SPLOST list to take shape, after successful vote

LAWRENCEVILLE — With 58 percent of the electorate Tuesday giving the go-ahead for Gwinnett’s government to continue the special purpose local option sales tax, officials are back to work on earmarking the funds.

Before last week’s vote, commissioners had set a few parameters for the $498 million the tax is expected to bring in, beginning April 1, the day after the current program expires. That includes a $5 million emergency alert system in schools out of the public safety portion of the funding, money for police and fire vehicles and equipment, and plans to complete the funding for replacement libraries in Duluth and Norcross.

Some city councils have also set specific projects for their share of the funding.

But the specifics still must be set for the transportation projects, which make up 70 percent of the county’s share of the funds. And officials say the community is key in setting those priorities.

Within the next two or three weeks, officials expect the Citizens Project Selection Committee — a board of residents who volunteered for the project several months ago — will reconvene to begin sifting through hundreds of proposals.

Before the vote, the committee divvied up the funds among project categories, including sidewalks, resurfacing, intersection improvements, major roads and other categories.

Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the group hopes to meet before Thanksgiving and complete the list before the new tax is scheduled to begin.

She noted that the committee’s meetings are open to the public, and residents can make a pitch for projects to be included in the funding.

“If anyone has questions about the transportation portion of the SPLOST or has suggestions for projects that ought to be considered by the committee, these can be communicated by sending an email to 2014CPSC@gwinnettcounty.com,” she said. “Information regarding the committee is currently posted on the county website in a section of the transportation department’s area that is devoted to the Citizens Project Selection Committee.”

With some money set aside for parks and recreation and senior facilities, work will also proceed on finishing out that list.

Prior to the vote, the county held a series of public meetings at local senior centers to get input on that portion of the funding, and that will be used for staffers to propose the projects, Nash said.

“They will be assessing the feasibility, cost and value of the suggested projects to develop a recommended project list to present to the Board of Commissioners,” she said.

Nash pointed out that the county’s Recreation Authority has already approved a recommendation of that the park allocation be focused on improving and renovating existing facilities instead of building new ones. The county staff plans to work with the authority to create a more specific list.

“If anyone has questions about parks SPLOST funding or wishes to suggest specific projects that fit within the description of improving/renovating existing parks and parks facilities, these can be communicated by sending emails to Community Services Director, Phil Hoskins, through a link on the Community Services area of the county website,” Nash said.