Commissioners give go-ahead to District 4 SPLOST projects

COVINGTON — Commissioner J.C. Henderson rallied the votes to move forward with the 2011 SPLOST-funded projects for District 4 at Tuesday’s meeting. The projects were added to the agenda as a last-minute item.

Commissioners Lanier Sims and Nancy Schulz voted against releasing the funds for the projects because there were no conceptual plans or updated information.

Sims said since it was added last-minute to the agenda and there was no time to review the documents, it was bad government to vote for it.

“I’m behind all parks improvement in District 4, but less than an hour before a board meeting something is crammed in,” Sims said. “I ask that it be put on the agenda through the correct process. Give us a few days to call the Recreation Department and have time to take a look at it. I think that’s bad government to spring it on the commissioners and demand a vote. We’re going to build the parks, we just need to do it in the right process.”

Voters agreed that the 2011 SPLOST — special-purpose local option sales tax — would fund park improvements in District 4 and the amount collected was $500,000. Commissioners received the same request from Henderson at the closed session at the April 1 meeting because it involved discussing land acquisition. But when commissioners returned to the open meeting, Henderson’s motion to approve the projects failed to receive a second in order for commissioners to vote.

Schulz said she wouldn’t be in favor for moving forward because there’s been no update in information and no conceptual plan submitted.

“We’ve received no supporting documents. The recreation director or commission hasn’t been involved or given a presentation for us,” Schulz said. “It’s a lot of money, but no plan to show for it. I’m in support of giving voters what they want and they wanted recreation improvements to District 4. It’s still taxpayer money and it’s important that the money is allocated for that purpose, but we need a long-term plan.”

Commissioner John Douglas noted the board reviewed this resolution 30 days ago so they weren’t unfamiliar with the request.

“If we have respect for the people who voted for these funds, then we need to turn the money loose,” Douglas said.

Commissioner Levie Maddox said there are measures in the resolution that will oversee what steps are taken.

“I think the resolution has measures of oversight that accommodate the concerns here tonight from all the commissioners. The county manager and chairman both have to have the final say, but there’s also going to be input from a professional recreation planner as well as the recreation commission,” Maddox said. “Those measures satisfy my concerns.”

The areas where Henderson wanted to purchase land for park improvements included: Nelson Heights, Victoria Station, Oxford Road, Trailblazer Park, Dinah Pace and property near Fire Station No. 7 on Brown Bridge Road.