published Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Catoosa proposes $60 million in SPLOST projects

  • photo
    Catoosa County Manager Mike Helton.
    Contributed Photo

PROPOSED PROJECTS

* West Chickamauga Creek basin sewer projects: $5 million

* Peavine and Ringgold creek basin sewer projects: $7.4 million

* Fort Oglethorpe: $7.15 million

* Ringgold: $2.5 million

* Catoosa Utility District: water lines and fire hydrants: $2.3 million

* Comprehensive Recreation Program: $2.2 million

* Boynton Recreation, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe Recreation Association, Ringgold Youth Athletics Association: $250,000 each

* Fire and rescue equipment: $3.7 million

* Fire and rescue buildings: $2.5 million

* Sheriff's vehicles and equipment: $2.1 million

* Sheriff's radios: $256,000

* 911 center upgrades: $659,000

* Roads and bridges: $9 million

* County equipment and vehicles: $2.16 million

* Public buildings and grounds: $800,000

* Stormwater projects: $3 million

* Retire indebtedness, fund economic development: $6.7 million

* Geographic information system department: $300,000

* Courthouse renovations and additions: $2.2 million

Total: $59.9 million

Source: Catoosa County

The historic Catoosa County Courthouse in downtown Ringgold, Ga., will have lighted clocks in its cupola once again if voters reauthorize a tax of 1 cent per $1 of sales.

About $2.2 million in courthouse renovations is among nearly $60 million worth of projects proposed by officials in the county and its two cities.

The special purpose local option sales tax will go before voters March 19.

"We've been asked quite a bit about the [courthouse] clocks," County Manager Mike Helton said. "It's definitely a little touch, but it means a lot to people."

Officials have spent weeks crafting the list of proposed projects to be funded by the five-year sales tax. They were careful to pick projects that people would support, Helton said -- and steer away from anything controversial. Voters elsewhere in Georgia have turned down the sales tax, and Catoosa County officials don't want that to happen.

"One item can beat the whole thing down," Helton said. "It's too important to lose."

The list of proposed projects includes 68 new sheriff patrol cars over the five-year period, or almost 14 cruisers per year. The Catoosa Utility District would get $2.3 million to improve water lines and fire hydrants.

Also, $3.7 million is earmarked for fire and rescue equipment, and $2.5 million would pay for fire and rescue buildings.

That could help improve the county's fire rating and reduce residents' insurance bills, Helton said.

Sewer projects in the West Chickamauga, Peavine and Ringgold creek basins account for $12.4 million.

One change for the SPLOST this time around is the creation of a comprehensive county recreation program that would administer projects such as the installation of lights at playing fields.

The SPLOST earmarks $2.215 million for the new recreation program and gives $250,000 to each of three volunteer-run recreation associations, instead of giving them $500,000.

"Better accountability" is the reason behind the change, Helton said. "The county's taking up all the responsibility."

Restructuring youth recreation funding hasn't been controversial, he said.

The County Commission approved the SPLOST list at its meeting Tuesday night. City councils in Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe gave their support to the project list at their meetings Monday night.

"We can live with it," Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart said. "We don't have a lot of say-so in the SPLOST."

Voters approved the previous SPLOST five years ago by 87 percent, Helton said. One selling point, he said, is that tourists and others passing through the county pay sales tax when they buy gas and food.

"You get other people to help you pay for it," he said.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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