The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

$101 million SPLOST vote in Nov.;1¢ tax would fund 2 F’ville bypasses; PTC not in top 3 priorities


While no official vote was taken, the Fayette County Commission decided during their retreat last week to start the process for setting a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax vote this fall.

The extra penny-on-the-dollar tax, which is estimated to generate $101 million over a five-year period, would be used to pay for Fayette’s 30-year $400 million transportation program.

“We don’t need to come up with all the money. We just have to have our portion,” said Commission Chairman Greg Dunn.

Commissioner Herb Frady wanted the commission to vote on the issue, but Commissioner Linda Wells said she would be more comfortable voting on the issue at a more public meeting.

Still, the consensus of the board was to have county attorney Dennis Davenport start the process for getting the vote to the public this November.

“We’ve got an obligation to improve our infrastructure, and 53 percent of the cars at the Pavilion are from out of the county,” Frady said.

Dunn also told the board that every project in the transportation plan had just been approved in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s 30-year plan.

“I don’t know of another county in the region that got all their projects approved,” he said.

The next step is getting the projects moved into the Transportation Improvement Plan. If the county shows it will have the funds to help pay for the projects, it will go a long way towards making the final cut, Dunn added.

The plan shows nearly $400 million in projects to keep the traffic snarls at a minimum over the next 30 years.

The county’s political leaders gathered late last year and prioritized projects to submit to the Atlanta Regional Commission for funding.

When the plan was completed, Dunn had met with the mayors of Fayette’s cities and asked them to prioritize three projects. When the list from all the jurisdictions were unveiled last week, there was a striking similarity in the assessments.

Tyrone, Brooks, Fayetteville, Woolsey and the county all selected the East Fayetteville Bypass as the top priority. Peachtree City officials, led by Mayor Steve Brown, believed the grade separation at the intersection of Ga. highways 54 and 74 should be the group’s emphasis, followed by the Peachtree Parkway-Crosstown Road intersection improvement and the widening of Hwy. 74 South from two to four lanes.

Dunn agreed Peachtree City’s three choices were important, but pointed out the lion’s share of transportation improvements in the county during the last few years were in Peachtree City, including the impending improvements of TDK Boulevard and the widening of Hwy. 54 to the Coweta County line.

But in the end, the group dismissed Brown’s choices for the top three and set their priorities as the East Fayetteville Bypass, the West Fayetteville Bypass and the widening of Ga. Highway 54 east to the Clayton County border.

During Thursday’s discussion, finance director Mark Pulliam said if the county had started collecting the extra tax this year, it would probably have generated $96 million over the next five years.

But with the economy starting to turn around, he thinks a “conservative” estimate for a SPLOST starting in 2005 is $101 million.

Dunn emphasized that if the commissioners called for the vote in November, their part of the process would be complete.

In recent SPLOST elections around the state, some officials have had their wrists slapped for ethical violations in trying to get out the vote in support of the sales tax.