The wish list for the 2021 Oconee County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is a long and expensive one, including $21.5 million for road projects and $18.8 million for water and sewer facilities.
The total request before the Board of Commissioners is for just less than $78.5 million.
The current tax is projected to generate only $37.8 million, though it was projected to bring in $47.3 million when it was presented to the voters.
County Finance Director Wes Geddings has not yet offered a projection for SPLOST 2021, but it is certain that the Board of Commissioners is going to have to pare back the list of requests before it goes to the voters.
County Administrator Justin Kirouac went over the wish list in detail with the public at the virtual Town Hall Meeting held on Tuesday night, and he likely will do the same thing in another virtual Town Hall Meeting starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
The SPLOST project list also is on the agenda for discussion at the Board of Commissioners Agenda Setting meeting on Tuesday night. That meeting also starts at 6 p.m., and citizens can participate via live streaming.
The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night also will consider a joint use agreement with Oconee County Schools for school and county sports facilities.
At the Town Hall Meeting last week, only one citizen submitted a comment, and no one from the audience spoke.
Kirouac told the audience that $5.1 million on the proposed SPLOST project list is for retirement of the debt for purchase of land and construction of Oconee Veterans Park. The county recently has refinanced the $7.6 million in outstanding debt for the park.
The Parks and Recreation Department is seeking $8.5 million for new park facilities, such as pickleball and tennis courts, and $1 million for land acquisition at the front of the park to allow for a new entrance, Kirouac said.
The list includes $250,000 for a second phase of renovation of the Animal Shelter.
It also includes $5.5 million for a combination library and administration building. The expectation is that this is only half of the money needed, and another $5.5 million will need to be included in the 2027 SPLOST, Kirouac said.
Other Facility Needs
The county is seeking $4.4 million for building renovations, including HVAC upgrades, parking lot resurfacing, and lighting upgrades, Kirouac said.
Kirouac called an additional $500,000 a “placeholder” to provide funds that will be needed to reconfigure space in the Courthouse as it is turned over entirely to judicial functions.
The transportation request is dominated by a $15 million for road resurfacing.
Intersection and operational improvements would get another $5 million if all of the money requested were available.
Water Resources Department requests include just less than $3 million for water supply projects and just less than $16 million for sewer projects.
Included in the latter would be a discharge line from the current Calls Creek Plant just northeast of Watkinsville to the new land the county has purchased for discharge on the Middle Oconee River, Kirouac explained.
Vehicles On List
The list includes eight vehicles for the Sheriff and vehicles and equipment for the Fire Rescue operation of the county and money for a fire training facility in the county.
The list also shows $8 million for high speed Internet throughout the county.
Farmland preservation would get $600,000, and historical and scenic facilities would get $100,000.
At the end of Kirouac’s presentation, Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell read the single comment submitted.
Robert Fincher, 1070 Echo Trail, off Hillcrest Drive west of Butler’s Crossing, requested $500,000 for Farmland preservation and $100,000 for historic preservation.
SPLOST 2015 And SPLOST 2021 Compared
I created the table below to show the amounts in the current SPLOST and the requests under consideration for SPLOST 2021.
Missing from the 2021 requests is specific funding for renovation of the Civic Center, which the county currently is undertaking.
The 2015 SPLOST allocated $850,000 to the Industrial Development Authority for economic development projects.
Kirouac told me in an email message last week that the IDA was not invited to submit a request for the 2021 SPLOST.
The money for historic and scenic facilities has been reduced from the current $250,000 to $100.000.
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The four commissioners met at the Commission Chamber in the Courthouse in Watkinsville for the Town Hall Meeting.
No more than 10 persons were allowed in the room.
One of those invited to the room was Sarah Bell, who recorded the video below.
The county also recorded and uploaded a video of the session. That video also is embedded below.