Watkinsville Mayor Reports City Enhancements Going Well
Mayor Walter discusses the status of projects funded by local sales tax revenue.
The City of Watkinsville is putting its share of Oconee's special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) revenue to use in paving projects, sidewalks, park renovations and police equipment.
Watkinsville Mayor Joe Walter said drainage repairs, curbing work and paving have been completed on Lakeview Drive with SPLOST funding that came available in November 2009. The rest of Morrison Street and Cedar Circle have also been paved, he added.
Watkinsville's estimated portion of SPLOST funding is $3.2 million over six years, of which $259,280.43 has been spent, reported city clerk Julie Sanders.
A large portion of city enhancement will take place at Harris Shoals Park, beginning with stream bank stabilization, Walter said. Bids for that project were opened on Tuesday.
"It's not like a wall," he said of the addition of river rock. "It's just a way to stabilize the stream bank and make it look natural. You can actually put some plants there -- which is what we are going to do -- select trees and bushes and things so you have your stream-protected corridor there. So that will look good."
After creek stabalization is complete, the city will put SPLOST money toward repairs and renovations of the park's pavilion and barbeque pits.
"(The pavilion) will get a new roof and possibly some new timbers," said Walter.
He added that one of the two barbeque pits will be gutted and reconstructed, and the other will be altered to fit in aesthetically with the overall look of the park.
"We're not going to do anything with that except be sure that the facade fits in with the facade of the others," he said.
Once improvements of Harris Shoals Park are complete, the city will move forward with plans to pave the road leading out of the park onto VFW Drive, Walter said.
According to Walter, SPLOST funds have also been allocated for these future purchases:
- Park restroom improvements
- An additional pedestrian bridge at Harris Shoals Park
- New, wooden playground equipment
- Cameras for the police department's six patrol cars
- An electronic fingerprint system for police use
- Sidewalk construction on VFW Drive to Cedar Circle where Mimosa Drive intersects, and then along Mimosa Drive ending back at VFW Drive
Walter said the timeline for projects and purchases is dependent upon the rate of flow of SPLOST revenue.
Oconee County voters elected to continue the 1 percent SPLOST in a special election March 17, 2009, said Jeff Benko, Oconee finance director.
He said that this time around, commissioners steered away from a traditional five-year SPLOST and opted instead for a six-year term. He said the longer period is permitted by Georgia legislature as long as municipalities are included.
The state collects the sales tax from local businesses on the 20th day of each month, Benko said. Then money is deposited into The Oconee County Commission's account by the last business day of the month. Finally, the county disperses a percentage of the funds, based on population, to Watkinsville, Bogart, North High Shoals, and Bishop, he said.
Watkinsville recieves 7.99 percent of the tax, said Benko, who projected the six-year tax will yield $40 million for the county.
He said the county would have to wait to see how the actual figures turn out.
"The projection is an educated, optimistic guess," he said. "Hopefully the economy will continue to improve."
Unlike the traditional five-year SPLOST in which tax collection ceases once goals are reached, Benko said, Oconee would continue to collect the tax for the full 72 months whether the goal is reached early or not at all.
"Timing is key to allow jurisdictions to plan future SPLOST referendums well in advance and never miss a beat," Benko said.
The current SPLOST will expire September 30, 2015.