Public support for SPLOST VI growing

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- More than 50 Dougherty County residents attended a public information meeting Monday night at the Albany Civic Center to voice their opinions and learn more about a special local option sales tax referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The meeting, which was hosted jointly by Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard and Albany Mayor Willie Adams, consisted of an information session, which covered the history of past SPLOST projects, to SPLOST VI, which will be voted on by the public in November.

Dougherty County Administrator Richard Crowdis and Albany Assistant City Manager James Taylor each presented facts about the sales tax commonly referred to as SPLOST and outlined a handful of some of the 40-plus projects both governments hope to fund over the next six years with the tax money generated.

The overwhelming majority that attended Monday's meeting stressed the importance of prioritizing SPLOST VI projects that focus on infrastructure, public safety and providing recreation for youth and seniors within the community.

However, along with informing elected officials about SPLOST VI projects they would like to see prioritized, those who spoke at Monday night's meeting also voiced concerns about the city and county finishing projects in a timely manner.

Leroy Smith said he believed SPLOST projects were important, but he was discouraged that a number of projects do not seem to be completed.

"Definitely, infrastructure, public safety and the senior center are important to Albany," Smith said. "But what is more important is that you follow up and do this. Instead of continually patching holes and praying that will fix it, just fix it."

Dougherty County Director of Athletics Johnny Seabrooks said the SPLOST VI projects that focus on recreation for youths are worth the one penny renewed on sales tax.

Frank Sullivan echoed Seabrooks' view that SPLOST money for the proposed sports complex was essential to Albany and added that the economic development benefits of a facility that could host athletic tournaments could bring additional dollars to Albany and Dougherty County.

Adams said the question of elected officials' accountability on past SPLOST projects can be remedied by visiting the city's website at www.albany.ga.us.

"There is a lot of misconception about SPLOST and misinformation out there, and I realize that everyone can't get on the computer and visit our website," the mayor said. "But our past reports on SPLOST projects are available online."

Those who visit the city's website can view reports detailing any monies or projects left in SPLOSTs II, III, IV and a comprehensive report detailing projects associated with SPLOST V by clicking on the city government tab, scrolling down to city departments and clicking on the engineering department tab and onto the SPLOST tab listed.

"If they are not satisfied with that information or have further questions, the public can also contact the assistant city manager's office to have their questions or concerns answered," said Adams.

Sinyard said 90 percent of the county's past SPLOST projects have been started or have been completed and stressed the track record of completing past projects that have benefited the community.

"When SPLOST began in 1988, there was a time a house outside the city limits would catch on fire and the chance to save it and the lives of the people who may be in the house would be limited," said the county commission chairman. "Now we have a fire department and fire stations and EMS workers that can get to a location in an average of five minutes. We have a lot to be proud of in Dougherty County."

Sinyard said SPLOST projects affect every aspect of Dougherty County and the quality of life of its citizens and also affects the city and county's competitiveness in attracting businesses and keeping existing employers in the county.

"(SPLOST projects) are pieces of a larger puzzle to keep and bring more jobs to the community," Sinyard said.

Elected officials said Monday they were happy to hear the public's opinions on the SPLOST VI projects and were encouraged that the majority were for the projects.

If approved by the voters, SPLOST VI will begin April 1, 2011 and will replace the 1 percent sales tax levied through SPLOST V, which will expire March 31. If passed by a majority of the voters, SPLOST VI will go into effect April 1, 2011 and remain in place for the next six years, generating an estimated $98 million in revenues for local projects.

The public will have another chance to gain more information about SPLOST VI at another information meeting hosted by Albany City Commissioner Roger Marietta that will be held on the campus of Darton College Thursday. That meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m., is slated to take place in room J133.