During his report at Thursday’s Hinesville City Council meeting, Mayor Jim Thomas provided information he and City Manager Billy Edwards received during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.
Thomas told the council that all branches of the military are cutting their forces and budgets. These cuts will have a harmful economic impact on military communities near the affected installations, he said.
“Our meeting was to discuss what we can do to minimize the effect of military cuts on our community,” Thomas said, explaining that the military had a list of cities near major installations slated for cuts. “Of the 30 cities being considered (for the economic impact of cutbacks), we’re rated at No. 5. The reason we’re rated so high is not necessarily for what’s going on at Fort Stewart, but what’s going on in town. It’s the quality of life we have here.”
He told city leaders they have to continue to engage congressional and military leaders about the importance of Fort Stewart to Hinesville, the Army and the nation.
While noting the Army will conduct an economic impact study on how major cuts at Fort Stewart would hurt the community, he said Hinesville is going to do its own economic analysis.
“Fort Stewart is the largest economic engine in this area,” he said, adding that he is encouraged that military and political leaders recognize the importance of Fort Stewart. “But if we lose a large number of soldiers, it’s going to hurt us.”
In other business Thursday, Assistant City Manager Ken Howard asked the council to execute funding for the 2011 Transportation Enhancement Grant for the Central Avenue realignment project. The $250,000 grant will pay for installation of driveways, sidewalks, irrigation, landscape and lighting.
To date, he said the city has paid over $122,000 for the project, which he said is running ahead of schedule. Howard anticipates re-opening Central Avenue before July.
A previous resolution approved by the council earlier this month required amendments by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The council approved the amended resolution and execution of funding.
The council heard and approved a design review board recommendation to convert a residential property on North Commerce Street to a psychotherapy office. Council members then went into a long discussion about whether to approve transitional funding for the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission’s fiscal year 2015. LCPC Director Jeff Ricketson told the council funding was needed for its transitional budget period between July 1 and Oct. 31. The additional funding would then allow the authority to be on the same 12-month budget cycle as the city, rather than the traditional fiscal-budget cycle of the county.
“Basically, what we’re asking for is about $125,000,” Ricketson said. “That will get us through the next four months.”
Edwards responded to a question by Councilman Keith Jenkins, explaining that after the transitional period, LCPC’s budget cycle would be consistent with the city. Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier asked how the city was going to pay for the additional four months, and why they were being asked to approve something without first funding it.
Chief Financial Officer Kim Ryon explained the council was not approving the funding for the additional four months, just the concept to provide funding. Ryon said she’d go through the city’s projected expenditures and revenues to find a way to pay for the extended budget, and then she’d bring her recommendations back to the council. In the meantime, the LCPC staff would be able to continue working.
The mayor and council made a presentation to both Hinesville Police Department Chief George Stagmeier and Hinesville Fire Department Chief Lamar Cook for winning the Battle of the Badges during the American Red Cross Blood Drive on May 30. Human Resource Director Holly Stevens said participants were allowed to cast their vote for their favorite police, fire, emergency medical service or Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. She said HPD and HFD tied, but more importantly, 32 pints of blood were collected.