Six weeks of hard work came to an end Sept. 15 for the volunteers who represented a cross-section of Douglas County in selecting and prioritizing projects for a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum to be decided on by voters Nov.8.
The Citizen Project Selection Committee whittled down a list of potential projects in the areas of transportation and parks and recreation into a prioritized list of recommendations to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners for final determination.
"The 12-voting members and alternates of the Citizen Project Selection Committee spent a lot of time and energy, not only in six, two-hour decision making meetings," said committee member John Sell from District 3, "but in visiting parks, bridges and intersections across the county that need
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improvements, to ensure we made smart decisions. The committee did its best to pick projects that would have the most positive impact on our community, such as the new public safety radio system, and also attempted to make sure that all parts of the county will see benefits from the 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax."
Transportation projects will get 51 percent of SPLOST funds, which could climb to $51 million or more, if voters approve the referendum.
The committee approved $18 million of SPLOST funds for resurfacing roads, which would supplement current annual $3 million funding levels by the county. First priority would go to thoroughfare network roads that are severely deteriorated. However, current annual funds would continue to focus on residential roads where work could be completed in-house by county Department of Transportation (DOT) employees.
County DOT Director Randy Hulsey said that 15 to 20 miles of thoroughfare roads could potentially be completed each year after the first year of SPLOST tax collections.
The selection committee recommended an allocation of $10 million for transportation economic development within the Thornton Road study area and Lee Road/Livable Communities Initiative (LCI.)
They also recommended allocation of $15 million for transportation intersections and operations that would include Highway 5/Douglas Boulevard; Highway 92/Anneewakee Road; Thornton Road at Riverside Parkway; Sweetwater Church Road at Dorris Road; Stewart Mill Road at Reynolds Road; Highway 5 at Concourse Parkway; Highway 78 at John West and South Baggett roads; Post Road at I-20 eastbound and westbound ramps; Highway 166 at Chapel Hill Road and Bright Star at John West roads.
The Citizens Project Selection Committee recommended allocating $8 million for sidewalk and roadway upgrades at Post Road at Dog River; Lithia Springs Elementary School; Chestnut Log Middle School; and at New Manchester High School.
Parks and recreation will receive 17 percent of SPLOST funds if approved, which is anticipated to bring at least $17 million to the table.
The committee's priorities went to building a multi-purpose recreation facility that would combine a senior citizens center and gymnasium at a projected cost of $11.2 million. This multi-use facility was not one of the staff recommendations, but came as a proposal directly from the selection committee to combine facilities.
Park renovations at several of the county's older parks could reach $2.4 million, based on recommendations by the citizen selection committee. This could include new fencing, new metal dugouts, score boxes, landscaping, plaza areas and two-story restrooms/concessions at several parks, which include Winston, Bill Arp, Fairplay, Post Road and Deer Lick parks. This could also include resurfacing Deer Lick Park if funds are available and possible new lights at Fairplay Park in addition to the other renovations.
An expected $500,000 has been recommended for allocation for miscellaneous equipment to be used for parks and recreation, including infield machines, dump trucks and other tracks.
A nature center at Dog River on county-owned acreage behind Dog River Library was recommended for SPLOST funding at $2.8 million.
On Sept. 8, the selection committee approved the staff's recommendation for a prepared list of projects for fire/EMS, which includes a county-wide digital radio system; ambulances, fire trucks, aerial trucks, heavy rescue vehicles(s), station/headquarter renovations, staff vehicles, computer upgrades, Station No. 9 construction and necessary equipment/vehicles, completion of the fire training complex and a fire safety house for educational purposes.
Fire/EMS and the digital radio system was allocated 32 percent of SPLOST funds.
"We really appreciate the time and effort he Citizen Project Selection Committee spent selecting and prioritizing 2016 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) projects to be recommended to the board of commissioners," said Teal. "The selection committee played a vital role in helping our SPLOST pennies continue to make Douglas County a great place to live, work and play."
The recommendations made by the Citizen Project Selection Committee are not binding; the BOC will ultimately how the SPLOST funds are spent if voters approve the Nov. 8 referendum.