Soccer fields and water lines drew the most supporters at two hearings last week to get one last look at public requests for the use of sales-tax dollars.
Columbia County's consultant, Robin Chasman, conducted the final two of a half-dozen meetings Wednesday in Evans and Thursday in Appling. Four earlier meetings last September narrowed requests to a handful of major categories, and Chasman compiled residents' suggestions for individual items.
"We're not talking about tables and chairs here," Chasman said, "We're talking about big things - buildings, roads, parks."
Those parks again drew a crowd in Evans - specifically, Blanchard Woods park on Blanchard Road, where soccer fans hope the county will build eight to 10 new fields to keep up with the sport's growth.
"We are in desperate need of these soccer fields. We need this park," said Phil Sines, the president of the Patriots Soccer Club. "The sooner we get started the better."
Participants at the Appling hearing, however, most wanted water lines extended throughout the rural areas of the county.
"We need that water, not just for drinking, but for fire service," Winfield Volunteer Fire Department Board President Gordon Sparks said. "I've been beating my head against a wall with the commission for 20 years trying to get that done."
As in last September's series of hearings, transportation issues also drew broad public support. Residents of the county's urban areas favored widening of existing streets; rural residents wanted dirt roads widened and paved.
"There are a couple of county roads out here where you swap paint when you pass someone," former Grovetown City Councilman George James said.
Grovetown and Harlem officials also delivered their lists of requests to county officials last week in a meeting of the three governments.
If the five-year extension of the sales tax is approved by voters July 20, county officials expect it to generate $68 million, Chasman said. Grovetown is expected to receive 5.8 percent of the tax proceeds; Harlem would receive 2.7 percent.
Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau said the city plans to use its share for water-system improvements, road-paving projects and land for a new fire station. Harlem Mayor Scott Dean said water and sewer projects are the city's top priorities, along with an expansion of City Hall.
"I have a cubicle in the back," Dean said. "We're actually going to try to give me an office."
Chasman said the list of projects requested so far, from residents and county workers, amounts to some $130 million, nearly double the amount the tax is expected to bring to the county.
All of the information, along with the city's requests, will be delivered to county commissioners, who will prioritize the projects by the end of April. That list will go on the ballot for a vote in the July 20 primary.
Public suggestions for projects to be funded by the sales tax should be submitted as quickly as possible to the county's consultant, who is finalizing the list for presentation to county commissioners. The public can send in their opinions the following ways:
E-mail to: rchasman@CAengineers.com
Mail directly to the county: Columbia County Board of Commissioners; Capital Improvements Plan; P.O. Box 498; Evans, GA 30809
Fax to: 868-3348
Another recreation request was to turn the Columbia County landfill into a motorsport park.
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