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Committee sets deadline for transportation project list
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The executive committee of the Coastal Georgia Regional Roundtable set a deadline Wednesday for counties to submit a “constrained” list of desired transportation projects to the committee. The committee, which met at the Richmond Hill City Center, next will meet at 9 a.m. June 29 at the center in Richmond Hill to review local governments’ pared-down lists of prioritized road projects.

“Get ready to horse trade,” said Jimmy Burnsed, Bryan County Commission chairman and roundtable executive committee chairman. Local executive committee members also include Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver and Flemington Mayor Sandra Martin. Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas serves on the roundtable.

 A decision-making meeting with committee members will be Aug. 15 to begin finalizing a comprehensive list, Burnsed said. A proposed final draft must be approved by the full roundtable in October.

“In Bryan County, we’ve about cut our (project list) in half,” he said.

Burnsed said the list of projects currently is estimated at $2.9 billion, and the total cost must be cut down to $1.5 billion.

Burnsed and Allen Burns, executive director of the Coastal Regional Commission, told committee members that Georgia Department of Transportation Planning Director Todd Long reviewed the preliminary list and recommended some projects be dropped.

“There may be some projects that won’t get done in the next 10 years,” Burnsed said. “Take those out.”
He said those projects could be considered for funding in the future.

The committee chairman also suggested that counties consider leaving some local projects on the final list to better attract voters.

Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said he’d like to see one local project that Long suggested be dropped from the list — the MidCoast Airport Access Road — remain on the list.

However, before these projects can be funded, voters first must approve a referendum on a 10-year, 1-percent sales tax in August 2012. If voters pass the regional transportation tax, collection would begin in late 2012 and funds could flow in early 2013.

Seventy-five percent of the funds would go to regional projects; local governments would retain 25 percent of the tax, Burnsed said. The formulaic distribution of this portion of the sales tax among counties and their municipalities is determined by land miles and population, according to Burns.

“Our (coastal) region is going to raise the largest amount of money outside Atlanta,” Burnsed said.

Coastal Georgia could raise an estimated $131 million in 2013 if voters approve the tax. Bryan County, Richmond Hill and Pembroke could receive a total of $1.7 million for local projects. Liberty County could receive about $29.5 million, which would be split among the county and its seven municipalities.

Hollie Moore Barnidge and Lori Wynn contributed to this story.

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