Officials respond to “wish list” criticism; say SPLOST is necessary

SHEILA MATHEWS :::

With an upcoming SPLOST referendum slated for the May 20 general primary ballot, Spalding County residents are speaking out in public meetings and on social media, expressing their opposition to elected officials use of SPLOST funds for nonessential projects. Both city and county officials alike are paying heed to their frustrations while still stressing the crucial role SPLOST plays in the community.

One such comment was made by Bobby Peurifoy as he addressed county commissioners, saying, “Don’t talk about a wish list. That’s the worst sounding thing to me. If we need something, let’s go after it, but don’t call it a wish list. Call it a dire need.”

Spalding County Manager William Wilson said county officials are also continuing the project review process, but pointed out one key difference voters will see on the general primary ballot.

He said since the approval of the current SPLOST, state legislators have revised the law regarding ballot wording, giving voters more specific information on the matter.

“Before, we were able to use generic terms – transportation improvements, infrastructure improvements, building improvements – but now, we have to be more specific,” Spalding County Manager William Wilson said. “That’s something my commissioners are doing – advocating for going into greater detail with regard to the project list.”

He said the project minutiae is not mandated, but as an example, Wilson said if a transportation project involves intersection improvements, local officials must now inform voters of the specific locations that will be affected.

“I think voters will see much greater detail for the upcoming SPLOST referendum,” he said.

Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith responded by stating it all comes down to perspective.

“I guess it depends on your definition of wish. If someone lives on a street that needs paving, is that a need or a wish? The issue is we’ve got some streets that need paving. Well, there are only three choices – tax money from the general fund; SPLOST money; or the street doesn’t get paved, he said. “I don’t care which choices people make. I’m just saying those are the three choices I have because no one is going to pave the streets for free.”

With no project list having been finalized, Smith said he understands that people are expressing opposition to it in principle, but that they don’t know the specifics of what they will be voting on.

“To me, it’s illogical to not want to pay for capital projects with SPLOST funds,” he said. “Logic tells you that a portion of it comes from people from outside Spalding County. People from Pike, Upson, Butts and Clayton counties shop in Griffin, too.”

Although officials are still in the process of determining what projects to include in the SPLOST referendum, Smith said he does not anticipate the inclusion of “wish list” items.

“We have enough capital needs projects in Griffin that I don’t have to worry about a wish list. It won’t be frivolous projects,” he said. “I just don’t want them to call me and say, ‘My street needs to be paved, but I don’t want to pay for it,’ because the paving fairy isn’t going to come along overnight and do it for me,” Smith said. Ω

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