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Cities discuss uses for Ga. transportation tax
Plans were discussed at Joint Municipal Association meeting in Lula
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Hall County's municipal leaders have transportation on their minds, whether it's by roads or trails.

During the Hall County Joint Municipal Association's quarterly meeting in Lula on Monday, officials continued talking about the state's plans for the 1-cent sales tax for transportation and how funds will be distributed to cities.

"Each city needs to look at the areas and get the Department of Transportation updated," said Stan Brown, Oakwood city manager and head of the association's transportation work group. "More people are on the roads than what we get credit for. We as cities need to work with the county to make sure our records match."

The Transportation Investment Act of 2010 has been a hot topic among area government leaders since coming out of the General Assembly earlier this year.

The law allows voters within established districts throughout Georgia to decide whether to add the sales tax to pay for transportation and transit improvements, from new roads to maintenance and operation.

Two representatives from each of the 13 counties, including Hall, in the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission now must form a regional transportation roundtable.

To proceed toward a 2012 vote on the tax, that group must hold its first meeting after Nov. 15, decide on a final project list by Oct. 15, 2011, and begin to prioritize transportation projects in the area.

"There are only so many miles out there, and someone is getting the money. Decades ago, we used to take crayons and mark up DOT maps. I think it used to be more accurate back then," Brown said with a laugh. "Doing this unified is better than the cities doing it on their own, so we should come up with a joint position. The state DOT officials know who we are and will listen."

By using geographic spatial technology and online mapping, state and local officials should be able to pinpoint exactly which roads belong to state, county and city governance, he said.

"Something's got to give," Brown said. "The state officials don't have to ride around in their trucks and waste time. They should touch base with their headquarters, which is us - all of the cities."

The city mayors also gave local government updates, several emphasizing ideas about green spaces or trail systems.

"A lot of time and effort has gone into the connectivity of this county with trails," Gillsville mayor Larry Poole said. "I know there are master plans, and I've lobbied for a long time for something between Lula and Gillsville along County Line Road. It would be great for biking and running, and the traffic isn't as heavy."

Although it's a long-term plan, Poole wants to prioritize the idea. Clermont mayor James Nix reminded officials about the idea of the "rails to trails" program, which would turn old railroad tracks into usable trails. The Georgia Mountain Regional Commission proposed the idea, which would connect Clermont to Dahlonega along the tracks.

"If they could pull it off, it would be one of the biggest challenges because so many people own land there, and some buildings have even been built on the tracks," he said. "We do have a lot of bike riders on the highway, and it's a hazard. It might come to pass, but it'll be awhile."

Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner also updated the mayors on the greenway space under construction in midtown.

"We have our own rails to trails there with the old CSX property," she said. "It's coming along with the completion of the public safety complex and construction of the pedestrian bridge over Jesse Jewell Parkway. It'll be really nice, and everyone should come enjoy it."

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