With 12 proposed sewer line projects totaling more than $21 million approved for the new six-year SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and probably only getting about $5 million for its portion of the one-cent tax, the Thomaston City Council is looking to get as much done as they have funds for.
At a called meeting on June 23, City Manager Patrick Comiskey provided information to the council on the 12 proposed projects. They range in price from $4.3 million for a project to continue to replace sewer line along Town Branch, run it to the sewer plant, tear down the current water department building and install a backwash tank there, and relocate Severn Trent to the armory, to $300,000 to replace sewer lines on Meeks Terrace, Raines Terrace, and possibly Reeds Terrace.
In addition to not yet knowing what percentage of the SPLOST they could receive, Comiskey added that emergency work could also cut into the project list. The city manager noted that the way the ballot read during the last SPLOST vote in 2011, it left a way for the city to use sales tax funds for emergencies, and that proved insightful.
“What in essence happened this last time was we woke up one morning and South Green Street had caved in, so we used some of our SPLOST money to replace that section of line,” Comiskey said. “We’ve gone out and had another situation behind Phillips Street. We went over and did that section of line. We’ve had sections that we found caved in or were beyond patching and have had to replace the line from manhole to manhole instead of patching bad lines.
“If this turns out to be a six-year SPLOST, that is a long time,” he added. “We may have something that pops up a month after it starts, and we want to address that first, because we have to.”
The council unanimously approved the 12 projects for the SPLOST list. Comiskey said the next step will be for him to present their list to County Manager Jim Wheeless, and for the Board of Commissioners to then decide how they will divide up the SPLOST funds.
“What will happen in essence is, the county does the SPLOST,” he said. “It is not like the joint projects, where we both sit down and work it out. They have the opportunity to sit down with us and work out a contract, and then we have input into what goes on the SPLOST list. The other option is they just say they are going to go ahead and do it, then there is a formula where we get a certain amount, which is what happened last time. It ended up with us getting approximately 25 percent of the SPLOST.”
Comiskey added that the SPLOST being proposed is six years, which they hope will generate $20 million in revenue. If the city were to receive 25 percent again, that would be about $5 million to work with.
“Obviously we have more projects on here than we’ll have the money to do,” the city manager said. “If we’re lucky, we might be able to get through four or five, six or possibly seven projects. I would say that would be optimistic.”
Council member Patsy Perdue noted that developing the list of projects shows residents what the city wants to do.
“This shows the process that we’re taking to replace out all the stuff that we need to replace,” she said. “It’s like the oil filter commercial – you either pay now or you pay later.”
Mayor Hays Arnold agreed, adding that this is what the city has been working on.
“It’s exactly what we’ve been doing for years. It’s exactly what we told people we were doing,” Arnold said. “We’re not wavering from that. This is sewer work. This is what we said we would go for with the SPLOST, and this is exactly what we’re doing.”
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.