As many residents already may have heard, Bryan County received a bit of good news last month — the widening of Ga. 144 in south Bryan County is back on Georgia’s 2018 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program list (the state’s list of approved and funded projects). The project had been pushed back to the 2025 STIP project list, but in an effort to keep it moving forward, county officials teamed up with leaders from the city of Richmond Hill, as well as area legislators, Department of Transportation officials and advocates to emphasize the widening’s importance. We are delighted our efforts ultimately were effective.
However, we’re not stopping there. This county has some great momentum going, and we have every intention of capitalizing on it to ensure all of our plans progress accordingly.
Transportation projects always seem to be a hot discussion topic, so the county is focusing on the list of TSPLOST projects and the upcoming vote. The 1 percent sales tax would fund things like road resurfacing, building new shoulders on certain roads, and an array of projects that would complement the new Interstate-95 interchange at Belfast Keller Road and the 144 widening (both of which are slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2018).
A 2015 transportation study advised installing traffic lights, roundabouts or other improvements at a number of intersections, including Harris Trail at Belfast River Road and Port Royal Road at Harris Trail.
Residents will head to the polls May 22 to decide the fate of TSPLOST, which is an opportunity to fund transportation improvements throughout the county. Bryan County’s livelihood is directly tied to our ability to improve infrastructure – especially the roads. Our residents deserve quality streets to travel on, but we would like to accomplish this without overburdening taxpayers. This is where TSPLOST comes in. If approved, it would mean a 1-cent sales tax added to all transactions in Bryan County. It wouldn’t matter if you’ve lived here for 50 years, if you only work here, or if you are passing through on your way to Florida. Everyone who makes a purchase pays it. Whether you’re picking up a half-gallon of milk or a top-of-the-line ceramic grill and smoker, 1 percent of your sales tax will go to help this community if it passes.
Another way we are trying to enhance infrastructure and increase accessibility is by levying impact fees. New growth and development are coming — we know that. With these expansions come the need for new public capital facilities to serve the anticipated homes and businesses. Impact fees are a one-time tax imposed on the developers of new residential and commercial construction to defray the cost of growth’s "impact" on vital services such as schools, parks, roads, ambulance and fire service. There has been little to demonstrate that the imposition of a fee system will thwart development.
You may have heard chatter about Bryan County’s 10-year Comprehensive Land Use Plan … or perhaps you even took the survey we opened to residents last December. We received an encouraging number of responses, for which we’re very grateful. Your input has helped us develop this plan, which is now in the editing stages. It is moving along on schedule and we hope to submit this document to the State in May.
The comprehensive plan focuses on a number of things, including improving our emergency services. If all goes as planned, we’ll benefit from a new fire station on the corner of Capt. Matthew Freeman Drive, near the County Administrative Building. Construction is slated to begin late this summer.
Furthermore, Bryan County has made considerable progress in the development of its Capital Improvement Plan. This planning tool will ensure that the capital improvements necessary to accommodate future growth will be provided concurrently with new development. The plan encourages investment in existing services and facilities, thus emphasizing infrastructure expansion in areas identified to accommodate growth and enhancing the quality of life in already-developed areas. Again, infrastructure and roads are heavily focused on in this plan.
In an effort to increase collaboration with other county entities, we recently met with officials from the City of Richmond Hill, the Bryan County Development Authority and the Board of Education to develop a vision for the future and determine where and how we can work together going forward. After a successful and informative meeting, we decided to gather on a semi-regular basis to continue these plans.
If you’re interested in watching the Bryan County Commission in action but can’t make it to our meetings, you can take advantage of the live feed we stream to our website at www.bryancountyga.org/government/board-of-commissioners/live-media.
Commission meetings are at 5:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month; the location alternates monthly between Pembroke and Richmond Hill. Please feel free to join us or tune in and follow along. We’re privileged to be able to do Bryan County’s business and we welcome your company and input.
This is the second in a series of columns he is writing about county issues from a commissioner standpoint.