F’ville Council conflicted about voting for SPLOST

Fayetteville City Councilman Walt White at a council meeting in February 2013. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Fayetteville City Councilman Walt White voted in favor of a $9.2 million city list of projects to be funded by a proposed penny sales tax, but said he hopes the measure fails at the ballot box.

As he had done at previous meetings, White questioned the wisdom of participating in the November initiative because he considered it a tax on Fayetteville citizens and because the city would not receive its share of the proceeds unless a project list was provided.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place, but we have to (approve the project list) or we’d lose out on the 1 percent (if the SPLOST passes),” White said. “I’m against this tax increase for the county. I hope the citizens vote against it.”

Fayetteville was the last of municipalities in Fayette County to provide a project list for the 2-year core infrastructure SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) to go before voters in November.

The list approved by unanimous City Council vote Aug. 15 contains funding for fire and police services, stormwater, transportation, water and wastewater and parks improvements.

City Manager Joe Morton said the one-percent tax would generate approximately $41,245,988 countywide and approximately $6,753,499 for Fayetteville.

Morton said the finalized SPLOST project list addresses critical needs. The total cost for all projects is $9,208,999.

“The city has purposely included more projects than projected SPLOST funding in an effort to maximize the use of SPLOST funds in meeting critical core infrastructure needs,” said Morton. “In the event that certain projects are completed under budget or that a specific project is not able to be completed as expected, additional projects from the approved list can be completed.”

The SPLOST projects include land acquisition, design and construction of fire station 93 to be located along Veterans Parkway in the newly annexed areas on the city’s west side. The project carries a total cost of approximately $1.12 million.

The project list also includes $600,000 for tactical support fire apparatus and $500,000 for police crime technology items.

The largest portion of the project list includes 14 stormwater projects carrying a projected cost of approximately $3.78 million. Among the projects are Pye Lake dredging, culvert replacement on Jefferson Avenue, Hillsdale Drive and Buckeye Lane, culvert rehabilitation on Carriage Lane, Woodgate Drive, Mimosa Drive, Fenwyck Commons, Lakemont Drive, Buckeye Lane and Chase Drive and the rehabilitation of Pye Court.

Transportation projects total $2.09 million and include North Jeff Davis Drive resurfacing, a multi-use path extension project, a bridge crossing at Ga. Highway 54 and Piedmont Fayette Hospital, a multi-use path tunnel under Veterans Parkway near Pinewood Atlanta Studios and landscaping medians along Ga. Highway 85 North.

Two water-wastewater projects totaling $1.07 million include wastewater plant equalization basin rehabilitation and a city drinking water well project.

Also on the list is $50,000 for the city-owned nature area located on the former P.K. Dixon property at the end of Burch Road.

Morton said all the stormwater projects were long-range in nature and had been the result of a recent analysis. If approved by voters, the projects could be lumped together when put out for bid in hopes of securing a lower cost, Morton said.

Some on the council were insistent that the city’s SPLOST list not be categorized in a ranking order of priority and that the order of the projects could vary as needed.

“Staff has consulted with the city attorney in reviewing the state SPLOST laws. He is recommending that should it be the direction of City Council to participate in the SPLOST and that it be done so through the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement process to ensure that Fayetteville receives its proportionate share of the SPLOST proceeds for identified capital needs,” Morton said.