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Tax meeting draws critics
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About ten citizens attended the first town hall meeting on the special local option sales tax Thursday at the Midway Civic Center, but they had plenty of questions and comments.
When voters go to the polls Nov. 4, they will decide if the one-percent sales tax earmarked for capital improvements and major purchases in the county should be extended for six years.
Two more meetings are scheduled on consecutive Thursdays at 6 p.m. The Oct. 23 meeting will be at the Liberty Campus of Savannah Technical College and the final session Oct. 30 will be at the Courthouse Annex. The measure on the election ballot is intended to raise $51.5 million for local projects.
County Commission Chairman John McIver and County Administrator Joey Brown lead several county officials in a brief description of the projects to be funded.
An estimated 15.5 percent of the total — $8 million — will go toward bonds to construct a new Liberty County justice center in downtown Hinesville.  This brought an immediate reaction from the people in attendance, including many points that have been voiced before.
The objection that the justice center should be built on the old hospital site on Highway 84, on land the county already owns was heard again and again dismissed by officials. One citizen said the plans for the building called for expensive features such as decorative wood paneling and carved stone which should be eliminated to cut costs.
“We’re not building a tabernacle,” the man said. “The only wood you need is the judge’s gavel.”
Brown replied that very little wood was included in the plans, mostly over the courtroom doors.
Another speaker said he was concerned about the plan to use the SPLOST money to float a bond issue, because the bond market had suffered in the worldwide financial meltdown and was charging interest rates of 10 percent.
Brown said the municipal bond market in which Liberty County deal “has remained fairly steady. I don’t think you will see Liberty County paying 10 percent.”
An item for replacement of the emergency medical service building brought several comments because it was listed as hospital improvements.
“People are tired of paying for that hospital,” one man said.
Brown said the funding was specifically for EMS and that he would try to clarify that point.
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