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Grant applications was misleading
Letter to editor
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Dear editor: In early 2009, Richmond Hill applied for a federal grant for the J.F. Gregory Park Wetlands Expansion Project, which sought to acquire 39.2 acres in two tracts – one at 10 acres, the other at 29.2 acres – adjacent to the park. The city was seeking $266,100 in matching grant funds for a total of $532,200 to buy the land. 
According to our tax assessor, both tracts are owned by council member Jimmy Hires, who paid $5,200 for the 29.2 acre tract in 2000 and $25,000 for the 10 acres in 1993. The current taxable value for both is $39,800 and both are across the railroad track from the park. The larger tract is sandwiched between both railroad tracks.
In a letter dated Feb. 24, 2009, former mayor Richard Davis writes to Hires about the city’s interest in purchasing the two parcels and states: “These wetlands areas (about 60 percent of these parcels are wetlands) have been identified as threatened by future development … The intent of the acquisition is to conserve an Ogeechee River tributary and its adjacent wetlands …” Hires and Davis signed the letter of intent.
However, almost seven months prior, Hires sends a letter to Davis, then council members and city staff stating, “Please be advised that I have this day (July 7, 2008) executed a letter of intent to the city of Richmond Hill to empower the city to proceed to apply for a grant which may result in the purchase of these parcels by the city …” When exactly did Hires learn of the plan, and when exactly did he sign the letter?
Bottom line, the city applied for matching funds totaling $532,200 to buy 39.2 acres from Hires that Davis identified as 60 percent wetlands. But the project proposed for the funds was never put up for public review, which the city stated on the grant application, saying there was no opportunity. However, there was ample time between July 2008 and February 2009.
In September 2010, the grant was essentially rejected. Hires and Marilyn Hodges are the only two left on the council who participated in that grant application, which asserted the value of Hires’ land was $532,200.

Sheila Miner Galbreath
Richmond Hill

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