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Posted: Wednesday, February 13th 2013 at 7:19am

Habersham County begins SPLOST 6 talks

By Rob Moore Editor
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Habersham County officials began discussion this week of a possible continuation 1-cent sales tax. (Photo/Rob Moore)
CLARKESVILLE – Job creation would be a major focus of a continuation 1-cent sales tax in Habersham County, if approved by voters in November.

That was the consensus of members of the Habersham County Commission at a work session to discuss Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 6 Monday afternoon.

Unlike the current SPLOST 5, which is for six years, SPLOST 6 would collect a 1-penny sales tax for a five-year period, and would take effect when the current collection period ends in April 2014 – if approved by the county’s voters in November.

While it’s early in the process, commissioners agreed job creation would have the greatest overall benefit for everyone in Habersham County.

One way that could be accomplished is by continued expansion and enhancement of the county’s industrial park near Baldwin.

JR Charles, executive director of economic development for the county, was joined at Monday’s meeting by Todd Pealock of the county’s development authority.

“We’re trying to take the approach of managing our own destiny,” Pealock said.

Charles explained that transferring dirt from a 20-acre parcel in the industrial park to bring the property down to grade would open up more land for development.

“We anticipate eight additional sites,” Charles said.

Charles and Pealock estimate it would cost about $4.5 million for soil transfer, pad preparation, and infrastructure at the industrial park.

Included in that estimate would be:

• A water/sewer line through the middle of the park at a cost of $600,000-$700,000;

• A six-inch gas line through the middle of the park at a cost of $440,000;

• Soil transfer for 850,000 cubic yards ($3 per cubic yard) at a cost of $2.5 million;

• Improvement of the wetlands in the middle of the park at a cost of $250,000;

• Other miscellaneous improvements at a cost of $200,000.

Engineering for the industrial park improvements is estimated at $75,000, and lighting would cost $250,000.

While economic develop priority 1 would be the industrial park, other priorities would include debt payoff ($1.2 million); enhancement to municipalities; and an economic development office. Other lower priorities are a speculative building and a small business incubator.

In addition to economic development projects related to job creation, commissioners also were presented with the ongoing need to fund roads, streets, and bridges through SPLOST.

Currently, the county spends about $2 million each year from SPLOST to maintain the existing roads and bridges. But additional bridge work is going to be required in the next few years.

“We have several bridges that are going to have to be replaced,” said County Manager Janeann Allison.

Allison identified Walls Bridge and Tugalo Shortcut as two of the bridges that need replacement within five years.

Initially, she included $11 million in SPLOST for roads, streets, and bridges.

Allison also suggested public safety equipment purchases could be made through SPLOST to reduce the demand on ad valorem taxes. That equipment could include vehicles for sheriff, fire, EMS, 9-1-1, and emergency management.

Allison prepared the initial draft of projects to be considered, is working on a more firm collection estimate, and will schedule a meeting with municipal officials.

Commissioners will be appointing members to a SPLOST 6 committee, which will be tasked with promoting the tax since elected officials cannot advertise or promote it.

Commissioner Ed Nichols said it’s very important to him that all the cities have input and be involved in the SPLOST process.

Allison said a meeting will be scheduled for March with the municipalities.
Associated Categories: Business News, Local/State News, Politics

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