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What will that SPLOST penny buy?

A look at the projects planned for Hall and its cities

POSTED: March 15, 2009 12:30 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

HALL COUNTY - $195 million: Hall County will get the largest share of SPLOST proceeds - $195 million - and it plans to use it for public works projects, construction projects, water and sewer expansion, renovation of the courthouse and administration buildings, fire and emergency medical projects and recreation needs.

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The fate of SPLOST VI affects not only Hall County but the cities within it.

Seven municipalities will receive a cut of the $240 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax if it passed by voters Tuesday.

Funds are given out to the cities based on population, meaning populated Gainesville gets a much greater share of the money than small Gillsville. By far the largest chunk - $195 million of the $240 million total - goes for projects across Hall County.

Each municipality has major projects hanging in the balance - from Gillsville's modest $40,000 in road improvements to $20 million for Gainesville's public safety facility.

GAINESVILLE

Gainesville officials hope to acquire and spend most of their allotted SPLOST VI funds to pay for a $20 million planned public safety facility.

Preparation for the approximately 10-acre site that will house the city's police department, municipal court and Fire Station No. 1 is already under way.

Plans for the facility include a 54,000-square-foot building for the police station and municipal court and a second, 26,000-square-foot building for the city's fire station. The new buildings will replace the 35-year-old station on Jesse Jewell Parkway that fire and police officials both say they outgrew years ago.

Police Chief Frank Hooper said even the new building has been scaled down due to the current state of the economy, and will only meet the department's needs for about 10 years. However, it will be built with room for expansion, which is an improvement.

"Our current facility has no room for expansion whatsoever," he said.

For police, the planned facility will have four rooms specifically designated for interviewing suspects. The new facility will also have a laboratory, allowing for more accurate testing of evidence, Hooper said.

Fire Chief Jon Canada said although his department is looking forward to a bigger building - and needs one to grow - the location of the new station is one of its biggest perks.

The location of the new station near Queen City Parkway will make it easier for firefighters to leave and return to the station, Canada said. Both traffic congestion at the current location and the forced one-way turn that fire trucks have to make onto Jesse Jewell Parkway strain the department's response time, Canada said.

"That's our biggest hurdle," he said.

FLOWERY BRANCH

Flowery Branch hopes to spend $1.3 million for a sewer lift station at the Cinnamon Cove condominium complex at 6500 Gaines Ferry Road and a force main line.

The lift station would replace a privately run sewer plant now serving the 1970s-era complex.

City Manager Bill Andrew sees the move as also beneficial to Cinnamon Cove, as the complex faces the possibility of expensive upgrades to the plant, which sits in a recessed area just past the complex and off Gaines Ferry.

The complex, which sits about three miles outside the city, would receive sewer services through the city and the "looming headache (of plant upgrades) would be off their back," he said in January.

Ultimately, a plant could cost the city $10 million to $14 million, with financing likely to come from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. The move likely would affect future sewer rates.

City officials believe the extra capacity will be needed as the area continues to grow.

Some development is taking place, particularly east of Interstate 985, even in the economic slowdown.

LULA

Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said the city is hoping to accomplish two things with the $1.3 million it would receive for water and sewer projects.

"Redevelopment of existing water and sewer lines, some of them that we've got in the ground, as well as 50 percent of our effort going toward extending new service lines," Bergin said.

Bergin said Lula's priority is taking care of existing customers.

"It's almost 50-50," Bergin said. "We're prioritizing what needs to be done and serving the existing community's interests first before we go out to serving any future development."

The current sewer system in Lula will undergo improvements to bring it up to date.

"We're trying to rehabilitate a system that was built back in 1955," Bergin said.

But the city is also planning ahead for growth.

"We have a sewer service and water service area that's been approved by the state and by the county and the other municipalities for us to service in. So pretty much, the sandbox we play in has been already defined. Now it's just a matter of you can't service all of it in a day. It's systematically approaching where we want to direct development and where the development is coming in," Bergin said.

Lula also would spend some of its $1.9 million SPLOST allotment on updating the downtown area through a streetscape project and the building of a veterans park. The streetscape project would take less than a year to complete and will refurbish storefronts in downtown Lula to attract businesses to the area.

OAKWOOD

Oakwood's is looking to use its $3.8 million in SPLOST funds to lay the infrastructure for its conceptual 250-acre core around downtown by 2030.

The city's plans call for a mix of commercial and multi-use development, trails and open areas, ponds, and features such as a commuter rail station, amphitheater and new city hall.

Another $1.5 million will go toward road improvements, utility upgrades, sidewalks, streetscape, town commons and park construction.

CLERMONT

This North Hall city is hoping to use $550,000 from SPLOST funds for municipal buildings.

"We plan to build a new Town Hall," said city clerk Sandra Helton.

Helton said Clermont officials also hope to use the money to repair streets and sidewalks and improve parks.

"We'll probably add a new park and upgrade our existing parks," Helton said.

BRASELTON

Braselton, which straddles the Hall County line, will receive a more modest sum from SPLOST to construct sidewalks.

"Sidewalks are about what we'll be able to afford," said City Manager Jennifer Dees.

Dees said sidewalks would be a good way to use SPLOST funds for a quality-of-life project.

"We don't have any sidewalks down there at the Spout Springs/Thompson Mill interchange. We want people to be able to walk from the neighborhoods to the retail center," Dees said. "Thirty-two thousand dollars would not be enough to do any kind of road project and we think offering pedestrian access is the best use of the funds."

GILLSVILLE

Gillsville would get $240,000, using $40,000 for road improvements and the rest for community park upgrades and downtown improvements.

BUFORD

Buford, which is located in both Gwinnett and Hall counties, would use $141,000 from SPLOST VI for road improvements.

HALL COUNTY

Hall County would spend $72 million, the majority of its $195 million in SPLOST funds, on public works projects.

The major road construction projects are the Sardis Road Connector and the widening of Spout Springs Road.

"Sardis Connector would be a roadway that would connect Mount Vernon (Road) over to the improvements we did on the Dawsonville Highway project on Sardis Road. Originally, we were looking at a four-lane divided highway and we're still pursuing that design, but we're also exploring some alternatives," said Road Projects Manager Jody Woodall.

Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden said the Sardis Road Connector could be the first piece in a proposed loop in North Hall.

"This Sardis Road connector is the first leg of that northern connector loop to take you from basically Highway 52 off of (Ga.) 365 all the way to Dawsonville Highway to kind of do a bypass of downtown Gainesville and eliminate a lot of this traffic congestion," Rearden said.

Woodall said there is currently a need for a better route to North Hall.

"There's no good way to get from Thompson Bridge (Road) to Dawsonville Highway. And if you do know the way, you're going through neighborhoods that were not designed for heavy truck traffic. So this would provide a safer route," Woodall said.

The booming growth in South Hall has left one of its main roads in need of expansion, Rearden said.

"Three schools are on this roadway and three brand new neighborhoods," Rearden said of Spout Springs Road.

The Spout Springs widening project is still in the early stages, but Rearden said the county hopes to widen more than six miles of the road.

Staff writers Ashley Fielding and Jeff Gill contributed to this report.




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