City, county officials support five year, one cent TSPLOST


City of Griffin and Spalding County officials are working to move forward with a 2017 TSPLOST referendum.

According to representatives of both city and county government, it is needed to address longstanding and urgent transportation needs.

“There’s not enough money for transportation. We put transportation in the current SPLOST, but it’s not enough money, because you never have enough money for transportation. Transportation is an expensive infrastructure,” said Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith. “A TSPLOST would be very beneficial for the city and the transportation needs the city has.”

Smith said transportation improvements are crucial to economic growth and development.

“Every time we talk SPLOST, every time we talk about transportation issues, transportation is the foundation of economic development. If you have a poor transportation system, then your ability to thrive economically is hamstrung,” he said. “Whether it be things like the airport, the interstates, the railroad – economic development grew up around transportation. That comes from the rivers, the stagecoach, the railroads – economic development is built around transportation, so when you’re looking at road conditions, you’re looking at bridge conditions, you’re looking at intersections, you’re looking at safely moving vehicles and traffic from one location to another, you’ve got to have a good transportation system as the foundation for everything else or you don’t have factory, you don’t have retail, you don’t have residential growth. If you don’t have a sound transportation system, and transportation is expensive.”

He said the city has and continues to invest in its transportation infrastructure, but available funding is insufficient to meet demands.

“We have roads inside the city that are in dire need of resurfacing. Some of them in particular are concrete streets over in the Third Ward district that I despise riding on, and you can’t just go in and lay asphalt on top of a concrete street. So, we have challenges that involve millions and millions of dollars when it comes to paving roads, resurfacing roads, redesigning intersections that are hazardous like the one at Poplar and Hammond, the one at Searcy and West Solomon. Some intersections we’ve already fixed and I think people have seen the difference in some intersections like the one at Experiment and Broad, Meriwether and West College, Sixth and North Hill,” Smith said. “So, we have fixed those and we’re about to start working on the North Hill Street roundabout and bridge replacement over Cabin Creek, but those are things that, I mean we’re talking about a lot of money to do those projects, and there’s just not enough money there. At least with a transportation SPLOST, you’ve got everybody that uses that road – assuming they buy gas, assuming they buy other commodities within your community – at least everybody that buys something is paying into that pool, which is sales tax, rather than having to use property tax general fund money to try to keep up with our transportation needs, which you will never do. I mean, there’s no way to keep up with your transportation infrastructure by using property tax general fund money.”

Spalding County Commissioner Don Hawbaker concurs that a TSPLSOT is the best option for obtaining needed funding.

“I have changed, I guess morphed a little bit, from being pretty ambivalent and neutral about whether we have a TSPLOST to more so into I believe if the people knew what a TSPLOST would do for our community, they would support it, so I’m generally supportive of it, but of course it’s a decision the voters would have to make,” Hawbaker said, adding what led him to support the effort. “I spent an entire Sunday afternoon looking up and sending an email to the 200-plus commissioners in the 46 counties that have a TSPLOST. That is the 46 counties that were in three different regions that back in 2012 passed a regional TSPLOST.”

Hawbaker received both email and telephonic responses from many of those officials who emphatically encouraged him to present the TSPLOST option to local voters.

Those officials also addressed the negative sentiment surrounding the 2012 regional TSPLOST referendum.

“Opposition from 2012 has pretty much melted away because they’ve seen what that one cent can do for their transportation infrastructure,” Hawbaker related.

Soon after beginning to communicate with these statewide officials came the Interstate 85 bridge collapse.

“If that doesn’t send a signal that we should take a really hard look at our transportation infrastructure, I don’t know what will,” Hawbaker said.

He has since contacted all city of Griffin and Spalding County commissioners and urged them to join him and “boldly do this.”

“That’s why I really support, and why I really think the voters will be doing themselves well, to support a TSPLOST,” Hawbaker said. “A lot of people in Spalding County (in 2012) didn’t want to vote for putting in some bridge in Pike County or resurfacing roads in Carroll County, and thought that the projects were not only a fair share, but the kind of projects they wanted. This TSPLOST would be a single-county TSPLOST, so it would be only for Spalding County and the city of Griffin.”

Hawbaker said legal changes over the past five years make it possible for Spalding County voters to determine if they support a TSPLOST that would strictly fund local projects.

“The big difference is that this would be a single-county TSPLOST, so all the funds would go to benefit city and county transportation projects…there wouldn’t be any concern that any of that sales tax money was being spent outside of Spalding County,” he said. “A single-county TSPLOST wasn’t available until the General Assembly passed HB170 – the Transportation Infrastructure Funding Bill – in 2015, and then they had some additional follow up legislation back in 2012 to have a single-county TSPLOST. It’s another tool available to voters to use to correct any deficiencies in our transportation system.”

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