County-wide planning retreat
• When: March 28-30
• Where: The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, St. Simons Island
• Purpose: Government and community leaders will discuss their priorities and projects for the year and identify the top three community issues.
Representatives from Liberty County governments and organizations will convene Wednesday through Friday for the annual Liberty County county-wide planning workshop.
This year, the workshop will be held at the King and Price Beach & Golf Resort on St. Simons Island. Sessions begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday and run during business hours through noon Friday.
According to County Administrator Joey Brown, staff members from the city of Hinesville and the county work together to secure a facility and an estimated cost for the workshop, excluding participant lodging fees. The overall estimate is divided by a number of anticipated participants to generate a registration fee.
This year, the overall cost — including fees and lodging for three University of Georgia Fanning Institute facilitators — is estimated at $16,000, and registration fees are $275 per participant.
Because the costs are shouldered by participants, no single entity foots the bill for the workshop; rather, funding comes from travel budgets allocated to the staff members and elected officials.
But Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel said that sometimes, residents don’t understand what happens at the workshop.
“When you get the community leaders together in one place, it’s a great opportunity to talk about what the community needs,” he said. “We can’t save the world, but we sure can talk about what goes on in our community.”
Entities registered for this year’s workshop include: the cities of Hinesville, Flemington, Riceboro, Midway and Walthourville; the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority; the Liberty County Development Authority; Liberty Regional Medical Center; the board of education and Savannah Technical College; the chamber of commerce and convention and visitors’ bureau; the library and Fort Stewart.
Sprinkel said the event offers a chance for each entity to update others on current projects and priorities to paint a comprehensive picture of the county.
“The city of Hinesville, on 51 weeks out of the year, is concerned about what goes on in Hinesville,” he said, adding that each entity is the same. “This is a few days that we can come together and really focus on the corporate needs of our entire community and county.”
Flemington City Councilman Paul Hawkins said he has attended all but one of the workshops and that he finds them to be very educational and informative.
They give a chance for each of the municipalities to share initiatives and ideas, and they’re where some of the planning for a seamless corridor into Hinesville has come from, Hawkins said.
He said the Flemington water services and the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission are among the projects that were conceived at previous workshops.
Other projects that originated in previous workshops include the MidCoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield and the Savannah Technical College Liberty Campus, Sprinkel said.
During the conference, each participant will have the chance to introduce a topic of his or her concern; once all ideas have been brought forward, the group will vote on the issues that matter most.
Topics receiving the greatest number of votes will then be identified as the top three community issues.
Last year, poverty, transportation and water were the top picks, as selected by about 75 participants.
In transportation, the Coastal Regional Commission Regional Transportation Roundtable has accepted a constrained list of projects for the 1-percent sales tax voter referendum on ballots on July 31, as created by the Transportation Investment Act of 2010.
County and municipal governments are prioritizing their project lists in the event the tax passes at the polls.
With water issues, attendees discussed salt-water intrusion into the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies much of Georgia with the element.
According to previous Courier reports, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said last year that the solution to water issues is to create a conservation and reuse plan and constrain coastal population growth.
The county also is in the process of enrolling residents in its forthcoming rural water system in the Holmestown and Screven Fork areas.
Poverty was identified as an issue due to the county’s 16 percent poverty rate during last year’s meeting.
This year, military issues, a 2010 Census appeal update, a regional legislative overview from the Coastal Regional Commission and the Transportation Investment Act referendum strategy are among the items on the agenda.
Fanning Institute facilitators Langford D. Holbrook, Skip Teaster and David Hooker will be on hand to structure the discussion, identify priorities and keep the meetings focused.