The chance to vote on continuing the SPLOST for Thomaston-Upson County may not be as soon as originally planned, with the Upson County Board of Commissioners discussing at a work session held on August 4 the possibility of putting the vote off until March of next year. Originally, the county, along with the cities of Thomaston and Yatesville, had proposed placing the referendum for the one cent sales tax on the ballot for this year’s November election; however since it is just a city election, the board fears there might not be good voter turnout. The only other items that would be on the ballot in November are for Mayor of Thomaston and two Thomaston City Council seats, and Mayor for Yatesville and two Yatesville City Council posts. The March election would be a county-wide election since it is also the Presidential Primaries.
“The city will turn out to vote (in November), but the county folks… I don’t think we will have a good turnout,” said Commissioner Ralph Ellington. “If we put it off until March, then we would have a little more time to educate the public as to why it is important.”
The board agreed that the extra months would allow them more time to meet with the citizens and explain not only what projects they would like to do with the continuation of the SPLOST, but also what would not be feasible without the SPLOST funding.
“We have got to have everybody understand this is not a new tax, it is a continuation,” said Commissioner Lorenzo Wilder. “Also, we need to let them know what we are able to do with the SPLOST funds, versus what we are able to do without any SPLOST funds.”
One of the big projects the board has mentioned would not happen if the SPLOST does not pass would be the paving of county roads. Commissioner Steve Hudson told the board he has asked Road Superintendent James Melton to get up a list of all the county roads which have been paved with SPLOST dollars since 2005, noting it is because of that money they have been able to do so many roads in the last 10 years. He also noted without the SPLOST, the county would not be able to come up with the matching funds for the LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) which is money from the state that helps to pay for the paving of roads as well. Commissioner Ellington stated he would like to see signs put up by every road that has been paved that says “Your SPLOST dollars at work,” and by any other projects so the general public will be able to clearly see what projects the money collected is going towards.
All of the commissioners agreed that it would be in the best interest of the county to put the election off until March of 2016. If the proposed SPLOST passes at that time, then it will be a seamless collection of the one cent sales tax from the time the 2011 SPLOST ends in June and the new one begins.
Since the county is working towards having an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Thomaston for the SPLOST, the proposed idea of putting the vote off until March has to be agreed upon by the city as well before anything can be final. County Manager Jim Wheeless stated he would be meeting with City Manager Patrick Comiskey to discuss the matter. Currently, the SPLOST is proposed to be a six year SPLOST for $16 million, with Upson County receiving approximately 64.46 percent, the City of Thomaston receiving approximately 32.20 percent and the City of Yatesville receiving approximately 1.34 percent.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1