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Mayor skeptical of proposed transportation bond
Likens measure on Nov. 4 ballot to a tax hike

CUMMING — In what was an otherwise routine Cumming City Council meeting, Mayor H. Ford Gravitt advised voters to think twice before supporting the transportation bond referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Though Gravitt never said directly to vote against the $200 million bond proposal, he has read the ballot language and told those at the meeting that there could be better ways to raise money for road projects.

“If you own property, this will be on your tax bill for the next 20 years,” he said. “So you might think long and hard before you vote for anything like this. I think there are other alternatives to this such as money on the special purpose [local option] sales tax that built the courthouse and jail.”

Earlier this month, county officials and members of the local state legislative delegation spoke in favor of the bond measure during the 2014 Transportation Summit put on by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.

Of the proposed $200 million in funding, officials have said $81 million would be used on projects for which the Georgia Department of Transportation has allocated $93 million in leveraged funding. The remaining $119 million would go toward county projects.

If the referendum were to pass, Ga. 400 would be widened from McFarland Parkway to Bald Ridge Marina Road, using $53 million of the bond funding. The state would contribute another $10 million.

Four other projects for which the county and state would be partners include widening of Hwy. 371 from Hwy. 9 to Kelly Mill Road; widening of Hwy. 369 between Hwys. 9 and 306; and intersection improvements at Hwy. 369 and McGinnis Ferry Road at 400.

Other efforts, which would be funded solely through local bond funds, are an extension of Ronald Reagan Boulevard from Majors Road to McFarland Parkway, and widening projects on McGinnis Ferry, Old Atlanta, Pilgrim Mill and Union Hill roads.

Gravitt told the gathering Tuesday night that he would recommend using money from the 1-cent sales tax, also known as SPLOST, to fund roadwork.

“I think these bonds should be worked into the sales tax, and paid for by sales tax, SPLOST tax,” the mayor said. “The county could work that in if they wanted to, but the county commissioners have voted to raise your property taxes.”

Gravitt went on to express doubt about the long-term prospects of the bond measure.

“I’m not sure that you’ll see a lot of improvements with that money,” he said. “But the commissioners have proposed a $200 million property tax increase, according to the last item on the ballot.”

Also during its meeting Tuesday night, the city council voted 4-0 (with Lewis Ledbetter absent) to:

* Accept Blount Construction of Marietta’s bid of $169,000 to repair North Parkway, and award a bid for Dumpster service at eight locations to Rakestraw Inc. for $6,425.

* Approve a bid from Baldwin Paving of Cumming for basing and paving Lanier 400 Parkway and resurfacing existing portions of the road for about $1.7 million.

* Grant an alcohol tasting application from Jax Spirits on Market Place Boulevard to allow serving small samples.

* Recognize Veteran’s Day, Poppy Day and Red Ribbon Week in separate proclamations.