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Breaking down the SPLOST
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The Board of Commissioners continues to work toward putting together a 2011 SPLOST list to present to the voters at a March 15 referendum. Below are brief descriptions of all county-wide projects included on a proposal created by Commissioner Mort Ewing, which the board supported through informal consensus. The list and dollar amounts are subject to change, as the board will vote on a finalized list at its Dec. 21 meeting.

Level One Projects

These projects are given top priority and are the first ones to receive any SPLOST allocations. Only major county buildings, including a courthouse, administration building and jail, can receive this designation, as well as renovations to these facilities or debt repayment on these facilities. The value of these projects is taken off the top of any SPLOST funding, and is not figured into the pro rate share awarded to cities.

Jail Pods Debt Service - $3 million

The 600-bed Newton County Detention Center was placed on the 2000 SPLOST at a cost of $27.23 million and a $3.6 million expansion was later placed on the 2005 SPLOST. As with many larger projects, the county took out loans to pay for the center and expansion, with the intention of paying back the loans based on SPLOST collections. At the end of this current fiscal year, June 30, the jail will have a total of $3.8 million of debt service remaining. A total of $127,981 in interest will have been paid on this loan during the current fiscal year.

Administration Building Debt Service - $5 million

The Newton County Administration Building was placed on the 2005 SPLOST and allocated $5 million. Similar to the jail, loans were taken out to pay for the construction of the administration building. At the end of this fiscal year, $9.2 million worth of debt service will remain on the project. A total of $438,253 of interest will have been paid during this fiscal year.

Judicial Center- $7 million

The Newton County Judicial Center was approaching capacity prior to addition of Judge Ken Wynne, the third judge based in the building. Buildings like the judicial center carry extra expenses because they require higher security. Chairman Kathy Morgan said Thursday that the county will work with the judges to find ways to avoid a large expansion to the center, such as moving the probate judge and district attorney's office to other buildings. Those officials aren't required to be in as secure of a building as the judges. The county is still meeting with the judges to determine the best course of action.

Level Two Projects

These are projects that have a county-wide benefit, but are not necessarily required county buildings. These projects take second priority when the county allocates SPLOST funding.

Upgrade Parks - $1 million

The recreation commission is planning to upgrade Beaver, City Pond, Denny Dobbs, Mary Louise Fowler, South Street, Trailblazers and Turner Lake parks, Cousins Center and Stone Road Complex by making various repairs to buildings, landscaping and playgrounds.

Miracle League Field - $1.5 million

The Miracle League Field project calls for the construction of a handicap-friendly field to allow all children to play baseball. A complex will be built at City Pond Park and will also include two able-bodied baseball fields and other facilities. Donations have been taken for the project, but it still remains far from its nearly $2 million goal.

District 4 Improvements - $1.1 million

District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson requested $200,000 to buy property for a park in Settlers Grove; $200,000 to buy property for a park in Dinah Pace; $100,000 for playground equipment for Victoria's Station; $545,000 to buy property for a future homeless, workforce development and health center for the Newton County Minister's Union; and $55,000 for an indigent cemetery.

Animal Control - $100,000

This money would be used to provide maintenance and upgrades to the existing animal control facility.

Juvenile Facility - $500,000

Juvenile Judge Sherri Roberts requested $2.71 million to purchase and renovate the old Cousins Center complex to add much needed space for the various children and family oriented programs the juvenile court operates. The $500,000 would presumably be used toward a lease-purchase agreement.

Historic Jail - $1.2 million

During the 2005 SPLOST, $500,000 was allocated to renovate the Historic Jail, located on Stallings Street, and convert it into a museum. Donations have not come in as planned and the $1.2 million would finish the project.

Agricultural Facility - $1.1 million

Local officials with the Georgia Cattleman's Association, Georgia FFA-FCCLA Center and Newton County Farm Bureau have jointly requested more than $5 million to build an agricultural youth center, livestock arena, farmers market and community cannery. Only the cannery, $750,000, or farmers market, $500,000 plus land acquisition costs, would fit under the $1.1 million budget.

Fire Station #8 - $1.1 million

The board regularly places fire stations on SPLOST proposals as the county works to put a station within 5 miles of every home in the county, which would increase its ISO rating. The ISO rating determines how much homeowners and businesses have to pay for fire insurance. Fire station #8 would be placed in northern Newton County and replace a volunteer-based fire station with a professionally-staffed one.

Hospital Emergency Room - $4 million

According to data provided by Newton Medical Center, it expects to see 43,047 emergency room visitors by the end of 2010. In 1993, it had 18,159. The $4 million allocation would pay for all or most of an emergency room expansion.

Landfill Debt Service - $500,000

Newton County took a $4 million low interest state loan to pay for an expansion of its landfill. This proposal calls for only $500,000 of that debt to be paid through SPLOST.

Public Works Equipment - $500,000

Chairman Morgan said this allocation would pay for a new asphalt spreader and a new grading vehicle.

County Vehicle Replacement - $2.5 million

The county has more than 600 vehicles, many of them sheriff's office patrol cars. The $2.5 million allocation would allow the county to replace between 100 and 125 vehicles, assuming an average cost of $25,000. Fire trucks and other specialized equipment bring up the average cost, Morgan said.

Fire Services - $100,000

This would be used to purchase various fire equipment.

Road Improvements - $17.28 million

Chairman Morgan has repeatedly said the county spends only a fraction of what it needs to spend to pave and repair streets, because of a lack of local funding and decreasing state money. SPLOST allocations would help cover gaps.