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Road projects set for referendum
Commission could make some changes on Tuesday
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Forsyth County News

FORSYTH COUNTY — A list of potential road projects that likely will be included on a November transportation bond referendum will be presented next week to the Forsyth County commission.

A transportation committee, which includes some commissioners and county staff, signed off on the list during a meeting Tuesday.

“This will be a starting point and then we can take it to the [Aug. 12 work session],” said District 2 Commissioner Brian Tam. “And if we want to make some changes, we can make some changes there when we have all of the commissioners.”

The projected $200 million bond program would cover the widening of several major roads, intersection upgrades and various other transportation projects throughout the county.

Among the items on the list are five road projects slated to be completed through a partnership with the state Department of Transportation.

Among them are the widening of: Ga. 400 from McFarland Parkway to at least Bald Ridge Marina Road; Hwy. 371 from Hwy. 9 to Kelly Mill Road; and Hwy. 369 between Hwys. 9 and 306. Also included are intersection improvements along Hwy. 306 and McGinnis Ferry Road at 400.

Among the projects that would likely be funded solely through county bond funds, if the referendum passes, are an extension of Ronald Reagan Boulevard from Majors Road to McFarland Parkway; and the widening of Old Atlanta, Pilgrim Mill and Union Hill roads.

The list also includes a category for “traffic safety improvements,” that could be used for projects such as intersection improvements, signals, guardrails, sidewalks and resurfacing.

Some of the suggested targets include: Mount Tabor, Old Federal and Pooles Mill roads at Hwy. 369; Jot Em Down and Martin roads at Ga. 400; Campground and Martin roads, Smith Lane and Dogwood Path at Hwy. 9; and Ronald Reagan Blvd. and Old Alpharetta Road at Hwy. 141.

Besides signing off on the list, the committee also discussed possible funding mechanisms for the potential bond.

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt, who is not on the committee but attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he had concerns about property owners taking on most of the burden of the bond.

“I would hope that we could work where we could let [a future 1-cent sales tax program] enter into this without having … to put it on the backs of the property owners,” Gravitt said. “I would hate to see the property owners be paying an additional minimum of $200 and more [per year] in property tax for this bond for a period of 20 or 30 years.

“That’s one thing that would certainly help get other people on board to let it be paid for out of [sales tax money] …defer [payments] until we get the jail and courthouse paid for out of [the current sales tax program].”

While that decision would have to be made by the county commission as a whole, Tam said he believes that’s the plan.

“That’s not necessarily in the language of the bond question, but I think we’re in agreement that we would bring forward a resolution that the board of commissioners would vote on that would commit [future 1-cent sales tax] funds,” he said.

Of course, that sales tax program has not been approved by voters. Currently, the county is collecting sales tax revenue from the seventh round of what’s known as a special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VII, which voters approved in 2011. Collections continue through June 2019. 

If the renewal of the 1-cent sales tax measure were to fail after the November transportation bond passed, said County Attorney Ken Jarrard, the transportation bond would then have to be paid for through property taxes.

In addition, since SPLOST VIII could not be approved until 2017, at the earliest, Jarrard noted that there could potentially be several new commission members at that point.

“We’re trying to fashion SPLOST VIII as a funding mechanism for this bond, and our consensus is that we can do that,” he said. “But again, as far as fashioning the SPLOST VIII resolution, this board can manifest its intention to do that, but it will take the board in 2017 to actually do that.”  

During the Aug. 12 work session, the commission plans to discuss the list and language for the bond referendum. If placed on the November ballot, it will also need to be approved by the Forsyth County Board of Elections during its meeting the following day.