Oscar Taylor says he's undecided concerning a proposed bond issue in Columbia County.
"I'm straddling the fence about a lot of it,'' said the Leah resident and chairman of the group Concerned Citizens of Columbia County.
Taylor was among a small group of residents who turned out Thursday night at Eubank Blanchard Community Center for the county's first town hall meeting about the bond.
"The community needs to be in here,'' Taylor said of the low turnout. "It's something we need to sit down and seriously think about before November.''
The more than $43 million bond would pay for $9.3 million in recreation projects, including $4.8 million for an Evans Town Center Park; $5.08 million for public safety; $12.4 million for water projects; and $16.9 million for transportation work.
The bond, which will go before voters in the Nov. 7 general election, was met Thursday night with several questions from the small crowd.
"I think it's ridiculous they're spending more money on recreation than on public safety,'' said James McDowell, an Appling resident, who questioned why the county needed an additional $4.8 million to help pay for a previous land acquisition behind the Evans Kroger when that is nearly the total amount being set aside in the bond for public safety.
County officials told the crowd that $4 million of the money set for the Evans Town Center Park would pay the county back for an earlier purchase it made of the land using reserve funds. County officials said they had to act on the land purchase when they did and that an additional $800,000 from the bond would help them improve the field.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski said the bond projects need to be started now because they would cost more if constructed later since land, material and labor costs are rising.
If the bond isn't approved, Szablewski said, it could take five to 10 years before the projects could be started, and the county's next special purpose local option sales tax won't occur until 2011.
Szablewski told those at the meeting that in the Nov. 7 general election, voters will cast four votes, one for each of the proposed project categories. If voters approve all four categories, a one mill increase would be needed to pay off the bond during a 13-year period - about a $40 increase a year in property taxes on the average $100,000 home.
Szablewski said the breakdown in yearly cost in property taxes on a $100,000 home for each category would be $11.40 for water projects; $15.44 for transportation; $8.52 for recreation and $4.64 for public safety.
The final two town hall meetings on the subject will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Evans Government Center auditorium and at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Savannah Rapids Pavilion. Questions can be e-mailed to email@example.com or called in to (706) 868-3379.
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