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Public meetings set on proposed transportation tax
4 hearings scheduled around Hall
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Road meetings

These public hearings are set on the proposed 1 percent transportation sales tax:
June 4: Oakwood City Hall, 4035 Walnut Circle
June 7: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St.
June 19: North Hall High School, 4885 Mount Vernon Road
June 25: Flowery Branch Depot, Main Street at Railroad Avenue
Each meeting is set for 5:30-7 p.m.
Contacts: ghmpo.org or 770-531-6809

Four public meetings have been set across Hall County in June on the proposed new 1 percent sales tax for transportation improvements.

The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization is sponsoring the meetings, with the aim to explain particulars of the tax, such as the projects it would pay for if approved.

“These meetings will strictly serve as an opportunity for the public to be educated on the project list and (state Transportation Investment Act) process,” said Srikanth Yamala, the MPO’s transportation planning manager.

The TIA set in motion steps to defining projects that would be funded, as well as the July 31 thumbs-up-or-down vote by residents in 12 established regions throughout the state.

The meetings are set for June 4 at Oakwood City Hall, 4035 Walnut Circle; June 7, Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St.; June 19, North Hall High School, 4885 Mount Vernon Road; and June 25, Flowery Branch Depot, Main Street at Railroad Avenue.

All the meetings are set for 5:30-7 p.m., with the first 30 minutes devoted to allowing residents to look at maps and documents related to the projects.

At 6 p.m., Yamala will give a formal presentation that will last 30-35 minutes. A question-and-answer session will follow.

“If citizens would like to comment on these projects or (speak) in support of or against the transportation tax, obviously they will be allowed to do so,” he said.

The July 31 vote has the large support of the business community, including the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and the statewide chamber.

Those groups and other advocates have said they believe the sales tax is the best option for fixing roads and, as an extra benefit, should boost economic development.

Many residents, especially tea party groups, have come out in opposition, for a wide range of reasons, including bad timing with the economic downturn.

Mike Scupin of the Lanier Tea Party Patriots said he believes the process was tainted from the start, with the appointment — rather than election — of a regional transportation roundtable to decide on the projects.

“This totally violates the spirit of home rule that is established by our state constitution,” he said.

And Scupin is skeptical of public meetings set up to explain the tax.

“Most meetings of this type of which I have knowledge are primarily propaganda events about why people should vote for the (tax),” he said. “I don’t recall hearing of a meeting like this that presented the negative side of the concept.”

Approval would increase the sales tax — from 7 percent to 8 percent in Hall — but would also raise nearly $1.25 billion over 10 years for road projects in the 13-county Georgia Mountains region.

Hall County is expected to net about $300 million of that amount, plus some $4.7 million per year for local discretion improvements.

“The reason for ... four meetings is due to the fact that this is such an important issue,” Yamala said. “And given the fact that this is a big county, we thought we would address all (geographic) areas.”

Regional events