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Survey says: Liberty County has potential
Riceboro Mayor Chris Stacy, left, and Flemington City Council member Larry Logan greet each other before the mid-year retreat. Photo by Pat Donahue

FLEMING — Respondents to a survey on Liberty County earlier this year chose one word as the far and away leader in describing the community.

They chose potential much more than any other offering.

A task force charged with working on community branding delved into the results from the survey, conducted from mid-January to mid-February, during the annual county- wide planning workshop review Wednesday morning.

“Liberty County has tremendous potential,” said Assistant County Administrator Joseph Mosley, a native of Bulloch County.

“We were surprised to see the findings and proud to see that they said we were a community with so much potential,” Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said.

Among the survey questions were what were the best things that attract visitors to Liberty County, what are the community’s top assets and what respondents would do to positively affect the community in the next 10-20 years.

Proximity to Savannah and Jacksonville was rated as the community’s top asset, and Fort Stewart and the community’s scenic beauty were listed as the top features that attract visitors.

Tops among the community’s top challenges were attracting business and entertainment and traffic congestion. As for what to add to the community, a convention center, an events center and more quality events topped the responses.

Genese Baker also pointed out that the annual Christmas Parade drew the most responses on the question of which event people have attended, but that question also was the one that was skipped the most.

One of the driving purposes from the survey was to have each community entity tell a consistent and similar message.

“What we found interesting about the survey responses was not just the overwhelming responses one way or another but the underwhelming responses to certain things,” Baker said. “There are easy ways we can address some of the items that scored lower just by telling the same story.”

Baker also pointed out that while Fort Stewart and scenic beauty were the top answers in what draws visitors to Liberty County, “We have great events, great arts and cultural opportunities,” she said.

Not only getting the message to be consistent but getting it out at all was a common refrain. Respondents said they relied heavily on Facebook to find out what was happening in the community.

Other information also gets overlooked or has trouble finding an audience. For instance, Mayor Levern Clancy noted that the City of Midway’s Midway Day on April 27 is fast approaching and Liberty Regional Medical Center CEO Tammy Mims also said the hospital’s emergency department is the busiest — by far — of any critical access hospital in the state, seeing more than 30,000 patients annually. The next busiest handled 18,000 a year.

Dispelling rumors is also a hurdle, as school system Deputy Superintendent Dr. Zheadric Barbra revealed in the tales of the fence in front of Liberty County High School’s Donell Woods Stadium. Soil samples did not reveal poor soil in spots where the fence was going to be installed and there was conflicting information on a needed utility company easement. The school system, Dr. Barbra said, did not pay twice for the fencing to go in but it was instead shouldered by the contractor.

Among the words chosen the least to describe Liberty County were clean and safe and retreat attendees agreed the county is clean and safe but that message isn’t getting through. How to remedy that is expected to be part of the topics discussed at this fall’s annual county- wide retreat.

“The goal was to be on the same sheet of music and to communicate to explore Liberty,” Baker said. “We’ve got to remember it has to be pushed to the same place so we communicate the same messaging. Explore Liberty is a great place to start.”

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