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Residents offer input for SPLOST projects

Several Forsyth County residents made their voices heard this week about where in the county they want funds to go from the potential expansion of a local tax issue.

On Thursday evening, Forsyth County commissioners held a special town hall at the county’s administration building to allow members of the community to give input for potential SPLOST VIII (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) projects.

“This is a list of potential projects from a variety of program areas that has not been reduced,” said County Manager Eric Johnson. “So, we’re talking here about $370 million [in] potential projects. So, obviously, everything that is in this [proposal] is not going to get done in this next round of sales tax.”

One official has estimated it could bring in a projected

If approved, SPLOST VIII would last up to six years.  Johnson said a six-year SPLOST would generate about $275 million for the projects.

The county previously held 10 meetings, a daytime and nighttime meeting in each commission district, to hear what projects county residents would like to see. At those meetings, 182 surveys were completed and 92 residents left general comments.

During the meetings, residents were given information on what had been completed through past SPLOST issues, met with representatives from county departments and were able to complete an exercise letting county staff know their preferences for where the money should go.

Based on the input of those who responded, transportation was found to be the biggest need, earning 33.3 percent of responses, followed by parks and recreation, 13.6 percent, sheriff’s office, 10.6 percent and fire department, 9.1 percent.

Requests from the county’s senior services, water and sewer, animal shelter, library, recycling and solid waste departments and new facilities rounded out the proposed projects.

At Thursday’s meeting, speakers were given another chance to tell commissioners what they would like to see.

“I’m here to support our libraries,” said Sylvia Cardona, executive director at Mentor Me. “I would love a branch near Denmark High School, where my daughters will go to high school.”

Nathan Martin said he volunteers with swimming at Lambert High School and would like to see a county swim facility.

“We’re always competing for space at the Cumming Aquatic Center. It’s a fantastic facility, but the demand is so high it’s difficult for us all to get pool time,” Martin said. “We’d love to have another pool in south Forsyth County.”

A few speakers also requested SPLOST funds go toward improvements for the city of Cumming’s Veterans War Memorial, which veterans’ groups have sought funds for in recent months.

“I’m here to ask that you designate a portion of the SPLOST money for either improvements, upgrades or a total refurbishment of the Cumming Veterans Memorial,” said Chester Kramarski, a local veteran.

Local residents can vote on the SPLOST issue on Nov. 6.

Of the projected SPLOST revenue, $100 million would go toward bond debt for a $200 million transportation bond approved by voters in 2014, which went toward the widening of Ga. 400 and other local projects.

SPLOST was first approved in Forsyth County in 1987 and has been continued six times since.

In the past, the construction of the new jail, courthouse and parking decks in downtown Cumming, new fire stations and fire trucks, road widening and infrastructure improvements and purchasing land for county parks has been undertaken with SPLOST funding.