Early voting starts Monday on new Harris County SPLOST

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 11, 2013 

Early voting starts Monday for Harris County residents, who are being asked to continue a sales tax that officials say has funded needed public improvements without raising property taxes.

The 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved in 2008 will expire in January if a new SPLOST isn't passed. State law allows a SPLOST to last for five years.

The current SPLOST was designed to raise $21 million, but county clerk and assistant manager Nancy McMichael said the Great Recession slowed collections, so only $12 million is expected to be collected. That means about $9 million in road improvements have been delayed, she said. Nonetheless, the SPLOST was the primary source of funds for the following projects:

• Community center

• Pate Park

• Hamilton Fire Station

• Northwest Harris Business Park, which officials say created more than 1,500 jobs.

• Emergency radio system

• Patrol cars, ambulances and fire trucks

• Fire equipment

The proposed SPLOST comprises projects totalling approximately $19 million, but it is split into two tiers that prioritize the projects. The first tier totals about $14.2 million and will be funded first:

• $1 million for economic development: acquisition of industrial sites; developing, installing and maintaining sewer, water, natural gas and roads; and construction of industrial building.

• $1 million to expand the public water system.

• $500,000 to be combined with $1.5 million from the current SPLOST for expanding the public library or building a new facility.

• $500,000 to develop a site for the construction, expansion and improvement of the Agri-Center.

• $80,000 for a computer-aided dispatch system for the sheriff's office and a 911 emergency radio system.

Municipal projects

• Hamilton: $240,000 total ($20,000 for repairs and improvements to city hall; $125,000 for city equipment; and $95,000 for public safety equipment and improvements).

• Pine Mountain: $961,000 total ($631,000 to retire debt on public safety center; $130,000 for acquisition and construction of maintenance building; $200,000 for improvements to water system).

• Shiloh: $270,000 total ($40,000 for public works improvements; $80,000 for water system improvements; and $150,000 for public safety improvements).

• Waverly Hall: $376,000 total ($150,000 for renovation of old fire station building as a community building; $100,000 for water system improvements; $76,000 for purchase of public safety equipment to include vehicles, body armor, lockers and uniforms; $50,000 for equipment and improvements to technology and fixtures).

• West Point: $475,000 for improvement of water and sewer infrastructures and facilities.

Roads and bridges

• Harris County: $2,500,000

• Hamilton: $60,000

• Shiloh: $100,000

• Waverly Hall: $200,000

• West Point: $100,000

Fire services

• Harris County: $2,701,000 for approximately 10 trucks and two brush trucks.

• Waverly Hall: $101,000 for a generator, turn-out gear, hydro testing, thermal imagery, storage building, restroom renovation, tables and chairs.

• West Point: $350,000 for firefighting equipment and improvement.

Recreation

• Harris County: $1,000,000 for acquisition, construction and renovation of recreation facilities and equipment.

• Waverly Hall: $1,500,000 for acquisition and construction of baseball facility and tennis facility at Perkins Park ($850,000), gym renovation and walking trail ($200,000) and football facility ($450,000).

• West Point: $200,000 for recreation improvement.

The second tier of projects would be funded only if the SPLOST revenue exceeds the $14.2 million dedicated to the first tier:

• $4,786,000 for Harris County debt reduction; public safety, including addition to the jail; roads and bridges; and automated weather observing system for airport.

WHERE TO VOTE

To cast a ballot on the Special Purpose Local Option Sales tax referendum in Harris County, early voting starts today and runs through Nov. 1, Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the Harris County Courthouse, 104 N. College St., 706-628-5210. Voting on Election Day, Nov. 5, will be in your designated precinct. To check your poll location, see http://mvp.sos.state.ga.us.

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