A crowd filled council chambers Thursday evening for a District 5 town-hall meeting.
That district’s councilman, Kenneth Shaw, led the meeting. Guests included City Manager Billy Edwards, Mayor Jim Thomas and state Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler.
“Get involved in your government,” Shaw told his constituents. “If you complain but don’t get involved, you really have nothing to complain about.”
Edwards listed and explained several city projects. Construction dominated the list, noting first the city was close to completing a new entrance to the public works department, then citing the need for repairs to South Main Street.
“We’re keenly aware of the need for pavement repairs on South Main,” he said then admitted the city does not have the funding for more permanent resurfacing. “We’re trying to be good stewards of the tax payers’ money and still get South Main Street repaired.”
Other projects include widening Veterans Parkway to four lanes from E.G. Miles Parkway to Fort Stewart. He said that project is delayed by sequestration, which is holding back federal funding from Fort Stewart’s part. He said Central Avenue is also scheduled for widening, which will lead to a new library and a Liberty campus for Armstrong Atlantic State University.
Another project shared with Fort Stewart is the city’s 25-year-old water treatment plant, which Edwards said needs $17 million to $20 million in upgrades.
Carter began by saying the budget was the most important issue in the General Assembly this year and every year.
“The budget this year is $19.8 billion,” the former Pooler mayor and state representative said. “It was $21.1 billion in 2008. Revenues have picked up some, but unlike the federal government that can print money, we have to prioritize our budget so we can provide what’s most important to our citizens.”
The senator commended the relationship Hinesville and Liberty County have with Fort Stewart, then talked about the three possible scenarios for the installation as the Army draws down its forces. Stewart-Hunter could lose up to 8,000 soldiers, he said. Or the troop strength could remain the same or grow by up to 3,000 soldiers. He emphasized that Georgia has 13 military installations, suggesting the state is vulnerable to cuts and communities should prepare.
On education, Carter said in 2010 42 percent of jobs in the state required a college degree or certification, then noted projections for 2020 suggest 62 percent of jobs will require higher education and training. He called legislation that raised the requirements for HOPE scholarships to technical schools a mistake, saying the General Assembly recently reversed that requirement so more students can afford technical training.
The question and answers session included questions and complaints about the state changing the birthday ad valorem tax for vehicles to a one-time title tax for new vehicles. Another hot issue was the difficulty in getting a driver’s license renewed due to the requirement for a birth certificate, passport or marriage license.
Thomas thanked Carter for his support in getting the legislature to support Hinesville’s campus for AASU.