County And Cities Host Joint Meeting On SPLOST V

We have something very special to cherish here in our community. That specialness can be found in the bonds of government. While that sounds like an interesting thing to be thankful for, especially circa 2017, the fact holds true here in Troup County. The fact of the matter is that our County and our three cities work hand in hand on many of the issues we face. While this might sound trivial to some, it is a relationship that is not true in many other areas around the state. Those bonds were strengthened even further this past Tuesday night, February 21st when the County and all three cities gathered together at a conference in Newnan to discuss ideas for the next SPLOST.

Chairman Patrick Crews, Mayor Jim Thornton, Mayor Bill Stankiewicz, Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell, and several members of the County Commissioners and various City Councils attended the meeting that afternoon at the Newnan Utilities building. There were also some department heads from the County, representatives of the School Board, and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce on hand as well. The majority and bulk of the meeting was to discuss what each entity would like to see in the plans for SPLOST V, should it be voted on and carried by the citizens.

Before the meeting was underway to discuss these SPLOST ideas, each city was allowed some time to speak on what is currently happening in their communities. Hogansville was up first. Mayor Stankiewicz spoke on several projects that are occurring in the city. Amongst others named was the upcoming ground breaking on Lake Jimmy Jackson, the transition into a new city hall, the hopeful remodeling of the downtown theater, the newly opened and constructed public library, amphitheater additions, constructing a new sewer plan, and refinancing issues.

Mayor Thornton spoke next on all of the happenings in LaGrange. The Mayor and his team recently worked on putting together the Mayor’s Update which is a booklet outlining all of the new developments in LaGrange such as the Great Wolf Lodge and the Marriot Hotel downtown. The Mayor also touched on reinforcing the city’s commitment to economic development with their main emphasis being on the $1 billion of project investments and 2,500 new jobs in the community in 2016.

County Manager Tentler spoke on the unity between the County and the cities. He touched on various projects including the airport runway extension, the $3.1 million investment on court technology, the public safety concerns of citizens, the County pay study, and a few other things that are currently on the County’s plate. Cajen Rhodes, the new head of the Parks and Recreation Department, also spoke on their “green and clean” initiative and all of the exciting things that his department is currently working on.

John Radcliff with the Troup County School Board spoke next and shared what the school system has planned for their next E-SPLOST projects (E-SPLOST is a separate entity from the County SPLOST). On this next E-SPLOST, the board would like to see new athletic facilities at both Troup and LaGrange High School with a cost of a little over $9 million apiece. They are also working on constructing a new school on S. Davis Road, renovations at Rosemont and Long Cane, additions at Hollis Hand, and HVAC upgrades at various schools.

For the team over in West Point, Mayor Pro-Tem Tramell spoke on Point University and their new four story dorm in the downtown area which is going to help revitalize the downtown college scene. They also have several new restaurants and businesses, as well as the construction of a new brewery. They have new industrial happenings on the way, renovations to their high school, a new police station, and several other upcoming projects on the horizon.

Chamber President Page Estes spoke on how they are the lead in marketing for all three cities and is doing wonders with those roles. In fact, they are opening a new office in West Point. They are also working on workforce development, retail recruitment, and gave some statistics on tourism in the area.

After catching up on everything happening with all of these entities, it was time to move on to the next SPLOST projects. County Manager Tod Tentler began by sharing information about the SPLOST in general and some of the projects that other SPLOST have helped to accomplish in the past. In Georgia, 151 out of 159 counties have a SPLOST. 151 out of 159 counties have a 7% sales tax rate of higher and 46 of those 159 have a 8% sales tax rate or higher. A continuation of our SPLOST here in Troup County would keep our sales tax at 7%. Everyone pays for the SPLOST, not just the property owners. That shifts about 33% of the tax burden to non-residents. The current SPLOST, SPLOST IV, is set to end December 31, 2018 and each SPLOST runs for six years.

The County Manager also shared some of the projects accomplished by previousSPLOST’s.SPLOST I helped to construct our new Sheriff’s Department and jail facilities. SPLOST II brought the downtown government center, the Mike Daniel Recreational Center, the George Harris Baseball Complex, the Chris Joseph Soccer Complex, the Mc-Cluskey Tennis Center, the Hogansville Sportsplex, and West Point baseball/softball. SPLOST III gave us the renovated Troup County Health Department (moved to a new location and renovated), new fire trucks and equipment, and radio system upgrades. With SPLOST IV we all received the Sweetland Amphitheater, the new Hogansville Library, new and renovated fire stations (with vehicles), court technology, and some road projects (with SPLOSTs III and IV).

Finally, the ideas for the new SPLOST V were presented. The County made it very clear as a disclaimer that their projects are not set in stone. This is simply a way for the County and the Cities to share what they would like to have happen and discuss any differences they might have. These projects are not finalized and will be discussed further by all parties involved. In addition, all of these projects will be open for public input before any decisions are made. Everything is subject to change.

The total anticipated revenue from SPLOST V will be around $70,000,000. The breakdown of this will be Countywide receiving 33% ($23,100,000), County Specific receiving 28.5% ($19,950,000), LaGrange receiving 28.5% ($19,950,000), Hogansville receiving 5% ($3,500,000) and West Point receiving 5% ($3,500,000).

Countywide projects were up first. There are plans for new Fire Department Headquarters and station renovations/ upgrades ($2,697,600), the replacing of eight fire engines ($4,365,000) and four new tankers ($1,022,400). They also spoke on some road and bridges projects, along with resurfacing and reconstructions, updating the transportation plans, dirt road paving, drainage replacements, and a five million dollar match for the Thread, the newly planned bike and walking trail.

The director for Parks and Rec. Department spoke next on specifics for their ideas. These include a new recreation master plan ($100,000), and agricultural center ($1,000,000), Pyne Road Park upgrades ($3,000,000), tennis court light and paving repairs ($150,000), Griggs Center renovations to the pool and possible spray park ($300,000), an expansion to the soccer complex ($1,500,000), and park renovations at various locations ($150,000).

Hogansville spoke next. Their plans include water and sewer upgrades ($800,000), road and sidewalk projects ($600,000), renovations and additions at their amphitheater ($250,000), parks and trails ($750,000), and technology upgrades ($500,000).

West Point projects include road and sidewalk upgrades ($2,000,000), and parks upgrades ($1,500,000).

LaGrange listed their proposed projects next. To start, they have allocated funds for the Thread ($5,000,000 with a match from the County), various park upgrades ($550,000), the recently announced gateway corridor project ($2,000,000), road and bridge improvements ($6,000,000), utility relocation ($1,400,000), regional storm water management ($1,000,000), and a focus on public safety ($4,000,000).

LaGrange went into some detail on their plans as well. As far as park renovations, these could include new playground equipment for Granger Park, redevelopment of the Jackson Street Park, and several pocket parks and a bike playground off of the Thread. They also have plans for a dog park, something that many citizens will be delighted to hear. They also touched on the gateway corridor plan with their hopeful first section being on Whitesville Road on the stretch from Lukken Industrial to the bridge. Public safety dealt with major renovations to the Police Station with a floor by floor overhaul and serious additions for Chief Lou Dekmar and his officers.

Jeremy Andrews Staff Writer