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Flowery Branch deals with lower SPLOST revenues
Road and sidewalk plans may be delayed
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A fall in projected sales tax revenue, brought about by a weakened economy, has Flowery Branch re-examining projects in its 1-percent special purpose local option sales tax program.

The original plan had the city pursuing the Cinnamon Cove sewer project, buying nine police cars over six years, road resurfacing and sidewalks, and buying property for city offices.

When that list was developed in 2009, the total budget was based on a projected six-year tax collection in 2009 of $2.5 million.

The city now estimates the total haul will be $1.5 million, which was what was tabbed just for the Cinnamon Cove project.

"We can hope that our collection will be higher than $21,000 (a month that is now forecast), but realistically, it's looking like that's what we're going to be stuck with," City Manager Bill Andrew said.

To boot, the sewer project now is expected to cost $1.7 million.

The work involves installing sewer lines from the Cinnamon Cove condominium complex on Gaines Ferry Road to the city's sewer plant on Atlanta Highway.

"Some of (the cost estimate increase) is due to the increase in prices. Some of it's due to the change in the route," Andrew said. "We weren't able to work with some property owners, so the route had to be changed."

He has suggested that $302,400 that had been cast for road improvements be moved to the sewer project and pin hopes for having road needs met on voter passage of the state's proposed 1-percent sales tax for transportation.

That vote is set for next summer. If that tax is approved, 75 percent of revenues would go to regional projects and 25 percent would go to local governments to be spent however they choose.

"We really feel it has to happen, regardless of what SPLOST does," Andrew said.

Using carryover money from a previously approved SPLOST and money collected so far from the current SPLOST, city officials have determined they could pay off debts tied to real estate purchases that have been made and buy six police cars this year.

"I've discussed that with the (police) chief and he would be happy with six vehicles," Andrew told the City Council last week.

"They have seven that are in the 100,000-mile range or more, but if we can bring six cars to the table, that would be a great benefit to them."

Further beefing up funding the Cinnamon Cove project is $500,000 the city has in a reserve fund for water and sewer improvements.

"We've always seen those dollars as being open to be used for this project," Andrew said.

After depleting the reserve, shuffling projects and adding up what could be collected through remaining SPLOST, the city could end up with almost $1.7 million for Cinnamon Cove.

The city can't spend more than the designated $1.5 million in SPLOST money for the project. The rest has to come from other sources.

"I would love to be able to put Cinnamon Cove in the ground and say, ‘Here's the check' and be done with it," said Councilman Chris Fetterman. "And then you wouldn't have to worry about interest payments and all that stuff."

The project could begin this fall and take 12-18 months to complete, Andrew said.

City officials have regarded it as a potential economic boost as the line would cross McEver Road, where there is recently annexed and undeveloped property.

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