On November 3, Upson County voters will have the option to either approve or deny the continuation of a SPLOST (Special Local Option Sales Tax) for the community, with the last SPLOST having been approved in 2011. Members of the Thomaston City Council, Yatesville City Council and Upson County Board of Commission met for a joint meeting on Thursday, August 27 to announce their projects list and to sign an intergovernmental agreement which allows for a six year, $18 million SPLOST which would be collected July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2022. If approved, the funding will be split with 74 percent ($13,320,000) going to Upson County; 25 percent ($4,500,000) going to the City of Thomaston; and 1 percent ($180,000) going to the City of Yatesville. The SPLOST percentages are determined by population.
Twenty percent of the funding the county will receive, or $3.6 million, will go to Level 2 projects, which are considered county-wide projects. First on the project list is the Industrial Development Authority which will be getting $400,000 for improvements to the Central Georgia Business Park. IDA Executive Director Kyle Fletcher was present at the meeting last week and stated the IDA Board had prioritized their list of projects, and was happy their number one priority was selected.
Also on the Level 2 project list is the Airport, which has $300,000 designated to be the matching funds for grants received to do their projects. The Archives has $16,000 designated for lamp posts and there is $360,000 designated for the EMA, with the largest item on the list being $150,000 for a Siren Monitor System. E-911 will get $300,000 for the upgrading of the 911 system, and Public Buildings, which includes the Library ($100,000); Courthouse ($160,000), Archives ($40,000) and Senior Center ($20,000) will get a total of $320,000. These departments’ improvements or purchase of equipment equal to $1,296,000 of the money designated for Level 2 projects.
The final two departments for the Level 2 projects are made up of Recreation and the Senior Center and will total $1,904,000. Recreation has been designated $1,809,000 which is primarily being used for the improvements to the Civic Center and Recreational Facilities. Big expenses for these are purchase and installation of fire alarm renovation, ceiling tile and sprinkler system for the Civic Center ($422,000) and lighting for the baseball and softball fields ($268,000).
If the SPLOST is approved by the voters, Upson County will use their remaining portion of the SPLOST ($9,720,000) for the following county projects.
The Upson County Road Department and Road Department Shop will receive the largest amount of the county’s portion of the SPLOST with a total of $4,688,000. A majority of the funding will go towards repairing and paving the county roads and bridges with $3,500,000 being designated for those projects. Much of that amount will go towards the county’s portion of matching grant funds it receives from the state for road projects. Other major purchases for the Road Department and the Shop include two Tandem Dump Trucks for the department ($300,000), a Motor Grader ($180,000) and tires ($100,000).
A total of $1,525,000 will go to the improvements and/or equipment for the Clerk of Court ($100,000); Coroner ($50,000); Information Technology ($146,000); Magistrate Court ($37,000); Probate Court ($44,000); and Public Buildings ($1,124,000) which include the Sheriff’s Department Hangar ($80,000), Main Government Complex Building ($200,000), Health Department ($40,000), Road Department Main Building ($150,000), Drake Building ($40,000), Road Department Shop ($65,000), Old Forestry Shop ($320,000), and funding to make all of these ADA compliant ($229,000). Also included is the Tax Assessors office ($10,000) and the Registrar ($14,000).
The Upson County Sheriff’s Office and the Upson County Jail will receive a total of $1,462,000, with $672,000 of that funding going to the purchase of four vehicles each year for the next six years. Other large purchases include emergency light bars, screens and other equipment for the new vehicles ($192,000); locking control system replacements for the jail ($150,000) and inmate cell intercom replacements for the jail ($115,000). Upgrading the radio system to digital format is also on the projects list ($65,000).
The county Water Department will be receiving $865,000 if the SPLOST passes. The largest chunks of funding will go towards purchasing a new water tank for Lincoln Park ($500,000) and drilling a new well in the Thurston community ($150,000).
Sprewell Bluff Park has $702,000 worth of funding designated and the $140,000 has been designated for all the other county parks for improvements and replacement of equipment. In total, parks in Upson County will receive $842,000.
A total of $338,000 will go to the purchase and/or replacement of vehicles for Animal Control ($30,000); Building and Zoning ($32,000); Building Inspector ($32,000); Extension Office ($82,000); Public Buildings ($30,000); Tax Assessor ($40,000); Water Department ($60,000).
County Manager Jim Wheeless stated in order to come up with the aforementioned project list, the county asked all department heads to list the necessities of capital outlay they would need over the next five years and the list was narrowed down from there by the county commissioners.
The City of Thomaston will receive a total of $4,500,000 to use for their projects. Of that amount, $3,875,000 will go towards repairs, upgrades or replacements of the city’s sanitary sewer or storm or creek lines. The remaining $625,000 will go to the demolition and preparation of site and construction of a backwash tank for the City Water Plant.
The City of Yatesville will receive a total of $180,000 for their projects. The majority of that funding ($150,000) will go to improvements or purchase of equipment for the Yatesville Water System. The remaining $30,000 will be used for improvements and equipment for the city’s buildings and facilities.
If the SPLOST passes and should exceed $18 million before the six years is up by law, Upson County must use their extra funding to lower ad valorem taxes; the City of Thomaston must use their portion on sewer and storm water projects. However, that does not look like it will happen for the 2011 SPLOST, as Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston stated the current SPLOST is collecting about six to seven percent less than expected. He noted should the 2016 SPLOST pass and the same thing happen, then the numbers for county projects would be adjusted down accordingly and by law some money must be spent on each project listed.
At the close of the meeting, IDA Executive Director Kyle Fletcher stated she would like to encourage the community to promote the SPLOST because it is beneficial to everyone.
“There are some really valuable projects listed and unfortunately it is just not cheap,” said Fletcher. “For many infrastructure projects, $500,000 won’t even touch some of them. So, it (the SPLOST) is very important and anyone who is willing to write a letter to the editor of support or talk it up at coffee clubs, I know I would appreciate it from the IDA standpoint and I would imagine the city of Yatesville, city of Thomaston and Upson County would as well.”
The last day to register to vote in the November election is Monday, October 5, 2015.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1