Columbia County commissioners discuss tax projects

Columbia County commissioners examined a list of potential sales tax projects during a Tuesday study session.

Officials expect to earn more than $14.5 million from the 2006-10 1-percent sales tax for Tier III projects.

Considerations for those funds might include updating traffic signals, resurfacing roads, building a recycling center at Riverside Park, building an exhibition center in the Gateway area near Grovetown, upgrading five fire stations, purchasing a new radio system and upgrading Evans Town Center Park.

Sales tax projects are designated in three tiers based on order of importance. Tier III projects are considered the least important.

Commissioners likely will vote on all the projects as a single package, but it might take as long as two months to develop a final list.

During a regular meeting after the study session, commissioners approved a revised tree ordinance that allows developers to grade sites before selling lots to builders.

County rules had prevented developers from clearing and grading the sites. They could only build infrastructure such as roads in potential subdivisions. It was the builders' responsibility to clear and grade the individual lots they purchased.

The result often was an uneven appearance from one lot to the next.

Developers say that by grading the sites prior to sale they can improve the landscape and stormwater runoff.

The updated ordinance also gives the county additional authority in requiring builders to replant trees.

Developers can clear the sites only if an engineer deems it necessary because of the topography and with permission from Development Services Director Richard Harmon.

Commissioners also discussed the proposed budget of about $54.1 million.

County officials have opted to reduce revenue expectations by $500,000, considering a 4.15 percent decrease in general fund revenues compared with last year. Their intent is to provide a financial cushion in case revenues plummet even more. Already the county has cut the budget by 5 percent.

The commission likely will approve the budget at its next meeting, on June 1.

More