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Residents to weigh in on roads project list
Public hearing set for Tuesday in Flowery Branch
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Roads meeting

What: Open house concerning projects in the proposed 1 percent sales tax transportation program for the Georgia Mountains district
When: 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Hall County Library System's Spout Springs branch, 6488 Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch
More info: 770-538-2626, www.gmrc.ga.gov or www.it3.ga.gov

So far, elected officials have discussed and debated area road projects that will be on next year's referendum concerning the 1 percent sales tax for transportation.

Now it's the public's turn to chime in on what it would like to see done or discarded.

The first of four regional public hearings on the issue is set for 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday at the Hall County Library System's Spout Springs branch, 6488 Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch.

"Based on public input and comments we hear from the public, it could be that projects could be changed," Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner said.

The proposed project list "isn't written in stone yet," she added.

Residents will be looking specifically at projects in the 13-county district covered by the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, including Hall County.

Voters by regions statewide will vote next year — possibly in July, even though lawmakers have suggested moving the date to the general election in November — on whether to accept a new 1 percent sales tax for transportation and transit improvements. In Hall County, that would mean increasing the sales tax to 8 percent from 7.

A majority vote, or 50 percent plus 1, across the region would pass the tax, which would stay in effect for 10 years.

The Georgia Mountains region would receive an estimated $1.26 billion over the decade, with some $945 million going toward regional projects and the remaining $315 billion going to county and city governments to use as they see fit.

Hall and Forsyth, the largest counties in the region, would receive the lion's share of the revenue.

Hall's project list, which amounts to nearly $300 million, includes such projects as widening Spout Springs Road in South Hall and completing the Sardis Connector in northwest Hall. Some ultra-expensive projects, such as widening Interstate 985 in Hall and Ga. 20 in Forsyth were dropped early in the process.

Transportation "roundtables" comprising top city and county leaders have been set up in regions throughout the state to monitor the process.

Five-member executive committees did the heavy
groundwork, often holding long, grueling meetings to make ends meet.

Bruner and Tom Oliver, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners, are roundtable members.

Bruner is an executive committee member.

There was general agreement to the Georgia Mountains projects at the roundtable meeting in August.

Stephanie Harmon, planner for the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, said Tuesday's meeting won't have a formal program.

Residents can "come and go as (they) please" during the meeting, asking questions of planners, engineers and public officials, she said.

"We're going to have a large map available and copies of the project report showing information from the (Georgia) Department of Transportation," Harmon said.

Other hearings are set for Sept. 20 at the Stephens County Courthouse in Toccoa, Sept. 22 at the Forsyth County Administration Building in Cumming and Sept. 22 at the White County Library in Cleveland. All are set for 5-7 p.m.

The roundtable, which, according to state law, has until Oct. 15 to produce a final project list, is set to meet next at 5 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Ruby Albright Recreation and Aquatic Center in Clarkesville.

 

Regional events