There will be a called meeting of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners regarding SPLOST projects on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 10 a.m. in Citizens’ Hall at the Douglas County Courthouse.
The called meeting concerning SPLOST was expected, following the Jan. 24 meeting at which time a vote to table the measure to approve projects was passed by a 4 to 1 margin. District 1 Commissioner Henry Mitchell cast the only vote against tabling the matter until a later date.
The approval of the projects by the BOC had been scheduled for the first part of 2017, and was on the Jan. 9 work session agenda for discussion for a vote during the Jan. 10 voting meeting. But the vote didn't happen.
County Administrator Mark Teal told the commissioners the order of the projects needed to be decided on to determine what projects need to be bonded on.
Teal stated that $26 million of SPLOST projects are already in the works, and a SPLOST project manager is coming on board. He said that some projects will need to “bond out” but the county will be able to do some projects as “pay-go.”
Mitchell asked during last Tuesday's meeting, “With the timing of getting out a request for proposal (for a SPLOST project manager) where will it put us timeline? I think minor adjustments to the list are variable. I don’t think it will be a major reasoning. Tabling could put you too far out there.”
Teal replied, “We definitely need to get a project list approved. We are in the process of getting design funds and bids in on $26 million of projects.”
Mitchell said that his biggest concern last Monday during the work session was that new projects had been added to the list since the SPLOST list was first presented to the commissioners. His specific concern was when new recommended items were added to the SPLOST list that were not ever mentioned in the Citizens Project Selection Committee list, nor by the board as a whole.
The SPLOST Citizens Selection Committee held its organizational meeting on July 26, 2016, and all during the project selection process, the Punkintown Park project, referred to early on as “The Boot,” was never presented as an option for consideration for SPLOST revenue.
Prospective SPLOST funds were recently added for the commissioners’ consideration for the development of Punkintown Nature Preserve to provide access to the eastside of Dog River Park from Dorsett Bridge Road.
The 85-acre tract of land was donated to Douglas County for use as a passive park by the Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land in November 2015. The property officially became the county's during a deed signing ceremony on June 15, 2016.
The county had already allocated $50,000 in the 2016 budget for improvements and amenities for the boot-shaped property.
Mitchell’s concern stemmed from the last-minute addition to the SPLOST project list, and with its addition how it was moved up the project priority list while bumping down other projects.
“I’m very supportive of parks,” said Mitchell. “I’ve been a coach and I'm all in for green space. I’m concerned about what was put on the list in its place.”
He said, “I’m going to be an advocate for parks. But I think we should move it down and change the amount. Concerning with the placing, I just can’t support it. This isn’t right.”
The Punkintown access project could receive upwards of $500,000 —reduced Thursday from $750,000 — from an estimated SPLOST revenue of $17 million designated for parks and recreation. Punkintown is joining the top priority list of proposed parks and recreation projects that puts Boundary Waters restrooms/concession and press box at $650,000 and lighting for the park’s soccer fields at $160,000 at the top of the priority list.
The six-year SPLOST, which begins April 1, will be shared at 51 percent for transportation, 32 percent for fire/EMS/public safety radio system and 17 percent for parks and recreation. Projected revenues for Douglas County’s share is estimated at $96 to $115 million.
“I’m very glad the citizens voted for the SPLOST,” said Mitchell. “I’m very supportive of the radio component for public safety. We need these towers and the radio system — we’ve needed it forever. Right now, our officers are isolated. I’m glad we are finally doing something to protect them.”