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County manager gives update about SPLOST projects

NEWTON COUNTY – During the Jan. 9 Newton County Board of Commissioners meeting, updates were given on the 2017 and 2023 SPLOST projects.

County manager Harold Cooper went in about each of the SPLOST updates during his county manager report.

Starting with the 2017 SPLOST, the following projects were considered as complete:

  • Josephine brown Senior Center expansion

  • Updates to recreation center at Turner Lake

  • Chimney Park improvements

  • Library improvements

  • Updates to the Animal Control facility

  • Improvements to Washington St. facility

  • Upgrades to the Sheriff’s Office

  • Updates to fire stations

Three projects were considered as currently active, including Springhill Park, Yellow River Trail and Westside Youth Facility.

For Springhill Park, construction officially began in April 2022 with several services already complete. According to the county manager’s presentation, the expected completion for the project is Spring 2024.

The Yellow River Trail is not as optimistic – as the project is currently still in phase one, meaning the land acquisition is still in process. Particularly, this falls in “land acquisition easements for segment one.”

According to the presentation, segments have been realigned to work with some of the developments in the area. Some of those developments listed are the Denny Dobbs Development, The Wyatt Development and The Oaks Development.

Cooper said that this played a crucial role in this project moving forward.

“When we talk about segment one of this plan, portions of segment one will not move forward because there has to be some segment realignment to work with the developments that make up that area,” Cooper said. “Proposed phase one trail segment is to achieve the easements in reference to moving forward.”

The Westside Youth Facility Project is currently on hold awaiting direction from the Board, with discussion for potential locations in District’s 2, 3 and 4 still underway.

Next, Cooper went over the 2023 SPLOST updates that were available. 

In total, 23 projects were identified under the 2023 SPLOST. The starting point for these projects were to create tiers based on level of importance.

Per Cooper’s presentation, tier one projects are given the highest priority on this list, with tier two projects holding a lesser priority.

The tier one projects and updates are as follows:

  • General Government Fleet replacement (in procurement phase)

  • Public Safety Fleet replacement (in encumbered phase)

  • County-wide park improvements 

  • Senior Services Enrichment Center (location selected and currently in design phase)

  • Westside Community Park (in property assessment phase)

  • Southside Park (in property assessment phase)

  • Community Waterpark (awaiting board direction)

Tier two projects are as follows:

  • Administration building reutilization (in design phase)

  • Centralized storage and maintenance facility (in design phase)

  • RL Cousins Community Center (received authorization from the Board to move forward on Dec. 5)

The remaining tier two projects were listed as “inactive- beginning in 2024.” Those are as follows:

  • Animal Services expansion - Phase II.

  • Nelson Heights improvements

  • Newton Trails

  • Washington St. improvements

Following the presentation, District 4 representative J.C. Henderson asked the county manager about money going to each district – stating that he thought $1 million was going to each district.

“I was thinking during the SPLOST project that each district had $1 million, so I’m just trying to figure out, where did the $1 million go?,” Henderson said. “I’m going to have a district meeting and we’re gonna discuss the $1 million that the taxpayers gave to District 4 and how we’re gonna spend it in District 4.”

County attorney Patrick Jaugsetter stated that this was done via the project identification phase.

“During the identification of projects for the SPLOST, each commissioner was essentially permitted to direct $1 million of SPLOST funds towards projects,” Jaugsetter said. “You can look at the SPLOST project list and see district-specific projects.”

Henderson additionally wanted to know what improvements would be going toward the Nelson Heights Community Center, which is also in District 4.

Cooper mentioned that the Nelson Heights improvements “has yet to come to fruition” due to its status as a tier two project – but that once it became of a higher priority, that Henderson would be involved in the improvements.

District 3 commissioner Alana Sanders stated these SPLOST projects are not involving her district.

“As you can see District 3 has no movement and no projects going. We have moved forward with other projects in 2023,” Sanders said. “The residents in District 3 in a lot of our meetings have said they are completely upset because there is no movement in the district that is the most dense. I pulled the record on the impact fees – that pays the most impact fees – that has no movement for recreation and no renovations or anything occurring in that district, and that’s unfair.”

Sanders said she hoped that this was not a personal attack on her and that the citizens should be kept in mind during the SPLOST updates. She also said that she hopes the money that is available can be used to add these projects into District 3, particularly for the Westside Community Park project.

“An email just came in and I forwarded it over to the county manager, that HUD – the government – is just waiting on us to do [pick] a location [for the Westside Community Park],” Sanders said. “It’s free money to the taxpayers – $4 million just sitting there waiting for a building to be built. It makes no sense.”