By Natalie Simms
Rome, Cave Spring and Floyd County voters will decide the fate of 26 projects proposed for funding through an extension of the Special Local Option Sales Tax on Nov. 7.
People are lining up on both sides of the proposal. Those supporting the extension starting April 1, 2019, feel the burden for funding these projects shouldn’t be placed solely on property owners through traditional taxes. By sharing the costs among all citizens and visitors through the 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax, they believe it’s a “fair and accountable” tax that benefits all citizens. Supporters estimate county visitors pay between 35-40 percent of the special tax.
“Many of these things have to be done,” says Jamie McCord, Floyd County Manager. “And we don’t want the full burden on property owners. The SPLOST is a more fair tax…a consumption tax. It is another tool in our tool box to keep the millage rate low.”
McCord says a lot of the projects on the 2017 proposal are capital outlay for maintenance including roads, paving, bridges, new firetrucks, police cars and equipment needs. This is allowed by Georgia law that stays the SPLOST can be used for capital projects but not any operating expenses including salary or benefits.
“In 2008, we had $2.2 million in capital expenses in our annual budget that including equipment, paving, etc. Then the recession hit and from 2009-2015, we had to cut that to $600,000 average in capital per year…so we lost about $1.4 million per year over 7 years and that is why we are in the position we are in right now,” he says.
Those opposing the SPLOST feel city and county officials should be able to maintain the government with taxes already collected from property owners annually. They also don’t agree with the “all or none” 26-project package.
“I would be more likely to support a SPLOST-like referendum if we were allowed to vote on each item individually. When you lump ‘what the people want’ in the same proposal as ‘what they care less about,’ then it reeks of coercion. Stop packaging good and bad items together,” says Dale Herndon, who heads up the Vote No! Rome-Floyd County SPLOST group on Facebook.
“People in Rome/Floyd constantly complain about taxes and yet there is a SPLOST to vote on. We need a break, so vote no! Make the commissioners, city and county managers do their jobs and maintain the county with the taxes and fees that are received annually,” he says. “Where I have the problem is when the elite special projects are being lumped together with ones that I would support and pay for like the county jail needs, law enforcement and things for the kids, I will support every time. But don’t make me pay for a dog park for them to get my vote.”
It is important to note that all counties surrounding Floyd including Bartow, Gordon, Polk and Chattooga counties also currently have a SPLOST. So, when you shop at Target in Cartersville or the outlets in Calhoun, you are paying the extra 1-cent for every dollar in purchases to support these communities’ projects.
The final decision is with the voters, with balloting starting in advance on Oct. 16 through Nov. 3, and then on election day, Nov. 7.
One note: The 2013 SPLOST will expire on March 31, 2019; any new tax would start the next day. The five-year package is estimated to collect $63.8 million via 1-cent for every $1 spent. Should the proposal pass, as well the separate education special tax, the county sales tax rate would remain the same 7 cents on the dollar as it is now. If unsuccessful, organizers would have additional attempts next year. Click here for complete list.
City of Cave Spring
Sewerage System improvements & upgrades
Description: Construction of sewerage system improvements and upgrades to prevent sewage overflows, address permit violations and protect water quality in the service area. Cave Spring currently has a problem of infiltration of water into the sewerage system creating overflows that exceed the EPD permit limits. The city has been paying fines to the EPD for several years due to the problem and have now been told to fix the problem; fines no longer accepted.
Texas Valley infrastructure expansion
Description: Install ductile pile, new fire hydrants and appurtenances to bring county water and fire protection to the area that currently has well-water only and no fire protection. This project will allow the department to loop the water distribution system, which improves reliability by feeding water from two directions rather than one. Looping may also help reduce water quality problems by allowing the water to circulate verses having dead-end lines. The project will complete an outer-perimeter, which will allow the transportation of water to all four quadrants of the county from the three water sources in the north and one in the south.
Description: An overall renovation of the 911 Center located in the Law Enforcement Center complete with new consoles, flooring, lighting, wall demolition to improve floor plan, painting, storm protection for west-facing windows, computer upgrades to improve processing speed and building security enhancements. Current consoles are designed for two computers and three monitors, but now operators use at least three computers and six monitors at each console. Some of the consoles are no longer adjustable and cannot be repaired. Security enhancements include improved video monitoring, entry protection and storm doors for the windows in the 911 Center that face west and take the brunt of oncoming storms.
Jail Medical Phase II and Infrastructure Improvements
Description: This project is a continuation of the current Jail Medical expansion from 2013 SPLOST. The 2013 SPLOST project currently underway will add 10-12 medical beds to current total of 4. The 2017 SPLOST project proposal would add another 55-60 medical beds by renovating a current Side 5 building. To meet national guidelines, the jail should have a minimum of 5% of their beds in a medical unit or at least 41 beds. The jail’s inmate housing capacity is 820 beds with actual population count as high as 1000 inmates. With the closing of Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital, the jail has seen a 60% increase in volume of inmates with severe mental illness entering the jail. Jail records show over 66,500 clinical encounters at the jail in 2016.
Capital Equipment/Vehicle Fund
Description: Replacement of key components of Floyd County’s aging capital equipment and vehicle fleet with $1.96 million for public works vehicles and equipment, $910,000 for county police vehicles and $490,000 in other vehicles (Sheriff Dept. and Water Dept.). American Public Works Association’s Vehicle and Equipment Replacement Guidelines recommend police pursuit vehicles be considered for replacement at an age of 6 years, or 100,000 miles. Cars such as administrative sedans, pickup trucks and most light to medium duty vehicles are recommended for replacement at 8 years or 100,000 miles. Medium and Heavy duty trucks such as dump trucks, utility trucks, bucket trucks, etc. are recommended for replacement at 10 years or 120,000 miles, and most heavy equipment such as backhoes, excavators, pavers and motor graders will have a 10-15 year recommended replacement. The average age of Floyd’s Public Works (light and medium) duty vehicles is 14 years with 93% of light vehicles 8 years or older. The average age of Floyd County’s Public Works heavy duty vehicles is 15 years with 78% of vehicles 10 years or old. The average age for Floyd County Police vehicles is 7 years with 67% over 6 years old; 63% with over 100,000 miles and 17% with over 200,000 miles.
Prison Systems Security Upgrade
Description: This project would add or upgrade a number of measures to enhance officer safety, reduce energy consumption and gain compliance with state regulations at the Floyd County Prison. Enhancements include a new institutionalized camera system; replace outer security doors; gym security enhancements; replace water heater; upgrade jail software system; replace control panel that is 60 years old by industry standards; add dorm shower exhaust fans to prevent mold issues; roof replacement; upgrade LED lighting; and upgrade body scanner technology to deter contraband into the facility.
Public Safety Technology upgrades
Description: Upgrades include purchase of tablets complete with keyboards and mounts for police vehicles so officers can complete reports in the field, rather than staying overtime after the shift to complete paperwork. Tablets also enable officers to take photographs and download quickly to the system. Other upgrades include purchase 118 body cameras and 18 mobile vision in-car digital camera systems to replace units no longer coverable under warranty. Floyd County Police spend over $22,000 per year on warranty fees now and it is now cost prohibitive to repair existing equipment. All police activity now has to be videoed. A new mobile vision server will be purchased to replace existing server that will be out of warranty. New forensic equipment will be purchased including a fuming chamber and alternative lighting source system for enhanced fingerprinting needs of police investigators.
Special Operations Equipment
Description: Purchase and replacement of various SWAT and Bomb Squad equipment including 10 near raid vests (for extra protection), 10 ballistic helmets, night-vision items and weapons. A new smaller bomb robot with remote control capabilities will be purchased, along with a Smart Ray X-Ray system to examine suspicious packages from a distance.
Airport Corporate Hangar Construction
Description: Construction of a corporate hangar large enough to house two large jets or turbo prop aircraft for day or overnight stays to protect aircraft from weather, such as severe storms, hail and wind, along with frost and ice. The cost of the corporate aircraft that frequently come into Russell Regional Airport ranges from $1 million to $60 million and the aircraft is required, by most insurance carriers, to stay in a hangar if inclement weather is forecast. The aircraft owner faces additional charges from insurance carrier if not hangered, therefore, many aircraft fly to Atlanta to stay costing the Rome airport in lost fue sales and hanger rental. The proposed hanger would immediately bring in revenue ranging from $300 to $2000 per night depending on size of aircraft, in additional to increased fuel sales.
County Parks and Recreation
Description: Replacement of HVAC units at Alto Park, Etowah Park, Garden Lakes Park, Shannon Park, Gilbreath Center, and Lock & Dam; Rework of Skate Park at Etowah Park; Replace roof at Anthony Center; Dock & pavilion replacement at Brushy Branch; Renovation to Lock & Dam Park including engineering for docks, dock construction, & a new roof; Renovation of Kitchen at Charles Parker Senior Center; Installation of Bonded Rubber Surface at Shannon Park Playground; Installation of bonded rubber surface at Midway Park Playground & Replacement of tennis courts at Shannon Park.
The majority of our requests are either replacements or renovations of older facilities. The current air conditioning units proposed to be replaced use Freon that is being phased out by the industry and are not energy efficient.
State Mutual Stadium improvements
Description: Construction of cover of Terrace; replacement of sound system; construction of tiered seating in Section 209; upgrade to Tradin’ Post; construction of storage area; and Clubhouse addition. While the county has a stadium maintenance fund, it has been 14 years since any significant renovations or additions have been done on the facility by the county. The Braves organization have pledged matching funds to help achieve these improvements. According to McCord, the Rome Braves current contact with Rome-Floyd County is through the 2020 season, at which time a new contract will be negotiated.
Historic Courthouse Renovation and Judicial Center security upgrade
Description: Complete renovation of the historic courthouse in order to address deferred maintenance & functionality; and security upgrade to Judicial Center The renovation plan consists of addressing the structural integrity of the facility, the building envelope (roof, soffits, gutters, windows, brick), as well as a complete HVAC system. The renovation is anticipated to also include complete removal and reinstall of all plumbing and electrical systems. The renovation is needed to preserve the historical integrity of the building as well as make better use of existing space. Deferred maintenance has led to significant damage to the building that if not addressed, will put the building in jeopardy. This building currently houses the Tax Commissioner and the Assessor’s Offices and has foot traffic that averages approximately 500 people per business day.
Paving, Infrastructure and Bridges
Description: This project includes $3 million to be used for paving top priority roads out of the nearly 740 miles of paved road in Floyd County. Historically, the county averaged 44 miles per year which relates to a 17-year average paving cycle per road. But since 2008, the county has averaged 14+ miles per year which translates to a 49-year paving cycle. This money along with state funds of $1.092 million per year over next 5 years will allow county to cut paving cycle to 32 years. In addition to paving, another $1 million will be committed to bridge improvements. While none are currently in imminent danger, some will need some major overhauls in the next few years according to county officials. The last $500,000 would be split among the Lindale ($300,000) and Riverside ($200,000) villages primarily earmarked for sidewalk and traffic improvements, but paving and storm water projects are also possible. One large project for Lindale will be the addition of a turn lane on Park Avenue at Dragon Drive.
Public Works Facilities Building
Description: This project includes construction of new building for Public Works administration, main shop and warehouse. The current facility was built in 1968 and warehouse in the 1940’s. Both buildings need extensive maintenance and lack space to meet current demands that include processing 500-plus work order a year. The new shop would have larger bays and improved lighting to maintain fleet of equipment indoors, as well as enlarging the warehouse and separate paint shop.
Description: Costs associate with administering SPLOST project
City of Rome
Secondary Access at East Central Elementary School
Description: A new entrance to East Central Elementary School (Dean Ave.) will be made off East 14th St. and Bobo Drive. This project would relieve congestion on Dean Ave. It is a SPLOST project because school systems are barred by law from using revenue on projects outside the schools.
Fifth Avenue River District/Arts District
Description: This project would allow the spirit of Downtown Rome to extend beyond Broad St. to improve streetscape and beautify the district making it more attractive to current and future business owners and developers.Improvements include streetscape, right-of-way acquisition and utility improvements.
Barron Stadium Improvements
Description: This project will address future needs at Barron Stadium including field turf replacement and various facility improvements. The city last invested in Barron Stadium with the 2009 SPLOST. If this proposal passes, it will be April 2019 before it goes into effect and then funds allocated for projects. At that time, the turf at Barron will be 10 years old. Additional funds will be used to rehab the scoreboard and general upgrades to the interior of the press box.
ECO Center and River Ways
Description: This project combines two separate proposals from City of Rome and a citizen submission. The proposal includes funding improvements at the Rome-Floyd ECO Center for building acoustics and flood proofing approximately 3,000 sq. ft. to accommodate program growth to expand environmental education programs at the center. A community boat house with storage bays for public and private boat storage, public space to host community events, and construction of a graded river access allowing for a launch site into the Coosa River connected to the Georgia River Network’s Water Trails Program is proposed in the South Meadows project. The city already owns 18 acres along the Coosa River for this project; the property is accessible from Pollock Street in South Rome. Additional improvements include the creation of a road for vehicular access to the site and updated curbs, gutters and sidewalks on existing roadways leading to the site. The project also includes two new soft landings on the Oostanaula River; construction of boat-in-only campsite; and signage at river access points. The breakdown of costs include $70,000 in permitting, $30,000 for river access dock; $800,000 for boathouse; $500,000 for road/parking; $800,000 for ECO Center renovations; $741,275 for campsites; $280,000 for launch sites; $403,200 for engineering/contingency; and $15,000 for river signage.
City Parks and Recreation
Description: The project includes new playground equipment for Ridge Ferry Park; renovation of covered basketball courts at Parks Hoke Park; and paving of Northside parking lot at Ridge Ferry Park. The current playground at Ridge Ferry Park is nearing the end of its life expectancy.
Water and Sewer Improvements
Description: South/East Rome Water Sewer Department improvements (Rosemont Park Water Distribution & Fire Protection); South Rome/East RWSD Improvements (Maple Street 20″ Transmission Water Extension).
Public Works and Infrastructure Improvements
Description: This project includes city wide milling & paving; new sidewalk construction for West End School, Lavender Drive and Redmond Circle to West Butler Street that would create a continuous loop including Summerville Park; sidewalk improvements in East Rome including Lee Ave.; and Reservoir Street improvements from Turner McCall to Ross Street.
Public Safety Facility & Equipment improvements
Description: This project includes the purchase of a quint fire truck, tanker fire truck and police vehicles; as well as improvements to the fire maintenance shop & training ground. A quint is a combination fire engine and an aerial ladder truck (70 ft.). The department currently has 2 quints, but both are due to go in reserve status since they are 15 years old. The department also currently has one tanker truck that carries 2000 gallons of water. The new truck would be strategically placed in the county to assist in supplying the unincorporated areas of Floyd County with water for fire suppression. The fire department’s current maintenance shop and training grounds are located at 168 North Ave. A new modern shop would help the department better maintain equipment. The training grounds are in need of new training props including Liquefied Petroleum Gas/ Propane (LPG), vehicle fire and confined space simulators; a new fire tower to replace current tower built in 1975; and a new burn building to help train new cadets.
Real Estate and Infrastructure for Economic Development and Job Creation
Description: This project includes the purchase of land and infrastructure development for purposes of creating jobs in Rome & Floyd County. Rome-Floyd Chamber officials says having property accessibility, development and availability for good employers will keep our community competitive in drawing new business and industry and jobs to the area.
Description: Construction of a Rome-Floyd County Agricultural Center that would be a multi-use building with retail store, covered truck and farmer’s market area, office space for agricultural based business, and large arena for stock shows and demonstrations. In 2016, the Floyd County Farm Gate Value (all products) was $88,870,992.00. Floyd County officials are working alongside Carey Harris, retired Pepperell High School agricultural team and farmer, who submitted this proposal to the SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee. Partnerships are being discussed to make the most out of possible private-public possibilities with goals of creating an agritourism destination for Floyd County; promoting agriculture as a local economic driver; providing agricultural and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Mathematics) based educational partnerships; and consolidating local, state, and federal agricultural service agencies in a central location.
North Broad Youth Center Recreation Renovations
Description: This project will enhance the existing recreational area adjacent to the North Broad Youth Center located at 1148 North Broad Street. The center operates as a mentoring, training, educational, and cultural center that provides afterschool programs. This project will upgrade the existing area, currently a parking lot, with multi-purpose recreational amenities including a small pavilion, basketball goals and playground equipment. Although the proposed property is currently owned by the North Broad Youth Center, it will be gifted to the City of Rome for the purpose of the requested renovations and future public use. The area will be gated and supervised and open to the community daily from dawn until dusk. The North Broad Youth Center will oversee the annual operational and maintenance costs for the recreational area.
Silver Creek Trail Extension to Lindale
Description: This project would fund a continuation of Heritage Trail Network expanding the trail system south from the end of the Silver Creek Trail at East 12th Street roughly 3.6 miles ending in Lindale at Maple Street & North 1st Street, along the abandoned Norfolk Southern railroad. The Heritage Trail Network is actively used for recreation, transportation, and fitness. Both Shorter University and Berry College are connected to the trail and this expansion would also connect Georgia Northwestern Technical College. Funds would be used for acquisition of railroad right-of-way, engineering, prep work, guardrails and asphalt. The Lindale community already has plans in motion to build a train viewing platform along the rails that would coincide with the proposed trail extension, thus hoping to increase tourism to the area.