City council members came up with a list of projects totaling $10,050,000 and will submit the suggestions to county officials this week. This total is slightly more than the $9.6 million county officials are anticipating the city will receive from anticipated revenues, Mayor Jimmy Palmer explained.
The proposed project list includes a total of $3.2 million budgeted for utilities projects. These projects mainly encompass water distribution and fleet and equipment expenditures:
* Capital upgrades for utilities fleets and equipment: backhoes, dump trucks, vacuum truck, electrical service trucks, water/ sewer service trucks. $700,000
* Water, sewer, telecommunications and electrical system upgrades. - $2.6 million
The other funds are earmarked for a variety of other projects, including public recreation facility improvements, sidewalks to improve “walkability” throughout the city and another entry/ exit point for the elementary/ primary school complex:
* Upgrades to Peters Street to provide greater pedestrian and vehicle safety. Widen curbs, gutters and sidewalks, improve street surface. Rewiring of utilities, intersection improvements. Creating an additional entry/ exit point to the city elementary/ primary school complex. City officials said they plan to ask the county to match some of the cost for this project. - $2 million
* Improvements to the recreation park and aquatic complex: installing an enclosure over the recreation department pool with an indoor walking track above the pool, pave the outdoor walking track at the city park, install/ improve restrooms, concessions facilities and ball fields. - $2.5 million
* Upgrades to the police and fire fleets and GIS updates – replacement of the police fleet and the addition of laptops to fire vehicles with GIS capacities - $650,000
* Radio upgrades for law/ emergency personnel. City officials said they plan to ask the county to match some of the cost for this project. - $ 100,000
* Library upgrade – modify the entrance to the facility and expand computer access. City officials said they plan to ask the county to match some of the cost for this project. - $500,000
* Public works - replacement of a leaf truck, broom mower, backhoe, street sweeper, dump truck, salt dome. Also included are provision for an $80,000 match required from the city for a transportation enhancement grant for the streetscape project downtown, as well as $100,000 for flood repair in the Hillhouse area. Also, milling and resurfacing of some city streets. - $1 million
City Administrator Eddie Peterson mentioned that partnering with the county on some of the street projects could be a way to “keep as much of this in house as possible” and save money.
“I think you could squeeze the price down that way,” he said.
Council member David Hammond said he sees sidewalks as useful for residents.
“What you’re looking at is walkability,” he explained. People generally use sidewalks for three reasons, he said: “It’s either healthy, cheaper or you don’t want to burn the gas. I think it’s a good project.”
Council members discussed the benefits of having a SPLOST in place, pointing out that although it adds a penny to the base amount for local sales taxes, it allows for a more widespread base of taxpayers. SPLOST, unlike property taxes, applies to all consumers who spend money at retail establishments within the city limits.
In the past, explained Palmer, there was a cap on the amount of SPLOST money that a community could collect, but now, local governments are allowed to keep collecting the tax until its timeline expires.
If the SPLOST referendum does not pass, Hammond pointed out, the city will have to increase property taxes in order to fund necessities like a new police fleet.
Because of the ailing economy, city council members have held off on major capital improvements during the past three years, and it is necessary to start replacing some equipment, Palmer explained.
A large percentage of SPLOST dollars comes from people outside of the county who spend money here, Hammond said.
“It’s our good fortune that we live on the interstate,” Council Member Al Edwards said, adding that leaving the current SPLOST in place is a better option than levying another type of tax.
“That, to me, is the argument for the whole thing,” he said.