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Flowery Branch sets list for tax projects
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A new City Hall and road improvements are among potential projects that could be completed in Flowery Branch pending approval of a countywide sales tax.

City leaders approved a list of projects during Thursday’s council meeting for the upcoming March 17 referendum on a five-year, 1 percent sales tax for capital projects.

If approved, the special purpose local option sales tax would take effect July 1.

Flowery Branch’s list of approved projects will be sent to county officials to be folded into an intergovernmental agreement for the referendum. The intergovernmental agreement is set to be voted on in January.

Flowery Branch officials have budgeted for around $4.27 million from SPLOST VII, including $1.62 million for municipal buildings (with the bulk going toward City Hall) and $1.11 million for road improvements.

There’s also $231,000 budgeted for new police cars, and $1.31 million for water and sewer infrastructure.

“One hundred fifty-eight million is the whole five-year SPLOST (collection) the county is looking at,” City Manager Bill Andrew said. “They’re declaring a tier II set of projects to remove 14.5 percent out for those countywide projects, and then we get 3.16 percent based on our population.”

The countywide tier II projects include $4.6 million for new ambulances and $13 million for a 911 system upgrade.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, council members voted to waive around $12,000 in interest and penalties accumulated between three restaurants levied during a routine alcohol audit.

According to City Clerk Melissa McCain, the audit began midyear but has only recently wrapped up. The three restaurants — Antebellum Restaurant, El Sombrero and Green’s Tavern — were given a short time frame in which to pay the fees.

“They had 28 days from the time they were presented with that to basically pay $10,000 plus their alcohol license, so in the span of 28 days they were looking at about $16,000 worth of fees due to this,” Mayor Mike Miller said about one of the restaurants.

“The stickler is we cannot release any of the alcohol license renewals until all fees are paid,” McCain added.

“Instead of trying to set up a payment plan which would extend into the following year ... they’ve all agreed that they can pay the amount minus the penalties and interest, and still get their license Jan. 1.”

Council members Fred Richards and Mary Jones voted in opposition; with Councilwoman Tara Richards absent, Miller broke the tie to approve waiving the interest and penalties.

“The thing I have a problem with is, there’s only so many sources of revenue that come into the city,” Fred Richards said. “... In essence, we’re asking individual property owners to subsidize local businesses. Personally, I have a problem with that.”

“I agree with you,” Councilman Joe Anglin said. “I just think that, with them having such a short period of time to pay this off, I can see where it’s very difficult for them to try to do that.”

During the council’s Dec. 4 meeting, members approved lowering the license fee for businesses to be able to sell distilled spirits; it was lowered to $4,000 from $5,000.

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