A recent survey of members of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce showed overwhelming support for renewing the 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax, but they were less enthusiastic about funding an aquatics and tennis center.
Of the 198 participants in the survey, sent early last week by the Government Affairs Committee of the chamber, 164 voted to support a proposed 2011-16 special sales tax.
Asked whether they support an $18 million bond referendum to build a natatorium and tennis complex, 102 voted no. Twenty-two were undecided, 72 voted yes and two did not respond.
Government Affairs Committee Co-chairman Bobby Christine said 198 participants represent about one-third of the chamber membership.
"I think it's a pretty significant response," he said. "That's a lot higher percentage of folks than in a regular election."
Set up in three tiers, the tax projects provide funding for county infrastructure and capital improvements.
Proposed projects for the tax include a more than $10 million expansion of the Columbia County Detention Center, $4 million for a new county health department clinic, $13.4 million to expand the Evans Justice Center, $6.5 million for a second phase of construction at Blanchard Woods Park, $4 million for the first construction phase of Evans Town Center Park, and $10.8 million for dirt-road paving.
"As a rule, I am against taxes," one chamber member wrote in a comments portion of the survey. "But something has to be done about the traffic."
Another respondent was less concerned about road and traffic issues.
"I question the need to spend $40 million on road construction, $4 million on a courthouse parking structure and $2 million on an equestrian center," the person wrote.
Another participant questioned the wisdom of introducing a new tax during an economic recession.
"We should let it rest for at least a year," the respondent wrote. "There are some hard times coming."
At some point, chamber officials might submit a letter to the editor of the newspaper detailing the results of the survey, Christine said.
"We think it appropriate to let the public know what the chamber membership supports," he said.
The local option sales tax and natatorium referendums will appear before Columbia County voters on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, though early voting is available at the county's elections office.
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