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Public safety tops project list for sales tax extension vote
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Public safety has emerged as the main focus of the project list for a possible extension of a special purpose local option sales tax.

County Administrator Randy Knighton began Thursday evening’s final public input meeting for SPLOST VII with an overview of the draft list, which was released Tuesday by county officials.

“The one theme you see here is public safety,” he said.

The 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax, the extension of which will be decided on in a March vote, has a proposed $158 million in projects so far. A dozen or so non-employees, along with different Hall County department heads and officials, gathered at the Hall County Government Center for the fifth and final SPLOST public input meeting.

Two major projects listed in tier II, which are projects that affect the entire county, are the 911 center upgrade for $13 million and $4.6 million to purchase a dozen ambulances.

Deputy Fire Chief Chad Black of the Hall County Fire Services said the replacement of aging ambulances stalled years ago.  

“When the economy took a downturn, most of the strategic planning got put off,” he said.

The plan, under former Fire Chief David Kimbrell, was to buy two ambulances per year to continue to keep the fleet up to date, Black said. As a result of the economic downturn, some ambulances have been pulled out of reserves to meet the need.

The estimated cost of a new ambulance is $325,000, which would include radios and cardiac monitors, Black said.

With aging equipment in the 911 center, Jimmie Taggart, communications systems manager, said he is hoping the equipment can be replaced as it reaches the end of its life.

An estimated $46.7 million in road improvement work is projected on the draft list for SPLOST VII, with $20 million coming in the right-of-way purchase for Spout Springs Road. Another $16.9 million is slated for resurfacing roads in Hall County.

Knighton discussed a citizen oversight committee that would be composed of seven to 11 people who would work “to ensure projects are staying on task (and) staying on schedule.”

The referendum is on March 17, and if SPLOST passes, it would begin July 1.

The final project list is yet to be created, and more input can be given online at http://www.hallcounty.org./gov/splost_VII.asp.