MARIETTA — As the 2016 SPLOST package continues to bring in an extra $13.5 million per month in funding, the Board of Commissioners considered at their Tuesday work session where to spend all that extra cash.
Deputy County Manager Jimmy Gisi moderated a series of presentations before the board by department heads, as they made their case for additional spending on projects in their respective fields.
The six year 2016 SPLOST package — active from Jan. 2016 to Dec. 2021 — surpassed its target collection amount of $750 million earlier this year, and after designating a portion of its “revenue above projections” to go back to local cities, the county now has a series of projects it can address with that extra money.
If the current revenue stream holds throughout 2021, Cobb County will have well over $100 million to disburse by the year’s end.
By far the largest portion of the excess funds is proposed to go to the Cobb Department of Transportation, which is requesting an additional $67.4 million in funding for special projects. Those projects include the following:
♦ $15 million for additional road resurfacing costs;
♦ $2.5 million for a pedestrian trail along West Atlanta Street, on top of $3.2 million already budgeted;
♦ $6.5 million for a connector on the Silver Comet Trail;
♦ $6 million for improvements to the Austell Road Multimodal Transfer Center;
♦ $3 million for a Phase I Pilot Project of the Chattahoochee River Trail.
Commissioner Keli Gambrill took issue with the last of these proposals, arguing that the over $12 million total price tag for two miles of riverside trail was an excessive expenditure.
“Just for perspective, this $12.1 million is usually just a little less than what we fund yearly for resurfacing,” Gambrill said. “So if I have to prioritize something, I’m going to prioritize our roads, which see 50 (to) 60,000 cars on them a day.”
Chairwoman Lisa Cupid and Commissioner Jerica Richardson pushed back, with Cupid calling it a “shot in the arm” and a “tremendous asset” for the area.
Richardson said, “Regarding this project, I would think it’s not a complete picture to simply classify it as a trail. It is an economic development opportunity that’s not just about mobility, but also all of the potential business that may come from that trail existing.”
Meanwhile, the parks department requested $4.4 million to fund improvements at its locations, with the largest portions going to the Osborne Area Recreation Center, Old Clarkdale Park, and Stout Park.
And the Sheriff’s Office asked for $18.6 million for a number of improvements to the Cobb County Detention Center, including interior and exterior maintenance, as well as furniture, appliances, and other upgrades for the facility.
Near the meeting’s conclusion, Gisi told the Board of Commissioners there is sufficient money in the extra SPLOST cash to fund all of the projects presented at the meeting, with the exception of roughly $9.1 million of extra Department of Transportation projects, which were not included in its main package of $67.4 million.