Council member Mike Abernathy said he and fellow council member Harold Posey had met with Bartow County officials to discuss the city’s options in spending the SPLOST funds.
According to a 2008 SPLOST proceeds account report, the city has $216,254.27 as of Feb. 4.
“I got a couple of more items that I want to go through ... that I want to share with you guys. Number one is that ... we talked to [Assistant County Administrator] Lane McMillan and she’s wanting us to get her a list, a re-prioritized list, for our SPLOST funding by the end of February because some of the stuff we had on there, where we wanted our money to go and how we wanted to use it. I just sat there and re-prioritized it myself, just playing around with it.”
McMillan said her discussion with Abernathy focused on how Kingston should pay its SPLOST bills rather than what the funds should be spent on.
“What I told them is that they need to let me know if they wanted me to handle their money and pay Kingston’s bills by the end of the month. Because, see, we’ll get the first new SPLOST check at the end of February. I need to know whether to hold that money or to send it to them and let them pay their own bills,” she said.
McMillan and Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson said the county had been holding Kingston’s 2008 SPLOST funds and paying the necessary bills for a number of years.
“I can say they were very good at calling me and saying, ‘Can this be paid out of SPLOST?’ And I would give them my opinion of whether it could or not,” McMillan said.
Kingston’s 2008 SPLOST project list has five categories: water, maintenance/Public Works Department, recreation projects, roads and sewage. Within those categories are nine individual projects.
The water category contains installation of new cut off valves, upgrade all lines to 6-inch lines and SCADA system and software, for an expected total of $335,000. The maintenance/Public Works Department category includes a new shop building and equipment including a garbage truck, tractor and accessories, a dump truck, two work trucks and a trailer, for an expected total of $400,000. The recreation category includes playground equipment and improvements to the ballfield, walking trail, railroad safety fence, gazebo and stage and tennis courts, for an expected total of $380,000. The road category covered the paving and widening of city roads for an expected $165,000, while the sewage category was intended for a sewer project and budgeted at $439,000.
The total amount Kingston expected to receive out of the 2008 SPLOST was $1,719,000. However, Olson said the city did not receive that much as sales tax returns across the county were low.
During the work session, Abernathy pushed to use the remaining 2008 SPLOST money for infrastructure improvements.
“I told them, we’ve got problems in our roads and our streets and our stuff, we need some help with this money,” Abernathy said as he recounted his discussion with county officials. “So they’re going to allow us to move it a little, more flexible than we thought. Right now everything that’s under this park system out here, that includes water, that includes lights, that includes cement, that includes roads around it.
“... I don’t see why we can’t take some of this SPLOST money right now for the park, because that is the park. That road is as much a part of the park as the park is, but you’ve got to get to it.”
Olson said there was no deadline on when Kingston must use its $216,254.27.
“[That’s] not in the statute. ... What the statute contemplates is, back in the good times, if you were conservative in what you estimated the SPLOST would bring and you brought in more than that and you did all your projects, then it rolls over to retire debt and if your community doesn’t have any debt it rolls back millage. With the economic downturn, all the SPLOSTs have fallen under production,” he said.
Both Olson and McMillan said Kingston would be able to move some funds from one aspect of its SPLOST expenditures to others, as Kingston did not name specific projects it must complete.
“The more you tie your hands with this, the harder it is to be flexible if the needs change. On the one hand, the voters, they don’t want to just approve a vague SPLOST, so it’s interesting. Different communities do it in different ways,” Olson said.
McMillan noted it was possible to remove a SPLOST project if there was a justifiable reason.
“I can go back to, I believe it was a 2003 SPLOST project. It was a road project and it was on the list to do. But then when the engineer came in and looked at the project as far as — I don’t know if it was an alignment or what — it was their recommendation that that would not be feasible, but the cost was going to be too much for the benefit you would receive. So the project was axed. So you’ve got to have a basis. You can’t just say, ‘We’re not going to do that,’” she said.
For the 2014 SPLOST, Kingston’s project amounts total $1,838,375. Included in the projects are road, water and sewer upgrades, along with natural gas line upgrades, all under the heading of road projects. Improvements such as a recreation center, bike and walking trails and a park stage are included under a recreation heading. The third heading, capital improvements, includes upgrades to city hall, or a new city hall, a community center and restoration of the old Kingston Depot and other museum upgrades. The SPLOST is also planned to provide for maintenance shop and equipment upgrades as well.
In the short term, Olson said Kingston may work primarily on infrastructure improvements.
“Mike and Harold Posey, when they came in and talked to us, they realized they need to focus on basic infrastructure needs,” he said. “They need to get the water system fixed before they can worry about a community center, which is kind of gravy, you know.”