Residentas expressed concerns Wednesday about a transportation sales tax referendum during a town hall meeting in Evans.
The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and county leaders held the first of two Transportation Investment Act meetings about the proposed 1 percent sales tax at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center.
About 75 people showed up to hear county commission chairman Ron Cross and chamber President Tammy Shepherd give presentations on the referendum, which they called a “fair tax” program.
“Everyone will pay into the system,” she said. “We will all reap the rewards.”
The proposed T-SPLOST is on the July 31 ballot.
The referendum, if passed, will provide $621 million during 10 years for the entire region and fund eight Columbia County transportation projects prioritized by leaders last summer, officials said. Those include the extension of Riverwatch Parkway to Washington Road, widening Lewiston Road and Horizon South Parkway, and improving Robinson Avenue in Grovetown.
Shepherd said the proposed T-SPLOST would improve regional traffic patterns, create thousands of jobs throughout Georgia and attract businesses to the area.
“It’s an investment in ourselves,” she said.
Several people, though, spoke of their distrust of the program and concern for transportation projects in more rural areas of the county.
Martinez resident Barry Thompson said politicians should be more responsible by spending less money.
“Why does it need to come out of the taxpayers’ pockets?” he asked.
Linda Parnell, of Evans, said she felt the T-SPLOST was a waste of money at the expense of residents.
“I think it sounds too good to be true,” she said. “We’re a little gun shy about giving politicians our money.”
While the referendum might not be ideal, Cross said, it is the best program available.
“Essentially, it’s all we have to work with,” he said.
In 10 years, officials expect that $840 million will be collected in the CSRA Region. Because that is 25 percent more than the total of the project list, the remaining money will be divvied up between the counties in the region as discretionary funds that leaders can use for additional transportation projects.
A second town hall meeting is set for 6 p.m. July 24 at the government center auditorium in Evans.