Austell not planning major SPLOST projects
by Haisten Willis
June 28, 2014 04:00 AM | 2651 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Austell mayor Joe Jerkins stands at the entrance of the Village On The Park subdivision after a downpour Thursday afternoon. The subdivision would be resurfaced under the 2016 SPLOST if approved by voters this fall.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Austell mayor Joe Jerkins stands at the entrance of the Village On The Park subdivision after a downpour Thursday afternoon. The subdivision would be resurfaced under the 2016 SPLOST if approved by voters this fall.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
AUSTELL — As Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins celebrates his 25th year in office, he has helped put together a SPLOST project list to prepare the city for the next decade.

The Austell City Council is expected to finalize a $6.5 million project list during a July 7 meeting. Though Jerkins said the city has no major projects, the revenue brought in from local sales taxes is a huge benefit to Austell.

“It’s very important to us,” said Jerkins, who was first elected in 1989. “We’ll be getting a million dollars a year altogether. Our property taxes aren’t much more than a half a million dollars a year.”

Cobb residents could vote on extending the one percent special purpose local option sales tax Nov. 4. Because the current SPLOST doesn’t expire until December 2015, a six-year extension of the tax would run from 2016 through the end of 2021.

Cobb commissioners will vote July 22 whether to put the SPLOST on the November ballot, and for how many years the tax would be collected.

Jerkins, who acts as both mayor and city manager, said the city’s budget is about $13 million annually, of which the $1 million-plus from SPLOST is vital.

The $6.5 million total breaks down into $3.9 million for transportation, $1.6 million for parks and $978,807 for public safety.

The largest line item overall is $1.1 million for road repaving. Jerkins said it’s not always exciting to talk about repaving projects, but citizens are very concerned with the condition of roads.

“This gives us a chance to pave a lot of roads that wouldn’t be paved for a long time otherwise,” he said. “I get a good many comments about the roads that we are resurfacing.”

The second largest item is $844,128 for new sidewalks and sidewalk maintenance. Jim Graham, Austell’s community development director, said sidewalks are both a popular and functional part of the city.

“More and more people are going out walking,” said Graham.

“It also lets them walk safely to some of our businesses. Connectivity downtown is one thing we’re looking at too, trying to be pedestrian-friendly.”

Jerkins also touted the importance of sidewalks.

“It’s a safe way to keep kids out of the streets,” Jerkins said. “When they put them in it also looks better. We require all new subdivisions to put sidewalks in. In most cases people like them, especially close to schools.”

Most of the money for parks isn’t designated for a specific project, instead falling under a “miscellaneous” category. Graham said it’s hard to predict needs six or seven years out, but listed some improvements made with past SPLOST dollars.

“We’ve put additional bathrooms at Legion Park and added a new horseshoe pavilion and a big playground,” Graham said. “We completely redid our tennis courts, which cost around $50,000, and resurfaced the parking lot at our community center. They’re striping that today.”

Other items on the sales tax list include maintenance equipment, such as a backhoe, bucket truck, pickup trucks, Bobcats, a water truck and motor grader.

Jerkins hopes the list will be approved, and will help keep his south Cobb city running smoothly.

“The way I look at it, 30 percent of it is paid for by people from outside Cobb County,” Jerkins said. “That helps us a lot and keeps our property taxes down.”

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