Two proposed one-cent sales tax projects in which residents have shown interest received a tepid response from the Columbia County Board of Commissioners at a Wednesday work session.
The commissioners questioned whether building an aquatics center and a clubhouse at Bartram Trail Golf Club would be the best use of the funds.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski said proposed projects total more than $400 million, but the county likely would have just $180 million available.
Estimates put the price tag of an aquatics center at $8 million.
Downplaying the need for a swimming facility, Commissioner Diane Ford said the county already has 1,200 miles of shoreline at Thurmond Lake and many of the county's subdivisions have their own swimming pools and swim teams.
Commissioner Tommy Mercer shared her concerns and said he prefers the funds be spent on the county's $30 million in stormwater needs.
Chairman Ron Cross said possibilities for public-private partnerships for an aquatics center are available.
He also said the county owns land in Blanchard Woods Park that could be used for an aquatics center. He said the facility could be the anchor for the proposed "gateway project" at Interstate 20 and Lewiston Road.
"We're getting into the gap between reality and dreamland here," he said. "But if you're going to dream, you might as well dream big."
Cross also said the voters could be asked in a ballot question whether they would be willing to finance the construction of an aquatics center with a general obligation bond.
The Bartram Trail clubhouse also garnered little support, in part because commissioners said it will be 22 years before the county takes ownership of the property.
The commissioners favored allocating $34 million for the expansion of the justice center and detention facility, a county administrative building and a health department facility.
"These are considered important essential projects for county governments," Szablewski said.
The board also supported the allocation of more than $22 million for debt retirement for the justice center and the detention facility.
"When we have the opportunity to take bond indebtedness off taxpayers. We should take advantage of it," Commissioner Ron Thigpen said.
Commissioners agreed to allocate 10.53 percent of the remaining estimated $123 million in sales tax revenue to Grovetown and 3 percent to Harlem.
The proposals will be included on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, and the next round of funding would be collected from 2011 to 2016.
The board will vote on ballot language for the renewal of the one-cent sales tax funding at its Aug. 5 meeting.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.