Aftermath of Election: SPLOST vote 'great for city'

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Crews were busy with utility work Wednesday on the bypass widening project at Millard Farmer Industrial Boulevard and Bullsboro Drive.

By JOHN A. WINTERS john@newnan.com Tuesday's passage of Coweta County's 2013 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax means major construction projects for the city of Newnan. The new SPLOST, a one-cent sales tax, is expected to generate about $31.1 million over the next six years beginning in 2013.
On the public safety side, the city will construct a new public safety complex for its municipal court and police department. The fire department is looking at a new fire station on the north side, as well as a new rescue unit and fire engine. There's another $8 million or so planned for roads: maintenance of existing road and drainage infrastructure; and new street, intersection and parking improvements. A $1 million recreation center and another $500,000 for recreation improvements also are planned. "It's critical for the city," said Cleatus Phillips, city manager. "We appreciate the support and plan to be good stewards of that money. "Even those who voted 'no' will appreciate what we're doing for the city and quality of life here," he added. That thanks was echoed by Mayor Keith Brady, who called the vote "great for the city." "We thank the voters for their trust in us spending the money wisely," he said. "These capital improvements will mean a lot for us." Voters approved the tax with about 53 percent in favor. Only about 26 percent of the county's registered voters cast ballots. Without the passage, the new construction projects would not have occurred and road improvements and additions would have been curtailed. Phillips said department heads met Wednesday morning to begin the planning process. "We won't be doing a whole lot until the council retreat," Phillips said, adding that meeting is set for later this month. "We wanted to see first if it would pass." The biggest project is the new public safety complex, which will cost around $8 million to $9 million. "At the top of the list is the public safety complex," Brady said. "It's long overdue... it's a critical need; we are scattered all over the city." Among the options city council will consider is whether to "advance fund" the project, or simply wait until the new tax revenue starts to come in and just "pay as you go." Phillips said the public safety complex is the only one the city would consider for advanced funding, which basically means taking a loan or bond out against future revenue. If construction costs are expected to increase dramatically in future years, then the city might opt to go with the advanced funding to save money in the long run. "We will look at the cost," Brady said. "If it's cost-efficient, we will certainly consider it." First up will be hiring a firm to evaluate the various site options. There is the possibility -- and savings -- of locating the new fire station at the public safety complex. That's only possible if the public safety site ends up on the north side, where the new fire station needs to be. "Station No. 4 needs to be on the north side of town near the bypass area," Phillips said. It's doubtful there will be any groundbreaking this year on the new public safety complex. Brady added that the projects in the 2013 SPLOST are long-term items designed to last 10, 20 and even longer in some cases. Besides the construction projects, there are also the roads. "The transportation money is important to us," the mayor said. "As we grow... we need to look at our transportation needs to support that growth."


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