The first public hearing for discussion of Columbia County's proposed sales tax referendum included a high-tech twist.
Residents attending Thursday evening's session at Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center in Evans were able to vote from their seats using portable electronic devices.
Manufactured by Turning Technologies of Youngstown, Ohio, the units allowed county officials to instantly gauge that the audience was 69 percent male, that 46 percent live in county commission District 3 and that transportation projects are slightly more popular than recreation.
"This is the first time we've used this interactive survey equipment," said County Administrator Steve Szablewski. The newly acquired and "very inexpensive" system also will be used at the next special purpose local option sales tax sessions planned for 6 p.m. July 10 in the Government Complex Auditorium in Evans and 6 p.m. July 17 at the Appling courthouse.
County officials provided a broad overview of the special option sales tax program Thursday, listing changes in state law that have required altering the way money is allocated for projects.
Szablewski said the tax, though likely to go to a referendum in November, won't be collected until the current sales tax expires after 2010. Getting approval two years early will allow more time for planning and possibly for starting some projects sooner using bonds that would be repaid with later sales tax collections, he said.
"The more time you have for planning, the better projects you have," Szablewski said.
Renewal of the tax is expected to bring in as much as $180 million in its six-year span, Szablewski said.
"When you're talking about spending $180 million, we need your input," said County Commissioner Ron Thigpen.
Information on proposed sales tax-funded projects is available at www.columbiacountyga.gov.
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