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Grady County, City of Cairo and City of Whigham officials will meet next Tuesday at 11 a.m. to discuss moving forward with the process of implementing a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax here.
Not more than $15 million is to be collected during the life of the tax should voters approve the new tax in May. The proceeds of the additional one percent sales tax could only be used for transportation projects in the two cities and the unincorporated areas of the county.
Voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on the new tax on May 19. If approved, the tax would go into effect on Sept. 1, 2020 and would expire on Aug. 31, 2025, according to a draft of the resolution calling for the referendum, which Grady County commissioners are expected to take up at their Jan. 7 meeting, the first meeting of 2020.
Following the regular commission meeting, Grady County officials will huddle with representatives of Cairo and Whigham to begin the process, as required by law. The three bodies must agree to intergovernmental agreements, which stipulate how the money will be divided between them.
Grady County will take in the lion’s share of the new tax, if it is approved, with 59.7 percent of all collections going into the county’s coffers. Based on the tax generating $15 million, that would make the county’s share $8,955,000.
The City of Cairo would receive 38.4 percent of the TSPLOST, or $5,760,000. The City of Whigham would be entitled to 1.9 percent of the sales tax generated or $285,000.
During the Dec. 23 Cairo City Council meeting, Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton briefed the council on the Jan. 7 joint meeting and shared with the council a list of proposed projects, which could be funded with TSPLOST.
Addleton said that if the voters approve the new tax, the city could accelerate Phase 8 and Phase 9 of the city’s street resurfacing master plan. Phase 8 includes paving all or portions of 14th Avenue N.W., Stephens Lane N.W., Fifth Street N.W., Sixth Street N.W., Sutton Mill Road N.W., First Street N.W., Fifth Avenue NW., Sixth Avenue N.E., Second Avenue N.E., Bell Alley N.E., 11th Street S.W., 12th Street S.W., Franks Alley S.W., West Alley S.W., Second Avenue S.W., Third Avenue S.W., Adams Street S.W., Eighth Street S.W., Fifth Street S.W., Brookwood Drive, S.E., Muggridge Lane S.E. and Third Street S.E. for a combined total of just over four-and-one-half miles of city streets.
Phase 9 is just over five miles of streets including all or portions of Pine Circle N.W., Parallel Drive N.W., 15th Avenue N.W. Glenn Drive N.W., Lake Jenna Drive N.W., Lakefront Drive N.W., Chris Drive N.W., Seventh Avenue N.W., Market Street N.E., Tired Creek Boulevard N.E., 10th Street N.E., 11th Street N.E., 12th Street N.E., Grant Avenue S.W., Washington Drive S.W., Lincoln Lane S.W., Willie C. Harris Drive S.W., Madison Lane S.W., Madison Circle S.W., 13th Avenue S.W., Pine Circle S.W., and Third Street S.E.
Additionally, the city manager offered other transportation projects that could be funded out of the city’s share of the sales tax proceeds including resurfacing of North and South Broad Street as well as curb and gutter and sidewalk improvements on South Broad Street; First Avenue N.E, Second Avenue S.E., First Street S.W., Third Avenue N.W. and N.E., Long Branch Church Road (the city’s portion), and Forest Glen Road S.E. (the city’s portion). Those projects total another nearly five miles of city streets being resurfaced.
The city manager says additional sidewalk projects could be considered as well as the purchase of a new street sweeper and the potential for a new airport terminal at the Cairo Municipal Airport.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas voiced his support for rolling phases 8 and 9 into the TSPLOST and he asked if the current SPLOST could be used for additional paving projects. According to Addleton, there is not much money available in the current sales tax that the city can use for paving.
Douglas also voiced his support for purchasing a new street sweeper and looking into the possibility of improvements at the airport.
“If we are ever going to do anything to upgrade the airport terminal this would be the time to do it. We ought to put some funds in there for that,” Douglas said.
However, Douglas said, in his opinion, the city should deed all of its ownership of Long Branch Church Road to the county as it did on the 20th Street S.E. project a couple of years ago.
“We would have discussions on priority of projects as we move forward?” Councilman Jerry Cox asked. “Absolutely, yes,” replied Addleton.
According to the city manager, next week’s joint meeting is to review the referendum language and discuss the resolution and intergovernmental agreement.
A TSPLOST, unlike the existing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, would be an additional sales tax and would, if approved by the voters, increase the sales tax percentage in the county to eight percent, up from the current seven percent.