The City of Hinesville held an impromptu meeting July 29, to update local business owners and the public on the progress of the Bradwell Park renovations. The meeting was not livestreamed on the City’s Facebook page but local business owner Anka Hinze streamed the meeting on Zum Rosenhof’s Facebook page.
Someone at the meeting asked if the City had a plan to help sustain small businesses, currently being blocked due to construction debris and road closures. They asked if there was a plan for those businesses that failed to qualify for any of the City’s current small loan grants.
Hinesville City Manager Kenneth Howard said they will discuss the process at the next council meeting to see if the City is able to assist companies that applied but were denied the grants.
“Because the criteria was already approved by Mayor and Council,” Howard said. “I don’t have the authority at this point to change the policy. We will have to bring that back to the Council because we had several businesses that were in that category.
Brickwall Café owner Nick Reardon said his business has dropped by 76 percent.
“And we’ve already lost three staff members,” Reardon said, adding there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency in assisting the suffering businesses. “It sounds like there is a little bit of dilly-dally going on.”
Reardon said they were also told the COVID grants would be extended to the businesses in downtown obstructed by the construction process.
Howard said Liberty County received 12 million from the federal government. He said Hinesville received 6 million and other cities got funds too. But he noted Hinesville was the only City to implement grants for the local shops.
“We were the only entity to offer grants,” he said. “We are desperately trying to help. And we are trying to respond to the needs of those who didn’t qualify.”
Hinze said the first grants offered by the City were easy to appl and qualify for. She said she didn’t apply for a second grant because the City was requesting personal information about her employees, business contacts and vendors.
“Those were inappropriate questions,” she said.
“I understand all your frustrations, “Councilwoman Diana Reid said. “This is the first time I heard that it was going to be presented to us. If I thought there was any way we could have had an emergency called meeting to assist you all we would have done that. We meet next Thursday and if there is any way we can help and expedite it, we will. Please don’t think that we don’t care, because we do.”
Reid said she was upset to hear how bad things are and didn’t learn about the meeting until the day before while attending the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority meeting.
“If there is any way we can assist you all, we will,” Reid said.
Councilman Karl Riles said knowing what they know now, they can review the parameters to see what they City can do.
Councilman Keith Jenkins said business owners should always feel comfortable in reaching out to Councilmembers to express their concerns.
Howard explained sidewalk demolition has started. He said this will likely cause some businesses to have limited access of their front entries for their customers.
He said inclement weather had also delayed work. Howard said they’ve listened to concerns and plan to do a lot of promotions on the radio, in the newspaper, on digital billboards and on social media to make sure people were aware that the businesses around the park are open. They also plan to hang posters with renderings to show the public what is going on and what the finished park will look like.
Howard said the focus of the promotion is for the businesses on Commerce Street which will be have their front access severely restricted. He said local businesses should all work together and share the posts and help spread information.
“We are all in this together,’ he said.
Hinze suggested that the posts should include all the businesses surrounding the park which are also being affected by construction.
City Public Relations Manager Heather Teter said she plans to put out information so people will know about different parking options while the roads are closed.