Columbia County government will get indoor parking. County swimmers will not get an indoor pool.
That's a shorthand version of the results of Tuesday's referendums, in which voters agreed to renewal of the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, and shot down a proposal to build an aquatic center.
Defeat of the pool complex is no surprise. It's difficult any time to persuade voters to raise their own property taxes; that's especially true at a time of general economic uncertainty.
It certainly didn't help that the pool's proponents were slow in trying to drum up broader support from the community. By the time they finally began making their case to the public, early voting already had been under way for a couple of weeks.
Even later, the Family Y hired a marketing firm to conduct a telephone survey to gauge support for the proposal in hopes of helping persuade voters to get on board. They ought to ask for their money back: The survey showed 63 percent approval for the aquatic center, yet voters gave it a 63 percent rejection.
Some pool proponents believe the proposal can come back to voters later, but that barely qualifies as wishful thinking. With 63 percent rejection, the voters clearly have spoken.
The voters' voices were considerably more muddled regarding SPLOST. In fact, if election day votes were the only measure, the vote actually failed 49-51 percent. Just 16 of the county's 45 precincts voted in favor on Tuesday.
However, a record number of early, advance and absentee votes pushed the proposal to victory - by a mere 729 votes overall out of more than 52,000 votes cast.
"It was closer than I would have thought," Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross says. "We, of course, would have liked to have had the margins that we normally are accustomed to - something in the high 50 percent or 60 percent range."
Commissioners likely would have gotten such a margin if they'd loaded this SPLOST with fewer amenities for bureaucrats.
In any event, the best news from Tuesday's election is that property taxes won't be going up, and the new SPLOST will use sales tax dollars to pay off $20 million in county debt.
In uncertain economic times, that's at least a little good news.
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