Richmond Hill City Manager Mike Melton gave a state of the city address at a recent Richmond Hill Exchange Club meeting. He predicts 2009 to be a good year, with the city "moving in the right direction" despite the downturn in the national economy.
Melton projects continued growth in the city throughout the year.
He said the city has rapidly grown in recent years, and cited some population figures. In 1990, the population was 2,934.
He estimates the population now to be 10,132. He referenced a recent Georgia Tech study that reflects a five percent annual increase over the next several years to wind up with a population "well above 15,000" by 2030.
As an example of growth trends, Melton went over some figures on building permits. Fifty-six permits were issued in 1999; 2000 – 153; 2006 – 409, which Melton referred to as a "banner year"; 2007 – 289; 2008 – 261.
"I was surprised, given the economic situation and some of the problems in the housing industry, that we actually issued 261 permits. I think we did pretty well last year considering the economy."
Melton predicts to top that figure this year, pointing to a forthcoming growth spurt at Fort Stewart as a driving factor.
"Fort Stewart is growing by more than 4,000 soldiers in the next 12-18 months. Those 4,000 soldiers will bring family members with them, making for 12-15,000 people moving to the Hinesville-Richmond Hill area. Along with them, you’re going to have Department of the Army civilians, contractors and a lot of other people to support that surge. Many are coming this year, with the bulk of them coming in 2010."
Melton said many factors, such as crime statistics and the reputation of Bryan schools, will bring many of those folks to Richmond Hill.
He said, this year alone, Fort Stewart is building $430 million worth of infrastructure. Between now and 2013, when their infrastructure buildup is to be completed, over a billion dollars worth of construction is scheduled.
Melton said 2009 will see some city projects come to life, such as:
- The City Center, which he referred to as "the crown jewel of the city", is slated to be up and running by the end of the year. It will include a conference center and office space. It is currently being constructed at the back of J.F. Gregory Park.
- Phase one of the Streetscape Project will break ground in approximately six months. It will include sidewalks, grassy medians, crosswalks and benches in the area of city hall and Hwy. 144.
- The amphitheater inside J.F. Gregory Park will be constructed in 6-8 months.