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Officials react to brigade loss compensation
Feds offering $75 million to spark economy
John McIver2
Chairman John McIver - photo by Photo provided.
Instead of 10,000 new soldiers and their families, Liberty County is getting $75 million. The Defense Appropriations Committee announced Friday it will parcel out the funds to area governments to help offset the lost investments, estimated at $450 million, made in preparing for the promised arrival of a 5th Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
Preparations for the soldiers’ arrivals stopped short in June when the Army decided not to include Fort Stewart in brigade expansions. However, even after the announcement, national, state and Liberty County officials continued to lobby and appeal to the Department of Defense, and it seems their persistence has paid off.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, who sits on the Defense Appropriations Committee, has been working closely with local government officials to lobby Congress on behalf of Fort Stewart and the Hinesville area. He said he’s satisfied with the compensatory offering.
“Hinesville and Liberty County have stepped up when the military asked them to and now it’s time for the Pentagon to step up and help Hinesville,” he said. “This is not a hand out but a helping hand and will allow the area to recover from this situation on a strong footing.”
The money came from the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment.
“Its purpose is to ease the economic burden on the local community, businesses and government,” Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said.
According to Paul Andreshak, Friends of Liberty executive director, the money may not be a complete solution, given all of the community’s expenditures.
“The question becomes we still haven’t solved some of private organization’s issues,” Andreshak said of the looming loan payments for develop-
ment projects. “There’s still people who have money invested in infrastructures.”
Doling out federal funds may not solve all Liberty County’s problems, but it’s an undeniable bonus.
“It sounds great to me,” said Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver late Friday afternoon. “I know we have some projects we can work on.”
McIver said he hopes the money will help to offset some shortages in the county budget and improve the quality of life for area residents. He also pointed out a few upcoming capital projects.
“I know we need some road improvements,” McIver said. “If there’s $75 million, I’m sure there are some things we can put on the table for some possible funding projects.”
As specific guidelines become clear, details will need to be ironed out. It has not yet been decided how the $75 million will be allocated to local government entities.
Fort Stewart officials will not be involved in the transaction or the allocation of funds.
“We’ve got to wait and see the language and the laws and see what the bill says then we can interpret it,” Thomas said of the government-to-government transaction.
“It behooves city and county governments to formulate executable projects that fall in whatever parameters that are going to be put on the money,” Andreshak said.
Thomas said the money will be reflected in the 2010 budget, which goes into effect in October. 
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the senators and the congressmen have all been instrumental in keeping this issue on the forefront,” Andreshak said. “Everybody is pulling for us.”
He said he thinks the government leaders’ group effort, persistence and correspondence must have touched a nerve. But, even after the money is received, Andreshak acknowledges there’s still work to be done.
“From the Friends of Liberty of Fort Stewart perspective, we are going to continue to support the soldiers and the families on Fort Stewart and try to increase the economic base in the area,” he said. “If it means more lobbying … that’s what we’re going to continue.”
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