Upcoming SPLOST Town Hall Meetings:
• Midway Community Meeting, 6 p.m. Monday at Liberty County Community Complex
• Gum Branch Community Meeting, 6 p.m. Sept. 1 at Gumbranch Fire Department
• Riceboro Community Meeting, 6 p.m. at Riceboro Recreation Center
• Dorchester Civic Center, TBA
• Hinesville, TBA
• Allenhurst/Walthourville, TBA
• Lake George
After turnout was low at the first Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax town hall meeting, officials are hopeful that meetings to follow, including one Monday night in Midway, will draw bigger crowds.
Voters will decide in November whether or not to pass the one penny sales tax that could generate $54 million over six years, to be shared by local governments to fund capital projects and pay down debt, according to officials. SPLOST was voted down in November 2014.
The town hall meetings, sponsored by the Liberty County Chamber of Com
for the public to receive information and be given the opportunity to ask questions.
At the first meeting, County Administrator Joey Brown answered questions from the audience and thought the event went well.
"I wish it could’ve been better attended by citizens," Brown said. "We struggle with getting messages out, but the more opportunity the better. We hope that in other meetings there will be more of a turnout. I just want them to make an informed decision. I want them to be educated as much as they want to be and as much as we can help."
Liberty County Board of Commissioner Chairman Donald Lovette shared a story of a resident who voted against SPLOST because he thought the animal control facility was not listed as a proposed project. He was informed that it is being built and regretted not voting for SPLOST. Lovette said it was important for residents to find out what SPLOST is about.
Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown was not surprised at the number of people at the meeting.
"I have found over the years it’s hard to get people to come out to public type meetings like that almost on any subject," Brown said. "I was a little disappointed because it’s important to understand SPLOST, whether you’re for it or against it, you need to understand it."
Voters need to understand how the SPLOST referendum is worded on the ballot, how SPLOST works and where it is on the ballot, Brown said. He thought the meeting was good overall and hopes the following meetings will have better turnouts.
County Commissioner Marion Stevens expected to see more city officials.
Vicky Nelson, Hinesville City Councilmember, said there should have been more support from local officials and more of an effort to schedule a day when all or the majority of officials could be at the meeting because everyone has different things happening.
She wants residents to know that local leaders are not trying to trick them
"I think they think that from previous SPLOST money, that we haven’t been good stewards of it," Nelson said. "We have to gain the public’s trust and do what we say we’re going to do."
If people attend the meetings they will get "true information from the people in the know and they won’t hear a lot of hearsay and second guessing," she said. "It’s going to help our debt service without raising people’s taxes. And I know the citizens are saying that taxes are raised anyway. But if you don’t pass SPLOST then there really will be significant increase, because we got to pay the debt that we already have."
The next town hall meeting with be Monday at the Liberty County Community Complex in Midway, starting at 6 p.m.
Caitlin Kenney contributed to this story.