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Fayette details $16.8 million in SPLOST projects

Fayette County officials have released a list of 181 stormwater projects proposed for funding through a countywide 1 percent Special Local Option Sales Tax over two years that will be up for voter consideration this November.

The final estimates to complete projects, all located in unincorporated Fayette County, came in under budget at $16.8 million, which will allow the county to provide additional sales tax funding to Fayette’s cities.

If approved, the sales tax would allow property owners in the unincorporated county to avoid paying an annual stormwater fee for the next four years, a promise that will be incorporated into the referendum, according to Fayette County Commissioner Randy Ognio.

Of the grand total, some $2.9 million is necessary for replacement or repair of stormwater systems that could endanger property and perhaps human life, according to a project breakdown supplied by the county. Included in that figure are two dam repair projects eclipsing $1.1 million each: the Longview Dam and the Emerald Lake Dam, according to estimates provided to the county by Jacobs Engineering.

Another $3.6 million is targeted for other stormwater projects that don’t endanger property or human life but “are in need of immediate attention,” while other projects in that category which “need replacement soon” will cost $7.95 million, according to county data.

Detailed information about the myriad of stormwater projects is available on the county’s website, www.fayettecountyga.gov, and hard copies have been placed at each city hall, local libraries and the county’s administration building in downtown Fayetteville. The details are limited to all projects that will cost more than $20,000, although the county anticipates spending $912,000 on stormwater projects that won’t eclipse the $20,000 mark on what are classified as “functional improvements” for stormwater drainage systems.

“We promised our constituents in the stormwater town hall meetings that the SPLOST proposal would only cover essential core infrastructure problems, no fluff, and that’s what we have delivered,” said Fayette County Commissioner David Barlow.

The county has been performing culvert repair and replacement under local roads on an emergency-only basis, taking funding from other parts of the budget as necessary, officials have said.

County officials have contended that decades-old stormwater structures are needing repair or replacement, in large part to avoid washed-out roads due to crumbling storm drain pipe running underneath the road. Such a collapse occurred several months ago on Morrison Road and county public works crews had to work around the clock to restore residents’ access to their homes, officials said.

When the county removes deteriorated corrugated pipe from underneath roads, the old metal pipes are being replaced with concrete pipes that have a lifespan of 50 years or more, officials said.

If the sales tax is approved, Peachtree City is planning to use its share of the funds to pay for road and cart path maintenance, though a final project list has not yet been proposed. Likewise the city of Fayetteville has not made a final decision on which projects it might fund with sales tax revenues although city staff has been tasked with preparing such plans.

The use of a SPLOST for unincorporated stormwater projects in the county stemmed from three town hall meetings the commission conducted after a number of residents decried the implementation of the new stormwater fee late last year.

A number of unincorporated county residents wanted city residents to pay the stormwater tax also, based on the fact that city residents use county roads, but county officials said that was impossible because the county was not proposing to make any stormwater improvements in any of the cities, which have their own stormwater management programs and associated fees already.

The county’s stormwater fee structure is set up so property owners pay for the estimated amount of impervious surfaces on their lot, including not just the home but also a garage, driveway, sidewalks, patios and other improvements. For each 1,000 square feet of impervious surface, the property owner will pay $4.20 a year.

For some residents the fee will top out in the neighborhood of $20 while others will pay more depending on the layout and improvements to their lot. Meanwhile, businesses, churches and schools in the county stand to pay significantly more, particularly if they have large parking lots and other large areas of impervious surface that create stormwater runoff.

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