It's a cliche after an election to say "the voters have spoken." But for Columbia County's capital improvements program, the voters just spoke loudly and clearly - and commissioners are very relieved.
Every single project on the county's bond referendum passed, each of them by a comfortable margin. Voters have agreed to raise property taxes to pay for approximately $43 million in water, transportation, recreation and public safety projects, turning back a late but spirited attempt to turn community sentiment against the projects.
Surprisingly, support for the bonds came from across the county. All four parts of the bond failed in just two precincts: the Bessie Thomas Community Center near Grovetown, and Damascus Baptist Church in Leah. Voters at the Eubank Blanchard Community Center in Phinizy rejected the water and recreation bonds, as did voters at Kiokee Baptist Church, in Appling, and at Harlem Middle School.
Altogether, the transportation bonds passed in all but two precincts; public safety bonds passed in all but three. Less popular were bonds for water, which include the hot-button Bowen Pond project, and the recreation bond, which includes the refunding of the purchase of Town Center Park. But even with those much-discussed items, those bonds still passed in all but eight of the county's 47 precincts.
"We are pleased the voters approved all four categories of projects!" gushes a news release from the county commission. Indeed, commissioners and the county's staff should be pleased; eight months of public hearings and discussion led up to Tuesday's vote, and ultimately the voters agreed that the hefty price tag for the projects is worth it.
More importantly, the results of this vote send a very clear message. The loudest voices in recent weeks have been those in opposition to the bond proposals, many of them downright ugly - and others hopelessly naive. Columbia County's voters understand that a fast-growing community requires maintenance and improvements to keep up, and that requires money.
Voters on Tuesday approved more of that money to help the county catch up with its needs. Commissioners now have an obligation to spend that money wisely and earn the confidence voters have granted them.
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