Houston & Peach

Houston’s new SPLOST heavy on recreation

People walk along Wellston Trail into Fountain Park in Warner Robins on Tuesday. Recreation is a major part of the proposed Houston County sales tax referendum, and Fountain Park is part of the city's recreation improvement plan.
People walk along Wellston Trail into Fountain Park in Warner Robins on Tuesday. Recreation is a major part of the proposed Houston County sales tax referendum, and Fountain Park is part of the city's recreation improvement plan. wcrenshaw@macon.com

A second and final hearing is set for Wednesday on Houston County’s proposed new sales tax referendum.

After years of investing big in road projects, the new special purpose local option sales tax referendum set to be on voters’ ballots March 21 significantly increases spending on recreation. It includes $7 million for an indoor swim facility and $15 million for a recreation complex in Warner Robins, as well as millions more in other recreation spending in Warner Robins, Perry and Centerville.

Although transportation remains the largest part of the proposed SPLOST, Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said the project list includes more recreation projects by far than any previous SPLOST.

“If this community is lacking in any one area, it’s recreation facilities,” Stalnaker said. “You go to any county of a comparable size to this county and compare the facilities that they have and what we have in this county, we are sorely lacking. We hear that quite often from people who are moving in here.”

The hearing will be at 6 p.m., Dec. 7, in the county commission board room at the County Annex at 200 Carl Vinson Parkway in Warner Robins. A full list of the projects is available on the county’s website at www.houstoncountyga.com.

Although the swim facility would be managed by the Warner Robins Recreation Department, Stalnaker said it will be available to all residents. It is listed on the SPLOST as a countywide project. The countywide category includes another $6 million in unspecified recreation improvements to be divided among the three cities. The county itself does not have a recreation department.

The SPLOST projects’ $145 million to be collected from Oct. 1, 2018, until Oct. 1, 2024. That’s $10 million less than the current SPLOST, which has fallen behind projections. Stalnaker said the estimate for the new SPLOST was conservative so as not to leave a shortfall again.

The breakdown is $38 million for transportation, $31 million for public safety, $30.6 million for recreation, $15.9 million for general capital obligations, $13.6 million for public buildings, $9.2 million for water and sewer improvements and $6.5 million for economic development.

The largest single item on the list is $10 million for an addition to the courthouse in Perry to house State Court, which is currently in a building next to the County Annex on Carl Vinson Parkway. Stalnaker said that is needed in part to put State Court near the county jail so that prisoners will not have to be transported. The tax commissioners office in the annex would then move into the vacated State Court building, Stalnaker said. He said that is badly needed because the tax office is in a very cramped area.

Proposed road-widening projects include Houston Lake Road from Gray Road to Kings Chapel Road, portions of Elberta Road and Wilson Drive, Old Hawkinsville Road and/or Thompson Mill Road pending a traffic study after the new Ga. 96 opens, and the south section of Pleasant Hill Road.

The breakdown between governments is $69.5 million for countywide projects, $29.8 million for unincorporated areas, $37.4 million for Warner Robins, $7.8 million for Perry and $4 million for Centerville.

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