Columbia County commissioners have a lot of sales tax money coming their way and have started seeking ways to spend it.
Officials expect to receive more than $14.5 million for Tier III projects in the 2006-10 1-percent sales tax package. During a Tuesday study session, commissioners examined a list of potential projects.
Sales tax projects are divided into three tiers based on order of importance.
Tier III projects are pursued only if enough revenues are collected during the life of the sales tax and after Tier I and II projects are funded.
Based on a list of projects approved by voters when the sales tax referendum passed, considerations for those funds might include updating traffic signals, resurfacing roads, building a recycling center at Riverside Park, building an exhibition hall in the Gateway area near Grovetown, upgrading five fire stations, buying a new public safety radio system, and upgrading Evans Town Center Park.
County traffic officials are requesting $250,000 to continue a new traffic signal system heading East on Washington Road from where it now ends at Old Evans Road to the county line. The system uses cameras to monitor traffic patterns and feeds that data into computers linking the traffic lights so the signals can work together to ease congestion.
Other traffic items under consideration are $250,000 for 10 dynamic message signs that can advise motorists on detours, emergencies and even special events; a $100,000 system that allows traffic signals to give priority to emergency vehicles; $100,000 for traffic cameras; and $50,000 for upgrades at the Traffic Management Center.
Several county roads might be resurfaced using $1.4 million in SPLOST dollars. More than 30 roads are in need of repairs, but officials would start with worse roads first and continue repairing as many as possible until the funds run out.
Commissioners also might be allowed $100,000 each in sales tax funds to earmark for road projects in their districts.
As much as $600,000 might be designated for repairs on existing county buildings, which officials are allowed to do so long as those repairs add to the life of the building.
Some of those repairs might include a new deck for Savannah Rapids Pavilion, replacing light fixtures at the Appling Courthouse, upgrades at the county morgue, and reflooring the children's area of Columbia County Library.
"Anytime you can use SPLOST funds to offset (maintenance and operations) cost, do it," Commissioner Ron Thigpen said.
Also requested by officials is $400,000 for a building near a radio tower behind the library to house computer servers for a proposed broadband network and materials for the county maintenance staff.
About $300,000 has been requested for a recycling center at Riverside Park, similar to the center near Grovetown High School.
An exhibition center in the Gateway area near Grovetown is under consideration for $3.9 million in sales tax funds. The 40,000-square-foot facility would help the county recover lost revenues from event organizers who say the area lacks a large exposition area, County Administrator Steve Szablewski said.
However, Szablewski proposed that commissioners consider a feasibility study on the project before approving funding for it.
In addition to the exhibition hall, commissioners are considering spending $1.6 million for parking and multipurpose trails for that area.
Five fire stations could be repaired and upgraded with $500,000.
Officials also want to spend $1 million to buy radio handsets compatible with an $8 million, 800-megahurtz radio system Sheriff Clay Whittle wants to install using 911 fees, said Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson.
Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith is requesting $1.1 million from Tier III to combine with $2.4 million in SPLOST dollars already earmarked for construction of the Evans Town Center Park. The overall projected cost for the park is nearly $4.5 million.
Also, $900,000 might be allocated for land purchases for recreational use.
More than $1.5 million might be used for a sewer line up Euchee Creek from the Little River Treatment Plant to Washington Road.
Commissioners stressed that all of these projects must still be vetted before they are approved. In particular, Commissioner Scott Dean said he wanted to see maintenance and operation costs on all the proposed projects before approving a final list.
One project nixed from the list on Tuesday was a proposal to build a drive-in window for fee payments in Building B of the Evans Government Center.
Commissioners likely will vote on all the projects as a single package, but it might take as long as two months to develop a final list.
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