Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and City Manager Billy Edwards recently joined a group of local representatives from the Liberty County Development Authority, The Sikes Group and officials from neighboring cities for a second trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the 5th Brigade Combat Team to be stationed at Fort Stewart. They didn’t get any concrete answers.
The group visited with several lawmakers, but officials in Washington said they didn’t have a definite answer. However, more information may be released between now and May 15.
“We’ve been waiting. The eighth was supposed to be the date,” said Thomas, who added he understands Fort Stewart officials can’t do much to hurry the decision.
“The decision is not at the Army level,” he said. “They want them to come here.”
Thomas said President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is currently out of town, are responsible for making the final call.
The group of local representatives hosted a reception in D.C. to celebrate Fort Stewart’s Army Community Excellence Award and to keep the Hinesville installation fresh in lawmakers’ minds. The reception cost $2,300 and all parties represented contributed money.
“What we’re trying to do is show we have support,” Thomas said.
According to the mayor, the event and the other lobbying trips were important because if the brigade doesn’t come, the city may suffer a major economic loss. He said he recently found out through a survey that Fort Stewart has invested more than $451 million into the local economy.
“I think that it’s a really critical issue. We’ll lose significant investment in the city,” Thomas said. “The city is building a water reclamation plant with the expectations that the brigade is coming. We’re making road improvements, the school board has committed to build a school on Fort Stewart, several government agencies have invested millions of dollars,” Thomas said.
While nothing is definite, both Edwards and Thomas said they feel they have a lot of support from representatives in Washington.
“We were very well received. It was really reassuring,” Edwards said.
After the City Council received a briefing on the trip at its last meeting, Councilman Kenneth Shaw expressed his appreciation for the group’s hard work.
“You’re out there working really hard,” he said. “You’re always keeping us informed. We really appreciate that.”