EDC prepares for sales tax talk

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to continue developing a list of projects they hope the city and county will consider adding to a 1 percent sales tax referendum in November.

With the lifespan of Special Purpose Local Sales Tax 5 waning, local government officials are beginning the process to develop a list of possible projects to send to the voters for approval of SPLOST 6 in November.

On Wednesday, EDC President Ted Clem presented the EDC Board with a list of possible projects to consider as discussions progress.

"I think that everyone at this table realizes the importance of economic development and this list is simply a rough starting point for things that fit the criteria and would help put us in a strong position to recruit business," Clem said.

Initially, special sales tax referendums were strictly limited to bridge and road projects. But as legislation has changed over the years, the list of eligible projects have grown, said County Attorney Spencer Lee, who described SPLOST to the board Wednesday.

The list mostly includes infrastructure and other work at existing and developing industrial parks, but also included one item that might not pass muster.

Recently, the Legislature gave governments permission in certain very strict situations to pay off certain types of debt. On the EDC's SPLOST wish list is an item that would pay off the debt left behind on the MacGregor property.

While the Payroll Development Authority is currently paying the bills left on MacGregor, which was abandoned by its owners last year, the city is a guarantor on the property, which means that if the bills can't be paid, the city is on the hook to pay them.

After some discussion about whether that constitutes debt owed by the city, which is an allowable use under SPLOST legislation, City Manager Alfred Lott, who is a board member, offered a motion that the board continue developing the list to include adding details and working with Lee to ultimately bring a list to the table for consideration.

Past SPLOST projects include several road and sewer projects, the purchase of fire trucks and equipment, part of the building of the RiverQuarium, and additions to Thronateeska and the Civil Rights Museum.

In other EDC business, the board heard a report from Clem about ongoing marketing efforts, which included the recent Georgia Quail Hunt, which brought 27 business prospects into Southwest Georgia to hunt.

The EDC came under budget for the event which was allocated $25,000, spending just a little over $20,000 with most of that being the $20,000 fee paid to the state to be the host city.

"To me, that's money well spent," Clem said. "We would only be able to buy a few full-page ads in national trade magazines for that same amount of money, so I think having these people here were worth the investment."

Clem said that there active prospects touring local facilities during January and reminded the board of a March 2 trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with a consultant and local legislative delegation to discuss the EDC's agenda.

Also included in the trip will be a visit to the Pentagon to meet with upper-level Marine Corps officials to discuss future development opportunities at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.

Finally, Clem and Vice President Andrea Shrujier reminded the board about the Industry Celebration Week, which is currently set for the first week in May.

That week will be a weeklong celebration of local industry, including an awards presentation. Applications for the awards are on both the EDC and Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Web site.