Hinesville resident Joe Stuart has spoken directly to City Council on numerous occasions during the public-comment portion of its twice-monthly meetings.
Several times, Stuart’s comments have been too sharp and pointed directly at Mayor Jim Thomas or council members. When that has happened, Thomas warned Stuart not to engage in rudeness or personal attacks.
During public comments Thursday, Stuart leaned on the lectern, announced his name and its spelling, then began ranting about community meetings at the Liberty County Justice Center and Wilderness Baptist Church on the state’s new prison re-entry program. He said he didn’t know about these meetings.
Stuart wanted to know why that meeting was held and whether the city was going to hold a town hall meeting on the issue.
“We held our first meeting at the Justice Center,” Thomas told him. “The purpose of the meeting was to determine if there is any interest in participating and supporting a government program to house parolees.”
Stuart continued to protest that he didn’t know about the meetings while adding that the community didn’t need parolees. He said his neighborhood already is deteriorated and crime-ridden. He then said, mockingly, that the mayor wouldn’t know about the condition of neighborhoods because he is always taking trips to Washington, D.C., and China.
Thomas immediately pounded the table with a gavel, warning Stuart to keep his comments focused on the issue and not make them personal. Stuart sharply asked the mayor if he was going to “be arrogant and not let me speak.”
“I’m going to be the person who runs this meeting,” Thomas told him, then asked Hinesville Police Chief George Stagmeier to escort Stuart from the council chamber.
Stagmeier did so, guiding Stuart by the arm out of the room.
In other business, the council discussed a meeting Assistant City Manager Ken Howard, Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier and city engineer Paul Simonton had April 15 with residents of the Arlington Park subdivision. Several residents had addressed the council during the April 2 meeting about the noise levels in their community near Liberty Regional Medical Center.
Howard said the residents attending the meeting voiced concerns about the lack of a vegetative noise buffer, particular near one clear-cut area where a resident has removed the trees from the street side of his own property.
“I might point out that there is no requirement to do this (buffer) in our ordinance,” Howard said. “But there is a 25-foot vegetative buffer. The biggest number of complaints is about the cleared area. We recommend planting additional trees like Leyland cypress in that area. There are other things we’re looking at doing to soften the noise levels between current housing and future development… I think we answered all their questions.”
Frasier added that the city should consider requiring an additional 25-foot vegetative buffer for Arlington Park, phase 3.
The council approved a request to declare a 1995 Ford Crown Victoria used by the Community Development Department as surplus property, a peddler’s license for Israel Fleming Sr. to go door-to-door to solicit seafood sales and a conflict-of-interest disclosure-form requirement for six companies eligible to apply for a Community Development Block Grant.