Columbia County officials want to hear from the public on needed projects in the county and will seek input with three public meetings.
"We've got some basic needs particularly in storm water and transportation and we think those will probably take priority," Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said. "But we want to look at anything else."
The first of three meetings to review a capital improvements list of projects and hear other ideas is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Evans Government Center auditorium.
A second meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 11 at Eubank Blanchard Community Center. The third meeting will be at 6 p.m. June 8 at the Evans Government Center auditorium.
Storm water and transportation infrastructure are critical needs in Columbia County, Cross said.
Projects supporting that infrastructure top the priority lists of county officials when they put together a preliminary list of capital improvement projects.
Cross said he hopes the projects will be funded by a $40 million bond issue to be voted on by residents on the November ballot.
The largest amount for funding for the draft list of capital improvements is $11,081,230 for transportation projects. That includes $4.9 million to widen Industrial Park Drive to five lanes from Washington Road to Evans to Locks Road as part of the North Belair Road connector project.
There also is $940,000 for sidewalks to be added on Gibbs Road near Evans Elementary School and on Cox Road for Evans High and Bel Air Elementary schools.
The list includes funds to pave dirt roads such as Crawford Place and Hinton Wilson roads.
The list also includes $8.6 million for stormwater projects, which, Cross said, is needed for residential and commercial areas built before stormwater rules were enforced.
The commission will review the list, which also includes $6.5 million in recreation projects and $7.9 million for such items as buildings and emergency services. Cross said commissioners hope to have the list confirmed by September in time to get the $40 million referendum on the November ballot.
The total cost of the proposed preliminary list is $34,797,294. If passed by voters, the $40 million bond issue will take 12 years to repay with a proposed one-mill raise in the property tax rate.
"That's about $40 a year on a $100,000 property value," Cross said, adding that the referendum will fund the needed infrastructure projects while allowing funds from the 1-cent sales tax to be spent on more recreation and community projects.
Cross said he hopes residents will consider the referendum and associated projects worth a millage increase.
"We hope that people will look at it that way," Cross said. "We didn't want to (increase the rate) above 1 mill ... We hope they (residents) go for it because this is the way to raise the money and make those improvements and it continues to enhance our quality of life here."
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