City gets first look at possible

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany City Manager Alfred Lott unveiled his list of proposed projects for an upcoming 1 percent sales tax referendum Tuesday, and at least one notable project was missing from the list.

The city and county are both preparing lists for the special-purpose local-option sales tax referendum, which will allow a 1 percent sales tax to be levied on items sold in Dougherty County, if approved by voters in November.

The city's list includes $1.5 million for demolition of the Heritage House -- the flagship of the city's blight abatement efforts -- $3.9 million for the city's share of a new terminal at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, and $7 million for the city's piece of the replacement of the Broad Avenue Bridge.

But one project that was noticeably absent from the $53 million list was a $4 million request from the SOWEGA Council on Aging to aid in the construction of a $12 million regional senior citizens center.

That project, which has been at the heart of Mayor Willie Adams agenda since he took office, will likely find its way onto the list before the final version is prepped for the ballot box.

While there is $53 million in projects listed in Lott's list, an additional $7.5 million balance is expected to be left in the account. How those funds are spent is still to be determined.

Adams recommended Tuesday that when the final totals are counted, that the balance be divided among the seven commissioners for projects they deem worthy of inclusion. For the mayor, it seems likely that he would use a good portion of his allotment for the senior center.

"I fear that if we don't get this center, that we will lose our reputation as a hub or center for retirees and seniors, "Adams said. "I'd like to go on record to say that the senior center is more of a priority, for me, than some of the other items on this list."

But others on the Commission are wary of partially funding another building contract just to have to help pay operating expenses down the road with tax dollars.

"I'm just concerned that if we help build something, that we'll just have to turn around and fund operating expenses like we have the RiverQuarium and the Civil Rights Institute," Mayor Pro-Tem Christopher Pike told the Commission.

The majority of funding for the center will likely come from federal, state or private funding sources, but the Council on Aging did ask that the city consider setting aside $4 million of sales tax revenues for the project.

In terms of the upcoming SPLOST referendum, Lott said the revenues projected in his list Tuesday are based largely on the assumption that the split between the city and the county will "at least" stay the same as SPLOST 5, which was a 62-38 split with the city receiving the lion's share.

Lott will trim about 42 percent of a planned $2.8 million information technology modernization item from the list, after commissioners gave a consensus that the county -- which partners with the city for IT services -- should share in the cost of the project.

Additionally, Lott will revisit figures for the purchase of two buses with sales tax dollars. While there is $800,000 listed for SPLOST 6 in funding for the purchase of two new buses, that figure does not reflect the 80 percent the federal government typically pays for the buses, meaning that the city's obligation for the purchase could vary between $80,000 to $800,000.

The city and county are expected to meet on July 7 to go over SPLOST projects before an intergovernmental agreement will be voted on by July 22. If the city and county agree to work together on the referendum, the SPLOST can be collected for the next six years with no cap on how much can be collected. If they each decide separately to go for a SPLOST referendum, then it's limited to five years and collections have to be capped at whatever the budgeted amount is.