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Hall commission chairman predicts victory for TSLOST
Vote on transportation tax may be in October
Tom Oliver 0508
Tom Oliver

While others focused on nuts and bolts during a Thursday discussion of next year's 1 percent sales tax for transportation vote, the Hall County Board of Commission chairman offered a bold prediction.

"Even though I've got a few people who say ‘There is no way it will pass,' I think it will," Tom Oliver said at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce's board of directors meeting.

"And one of the reasons I think it will pass is, first of all, there's a lot of negativity to it now. There are a lot of unknowns. But I do think that this community and this area is smart enough to recognize that everybody will pay for the roads, everybody will be part of the team.

"And I just think that in the long run, we're smart enough to recognize this is ... what we've got to work with and we will pass it."

Residents statewide will vote July 31, and the tax will be decided by a majority vote — 50 percent plus one — in individual regions throughout Georgia.

Hall is part of the 13-county Georgia Mountains region, which is expected to garner $1.25 billion over the 10-year life of the tax, with 75 percent of that amount going to regional projects and 25 percent to city and county governments to use as they see fit.

If the referendum is approved, Hall County's sales tax would rise to 8 percent from 7.

The Georgia Mountains Transportation Roundtable is set to meet Oct. 5 in Clarkesville to give its final OK to a list of road projects for the region.

The state has set an Oct. 15 deadline for 12 designated regions throughout the state to submit project lists.

Hall County proposes some $300 million in projects under the tax, including the widening of Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway in South Hall and U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway in North Hall.

Another $61.5 million would go to Hall County from the 25 percent pot.

"The cities and the county will be getting together in the next couple of months (to discuss how to spend that money) and hopefully have a list by early next year," said Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, after a presentation Wednesday before the chamber's Issues Committee.

Yamala gave a similar presentation, with the help of Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner, to the chamber's board.

Yamala and Bruner were particularly active in the process to create a draft regional project list.

Bruner was Hall's representative on the transportation roundtable's five-member executive committee charged with that task.

Oliver thanked them for their work.

"Ruth is a lot more patient and diligent than some of us might be," he said. "... A four-hour meeting and I would not have worked very well together."

The chamber's issues and executive committees and the board of directors will vote, probably in October, whether to formally endorse the tax.

"If we do get that far, we will do a lot of the education part and marketing like we have done with some of the other (sales tax) campaigns," said Kit Dunlap, chamber president and CEO.