Dan Bollinger, the executive director of the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission, addressed the Dougherty County Rotary Club Tuesday. He said people should take a hard look at the proposed T-SPLOST transportation projects and vote their consciences, as improving transportation infrastructure is critical to the region’s economic future.
ALBANY, Ga. — Dan Bollinger, executive director Southwest Georgia Regional Commission, addressed members of the Dougherty County Rotary Club at Doublegate Country Club Tuesday, outlining specifics of the upcoming July 31 regional T-SPLOST referendum.
If passed, T-SPLOST, or Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, would apply a special 1 percent sales tax to specific transportation projects within Southwest Georgia’s 14-county region.
According to Bollinger and ConnectGeorgia, a campaigning arm of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia ranks 49th per capita in transportation funding. The additional tax, which would bring Dougherty’s total sales tax to 8 percent, would bring additional jobs and industry to the region, supporters say. Each of Georgia’s 12 regions may opt in or out of T-SPLOST independently.
Bollinger said there are “two pots of money” involved with the proposed T-SPLOST, the first being the regional pot, or a list of predetermined regional projects where 75 percent of tax collected must go. Regional projects in Dougherty County include an extension of Clark Avenue from Jefferson Street to Maple Street, a widening of Ledo Road and Old Dawson Road, a new aviation terminal at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport and a widening of State Route 133 from two lanes to four. The “discretionary pot,” or the remaining 25 percent of tax collected, would go toward local projects with the community.”
“Here’s the beauty of it,” Bollinger said, “ Today, if you do a local maintenance improvement project through the DOT you have a litany of regulations and laws you have to comply with. If you start a project today in Dougherty County you might be lucky to get it accomplished in three years. (With T-SPLOST discretionary tax money) Dougherty County would only have to comply with their local procurement policies and guidelines. Beyond that, nothing applies. It’s strictly up to the county how they spend their money.”
According to Bollinger, roads are becoming a “huge issue,” especially in rural agricultural communities, in getting farm products to the cities. T-SPLOST money is allocated by a formula based one-fifth on population and four-fifths on centerline lane miles.
“Dougherty County will get the population benefit,” Bollinger said, “but in the end the centerline lane miles will really hurt you. The bulk of the money will go the the rural counties, as they have a lot more centerline lane miles.”
Final projects for the region were generated from a “roundtable,” consisting of two members from each county, Bollinger said. Dougherty representatives were Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard and former Albany Mayor Willie Adams.
State and local transportation projects have traditionally been funded by an excise tax on fuel, but Bollinger said that as people are driving less and cars become more fuel efficient, the tax is insufficient to cover the cost.
“It’s extremely critical that people take a good hard look at this and vote their conscience,” Bollinger said, “We need economic development as much as anybody in the state. Our job situation continues to deteriorate and if we don’t pass this we’re going to be further behind the eight ball.”