The SPLOST V committee met on August 23 at Nash Farm Park to discuss commission district II. The district is represented by Commissioner Dee Clemmons and covers the communities of Hampton, Luella, west McDonough / Avalon, Mt. Carmel / Dutchtown, and Hudson Bridge Road.
SPLOST stands for Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax and is a program utilized by all 159 Georgia counties to fund capital improvements and transportation projects via a one-percent local sales tax. This enables local governments to fund major projects without raising property tax to cover the costs.
SPLOST was first passed by Henry County voters in September 1996, and since then, three subsequent programs have been approved. The current program, SPLOST IV, is set to expire collections on March 31, 2020. The voters of Henry County will decide via referendum in November 2019 whether to renew the program and extend collections an additional six years.
Much of the discussion and comments from area residents focused on the Jonesboro Road corridor and its recently delayed widening between I-75 and US 19 / 41. Georgia DOT put the project on hold earlier this year because not enough funds are available for the $70 million dollar project.
Henry County staff and Commissioner Clemmons have an upcoming meeting with GDOT in hopes that the state will widen a shorter section of the road. The county would like to see Jonesboro Road widened between I-75 and Chambers Road to better support the commercial traffic.
The SPLOST V committee is not making any final project decisions at this time; however, one intersection along Jonesboro Road rose to high priority. The intersection at Mitchell Road is unimproved but serves the Dutchtown school cluster. The county will consider improving the location using the state’s widening plans. This would widen the highway in the immediate vicinity of the intersection and install a traffic signal.
Another major topic for the evening was the proposed Kensley Grace Aquatic Center in McDonough. The foundation has asked the SPLOST V committee for $8 million in county funding to go towards their $24 million facility; however, county attorney Patrick Jaugstetter explained there are a couple of legalities that first need addressed.
One concern raised by Mr. Jaugstetter is the county must eventually complete any SPLOST project that is approved by the voters. If the aquatic center appears on the project list, but the Kensley Grace foundation is unable to reach their fundraising goals, the county would be liable to build some form of aquatic center. Georgia law allows for projects to be scaled down in scope, so it could be a smaller venue if built by the county.
Another concern involves ownership and operation of the building. If constructed using SPLOST funds, the county must maintain ownership rights to the aquatic center. An existing lease agreement with the foundation will need reworked because the foundation was to own and operate the venue on county land under that agreement
There are a number of smaller projects that were also mentioned at the meeting. A separate article covering those items is available here.
The proposed extension of the Henry County SPLOST program will be decided by voters in November 2019. If approved, the SPLOST V program will continue the existing tax collections for an additional six years through March 31, 2025.