SPLOST tensions remain high for BOC

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON — The current proposed SPLOST projects list doesn't have full support of the Board of Commissioners.

Two commissioners said at a work session Tuesday night they won't support a proposal created by Commissioner Mort Ewing. The board has not voted on the list but three members — Ewing, Tim Fleming and J.C. Henderson — gave their consensus at a meeting in November. However, Commissioners Nancy Schulz and Earnest Simmons said they can't consent to a SPLOST that includes pet projects, some with few details on scope and how much money the county might have to fork over in the long term.

At A Glance

The following is a list of projects to be funded through SPLOST 2011, as listed in an intergovernmental agreement, based on projections of $57.6 million collected over six years:

• Jail pods debt service: $3 million

• Administrative building debt service: $5 million

• Judicial Center expansion and renovation - $7 million

• Upgrade of parks: $1 million

• Miracle Field: $1.5 million

• District 4 improvements, including parks, a community center and indigent cemetery: $1.1 million

• Renovation of Animal Control Center: $100,000

• Design and renovation of Juvenile Court facility: $500,000

• Historic Jail: $1.2 million

• Agricultural Facility, design and construction and possible land purchase: $1.1 million

• Fire Station No. 8: $1.1 million

• Expansion of hospital emergency room: $4 million

• Landfill debt service retirement: $500,000

• Public works equipment: $500,000

• County vehicle replacement: $2.5 million

• Fire services: $100,000

• Road improvements: $17.28 million

• City of Covington: $7.46 million - $6.96 million for transportation; $500,000 for airport

• Porterdale: $830,000 - $140,000 for recreation; $450,000 for design and renovation of Porterdale Gym; $240,000 for transportation

• Oxford: $1.23 million for water system improvements

• Mansfield: $252,630 for transportation

• Newborn: $336,840 - $117,840 transportation; $100,000 recreation; $119,000 community center

Both commissioners expressed concern about a proposed agricultural center, saying there are scant details on the project and the county's future involvement.

"I have serious concerns about a project for which we don't have any serious business planning or feasibility study done," Schulz said.

"I've listened to constituents' concerns and I know how important it is that we pass a SPLOST. I feel it is crucial that we have a list we can all support," she said, before presenting an alternative proposal. Schulz's proposal increased allocations to debt service retirement and eliminated projects specific to District 4, including recreation projects, a multi-use community center and purchase of land for an indigent cemetery.

Schulz kept on her list an agricultural center requested by Ewing, reducing the funding slightly, contingent upon securing private funds to help support the project and the requirement that the BOC approve a business plan giving more details on the project.

Morgan asked the board for a consensus on which plan it would support, but Ewing responded that a consensus has already been established on his proposal and he would not take any further action.

"It seems to me it's a little bit late to be changing the list when we've had a consensus since Nov. 18," he said.

Schulz said the board needs to be unanimous in its support of SPLOST, but she and Simmons agreed they won't support the intergovernmental agreement as it currently stands.

"It is of concern to me that we could be going forward with a plan that we may have people actively voting against because we weren't willing to look at compromise, and that is tragic," she said.

Simmons agreed.

"I can't say I agree with the consensus this board reached in November. There's no equity in it and no fair play in it," he said.

The five municipalities are set to vote on the intergovernmental agreement in the coming week, in preparation for a final vote by the BOC on Dec. 21. Porterdale is the first to act, with the City Council approving a resolution authorizing the mayor to execute the agreement at a Tuesday night called meeting.

The BOC is slated to vote on SPLOST during its 7 p.m. Dec. 21 meeting at the Newton County Historic Courthouse located at 1124 Clark St.