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Editor’s note: This letter was sent in as an open letter.

To: The Citizens of Liberty County

I would like to take this opportunity to address issues surrounding the purchase of land for a public park and boatlift in eastern Liberty County. Those opposed to the purchase have circulated false information concerning the purchase and other matters related to the project.
In response, I offer the following brief review of the actual circumstances relating to the land acquisition and events preceding the purchase.
On April 21, 2008, the board of commissioners purchased land located along the North Newport River on Colonel’s Island for purposes of establishing a public park and boatlift facility. The acquisition of 3.47 acres, at a cost of $1.54 million, follows several years of intense work by the board and Georgia Department of Natural Resources to identity and secure a site for these purposes. The purchase also coincides with the long-range plan for recreation in Liberty County and was listed as a top priority by community leaders during recent county-wide planning sessions. This acquisition was deemed of even greater importance in recent months by the Board and the Department of Natural Resources given the public’s increasingly limited access to our local waterways (such as the privatization of Yellow Bluff Marina and potential sale of Halfmoon Marina). The public necessity and benefit of such access is undeniable and vital to ensuring that this tremendous public resource is shared by all our citizens.
To ensure economical and otherwise suitable water access, the board, in consultation with the Department of Natural Resources, actively identified and evaluated numerous potential sites. These efforts included, but are not limited to: (1) consideration of the County Park at Jones Creek (which completely silts in at low tide); (2) review of a strip of land along I-95 (which required an excessive amount of marsh crossing); (3) conversations with a large landowner concerning access to Laurel View Creek (for which a long term lease on the property was unavailable); (4) conversations with Mr. Otis Amason for possible purchase of property owned by his cousin, Ms. Alice Fillingame, and located in Sunbury (price of $6-8 million not feasible); (5) consideration of Eve’s Park located at Halfmoon (deemed unsuitable due to potential for erosion and high maintenance costs); (6) conversations with Mr. Charles Holm, whose son is a realtor and supposedly had a pocket listing for Halfmoon Marina, at a price of $3.5 million (determined not feasible for several reasons); (7) consideration of paper company land on Olmstead Pasture (already under negotiations for development with Hampton Island); (8) review of Stevens Park (which would require extensive dredging and of little interest to the trustees of the site); and (9) consideration of a small dirt boat ramp near Lake Pamona (which was dry at low tide and provided no parking).
In late 2007, the board was approached by landowners along the North Newport River on Colonel’s Island concerning property available for sale to the county. Prior to purchase, however, a comprehensive analysis was conducted for this site to better ensure the project’s sustained functional and financial viability. The Department of Natural Resources participated in this evaluation and provided invaluable assistance, including surveys, depth readings, lift sketches and other meaningful studies. The findings of this analysis were very favorable and have resulted in a pledge by the Department of Natural Resources to utilize federal funds for the project’s benefit. In sum, this site has been determined to be ideally suited for the public uses intended by the county and desired by our citizens.
In addition to the above evaluations, the board reviewed two independent appraisals of the subject property, valued at the proposed sales price, in order to confirm the reasonableness of the acquisition. After review of these appraisals and careful consideration of all other aspects of the proposed project, the board elected to secure temporary financing for the project through a resolution to borrow, dated April 17, 2008, and formally closed on the property on April 21, 2008. The transaction fully complied with all legal and financial requirements and was otherwise consistent with good practices. The board’s intent is to repay this debt through use of special purpose sales tax funds and not county property taxes.
It is also important to note that specific facility plans have not been finalized, as it is the board’s intent to fully involve the public in all aspects of the project’s development. With the assistance of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the board is dedicated to working with the public to ensure delivery of a project that provides access to marine activities for the entire county. It is a project of which I am confident that our citizens will be proud for generations to come.

John D. Mclver
Chairman, Liberty County Board of Commissioners
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