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Cities make final SPLOST presentation

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON — The Board of Commissioners met with municipal mayors Friday afternoon to further discuss their requests for SPLOST 2011.

Most of the mayors had refined their requests based on an informal consensus reached by a majority of board members last month on what municipal allocations will be.

The city of Covington had initially requested around $17 million, but a proposal by Commissioner Mort Ewing that he said allocated funds to cities based on population reduced that to about $7.46 million. Mayor Kim Carter said based on the city population, that number should have been in excess of $10 million, but added officials would not fight for more money.

As it currently stands, the city would be allocated $6.97 million for transportation and $500,000 for improvements at the airport. Carter said she had intended to make a case for replacement of aging water lines, but decided against it.

"It would affect our smaller municipal partners more than anyone else if we tried to make a case for additional funding, and we're not going to do that," she said.

However, she said it's important to remember that without the lines running through cities, the county population could not be served. The city of Covington serves 3,500 water customers outside city limits, she said.

Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry also emphasized the need for water line improvements in that city. The city will use its $1.28 million SPLOST allocation for that purpose, he said, adding that Oxford has more than 300 customers outside city limits.

Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby disagreed with the percentage the city would get based on population, calculated at 2.03 percent. Hamby said the number should be 2.06 percent, which would amount to an additional $48,000. Hamby also requested an additional $200,000 to go toward repairs of the Porterdale Gym, which would increase Porterdale's total allocation from $830,000 to nearly $1.08 million.

Mansfield Mayor William Cocchi initially requested some $1.2 million, but the majority of the board has informally agreed to an allocation of $252,630. Cocchi said he doubted there was much point in making a presentation if the board has already made up its mind. The city will use those funds for transportation projects, and would also like an additional $100,000 for replacement of city vehicles, he said.

Newborn Mayor Roger Sheridan said the town would spend its proposed allocation of nearly $337,000 for improvements to streets, sidewalks, buildings such as the Town Hall, parks and recreation and safety signs.

"I don't want to open a can of worms, but I have had input that people are not happy with how this is going on as far as arguing back and forth," Sheridan said, referring to recent heated debates between commissioners regarding SPLOST. "I just want to pass it on to you that if we continue that kind of thing, we're not going to get a SPLOST."

The BOC will discuss SPLOST again at a 6 p.m. work session prior to its regular Tuesday night meeting at the Newton County Historic Courthouse. Chairman Kathy Morgan said the cities and county need to sign off on an intergovernmental agreement prior to the board's Dec. 21 meeting.

SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax used to fund capital outlay projects or pay down general obligation debt. Collections can occur over five or six years, depending on whether the county has an intergovernmental agreement with the municipalities. If approved by voters, SPLOST 2011 is projected to generate $57.6 million, if collections take place over six years, or $50.7 million for a five-year collection period. A referendum is scheduled for March 15.