Fayette OKs SPLOST list; next stop, voters
The Fayette County Commission has formally approved a list of 181 stormwater projects for funding with a potential countywide 1 percent sales tax for two years that will be up for voter consideration in November.
County resident and environmentalist Dennis Chase was the only person to speak during the public hearing at the Sept. 5 commission meeting. Chase said without detailed plans from the county that would allow him to evaluate the projects appropriately, he would not support the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
Chase also objected to the county increasing the potential SPLOST revenues for the cities, which he considers “an insult.”
“This looks very much like purchasing support from the cities and might even look like buying votes,” Chase said. “The managers of the cities and especially their voters are well able to manage their affairs without our help. Beware of free money, it isn’t always really free.”
To entice residents to support the SPLOST, commissioners have pledged to halt the stormwater fee assessment on residents in unincorporated Fayette County for four years.
Commissioner Charles Oddo said while taxes are a last result, the sales tax seems the best way to improve the county’s stormwater maintenance. Oddo added that he liked the tax would only be used for stormwater projects.
Commissioner Allen McCarty said previous countywide SPLOST initiatives have been deceptive, but he feels this one will replace and fix stormwater issues that haven’t been addressed for years. McCarty said he strongly opposed raising property taxes.
“I do see we have things that are broken that need to be fixed,” McCarty said, adding that it was “the most efficient, cost effective way to make the repairs without increasing property taxes.”
Commissioner Randy Ognio said if the county continued to use the stormwater fee exclusively, the fee would likely have to be raised significantly to address the necessary repairs.
Ognio noted that shoppers who live outside Fayette County will help pay for the tax as well.
“I think all in all this is the best way to go about this,” Ognio said.
Commissioner David Barlow said the stormwater department has been woefully understaffed over the years, and he feels the county has done its groundwork to compile the project list.
Commission Chairman Steve Brown noted that parts of the county’s stormwater system are failing now, and the sales tax would enable the county to address a large number of projects instead of dealing with them one at a time.
The 181 projects total about $16.8 million, with $1.8 million aimed at repairing three dams: one on Longview Road and two others at the Emerald Lake and Koziek dams.
One of the first projects up for funding is likely to be an area of Brittany Way where flooding can reach 10 inches deep in the road and up to three feet deep in the backyards of nearby residences. That project is estimated to cost $57,000 to replace pipe that is too small to handle large-scale rain events.
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. That includes the $1.8 million for the dam projects.
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.
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.