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Proposed sales tax could bring big changes to Perry

A man walks along Houston Lake Road in Perry on Wednesday. The proposed Houston County special purpose sales tax includes $3.5 million for the widening of the road from two lanes to three with sidewalks.
A man walks along Houston Lake Road in Perry on Wednesday. The proposed Houston County special purpose sales tax includes $3.5 million for the widening of the road from two lanes to three with sidewalks. wcrenshaw@macon.com

Roads, sidewalks and recreation are among the projects that a proposed special sales tax would pay for in Perry.

Perry is slated to get $7.8 million out of the $145 million in projected proceeds from the special purpose local option sales tax, which is up for a referendum on March 21. But Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said there’s much more to benefit Perry than just what is being paid for with the city’s portion of the collections.

One major project is the widening of Houston Lake Road from Gray Road to Kings Chapel Road. That is all in the Perry city limits, but the projected $3.5 million cost is in the countywide portion of the sales tax. It would widen the road from two lanes to three and would add sidewalks.

“It’s a very congested area now,” he said. “It’s a significant capital improvement that would benefit not only Perry but all of Houston County.”

The largest part of the city’s portion is another $3.5 million in street and sidewalk improvements. Faircloth said there is no specific list for those, but he said it would likely include some resurfacing of streets, fixing broken sidewalks and possibly adding new sidewalks. Improving the 700 block of Carroll Street to match the rest of downtown is also a potential project.

Another major countywide project that would benefit Perry is the realignment of the intersection of Swift Street, Macon Road and Commerce Street. The streets do not line up, and a proposed project would change that so that Swift Street, which ends at the former Stanley Furniture building, would directly connect to Commerce Street. That would be done by rerouting Swift over part of the current parking lot in front of Anytime Fitness.

City Manager Lee Gilmour said that project is estimated to cost roughly $3 million, paid for out of $7 million allotted in the countywide portion of the tax for intersection and transportation improvements. He said it’s a much-needed project due to congestion there now but also because it would improve drainage. The area floods easily in a rain, he said.

“There is an ever increasing traffic volume using State Route 127, which is Swift going onto Commerce Street,” Gilmour said. “We are getting more delays and problems with it.”

Recreation would also get $1.2 million specifically for Perry in the SPLOST, but the countywide recreation allotment would also benefit the city. Gilmour said the $6 million countywide portion would pay for a large, multipurpose park north of the city limits on Houston Lake Road near the area of Matt Arthur Elementary. The city would manage the park.

Last week, the city voted to move forward with seeking $2.4 million in bonds for phase one of a plan to improve parks. The SPLOST funds would help pay for additional phases, Faircloth said. Among the proposed projects are two splash pads, one of which would be paid by the bonds and the other by the SPLOST.

Perry’s portion of the SPLOST also includes $2.5 million for sewer system improvements. Gilmour noted that the countywide portion also includes $7.2 million for new radios and electronic tablets for all emergency responders in the county. He said that would benefit the city greatly because without it, the city would have to buy new radios out of the general fund.

For a full list of the projects, go to www.houstoncountyga.org and under the “commissioner” tab at the top click on “2018 SPLOST.”

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1

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