The first of two Transportation Investment Act town hall meetings about the proposed additional 1-percent sales tax was held Wednesday in Columbia County.
The meeting of about 75 people at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center in the Columbia County Library began with presentations by Columbia County Chamber of Commerce President Tammy Shepherd and commission Chairman Ron Cross, who described the additional sales tax as a “fair tax” program.
“Everyone will pay into the system,” Shepherd said. “We will all reap the rewards.”
The proposed special purpose local option sales tax for transportation is on the July 31 ballot.
The referendum, if passed, would provide $621 million during 10 years for the entire region and fund eight Columbia County transportation projects prioritized by leaders last summer. Those include the extension of River Watch Parkway to Washington Road, widening Lewiston Road and Horizon South Parkway, and improving Robinson Avenue in Grovetown.
Shepherd said the proposed tax would improve regional traffic patterns, create thousands of jobs throughout Georgia and attract businesses to the area.
“It’s an investment in ourselves,” she said.
Several people, though, voiced their distrust of the program and concern for transportation projects in rural areas of the county.
Martinez resident Barry Thompson said politicians should be more responsible by spending less money.
“Why does it need to come out of the taxpayers’ pockets?” he said.
In 10 years, officials expect that as much as $840 million could be collected in the area. Because that is 25 percent more than the total of the project list, the remaining money will be divvied up among the counties in the region as discretionary funding.
A second town hall meeting is set for
6 p.m. July 24 at the government center auditorium in Evans.