A 10-year plan for recreation improvements in Columbia County foresees construction of dozens of parks with a price tag of $77 million.
Consultants from Lose & Associates, Inc., of Nashville, Tenn., presented the draft of the Recreation and Parks System Comprehensive Plan for public review in a Patriots Park meeting room Monday.
"It's a wish list," said Frank Neal, Columbia County's director of Recreation and Leisure Services.
The lists "wishes" were derived from a survey of county residents, from interviews with recreation staff and from a series of public meetings. Lose & Associates Vice President Chris Camp said the greatest identified need in the county is for additional parks and green space - especially in the densely populated Martinez-Evans area - with an emphasis on "passive" recreation.
"People are wanting more facilities, closer to them so they don't have to drive so far," Camp said, adding that 79 percent of survey respondents favor devoting more of their tax dollars to parks and recreation.
The draft plan offers four options for funding the improvements to existing facilities and the addition of new parks. Those options range from revenue bonds to a combination that dedicates a portion of existing - or increased - property taxes, and a share of the sales tax.
"It's just how much are you willing to spend?" Camp asked. "How important is recreation to your community?"
The consultants will conduct another presentation on the plan next Monday for a committee of the Columbia County Commission.
Sales tax agreement reached
After two months of negotiations, Harlem, Grovetown and Columbia County officials finally an agreement on splitting sales tax dollars for the next 10 years.
According to the plan, Grovetown gets 9 percent of the revenue for the first five years and drop them to 8.25 percent for the last five years. Harlem will get 5 percent to begin with and drop to 4 percent and the county will start 86 percent and jump to 87.5 percent.
The meeting where officials tentatively agreed to the split was the last one before the matter was due to go to an arbitrator. If an agreement had not been reached by the end of the year, the LOST revenue would have been lost. County officials were preparing to try the homestead option sales tax, which would cut out the governments of both cities.
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