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Voters approve SPLOST

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

COVINGTON -- SPLOST 2011 was approved by Newton County voters in a special election Tuesday.

The total number of ballots cast was 4,019, with 53.94 percent in favor and 46.06 opposed, according to unofficial results from the Newton County Board of Elections Office.

"It's about like I thought it would be. I thought it would be real close," said Billy Fortson, chairman of the SPLOST committee.

"We're very pleased to see these results. We knew when we started with this it was going to be an uphill battle but some time in the last couple of weeks we felt intuitively that things were at a break even point," said James Weadick, a member of the SPLOST committee. Weadick said voters are aware that a lot of good has been accomplished through SPLOST since it was first approved in 1987 and there is still more to be done.

Many voters interviewed after casting their ballots said they had mixed feelings about this SPLOST; while they didn't agree with every item on the list, they still voted yes.

"There are certain things that have got to happen in our community and I'd rather have those paid for by SPLOST versus more property taxes," Dan Murphy said. Still, Murphy said he'd prefer a system where voters could cherry pick which projects they wanted to be funded through SPLOST rather than it being all or nothing.

George Lazenby said he also doesn't like all the projects on the SPLOST list, but "I think it's important we reduce debt. A lot of folks don't realize this is not a new tax. It's an extension of what's already there, and it's many people outside Newton County that help pay for it," he said of why he ultimately voted yes.

Though the merits of SPLOST have been hotly debated these last few months, when it came down to it, most residents didn't make their opinions known at the polls. Turnout was just 7.28 percent. Poll workers resorted to reading novels and putting together jigsaw puzzles to pass the time.

"There is no turnout. It's fairly pathetic," said George Bohn, poll manager at the Alcovy Precinct, located at Newton County Library. Bohn attributed the low numbers more to "general apathy" than the dismal weather.

"I think people are so worn down in Newton County with the economic situation and unemployment, they're just not interested," he said.

Wanda Briscoe, however, said she's never been one to stay at home on election day.

"I've always voted. If we don't vote, we can't gripe," she said. "It makes me sick when people complain and I say, 'Have you called your congressman? Are you voting?' And they say, 'Oh I'm not even registered.' There's just no reason for not voting."

SPLOST is expected to generate $57.6 million over a six-year period. SPLOST 2005 sunsets on June 30. Collections for SPLOST 2011 will begin July 1.