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The list is set, now for the sell: Details on SPLOST projects to go on November ballot

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The SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee is recommending a $63,881,680 package of projects for funding through an extension of the current 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax.

If voters approve the projects in the Nov. 7 countywide election, collections would start April 1, 2019, and run for five years, through March 31, 2024.

Local governments are prohibited by law from expending any public funds to advocate for a SPLOST. The committee will meet again Thursday to set up a promotions group that will start raising money and making appearances to explain the projects. The meeting, which is open to the public, is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Fire Administration Building on East 12th Street.

SPLOST Committee Chairman David Newby will kick off the awareness campaign with a speech to Seven Hills Rotary Club at noon Tuesday.

Agricultural Center, $8,000,000

Billed as the cornerstone of the package, the proposal by retired Pepperell High agricultural teacher Carey Harris has wide support from the community.

The main building would be an arena with offices, cafes and a store. The grounds would have space for food trucks, a farmers market and other activities.

Harris — and potential renters — contend the facility will make enough money to fund annual operations. However, there are still some unanswered questions, including where it will be built and who will run it.

County Manager Jamie McCord said he and County Extension Agent Keith Mickler visited less-ambitious ag centers in Carrollton and Coweta County. Both are partnerships between the governments and outside entities, and both require yearly funding of between $200,000 and $400,000 a year.

Still, committee members indicated confidence that Harris and others could come up with a more specific plan before the vote in November.

“We need something exciting every now and then,” Newby said.

Cave Spring sewer improvements, $1,281,000

The city is under a consent order from the state to fix its failing sewer system. The initial request was for nearly $3 million, which included improvements, but the committee opted to include just enough to seal and repair the existing infrastructure.

“It is a special problem, it is a special need and it is a special project,” said member Doc Kibler.

Upgrades to the 911 Center, $257,000

The 911 Center in the Joint Law Enforcement Building would get its first major technology upgrade in 15 years. Security upgrades and hazardous weather protections also are planned, and the backup center on East 12th Street would get a new phone recorder system.

Recreation, $2,026,600

The package of projects Parks and Recreation Executive Director Kevin Cowling has planned includes rubberized surfaces for playgrounds around the county. Committee member Alvin Jackson fought to retain improvements to Park Hokes Park in Rome, and an extensive upgrade is in store for Brushy Branch, a prime fishing lake near Cave Spring.

A huge turnout from the skating community during committee deliberations ensured improvements to the facility at Etowah Park also are on the list.

Prison security upgrades, $2,705,000

Committee members agreed with little discussion to allocate the full amount sought by Warden Mike Long to improve security at the county prison on Blacks Bluff Road that houses about 440 state offenders.

The money will pay for a digital camera system, remodeling an old gym building to meet new safety codes; upgrading the doors, locks, control panels and lighting; adding inmate management software and a full-body imaging scanner; and replacing the hot water heaters.

East Central secondary access, $395,000

Plans call for building a new entrance to the school off East 14th Street and Bobo Drive. Rome Public Services Manager Kirk Milam said the road would relieve congestion on Dean Avenue. School systems are barred by law from using its revenue on projects outside the schools.

Rome public works, $5,000,000

Rome Public Works Director Chris Jenkins initially asked for $8.6 million to pave roads and add new sidewalks in heavily traveled pedestrian corridors. Committee members shaved funds off most applications, but said the sidewalks are a needed project.

A little over $2 million will go toward building sidewalks along Redmond Circle, Redmond Road and Lavender Drive, and to add them in the Reservoir Street area to connect residences to the Turner McCall Boulevard commercial district.

Public safety facility and equipment $4,400,000

The bulk of the money would go to upgrading the Rome-Floyd County Fire Department complex on North Avenue with a burn building and training equipment. A ladder truck, a water truck and some take-home vehicles for the Rome Police Department also are expected to be included in the buys.

Historic Courthouse renovations, $5,000,000

The historic building on North Fifth Avenue houses the tax officers that serve an average of 500 people a day. Long-delayed maintenance has left it leaking, moldy and deteriorating, according to Chief Appraiser Danny Womack. The funding includes money for some interior remodeling in hopes it will free up some space for the courts. A funding request for a new Justice Center was completely eliminated from the proposed package.

Roads and bridges, $4,500,000

County Public Works Director Michael Skeen said most of the money will go to paving roads that were neglected during the Great Recession. Plans include upgrading some weight-restricted bridges that can’t be used by fire trucks and school buses, and there may be enough in the allocation for infrastructrure improvements in the old Lindale and Riverside mill villages.

Texas Valley water line extension, $2,500,000

Floyd County Utilities Manager Steve Hulsey said the new 8-mile water line would connect two dead ends of the water system to create a loop. That would give operators more flexibility to divert water and pressure to areas where it’s most needed.

The extension also would offer service to an additional 72 households and provide better fire protection to the Texas Valley area.

Jail medical facility Phase II, $5,200,000

The earmark would pay for construction of a pharmacy and a mini-hospital, with areas to separate mentally ill and infectious patients from those in the general population. The 2013 SPLOST contains $2.2 million to add six to eight beds to the existing four-bed infirmary, but Chief Deputy Tom Caldwell said they need about 60 beds.

North Broad Youth Center recreation, $600,000

The foundation-run after-school facility at 1141 N. Broad St. has no outdoor recreation area other than a basketball hoop in the parking lot. The earmark would pay for a covered pavilion for basketball, tennis and volleyball and a small playground with a bonded rubber surface.

Committee members were impressed with the turnout for the project, which included presentations by the children who use the facility.

Silver Creek Trail extension to Lindale, $1,180,000

TRED got the full amount it sought to extend the Kingfisher Trail in Rome along an abandoned railroad bed to Lindale. The project is slated to connect destinations such as Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Kellogg and Southeastern Mills to the growing trail system. Committee members viewed it as a transportation project as well as a potential tourism boost for Lindale.

Blueways river trail projects, $3,639,500

Plans call for an expansion of the popular ECO River Education Center in Ridge Ferry Park and a community boathouse on the old Curtis Packing plant property off Pollock Street in South Rome. A river trail campsite also is planned, along with two more “soft-access” points on local waterways. The earmark is for a combination of projects submitted by Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful, the South Rome Redevelopment Agency and Dr. Frank Harbin.

Land for economic development, $3,110,000

There’s still $6 million unspent from the 2013 SPLOST that is earmarked to buy land and prepare it for a future industry, but Rome-Floyd Chamber officials said they have to continue assembling large parcels. The largest available tract, at Ga. 53 and 140, is about 100 acres and surrounding communities have property of 200 acres or more.

“We’re talking about prime jobs,” said member Toni Jackson Hannah. “Our millennials move to Atlanta and other places where they can make more money. I see the potential to bring larger companies here.”

Fifth Avenue River District streetscape, $2,000,000

The committee pulled funding for a proposed roundabout at Fifth Avenue and West Third Street, but agreed that visual improvements to the district would spur economic development expected to piggyback off the new Courtyard by Marriott.

“Once that hotel gets running, it will be the next best place to go from Broad (Street),” member Ghee Wilson said. “We need to make it more inviting for businesses to move there.”

County capital equipment and vehicles, $3,400,000

The earmark would pay for new police vehicles and old public works equipment and trucks. County Special Projects Manager Bruce Ivey said the county tries to replace some part of its fleet each year, but purchases were deferred for about four years during the recession. The boost would get the county closer to its schedule for replacing vehicles through the regular budget process.

County public works facility, $2,450,000

The earmark would pay for a replacement of the 50-year-old public works facility on Black’s Bluff Road and a 5,000-square-foot warehouse. The committee cut out requested funding for a training facility.

Airport corporate hangar, $899,210

Floyd County Airport General Manager Mike Mathews said the longer runway set for construction will be able to handle larger planes, but the insurance on most of them require an enclosed space if they are to stay somewhere overnight.

A corporate hangar would allow the county to rent space, and be available for sale if an entity wanted to locate at the airport.

“In that case, we’d take the money and build another one,” Mathews said.

State Mutual Stadium improvements, $2,000,000

The initial request for $3.4 million covered renovations at the Rome Braves’ stadium off the Armuchee Connector and the addition of locker rooms, storage, a larger store and a new banquet pavilion, ticketing area and restrooms.

It’s unclear how much the county will be able to do but County Manager Jamie McCord said Braves General Manager Mike Dunn is committing some funding as well.

“They didn’t ask for this, but we want to keep the Braves here,” McCord said.

Public safety technology, $415,170

The earmark would fund a new server, body cameras, in-car cameras, mobile tablets and forensic equipment for the Floyd County Police Department.

Barron Stadium improvements, $825,000

Rome City Manager Sammy Rich said the 7-year-old artificial turf at the stadium on West Third Street has a life span of about 10 years. The earmark includes $425,000 for the turf, $225,000 for a new scoreboard and $175,000 to remodel the press box.

Special operations equipment, $248,200

The money would be used for a new robot and X-ray equipment for the bomb squad, along with protective vests and weapons for the joint SWAT team.

Rome water system improvements, $1,750,000

Rome Water and Sewer Director Mike Hackett initially asked for $8.7 million for improvements to both systems. Committee members cut the request in an early round but returned some money last week after City Manager Sammy Rich raised the parity issue.

Rich said the SPLOST funding split has historically given Rome 41.7 percent of the projects but the city would see only about 30 percent of the revenue under the package as it was shaping up.

The earmark is for $1 million to replace the 2-inch water pipes in the Rosemont Park area and a $750,000 extension of a 20-inch water main down Maple Road to increase water pressure and fire protection.