ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County Commission's Finance Committee sent a measure to the full commission Monday that would allow the county to reappropriate special tax funds for installation of a new roof on the county's Northwest Library branch, despite concerns by one committee member that citizens will question the expenditure in light of two recent branch closings.
District 2 Commissioner John Hayes, who also serves on the county's Library Board, told the Finance Committee at its early morning meeting and later told the full commission that the move, no matter how well-intentioned, would "perpetuate public scrutiny" of the branch closures.
"Once (the media reports on the action), the community is going to wonder how we were able to find $400,000 to repair the roof on one library branch so soon after shutting down two others," Hayes said during the Finance meeting. "I bring this up because we're going to have to be prepared to deal with the fallout."
County Administrator Richard Crowdis explained that the Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax V money, which was originally designated for utilities relocation along State Highway 133, became available because of a change in policy by the state Department of Transportation.
"SPLOST V passed in November of 2004, and in October of 2005, the state Transportation department changed its policy, no longer requiring up-front money from the counties on third-party projects," Crowdis said. "The money that had been approved for the work on 133 became a moot point.
"Our request for a $2 million library improvement grant had moved up the state list to No. 5, but in our meeting with our legislative delegation before this session, it became obvious that we were not going to get $2 million. Since this is a 50 percent matching grant and the estimate for the new roof on the Northwest Library is for $780,000, the $400,000 would meet our match and give us a much better chance of securing a (state) grant. If we don't get it, we'll be funding the entire $780,000."
Hayes countered by saying, "(If the funding is approved), the onus is going to be on us to explain what our plans are to get at least one branch open."
Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins said transfer of the SPLOST funding to another project that was approved in the same special tax cycle was proper use of the funding under state law.
"(The Northwest branch's need for a new roof) is not a surprise," Hudgins said. "We knew when we bought that building that it was something we'd need to do."
The full commission will vote on the proposal at its business meeting next week.
The Finance Committee also discussed financing and economic development plans with Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission President Ted Clem at the early meeting. Clem said the EDC is "pursuing 42 active leads" in its quest to bring more industry to the region.