HINESVILLE, GA (WTOC) - Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas called $24 million from Washington a lifeline, not a lottery ticket. The money reimburses the city for what they spent to build for an Army brigade that never arrived.
"It makes it all real and made worthwhile, all the trips to Washington. To find the dollar amount and to also know Congress will support us with relief money from losing that brigade," the mayor stated.
The Army planned to bring an additional brigade 3,000 to 5,000 troops, plus families, to Fort Stewart and asked Hinesville and other communities to get ready for growth that would spill over from the post.
"The waste water treatment plant cost about $26 million, so we're not quite back to square one," he noted.
The plant was already on line last year when the Secretary of Defense scaled back the Army's plans and cut out Fort Stewart completely. The city has been trying to figure out how to shift their budget enough to pay for the plant since the announcement. They'd planned to use impact fees from construction and the expansion of utility customers. With the plant and other projects already here, the mayor has hopes Fort Stewart can still grow and bring Hinesville with it.
"If you build it, they will come. That's what we're looking for," he hoped aloud.
He said Hinesville, Liberty County, and the Coastal Empire is still the Army's best place to go.
The relief money does not extend to developers who bought and cleared land and planned subdivisions, condos and other housing. Clay Sikes, of the Sikes Group, is one of those developers. He said he and others maintain some hope of redress from Washington at some point. In the meantime, Sikes said, builders are coming to Liberty County despite the absence of a 5th brigade.