Though Columbia County won't start collecting revenue from the renewed 1-percent sales tax until 2011, county officials already are preparing to spend some of the money.
When voters in November approved renewal of the sales tax for 2011-16, they also agreed to allow the county to borrow up to $38 million in advance of sales tax collections to start some projects.
The funds will be repaid as the taxes are collected.
Recently, Columbia County commissioners approved starting design work and the bidding process on numerous construction projects and capital purchases.
The construction projects include:
- A $4 million dorm at the Columbia County Detention Center;
- $4 million for a new Health Department;
- A $2.8 million Animal Care and Control facility;
- A $2.2 million four-bay Fleet Services garage';
- A $3 million expansion of Building C at the Evans government complex;
- $1.7 million to start construction on Evans Town Park; and,
- More than $2.6 million for fire station construction and upgrades, along with nearly $1.5 million for three new pumper trucks for Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue.
The 10,000-square-foot dorm at the Detention Center, planned for low-security inmates, will relieve overcrowding at the jail, Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Brett Carani said. Included in the penny tax are future plans to build a second $6 million dorm for prisoners.
The county's health department currently operates from three locations -- in Evans, Appling and Grovetown. Officials plan to centralize the department's operations into a single facility on Chamblin Road.
County Emergency Services and Operations Director Pam Tucker wrote in an e-mail that "it was suggested that a single location would be much more cost-effective and efficient."
Tucker wrote that the county Department of Family and Children Services would move into the health department's Appling facility, and the Grovetown building would become the site of a new fire station.
The Evans building likely will become county office space, said Commissioner Scott Dean.
Next to the new health department will be the new Animal Control operation.
"Due to the growth we have had ... it is not large enough to facilitate the need," Tucker wrote of the current Animal Control building on Columbia Road. "It has only 71 cages, kennels, holding and livestock areas."
The proposed Fleet Services garage will service the county's smaller vehicles, such as police cruisers, said Construction and Maintenance Division Director Scott Herring.
"The facility they have right now ... was designed more for the large vehicles like fire trucks and heavy equipment," Herring said.
The expansion of Building C at the government complex, which houses the county's Internet Technology, Finance and Tax Collector's offices, is designed in part to provide enough room to bring three IT locations together in one office.
"One of the things we're trying to do is get all of IT together in the same place," Herring said. "That's one of the things the expansion will accomplish."
Across Ronald Reagan Drive from the government complex, the Evans Town Park is planned for the large open area behind the Evans Kroger.
The bond money will fund grading and infrastructure improvements to the park, said Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith.
"Currently, we can't have bona fide events there, because we don't have the amenities to support the crowds," Smith said. "If we had proper electricity and plumbing, and had some trees planted, we can start doing more things there."
Possible events for the park include festivals and concerts, Smith said.
Another $2.6 million is included in the $180 million sales tax for future construction projects at the park.
Included in the fire services projects are a fire station that will be built on the site of the former Leah High School, Tucker wrote. An expansion of the Sugar Creek fire station will allow for three or four additional bedrooms and an office.
Some of the facilities receiving bond funding might be in use by later this year or early 2010.
Two Greenbrier High lacrosse players practice at Evans Town Park, which will be developed with funds from the 1-cent sales tax extension.[CAPTION]
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The Greenbrier High School girls lacrosse team practices at Evans Town Park. Now that Columbia County voters have approved a 1-cent sales tax renewal, officials are accepting bids on some of the projects funded by the tax, such as development of Evans Town Park.
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