With no contested local races on the primary ballot, officials are hoping traffic issues will be enough to get voters to the polls.
Bryan County voters will get a second chance at approving a TSPLOST levy, only this time they’ll have the final say in the matter. Many will recall a similar vote in 2012 when the transportation-specific SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) vote passed in Bryan and Liberty counties but failed in the other eight counties in Coastal Georgia that were pushing for a regional measure.
Georgia lawmakers later agreed that individual counties should be allowed to seek their own TSPLOST levy. If approved, the 1 percent tax would raise about $18 million over the next five years for Pembroke, Richmond Hill and Bryan County. The money would be split the same way the SPLOST is, based on the population breakdown among the three municipalities.
“TSPLOST will provide Bryan County with the opportunity to fund -needed transportation projects in all areas of the county,” said County Administrator Ben Taylor. “One important thing to remember is that 100 percent of these funds stay in Bryan County.”
As is the case with SPLOST and the school-specific ESPLOST, a good chunk of the revenue will come from non-residents doing business at exits 87 and 90 on I-95 as they pass through Bryan County.
“TSPLOST is essential to build and maintain the transportation and infrastructure needs laid out in our capital improvements plan and meet the needs of our citizens and stakeholders,” according to Pembroke City Manager Alex Floyd. “It will fund the resurfacing and improvement of the city portion of Ash Branch Road and several other larger road projects, several short street resurfacing projects as well as service roads in the cemetery and other small/non-official street projects.”
Richmond Hill will use its portion of the funds on a number of projects, with three specific expenditures being the city’s portion of the cost for the new interchange at Belfast Keller Road and I-95, a connector road between Harris Trail and Belfast Keller and a roundabout at Highway 144 and Port Royal Road.
The connector road, which will run through property Rayonier recently annexed into the city, will be located near the proposed location of South Bryan’s new high school and is meant to relieve congestion on Highway 144, Belfast River Road and Harris Trail.
Taylor said the bulk of the county share, should TSPLOST be approved, would go toward intersection upgrades — such as at Belfast River at Harris Trail and Belfast Keller at U.S. 17, along with resurfacing projects countywide.
All three municipalities also said a portion of the revenue would go toward non-motorized enhancements such as pedestrian and bike paths.
“It will also free up a large amount of funding used by our street department, which will allow them freedom to pursue new equipment, more employees, etc.,” Floyd noted.
Early voting at the courthouse in Pembroke, the county building in South Bryan and the Wetlands Center in J.F. Gregory Park for the primary ends at 5 p.m. Friday. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. See http://www.bryancountyga.org/government/departments-a-g/elections/polling-places for more information.