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First, I’d like to thank all the citizens of Hardeeville who came out to voice their opinion about Jasper County’s decision to cancel the fire contract with the city of Hardeeville and build two new stations near the existing stations.
Several hundred people attended either a “town hall” meeting at Sun City, the County Council meeting on Feb. 19 and/or wrote emails to the council members. Although their opinions failed to sway the council, it truly was an extraordinary exhibition of participatory democracy. Thanks also to the Hardeeville City Council and the Hardeeville Fire Department for their unified stand against this decision.
Now it is time to move on. On March 7, the City Council debated the offer from Jasper County to provide fire service to the rural district for three more years until they complete plans to build their station on Stiney Rd. As it is evident that it will take time for Jasper County to implement their plan, Hardeeville certainly will step up to insure continuing fire protection to those areas. As of this writing, the City Council has sent back their response and will await the County Council decision.
I think it is important to note that this March 7 meeting was held in public, live streamed and video taped as all open meetings are. The Hardeeville City Council believes that only through recorded public debate can government achieve transparency and an indisputable public record of every Council Member’s opinions and statements; and thereby eliminate unverifiable comments.
One of the misconceptions that circulated was that Hardeeville would raise taxes to off-set the $732,000 that the county will take away from the city. That is not true.
Yes, the city will have to find a way to compensate for that loss but we anticipate that increased revenue from growth will be greater than $732,000. Yes, some projects may be delayed or staff additions may be postponed, but the City Council is committed to do everything possible to reduce the millage for the eight-straight year. The budget process has begun for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 and these questions will be answered in the coming months of spring.
Now, some of you may be wondering how the city can lose $732,000 of revenue and still lower taxes. The simple answer is economic development. Single-family home permits were up 77 percent in 2018 and new industry continues to join our city. Waste Management, Paul Davis Restoration, Parker’s and Lobo Granite and Marble have all purchased land in the city in the past 15 months. And the first week in March came roaring in with two exciting new developments.
On March 7, the City Council approved the annexation of 145 acres near Pine Arbor Rd and approved zoning for 620 homes that will price in the $150,000-$225,000 range. The builder, Landmark 24 out of Savannah, is a high-quality home builder who has done excellent work in Bluffton and the city is excited to add this badly needed inventory of workforce housing. Let’s welcome Landmark 24 to Hardeeville.
On the industrial side, North Signal Capital has purchased 510 acres on the south end of the River Port Industrial Park and will invest several hundred million dollars over the next 10 years, bringing hundreds of quality jobs to Hardeeville. Their plans call for an initial 150,000-square-foot building and more to follow as each is sold.
This development is part of the 5,100-acre site owned for many years by Stratford Land Holdings out of Dallas. As part of the development agreement, Stratford will now pay for the building of Hardeeville’s fourth Fire Station No. 84 to service the southern end of the City and North Signal Capital has agreed to purchase a ladder truck. The City Council thanks both Stratford Land and North Signal Capital for their commitment to the citizens of Hardeeville.
By aggressively pursuing appropriate residential, commercial and industrial development, Hardeeville is increasing revenue each year. The council’s philosophy is to use this new income to improve services, build up the necessary infrastructure throughout the city, and reduce taxes. Each of these three strategies makes our city more desirable to new investors and thus makes the growth projections sustainable into the foreseeable future.
This is how Starship Hardeeville flies!
Harry Williams is the mayor of Hardeeville.