The Liberty County Board of Commissioners on Monday finalized a list of road and building projects that would be funded if a new Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax is approved by voters Nov. 4.
The commissioners met with Liberty County mayors last week to receive their requests for SPLOST-funded projects in their cities and provide input for how other funds should be distributed for projects that benefit the whole county.
“Every mayor has had an opportunity to submit their list,” BoC Chairman Donald Lovette said. “There’s no way to pay for some projects with SPLOST. Bonds will have to be issued for big projects like a (county) event center or truck bypass for Walthourville.”
County Administrator Joey Brown and Chief Financial Officer Kim McGlothlin estimate about $54 million will be collected through the six years of a new SPLOST. Brown said 26 percent, or $13.86 million, of that money is designated for road projects, and another 4 percent, or $2 million, is set aside for additional countywide road projects.
Brown said the list does not spell out most road or building projects, though that is noted from the list of priorities provided by the mayors with input from the commissioners for county projects. An item listed as “public-safety vehicles,” for example, represents $540,000 to buy one new ambulance each year for six years at a cost of $90,000 per vehicle.
Brown said it allows $1.365 million to buy seven patrol vehicles a year for six years at a cost of $30,000 to $35,000 per vehicle for the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and an equal amount for Hinesville Police Department patrol vehicles. It also provides $90,000 to buy one new patrol vehicle every other year for six years for Midway, plus the same amount for Walthourville.
Brown said the list includes 18 percent, or $9.5 million, to service the debt on the justice center and 6 percent, or
$3.1 million, to service the debt for Hinesville City Hall and public-works facilities. It also includes 7 percent, or $4 million, for extending the runway at MidCoast Regional Airport; and 1 percent each, or $500,000, for a county-records center and historical/cultural projects.
He said a total figure of $2.75 million is listed for “various” building improvements. These improvements include $634,000 for a new Hinesville fire station; $816,131 for a county event center; $317,384 for a new Midway city hall; and $362,725 for a Liberty Regional Medical Center east-end clinic.
“I think we’ve been very conservative with our estimates,” Brown said. “If you’re OK with the percentages, I think we’re OK to present this list to our mayors for an intergovernmental agreement. This list will be presented to the chief elected officials (Tuesday) in association with the execution of an inter-governmental agreement for disbursement of the funds.”
After reviewing the list, District 6 Commissioner Gary Walden asked why Allenhurst and Gum Branch were not included among any of the project items. Commissioners Pat Bowen, District 4, and Justin Frasier, District 2, pointed out that since road improvements have depended on SPLOST funds for the last 18 years, few — if any — dirt roads are getting paved.
Brown told Walden that Allenhurst and Gum Branch are not on the list for direct distribution of SPLOST funds because they’re not qualified governmental bodies due to their small populations. However, he said they can receive road-construction funds from the county. Walden said he believes every vote will be needed for the SPLOST referendum, and it was good idea to allocate funds directly to these communities. All members of the board agreed.
Brown, McGlothlin and Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel then went through the list, refiguring allocations to allow $191,000 total for Allenhurst and Gum Branch.
District 5 Commissioner Gary Gilliard suggested that the county inventory the dirt roads and establish a means of prioritizing which roads should be paved each year. Lovette said that priority should take into consideration the number of people who live on a proposed road as well as that road’s current maintenance costs and length.
Commission Vice Chairwoman Connie Thrift, District 3, said an emphasis should be put on getting the shorter dirt roads paved first, as road-paving costs are about $500,000 per mile.
District 1 Commissioner Marion Stevens, whose district has the most unpaved roads (about 44 miles), admitted that having a list of roads slated for paving might not satisfy all the residents in his district, but it is better than doing nothing.