The recent change in North Hall library plans has more than just Clermont riled up, with officials in other Hall County cities coming to the town’s defense.
“It seems as though the county has recently been making promises to cities and just has not been following through on those promises,” Flowery Branch Councilman Craig Lutz said.
Flowery Branch City Council agreed last month to draft a letter to the county after reaching a consensus that the county should have voted to build the library in Clermont rather than the new site on Nopone Road in North Hall.
Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs wrote a scathing letter last week, blasting the county Board of Commissioners for their management of sales tax money.
“While I do not address whether the new location is better or not, I do wish to address a troubling trend with the (commission) as it relates to SPLOST funds,” Scroggs wrote. “This commission seems to think it is at liberty to transfer funds wherever it deems fit to do so without any consideration to the will of the voters.”
Hall County Administrator Charley Nix denied Scroggs’ claim.
“With regards to the Oakwood letter ... the allegations of misuse of SPLOST funds are totally without foundation,” Nix said.
Though Clermont Mayor James Nix asked Hall County cities to send letters in support of their cause, some were more cautious.
Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner said though City Council will not take a stand on the library location, the city is sympathetic to Clermont’s situation.
“In Gainesville, we don’t feel like it’s our place to tell the library board or the county commission where to place a library,” Bruner said. “However, we are very supportive of Clermont and their feeling like they’ve been promised something they didn’t get. We always want to support our sister cities, but we don’t really have a dog in the fight.”
Lula Mayor Milton Turner said he plans to send a letter to Hall County, though without picking sides.
Turner said the Lula City Council feels the county and Clermont should sit down and find a compromise on the library issue.
“We don’t want to burn any bridges,” Turner said. “We want to keep a working relationship with the city (of Clermont) and the county.”
Assistant Hall County Administrator Phil Sutton said the county never promised the library would be built in Clermont, though it was considered as a site. Sutton said everything in SPLOST VI has been handled according to the letter of the law.
According to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, which distributes a special purpose local option sales tax guide for Georgia counties, SPLOST law only requires projects be listed on the ballot; it does not address the specificity of those projects as listed on the ballot.
Sutton pointed out that the SPLOST project list described “a library branch near (U.S. highway) 129 in central North Hall,” not in Clermont.
“The language on the ballot is dictated by state law,” Sutton said.
Nothing in SPLOST is done lightly, Sutton said. The list of projects for SPLOST VI was compiled over the course of a long series of meetings.
The county administrator takes a list of project requests from all department heads. Cities submit a list of projects that are based on a budget allocated by population.
The project requests are refined by committees and the final list is then voted on by commissioners.
“It takes about one year to go through that process,” Sutton said.