Farmers Market in Bradwell Park just outside the Hinesville Area Arts Council, meeting attendees — mostly city and county officials and employees — discussed ways of boosting future meetings’ attendance and shaking up voter apathy that seems rampant in the county.

“To me, one of the biggest problems we have as a community is getting the word out,” Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said. “I just don’t know … hopefully, we can get the word out about these next series of meetings.”

“I think that we have to look at it in a very positive way,” Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas added.

He then mentioned the progress that has been made in the county in the time since his arrival, including the relatively new city-scape of downtown Hinesville. Thomas said that having a developed community is crucial to attracting new business, and that SPLOST is a key instrument in making much-needed improvements.

“I remember sitting on the planning commission, and businesses would come and they would turn around and leave because there was nothing here,” Thomas said. “A person who owns a million-dollar business is not going to put a business up next to a shack.”

Key facts about SPLOST that the chamber is trying to impress upon voters include:

• SPLOST VI will not be a new tax — it simply will be a continuation of the 1-cent sales tax that already is in place.

• approximately 65,000 residents, plus many visitors, contribute to SPLOST through their purchase of local goods and services, as opposed to roughly 13,000 people who pay property taxes.

• SPLOST funds may only be used for predetermined capital projects. No SPLOST funds are used for city or county employee salaries.

Three more community meetings are set to happen before the Nov. 4 vote. They will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Liberty County Community Complex in Midway; 6 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Riceboro Youth Center; and 6 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Gum Branch Fire Station.

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