EVANS, Ga (WJBF)- Monday morning, a Columbia County committee met to approve a proposed list of projects for the extended special purpose local option sales tax that voters will decide on in November.
Now, the project list is headed to the the Board of Commissioners for debate. District 1 Commissioner, Connie Melear, said the proposed SPLOST is just an extension of the current one cent sales tax, which will be ending at the end of the year.
“I think once the citizens see the list of items on here and get excited about them and realize that most of them are very necessary items like fire trucks and park upgrades and new fire stations that they’ll be excited to those things happen for our county,” explained Melear. “It’s not an additional penny. It’s the same penny we’re already paying so, there won’t be any impact to your pocketbook.”
Commissioners met with the public through the month of June to get their input on the proposed list of projects.
It would cost more than $280 million over 6 years. It includes upgraded fire engines, work for county parks and storm water improvements.
One man said commissioners weren’t clear enough about exactly what they wanted to do with the money from the sales tax. Lee Muns said at the public meetings attendees were given a survey and not much else.
“The county, as educated as we are and the type of administration that we have, there’s no reason why the public meetings that were held, would not have been more informative for the voters and the citizens.”
Muns said one item he is most concerned about is a proposal for a new office building– which would cost tax payers more than $28 million.
“To go and spend $37 million to build a new administrative building and renovate existing buildings when those buildings look fine? I don’t see a reason for that. There are much more important things that need to be done,” he said.
When asked about the proposed new building and renovations, Melear explained that some of the current buildings are old and experiencing problems such as mold and flooding and serious roof leaks when it rains. She also said that as the county continues to grow, so does the need for more space for its government.
“We’re a little bit landlocked right here on our current campus and as we’ve grown as a county, we’ve added employees, added the need for space. And some of our buildings have some age on them,” Melear said. “This one where we’re standing in particular (Columbia County government Complex Building A), was built in the 80’s and it has some problems. And we needed to either renovate it, which was going to be very very expensive, or we needed a new one.”
Despite objections online, no one showed up to Monday’s meeting to voice their concerns. City Manager, Scott Johnson said they have only receive communication from one concerned citizen.
Now the resolution will go before the Board of Commissioners on July 19th for debate and vote. If fully approved, it will head to the ballot in November.
Photojournalist: Will Baker.