Hinesville, Midway and Riceboro leaders met Monday with Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette and County Administrator Joey Brown to talk about municipal and county projects to promote November’s referendum to renew the special-local-option-sales-tax.
Brown said SPLOST VI could generate $54 million over six years.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and City Manager Billy Edwards, as well as Midway Mayor Dr. Clementine Washington and Riceboro Mayor William Austin, presented cases for road and other projects. Brown said he had received lists of preferred road projects from Flemington and Walthourville, but not Allenhurst and Gum Branch.
Washington came with a list of roads in Midway she said needed repair, and she asked for funds for a multi-purpose city hall and to renovate the fire station. She also talked about the need for an eastside emergency clinic, saying it takes too long for ambulances to get to the Eastside and back to Liberty Regional Medical Center.
Austin said Riceboro needs to expand and renovate its existing city hall. He also would like to pave dirt roads like Dogwood and Magnolia. Peter King Road and Barrington Ferry Road need resurfacing, he said.
Austin questioned a county project to extend the runway at Midcoast Regional Airport. Thomas explained a company that repairs and rebuilds airplanes needs the runway extended in order to set up business at the airport. Riceboro’s mayor wanted to know if there was contract with the company to assure it would come if the runway is extended. He also wanted to know how many jobs it would bring.
Brown said here was an agreement, but didn’t say if there was a contract. Thomas said the company would initially bring about 25 jobs, but could potentially employ several hundred. Lovette said the county had told the Army years ago as part of the dual-use agreement with Wright Army Airfield that it would extend the runway, but said funds have not been available. He said the 1,500-foot extension project is receiving about $1 million from the state.
“I didn’t come here today to talk about roads,” Edwards said. “Our current priority is to retire the debt for construction of our city hall and public works facilities, which is about $5,330,000. If we’re just talking about servicing that debt, we’re talking about $2,575,000.”
Edwards said the city’s second priority is to replace its Fire Station 1. He had no cost estiamtes, other than it would probably be a two-story building on the same site.
Other Hinesville wish-list items included renovating Bradwell Park at a cost of about $405,000 and realigning the entrance of Bryant Commons with Ryon Avenue on U.S. 84 for an estimated $1.3 million. Thomas said that realignment also would include a sign with information about upcoming events. Hinesville also wants to build a new park near Airport Road that would include outdoor basketball courts and a skate park.
Brown and Liberty County CFO Kim McGlothlin asked Edwards if Hinesville intended to finance part of its projects with bonds. Edwards said he wasn’t sure how that could be done without affecting the county. Bonding attorney John Pannell with Gray, Pannell & Woodward, Attorneys at Law, was on hand to answer questions.
“If it’s a standalone transaction for the city, I think you can make it so it doesn’t affect the county (regarding distribution of SPLOST funds),” Pannell said, explaining the city could finance all or part of the costs with bonds. “You’ve got several options, really.”
During lunch, Brown went over the list of projects with municipal leaders.
He listed the project costs under various categories, including roads ($15.6 million); debt retirement for the justice center, Hinesville City Hall and public works facilities ($12.6 million total); recreation ($3.2 million); public safety for 911 equipment and vehicles ($3.7 million); public safety for fire departments ($2 million); new fire station ($3.5 million); a county records center ($500,000); drainage ($2 million); airport ($4 million); Riceboro City Hall renovation ($500,000); Midway City Hall ($1.75 million); and capital (major construction) projects like the eastside emergency clinic and a county event center (no costs estimate).
At that point, Brown noted they had exceeded the $54 million and had not yet addressed funding the Liberty County Development Authority or improvements to Savannah Technical Institute’s Liberty campus. He said county commissioners would look at the numbers in detail at a SPLOST meeting at
6 p.m. Monday. The municipal leaders agreed to meet again on May 14.