Columbia County voters this fall will have two opportunities to decide how the government will spend their money.
First is the sales tax renewal. There's little doubt it will pass. Columbia County has rejected just one in the past 20 years or so, and that was because it was poorly planned.
Sales tax referendums now are laid out in such excruciating detail that no one can possibly claim they don't know what they're voting for. And because a hefty amount of sales taxes are paid by visitors, it's a bonus to get local projects paid for by someone other than homeowners.
There will be another question on November's ballot besides the sales tax.
If it passes, voters will be approving a tax increase on everyone who owns property in the county. The $17 million will then pay for an indoor swimming pool and a tennis complex, both of which would be used by only a tiny fraction of the county's residents.
That's the fear expressed by Bob Culbreath of Appling, who opposes the referendum.
Culbreath spoke to commissioners Tuesday and was alarmed at the idea of the county building an aquatic center for the few at the expense of the many taxpayers.
"In my opinion, Columbia County has no business being in the swimming-pool business," Culbreath said.
Commissioners later approved both the sales-tax question and the bond referendum, hurrying their approval to meet a Wednesday deadline from Georgia's secretary of state.
This means that in the November election, after voters make their way down from the presidential race, to the U.S. Senate race, to the 10th District congressional race and wade through all the local uncontested races, they'll find a handful of questions.
Some are state constitutional amendments (including a horrible one, certain to pass because giving an enormous tax break to big timber companies). And they'll also find the two local ballot questions.
One is for the sales tax. Easy yes. The other is for the bond referendum. That's where Culbreath and other aquatic center opponents can fight for "no" votes, vs. swim-team moms who will work vigorously for approval. In the end, it will probably come down to who works harder.
And these folks thought swimming competitions were tough.
He wore socks, too
Congratulations to Columbia County's newest commissioner, ex-Harlem mayor Scott Dean.
There were a lot of light moments Tuesday during the reception in Dean's honor, held before and after he was sworn in by Probate Judge Pat Hardaway.
One of the funnier ones was when Dean committed a Freudian stumble during his oath of office.
Dean, who is an outspoken advocate for Harlem, Grovetown and District 4, was supposed to repeat after Hardaway, "... to the welfare and best interest of the entire county." Instead he lost his place while trying to recite the long sentence and choked - causing the room to erupt in laughter.
Then later, while giving the invocation to start the commission meeting, Dean asked for God's blessings "on this city."
"You might want a do-over on that one," Chairman Ron Cross quipped.
"I told him he was going to have to take that Harlem hat off," said commissioner Tommy Mercer.
"So," I asked the fellow on the next stool. "Have you decided who you're supporting for president?"
"Yeah," he replied, "I think I'll vote for that Irishman from Alabama."
"Huh?" I asked. "What Irishman from Alabama?"
"You know," he laughed. "Barack O'Bama."
(OK, so it's funnier if you say it out loud.)
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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