Using a $30 million bond approved in a referendum, the county expended $3,519,501 of the 2014 SPLOST as of Dec. 18, 2013, before collections on the new SPLOST began. Among those expenditures are $1,086,598 for fire department improvements; $1,054,649 for public works projects and equipment; and $290,948 for recreation. The total estimated cost for all the listed projects comes to $165,032,927, according to the county’s report on funded projects.
“Some of them are top-line projects that get money separated off the top, like the landfill and the radio project,” County Administrator Peter Olson said. “So those have a dedicated stream of money. But the rest of the county projects are about $120 million. That’s a combination of road projects, water projects, all the different departments — fire department equipment, on and on and on. We went through that list of conceptual projects and focused on some of the ones we wanted to get going first.”
Expected to cost $12.5 million, the landfill expansion is guaranteed to receive its funds, Olson added.
Rip Conner, solid waste director, said the expansion was already permitted and his department is “ready to go.” The project is expected to move more than 1 million yards of dirt.
“Right now we have — in our current cell with no construction — we have approximately five to six [years],” Conner said of the landfill’s capacity. “... That depends on several factors, of course, how fast the waste comes in, and with [LakePoint Sporting Community] coming, that’s why we want to get a jump on it because we figure it’s going to take two to three years to build this thing.
“So that’s why we want to get a jump on it now just because we don’t know what LakePoint’s going to bring. Overall, right now, according to our last capacity report we did back in August based on 2012 numbers, we have over approximately 125 years of permitted or planned capacity, designed capacity.”
Conner clarified the 125-year estimate included the planned expansion.
Once construction begins, Conner believed it would take roughly two years to move the necessary 25 acres of dirt and another year to construct the protective cell.
“We’re excited. We’ve been planning this for several years. It’s nice to finally see all the planning come to fruition,” he said.
Other 2014 SPLOST projects include the purchase of new vehicles and equipment for the various departments. The amount already spent includes $659,185 for 15 Bartow County Sheriff’s Office vehicles.
“The bond had $900,000, so 15 vehicles a year for two years. So he got, you know, the 15 new vehicles this year,” Olson said. “Actually he got 18 because he got three of a state grant. We hope to buy 15 more this year.”
In a prior interview with The Daily Tribune News, Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap said some of his vehicles had 230,000 to 240,000 miles and were getting to the point they could be a danger to someone. He thanked Olson and Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor for getting the funds early.
”It was one of those things, thanks to the citizens of Bartow County, former Commissioner [Clarence] Brown and Administrator [Steve] Bradley doing SPLOST for us, and then Commissioner [Steve] Taylor came in and he jumped on it with both feet and we are rocking and rolling,” Millsap said in November. “In the SPLOST project, there was $2 million dedicated over a six-year period to the sheriff’s office to replace our fleet. ... Commissioner Taylor and Administrator [Peter] Olson they figured out a way we could go ahead and start ordering cars and make it fall into place. Man, I can’t thank them enough for that.”
During 2013, the county also spent millions out of the 2008 SPLOST. The highest expenditure of the year was $2,403,377.92 on road projects, followed by $658,962.59 for what was described in the report as the civic center. Olson said the funds were for the Clarence Brown Conference Center expansion that gave the facility additional storage space. The conference center project was listed as completed for 2013. An additional $481,555 was spent for retirement of existing indebtedness. Though final numbers were not yet available, Olson said he believed the total amount of the 2008 SPLOST collections would come to approximately $150 million to $153 million.
As for the 2014 SPLOST, which ends collection in 2019, Olson said he was more optimistic.
“The trend’s starting to look less negative. At one point in the middle of the year our receipts were coming in like 16 percent lower than the previous year, than 2012. But, by November ..., I think we were just a few percent down, and the December numbers ... we were actually like up 2 percent over last December. So that’s very encouraging news because that’s 2 percent even after the [title ad valorem tax] is taken out,” he said.
Even if collections do pick up, Olson doubted the SPLOST would hit its $220 million target.
“We won’t get to $220 million. That’s not going to happen, so we won’t be able to fund all the projects identified. Part of that was intentional, too,” he said. “Communities have found that if you overshoot your SPLOST, if your revenue overshoots your projects, then you don’t have anything to spend it on.
“I think what the law says is you’ve just got to use it to roll back the millage or reduce debt. So most counties want to have enough projects to have something to spend it on if they get it.”
— DTN Managing Editor Jessica Loeding contributed to this article.