The yeas have it.
The city's sixth special-purpose sales tax package, a $184.72 million list of projects, was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday. With all but provisional ballots in, yes votes accounted for 70 percent (6,772), nos only 30 percent (2,891).
"I can't help but be very pleased with the margin of victory," Mayor Deke Copenhaver said. "It shows that the citizens got beyond the politics. We, as a government, need to get beyond the politics as well."
Turnout was only 8.71 percent, well below the 10 percent to 12 percent Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey had predicted.
Tuesday's numbers were the second-lowest in Augusta's seven SPLOST referendums, surpassing only the 9,021 voters who turned out in March 1991. The approval margin was the second-highest ever, topped only by 81.3 percent in September 1995.
SPLOST supporters said Tuesday that they were counting on the low turnout -- anticipated because it was a single-issue, spring election -- to work in their favor.
"We really expected those that were passionate about it to get out and vote," said real estate broker Janie Peel, a "yes to SPLOST" campaign organizer. "And those that weren't didn't take the time."
Butch Gallop, a consultant for sales tax projects manager Heery International Inc., who worked with Ms. Peel on the campaign, said the group canvassed neighborhoods, made hundreds of phone calls, met with neighborhood associations, campaigned at First Friday and held town hall meetings.
Their challenges, he said, included making people understand that the downtown trade, exhibit and event center -- a SPLOST V project that ignited into controversy in the lead-up to the vote -- wasn't part of SPLOST VI, and the proposed downtown baseball stadium wasn't either.
"The team that was put together -- Brenda Durant, Janie Peel and Tricia Hughes -- put something together to really educate the community," Mr. Gallop said. "The naysayers always have something negative to say, but they didn't know why they were negative. All they kept talking about was pork-barrel projects."
Rocky Eades, chairman of the Libertarian Party of the CSRA, which campaigned against SPLOST VI, said it's a shame that about 7,000 people have made a decision for another 145,000 or so people of voting age in Augusta.
"I think probably there's a lot of voter disgust," Mr. Eades said of the low turnout. "I think that's a reflection of a pretty much national phenomenon. People are just fed up with bad government, and they don't know how to respond to bad government, because voting doesn't seem to work.
"Now it's just a matter of, how do we begin to mobilize those 145,000 people?"
Of the 74 reporting precincts, SPLOST VI lost in one -- precinct 502 at Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal Church -- where the vote was 5-4 against it.
The vote was tied in two precincts -- 704 at First Baptist Church of Augusta, where the vote was 8-8, and 308 at Augusta State University athletic complex, where the vote was 10-10. In one precinct, Jamestown Community Center, no one voted.
Tuesday's vote approves $124 million in infrastructure improvements, including $35.7 million for roadway and drainage improvements and $8.6 million for traffic engineering.
Also on the list were $17 million for fleet replacement, $10.9 million for parks and recreation, $5.7 million for Hephzibah and Blythe, $5.3 million toward Miller Theatre restoration and $2.5 million for Paine College's Health Education Activities Learning Complex.
"I think the people really understand and know that infrastructure is the key," said Commissioner Calvin Holland, whose district will get, among other things, $3.5 million for a lake at Regency Mall, part of a plan to spur revitalization in the area.
City Administrator Fred Russell, who put the package together under the commission's direction, said the fact that it's 67 percent infrastructure likely outweighed any reservations voters might have had about individual projects.
Collections of the 1-cent tax -- the seventh penny of sales taxes on purchases and services -- will begin the day after SPLOST V collections end, which is expected to happen on Sept. 30, 2010.
Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|101||Asbury United Methodist Church||82||38|
|102||Crawford Avenue Baptist Church||36||14|
|104||Eastview Recreation Center||116||11|
|105||Second Mt. Moriah Church||18||1|
|106||Julian Smith Casino||11||7|
|107||Julian Smith Casino||168||62|
|108||Covenant Presbyterian Church||27||0|
|110||Housing Authority Administration Building||16||15|
|112||St. John's Towers||58||16|
|201||Augusta Deliverance Evangelistic Church||43||9|
|202||Bernie Ward Community Center||97||44|
|203||Mt. Calvary Baptist Church||54||5|
|204||Asbury United Methodist Church||62||21|
|205||Johnson Recreation Center||35||10|
|206||Highland Avenue Fire Station||52||19|
|207||Mt. Vernon Baptist Church||46||10|
|209||Mize Memorial United Methodist Church||30||19|
|301||Covenant Presbyterian Church||232||86|
|302||Augusta State Athletic Complex||33||7|
|304||Crossroads Fellowship Community Church||0||0|
|305||First Baptist Church Of Augusta||60||21|
|306||First Baptist Church Of Augusta||115||43|
|307||Woodlawn Methodist Church||192||59|
|308||Augusta State Athletic Complex||10||10|
|309||Bayvale Baptist Church||20||7|
|310||Crossroads Fellowship Community Church||145||50|
|401||Gracewood Community Center||151||33|
|402||Mcduffie Woods Community Center||70||18|
|403||Morgan Road Middle School||73||24|
|404||Wildwood Christian Church||112||31|
|405||Diamond Lakes Regional Park||90||14|
|406||Jamestown Community Center||91||16|
|407||McDuffie Woods Community Center||2||0|
|408||New Life Worship Center||13||3|
|501||First Shiloh Baptist Church||60||20|
|502||Trinity Cme Church||4||5|
|503||Henry H. Brigham Community Center||123||31|
|505||New Life Worship Center||42||12|
|506||Trinity Cme Church||100||26|
|508||Bayvale Baptist Church||28||12|
|509||Bayvale Baptist Chruch||11||5|
|601||Gracewood Ssh E And R Center||75||49|
|602||Cokesbury United Methodist Church||123||65|
|603||Burns Memorial United Methodist Church||128||32|
|604||Southside Baptist Church||36||17|
|605||Vfw Post 649||77||52|
|606||New Horizon Church Of God||73||35|
|701||Aldersgate United Methodist Church||247||80|
|702||St. Marks United Methodist Church||156||87|
|703||National Hills Baptist Church||173||91|
|704||First Baptist Church Of Augusta||8||8|
|705||St. Augustine's Episcopal Church||179||51|
|706||Warren Road Recreation Center||196||115|
|707||The Vineyard Church of Augusta||82||33|
|801||Blythe Community Center||28||19|
|801b||Blythe Community Center||23||19|
|802||McBean Community Center||44||26|
|803||Jamestown Community Center||0||0|
|804||Jesse Carroll Community Center||43||24|
|804h||Jesse Carroll Community Center||106||55|
|805||Southside Baptist Church||33||16|
|806||Pine Hill Baptist Church||95||67|
|807||Jamestown Community Center||32||22|
|808||Cross Creek High School||93||56|
|809||McBean Community Center||55||45|
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
- "If it didn't pass today, homeowners would have to cough up the money. Everybody drives on the roads, so I think everybody should be paying to fix them." - Brandi Martin, who voted at the Henry Brigham Community Center
- "There's a need to improve the city's infrastructure. For a penny, I think it's a bargain." - Vince Graham, who voted at the Henry Brigham Community Center
- "It gives Phase II a shot in the arm. We didn't have enough money to build the 300-seat theater that was always part of the plan. What this does is give us a challenge. It gives us the shot arm to go for raising the rest of the $2.3 million we need. It shows that Augusta is ready to progress and continuing to grow. It's a good day in the neighborhood. " - Tyrone Butler, executive director, Augusta Mini Theatre
- "I think the people really understand and know that infrastructure is the key. People see what needs to be done in the city, what needs to be done within the infrastructure. What we've got to do is live up to that." - Augusta Commissioner Calvin Holland
- "It's important. It's the sort of thing that can really spark downtown development. It is going to take a lot of money, and we could always use more, but we are very happy to accept what we can get in these tough economic times and move from there." - Sandra Self, executive director, Augusta Symphony
- "I think probably there's a lot of voter disgust. I think that's a reflection of a pretty much national phenomenon. People are just fed up with bad government, and they don't know how to respond to bad government, because voting doesn't seem to work." - Rocky Eades, chairman of the Libertarian Party of the CSRA, which opposed SPLOST VI
- "I think because it was a conservative package, because it looked at a lot of things we have to do anyway, I think it met our needs." - City Administrator Fred Russell
- "I'm ecstatic. I was going to be happy just to win. I really feel like the voters took the power into their own hands, and those that were educated got out and voted." - Janie Peel, real estate broker and "yes to SPLOST" campaign organizer