Columbia County commissioners are set to vote Tuesday on a final project list for the 2017-2022 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which will be on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot.
Officials held a series of public meetings over the past month seeking feedback from county and city residents on the project list, after which a few adjustments were made to the projected SPLOST money allocated to some projects.
A $19.2 million allocation for a county justice center garage and renovation, has been reduced to $17 million. That $2.2 million difference has been shifted to county recreation projects, allocating $3.2 million for park upgrades and new property acquisition in the first tier of projects. Another $1.5 million for county park upgrades has been shifted from the third tier to the second tier of projects.
Other big items on the list include $3.4 million for a new Harlem library, and $9 million for a new county cultural arts center and museum.
Commission Chairman Ron Cross said he has heard some criticism of the cultural center, but he feels now is the time for the county to invest in these type of “quality of life” projects to continue the county’s growth.
“I think there is lot of support for that kind of thing,” Cross said. “Not to say that we are metropolitan, but we have to build these (facilities) as the quality of life continues to rise.”
Cross pointed out that well-educated professionals that continue to move to Columbia County expect more cultural activities and opportunties for their families. He envisions an area around the cultural center with a lot of greenspace, pedestrian walkways and some small retail stores and restaurants to give Evans a central hub of activity.
“I just think it is good idea for the county and the various arts groups that have been trying to do something like this for years,” he said.
Also on the list is $30 million earmarked for a “sole community hospital provider,” which will be available if the state approve one of three area hospitals that have submitted “Certificate of Need” applications to build the county’s first hospital.
In the case they are not needed, the county has a $30 million list on contingency projects that could be funded instead, that is dedicated to building and improving parks and recreation facilities throughout the county.