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Mayor: Hinesville's future is bright
Thomas delivers State of City Address
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Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas delivers his State of the City Address at a Liberty County Chamber of Commerce Progress Through People luncheon Thursday. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas told community leaders Thursday the city’s future looks bright, despite the country’s economic woes.
Thomas offered his yearly “State of the City Address” during a Liberty County Chamber of Commerce Progress Through People Luncheon at the Econo Lodge in Hinesville. Community leaders and business people packed the spacious conference room, eager to hear the mayor discuss the city’s challenges and successes during the past year.
Thomas said Hinesville may be perceived as a small city, but it isn’t, he said.
“We are an important, mid-size city,” Thomas said, as he elaborated on the symbiotic relationship the city has with Fort Stewart and how the two entities support one other.
“When the fifth brigade never came, that set off a chain of events,” the mayor said.
Thomas said Fort Stewart is Hinesville’s “main economic engine” and estimated the military brings in more than $4 billion to coastal Georgia communities.
Because the cancellation of an additional brigade drastically impacted the city, Hinesville’s leaders took the initiative and approached state and national leaders, he said.
“We made eight trips to Washington, D.C.,” Thomas said. “If you’re not there, you’re not in their presence.”
The mayor said the more Hinesville leaders stressed to officials in D.C. Fort Stewart’s impact on the local economy, the more support the city received from state and federal officials.
Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership Director Jeff Ricketson said before the meeting Hinesville likely will receive “the lion’s share” of brigade mitigation funding from the Office of Economic Adjustment. The funding is forthcoming, but no one yet knows how the money will be disbursed among several area communities, Ricketson said.
The mayor said Hinesville should work toward helping Fort Stewart acquire more troops and units for the installation.
In addition, the city has taken steps to promote itself and make Hinesville known on a national and international level.
“We realized we weren’t telling our story,” Thomas said.
The mayor said the city hired Krystal Britton as the city’s public relations manager last year, and recently unveiled a new brand. Hinesville also redesigned the city Web site and will use social networking sites to reach more people.
“We have Councilman (David) Anderson to thank for the tagline,” he said. “The city’s new tagline is ‘Home for a Day or a Lifetime.’”
Thomas said 85 percent of married soldiers and their families stationed at Fort Stewart live in Hinesville. Although the military represents a transient population, Hinesville should convince them to retire here once their Army service is over, the mayor said. Thomas, an Army veteran, remained in Hinesville when he retired from the service.
In addition to addressing the city’s economic outlook, the mayor offered an update on the new city hall construction. Thomas said the 48,000-square foot project will cost between $6 million and $7 million to build. The Hinesville Police Station will house the interim city hall for 12-18 months, he said.
The mayor also affirmed the city is financially sound, saying there are enough funds in reserve to operate the city for two and a half months should there be a wide-spread disaster.
He pointed out the millage rate was not raised this year. Thomas said the city delayed filling some staff positions, held off some capital projects and reduced spending to maintain the current property tax rate.
Thomas said residents will receive a full financial report in about three weeks when the city’s annual report is mailed out with city water bills.
“Or you can find it on our new Web site,” he said.
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