About 60 properties around the county are under review as potential industrial sites that could be purchased with special purpose, local option sales tax funds.
Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord said Georgia Power Co. economic development officials helped identify the properties that could be adapted for large operations.
“It’s hard to find a 100-acre site that’s not under conservation,” he said, referring to a tax category that essentially requires the land to remain undisturbed. “You can still do something with them, but there are a lot of hurdles to overcome.”
The 2013 SPLOST package contains $8 million to create shovel-ready sites for job creation. No bonds were issued for projects, so they were done as the monthly collections came in.
“Everything was cash-flowed,” McCord noted. “We didn’t have that $8 million until a few months ago.”
His remarks came last week during an update to the 2013 and 2017 SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committees that drew about 50 people to the new recycling center on Lavender Drive. A tour of the SPLOST-funded facility that opened in December followed.
Collections for the 2013 package ended March 31; revenue from April 1 forward goes into the 2017 account.
David Newby, who chaired both citizen committees, pronounced the 2013 package a success and he was echoed by a number of attendees. All but a few of the $64.9 million worth of projects are complete.
“We were coming out of the recession and there was a great need for infrastructure,” Newby reminded the group.
“People said the projects should have come out of taxes, but there weren’t any taxes. So the community got behind it and we’re seeing the benefits now,” he added.
McCord said collections through February totaled $66.9 million and the March sales tax check from the Georgia Department of Revenue also will go into the 2013 account. The additional funds will likely be needed to boost the budgets of the few outstanding projects.
“How do you predict what’s going to happen in five years,” McCord said. “Sammy’s got his last project and I’ve got the airport.”
Rome City Manager Sammy Rich said the complicated task of rebuilding and stabilizing Unity Point was always going to be one of the later projects. The downtown park is at the confluence of the Etowah, Oostanaula and Coosa rivers.
The 2013 SPLOST contains $1.8 million for the project, including improvements to the South Broad bridge, which are done. Rich said he hopes to put out a request for proposals – for the second time – by late summer.
“We got so many questions last year that we pulled the RFP back,” he said. “If you’re bidding on something unknown, you’re going to bid high.”
The two bids received were for the entire SPLOST earmark and did not contain definitive plans. Rich said city engineers would take a closer look at the site and subsurface soils before a more specific call for bids is posted.
Meanwhile, county officials are making contingency plans for a runway extension at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Armuchee.
The 2013 SPLOST included $5.7 million to bring the length to 7,000 feet to safely accommodate corporate jets and other larger planes. Some of the money already has been spent to acquire property and start preparing the site.
“The low bid was $8.3 million, so we’re $3.5 million short on that right now,” McCord told the committees.
He attributed it partially to the glut of construction work from the Georgia Department of Transportation since a 2015 revision to the gas tax made millions more dollars available for road projects. Nine companies expressed interest but only two bid on the project, he said.
For now, they’re pinning their hopes on a federal grant. McCord said there’s $1 billion in that pot, but they’re competing with 2,800 other entities with a combined $4 billion worth of projects.
“If we don’t get it, we’ll break up the project into smaller parts and bid it out again. We will get it done,” he said.