By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Panel sets road projects for T-SPLOST vote
Ga. residents to go to polls July 31 and decide whether to add 1 percent sales tax
Placeholder Image

Hall road projects

Here's a list of projects that would be funded by a 1 percent, 10-year sales tax for transportation:

• Widening Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway from Ga. 53/Winder Highway to Gwinnett County
• New Interstate 985 interchange north of Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway and near Martin Road
• Jesse Jewell Parkway and John Morrow Parkway intersection improvements
• McEver Road improvements at Gaines Ferry, Lights Ferry and Stephens roads
• Sardis Road Connector, a road linking Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road to Sardis Road near Chestatee Road
• Widening Spout Springs Road from Hog Mountain Road to Gwinnett County
• Widening U.S. 129/Athens Highway from Gillsville Highway to the Pendergrass Bypass
• Widening U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway from Nopone Road to White County
• Widening Cleveland Highway from Limestone Parkway to Nopone Road

CLARKESVILLE — Public officials have spoken. Now, it's the public's turn to consider the matter and eventually vote on whether to raise the sales tax rate to pay for area roads.

The 26-member Georgia Mountains Transportation Roundtable voted Wednesday night to approve putting on the ballot some $1.26 billion in projects for a 13-county area including Hall.

Danny Lewis, executive director of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, quickly cautioned area leaders Wednesday about trying to influence voters on the issue.

"Make sure you understand: We can't sell it, but we can educate," he said. "There's a lot of difference between selling and educating. ... The main thing we want people to do is vote."

Georgia residents will go to the polls July 31 and decide whether to add a 1 percent sales tax to pay for the projects. If approved, the sales tax in Hall would rise to 8 percent from 7 percent.

The vote is statewide but will be decided in 12 individual regions throughout the state. A majority vote throughout the region, or 50 percent plus 1, will pass the referendum.

If approved, the Georgia Mountains region will receive $1.26 billion overall, with 75 percent going for regional projects and 25 percent going to city and county governments to use as they see fit, including for maintenance and operations.

The sales tax will stop once the region collects the $1.26 billion or at the end of 10 years, whichever comes first.

Transportation roundtables, comprising top city and county leaders, were set up across the state to develop project lists, per the state's Transportation Investment Act of 2010.

Five-member executive committees were formed from the roundtables and did most of the heavy lifting during lengthy meetings this summer. They ended up recommending a project list to the roundtable balancing projected revenues and expenses.

For its part, Hall County proposes some $300 million in projects under the tax, including the widening of Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway and Spout Springs Road in South Hall, U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway in North Hall and completion of the Sardis Connector in northwest Hall.

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

The roundtable made only a couple of late changes to the project list before giving its final OK: McEver Road improvements at Gaines Ferry, Lights Ferry and Stephens roads; and $3 million to continue Xpress bus service through the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in Forsyth County.

Bill Kendall, the Towns County sole commissioner, was the only roundtable member to oppose approving the projects list and putting it to voters.

Asked about his opposition after the meeting, Kendall provided a letter addressed to roundtable members and Todd Long, director of planning for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

In the letter, he said he did not support the Towns County sales tax rising to 8 percent from 7 percent.

"I also feel the (transportation act) is flawed in many areas and should be sent back to the legislature," he said. "I am adamantly opposed to legislation that, instead of putting before voters issues to be decided on their merits, attempts to (force) officials and voters to vote for the tax or else."

If the roundtable was unable to approve a project list, a "special district gridlock" would have been declared, meaning that another referendum for a transportation sales tax couldn't be held for at least two more years.

Also, governments in the region would have to match the state's Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants by half.

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and state chamber officials already are gearing up for the campaign ahead.

"We have less than a year and that sounds like a lot of time, but it's not when you start educating people," said Kit Dunlap, chamber president and CEO, during a Sept. 21 meeting of the chamber's Issues Committee.

Other activists, including tea partiers, are mobilizing against the tax.