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Gainesville eyes road work for future sales tax

New SPLOST could go toward infrastructure, mayor says

POSTED: January 10, 2014 11:13 p.m.

A voter-approved 2009 special option local sales tax fell short of covering planned projects in Gainesville.

“Because the actual revenue collections came in less for SPLOST VI, all of the revenue will be going to the public safety facility,” said Melody Marlowe, Gainesville’s chief financial officer.

The 52,000-square-foot building for the police station and municipal court and 26,000-square-foot building for the city’s fire station opened in 2010. It replaced a 35-year-old station on Jesse Jewell Parkway that fire and police officials said they had outgrown years ago.

Preparation for the approximately 10-acre site that houses the city’s police department, municipal court and Fire Station No. 1 was already underway before voters approved the one-penny sales tax in 2009.

Gainesville officials had said in 2009 that they anticipated the Public Safety Complex would take up most of the SPLOST dollars.

Debt service bills for the complex on Queen City Parkway sapped up part of the revenue, City Manager Kip Padgett said.

“We’ve completed the public safety facility and the fire station; a lot of the SPLOST is going to pay off the debt service on that,” Padgett said.

Marlowe said although lower-than-projected revenues affected how other planned projects were funded, those projects — including road improvements and park facilities — will still go on with alternative funding.

Padgett said funds for street resurfacing would come from the general fund, and downtown streetscapes projects included in SPLOST VI got a boost from private funding.

“We have a public private partnership with (streetscapes), because that included the pedestrian bridge,” Padgett said.

A SPLOST VII vote is anticipated this fall, and public officials are in the early stages of creating a list of projects for voters to consider.

While Mayor Danny Dunagan said he can’t speculate if a SPLOST VII would pass, he has a clear vision for general funding priorities.

“It’s so preliminary right now, the only thing that I can say is if a SPLOST VII does come about ... I think it should be for infrastructure, road improvements in the city and the county,” Dunagan said. “It’s just imperative we get some traffic relief.”

The former councilman said he is still reacquainting himself with city matters after being on hiatus from council business to run his mayoral campaign.

“We’ve just finished the traffic study, and it was finishing right as I had to resign to run, and I’ve been back in office 10 days,” he said. “But we’ve got to do something to eliminate the traffic in downtown Gainesville. It’s not going to do anything but get worse as we grow, and it’s got to be addressed.”

Padgett said city officials will likely start SPLOST VII conversations within a month.

“Hopefully in the first quarter this year we’ll be sitting down with the council, possibly at their retreat, to talk about things they’ll be looking for if SPLOST VII passed,” Padgett said.

The council has planned that retreat for Feb. 7.


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