City and county officials will come together on St. Simons Island starting Wednesday for a three-day workshop to discuss short- and long-term planning goals for Liberty County.
“The main goal is that good decision makers come together in a room to communicate with each other, share ideas and establish three firm issues of community importance that they want to work on,” Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown said. “Some of the focus changes from year to year.”
More than 73 officials will gather for the event at Sea Palms Resort to talk about several community issues and listen to special guest speakers, such as Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons. General discussions are expected to include the topics of poverty and House Bill 277, also known as the transportation bill.
Community issues to be discussed will be decided on-site once everyone present has offered input. The top three community issues will be identified and discussed in small group sessions for an hour at a time, Brown said. There will also be a six-month check-up after the planning session to see how far projects discussed at the workshop have advanced.
Attendees will get an update from the Liberty County Consolidated Planning Commission on what has been worked on or completed since last year’s planning session. A 2010 Census overview also will be given by Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel.
Some of the projects that have been successfully completed through previous county planning workshops include the Liberty Campus of Savannah Technical College, LCPC’s formation, MidCoast Regional Airport and new health-care facilities, Brown said.
Each project took a number of years to develop after the initial workshop because resources — like funding to get projects going — had to be secured, the county administrator said.
Although the workshop has been a controversial topic among area residents and the public for some time, officials say they must go out of town to focus on planning and to avoid distractions that could come up if the officials stayed in Liberty County.
“The most important thing for them (the public) to know is, a group of community leaders that convene at this workshop are at this workshop to establish goals for the next year to five years in a setting where these community leaders can focus on the matter at hand and avoid the distractions that come with day-to-day activities,” Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said. “Professionally, it kind of helps me set my work agenda for the following year. So anytime you can get the input you need … you’re allowed to focus your efforts a lot better.”
Members of the public are invited and can participate in workshop sessions, if they wish, Edwards said. In past years, however, public attendance has been very low.
City and county entities also are expected to give brief updates on what is in the works, something that Liberty County Development Authority CEO Ron Tolley said he enjoys.
“I particularly enjoy hearing the updates from all of the entities. A lot of progress is frequently made in Liberty County that we miss hearing about or tend to forget. I also enjoy seeing people come together to collaborate on the comprehensive needs of the county and agree to cooperate in addressing those needs,” Tolley said.
The LCDA CEO said he has seen several projects come to fruition as a result of the workshops.
“The formation of the Savannah Tech Partnership with the Liberty County Development Authority, Liberty County Board of Commissioners, city of Hinesville and Liberty County Board of Education was very notable. The partnership came out of one of the initial workshops and quickly got a temporary campus started in Hinesville,” Tolley said. “The approximately 10-year effort of that partnership culminated in the permanent Liberty County Campus of Savannah Technical College. That partnership ultimately provided benefit to literally thousands of Liberty County residents.”