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Roads panel facing tough choices
Committee to narrow down final project list
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Roads meeting

What: Georgia Mountains district meeting concerning proposed 1 percent sales tax for transportation
When: Noon today
Where: Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, 1310 W. Ridge Road, Gainesville
Contact: 770-538-2619

Hard decisions are expected when a regional panel charged with compiling projects for next year's transportation tax vote meets today.

"There are a whole lot more projects than we (would) have money for," said Sonny James, who heads the Georgia Mountains transportation roundtable's executive committee.

Members have been asked "to go back and take a look at which projects are real priorities," he added.

The committee is set to meet at noon today at the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, 1310 W. Ridge Road, Gainesville. The meeting is open to the public.

At its last meeting in June, committee members pressed for certain projects or made first cuts as they worked through a list covering the 13-county region, which includes Hall.

A second sweep of the list is expected today.

The executive committee has until Aug. 15 to complete the task of matching estimated revenue and project costs.

The roundtable, comprising top elected officials from throughout the region, has until Oct. 15 to approve final lists that will go before voters.

Public hearings will be held before the vote.

The date has shifted somewhat — and may still be shifting — but at last check, voters will decide in July 2012 whether to approve a 1 percent sales tax for transportation projects.

The tax, if approved by a majority of voters in the region, would last for 10 years, with the Georgia Mountains region estimating it would reap about $1.26 billion from the tax.

The state's Transportation Investment Act of 2010 calls for 75 percent of proceeds going to regional projects and 25 percent going to local governments to use as they see fit.

Committee members need to examine which projects fall in the 75 percent category and which ones could be covered by the 25 percent discretionary amount, said James, who also serves as Habersham County Board of Commissioners chairman.

He added he is hopeful the members will have trimmed their project lists before today's meeting.

Stephanie Harmon, regional planner for the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, said she foresees one more meeting before the Aug. 15 deadline.

At the last meeting, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce announced it is gearing up to promote statewide passage of the referendum.

Efforts include spending $2 million to $3 million on an advertising campaign in markets outside metro Atlanta, public policy director Ryan Mahoney told the committee.


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