Houston chairman details proposed SPLOST

chwright@macon.comNovember 16, 2011 

WARNER ROBINS -- About 75 people gathered Tuesday for the first of two public hearings regarding a special 1-cent sales tax continuation, during which Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker explained the details of the proposal.

“It is very important that you become educated on what you are being asked to vote on,” Stalnaker said, before launching into a nearly two-hour review at the Houston County Annex.

Stalnaker, aided by a projector and county department heads, explained a more detailed version of the proposed special purpose local option sales tax that Houston County leaders announced last week.

None of the residents attending the meeting, many of whom were governmental employees, objected to the SPLOST continuation, which Stalnaker said would generate about $155 million from October 2012 to September 2018.

A second hearing will be held 6 p.m. Thursday at the Houston County Courthouse in Perry.

Houston County commissioners announced Nov. 9 they want to renew the SPLOST voters originally approved in 2001.

The six-year SPLOST was once again passed in 2006.

If voters pass the renewal in a March 6 special election, the county sales tax would remain at 7 percent.

Stalnaker said about $60.3 million would be spent on county-wide projects, about $35.4 million in the unincorporated areas, about $5.1 million in Centerville, $9.8 million in Perry, and about $44.4 million in Warner Robins.

“We have never had the bickering and fighting over the distribution of funds, and we don’t have it today,” he said of the relationship between Houston County, Warner Robins, Perry and Centerville.

At the top of the list for all four governments is $7 million to help other surrounding counties address encroachment north of Robins Air Force Base.

“It has been worked on gradually,” Stalnaker said. “But it needs to be accelerated. We need to get this cloud from over our heads.”

Stalnaker said Robins is the only one of three Air Logistics Centers that has not addressed the problem of occupied residential houses within the base’s potential crash zones.

The concern is those houses would be in the way if a plane needs to land sooner during a test flight.

“It really is a natural phenomenon that happens around” federal facilities, said retired Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard, who works with the 21st Century Partnership. Goddard said it’s imperative to solve the encroachment issue.

The SPLOST also would allow the governments to shift expenses historically paid for with property tax revenue to sales tax revenue, Stalnaker said.

About $19.2 million would be earmarked for general capital obligations, including purchases of public safety vehicles, heavy equipment, renovations of Warner Robins City Hall and civic center, renovations of the Perry library and technology updates.

“It will be a savings to the cities and the county, as well as for your general fund,” Stalnaker said.

Also included on the proposed SPLOST project list are:

$3 million for a law enforcement center in Centerville, which Centerville Mayor John Harley said is only in preliminary planning stages until money is approved;

Nearly $4.6 million to add to 2006 SPLOST funds for the Warner Robins Law Enforcement Center, which is being built on Watson Boulevard and North First Street;

$400,000 for renovations to the Perry-Houston County airport, which Stalnaker said needs new fueling and lighting systems;

$21.5 million for land acquisition throughout the county, allowing for more industrial growth;

$3.2 million on utility line relocations throughout the county;

Nearly $8.2 million on upgrades at the Houston County E911 Center;

$5 million for a new recreation complex in Warner Robins;

$550,000 for an amphitheater in Warner Robins.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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