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Officials get OK grade at workshop
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Retreat participants include State Sen. Tommie Williams and State Rep. Al Williams (background) and mayors Sandra Martin of Flemington and Jim Thomas of Hinesville (foreground). - photo by Seraine Page

City and county officials gave themselves a C average when grading how they have followed up on projects in the past year.
They gave only one B on Wednesday, the first day of a countywide planning retreat, on reports of how well plans were followed after last year’s workshop. Another major topic of discussion was what officials call a misrepresentation of 2010 Census numbers. 
Liberty County Planning Commission Director Sonny Timmerman opened the session with a report card of how he graded the seven main goals that were the focus of last year’s planning workshop.
The goals ranged from enhancing the animal shelter to improving health-care infrastructures.
“It’s a good place to start, what we did last year,” Timmerman said.
Entities met Oct. 25, 2010, for an update on the progress of the projects and to identify “achievable goals” along with assigning specific responsibilities.
Timmerman gave the following grades with an overall 2.0 grade point average:
• Community improvement: C
• Economic development: C-
• Healthcare: C +
• Quality growth: D
• Transportation: B +
• Water planning: C +
• Workforce development: D
“I assumed that this was a three-credit course we were taking,” he told officials. “We did OK; we got by.”
Timmerman said that although several things were accomplished in some categories — such as recruiting new physicians and a new public-transit system — it seems the entities spread themselves too thin to accomplish every goal. 
“A lot of things come out of this workshop. That’s my report card and your report card,” he said.
Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel questioned the 2010 Census numbers, saying he and other officials believe they don’t reflect the county’s actual population.
“The Census numbers didn’t do us a lot of favors,” he said. “This affects us in a lot of ways.”
The 2010 count said 1,843 more people lived in the county compared to 1990, but the federal government did not count Fort Stewart soldiers who were deployed as of April 1, which could be as many as 16,000 missing from the count.
Officials may have the opportunity this fall to ask the Census Bureau to conduct a recount but must decide if the return for new numbers would be worth it.
“You have to look at the cost of it and the return,” said Sprinkel, who could not confirm the cost of a recount before the countywide planning session.
Census numbers influence factors ranging from how many grants the county may apply for to how much water may be drawn from the Florida aquifer, all based on population figures.
“The Census definitely made a mistake on Fort Stewart,” Sprinkel said of the 1,271 housing units that were counted during the Census.
Col. Kevin Milton, who sat in the audience, confirmed that there are more than 1,271 housing units on post occupied by soldiers. The officials said that according to Census rules, when soldiers are deployed overseas they are counted in their home states, a ruling passed by the Supreme Court.
At the end of the evening, Sen. Tommie Williams addressed the crowd with an update on state legislative issues, including taxes, immigration and the HOPE scholarship’s final status.
After Williams spoke, Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards asked for him to support a Census recount.
Williams suggested the officials contact an attorney for the state Republican Party for help.
“There’s got to be a way to engage change,” he said in closing before thanking the audience.

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