SPLOST passes overwhelmingly

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The yeas have it.

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Poll manager Joey Johnson directs Malinda Hershberger toward the voting booths at Julien Smith Casino on Tuesday.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Poll manager Joey Johnson directs Malinda Hershberger toward the voting booths at Julien Smith Casino on Tuesday.

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 johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

PRECINCT RESULTS

Precinct Yes No
101 Asbury United Methodist Church 82 38
102 Crawford Avenue Baptist Church 36 14
103 Dyess Park 46 7
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
109 May Park 23 4
110 Housing Authority Administration Building 16 15
111 Paine College 26 7
112 St. John's Towers 58 16
113 May Park 26 1
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
208 Minnick Park 50 18
209 Mize Memorial United Methodist Church 30 19
301 Covenant Presbyterian Church 232 86
302 Augusta State Athletic Complex 33 7
303 Aquatics Center 156 43
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
504 Aquatics Center 50 9
505 New Life Worship Center 42 12
506 Trinity Cme Church 100 26
507 Minnick Park 33 13
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
Abse Absentee 1,529 891
Prov Provisional* Not reported
Total 6,772 2,891

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

Comments (23) Add comment
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TechLover
15
Points
TechLover 06/17/09 - 07:27 am
0
0
"SPLOST supporters said

"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." Exactly why these types of elections should be eliminated. Special elections should be limited to replacing an official who left office. All other matters should be required to be placed on ballots during the general election.

2tired2argueanymore
1
Points
2tired2argueanymore 06/17/09 - 07:33 am
0
0
Just goes to show that the

Just goes to show that the Richmond county voters are as disfunctional as the government. They want to complain but no one wants to get off their duff and go vote. And Betty Beard has the audacity to stand up and say the others are breaking the law if they don't vote for her 7 million.

BAMABOY
20
Points
BAMABOY 06/17/09 - 07:46 am
0
0
It amazes me that we have a

It amazes me that we have a Columbia County resident telliing us what to do with our Augusta tax money and how to vote. It amazes me even more she is on the pay role of the city economic and community development department and only has busness interests in Augusta. Also, how do the people who voted for the funding plan on paying the operational expenses when some of the facilities get built.

AAQueen
18
Points
AAQueen 06/17/09 - 08:12 am
0
0
You can post here only if you

You can post here only if you voted.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 06/17/09 - 08:14 am
0
0
Bamaboy after reading the

Bamaboy after reading the Ballot, it is obvious all these organizations are going to be on the payroll. If I am not mistaken the Ballot said " Augusta either operates or owns or both" to me that means facilities that are directly controlled by taxpayers or our representatives. So now I guess our next action is to appoint members to the boards of director for these private organizations. I am sure they won't mind that because we are paying for their operation.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 06/17/09 - 08:17 am
0
0
I almost forgot, I am sure

I almost forgot, I am sure the people here in south Augusta will be happy with the pittance that was allocated for transportation. If I am not mistaken it was about 1% of the proposed funding for a trolley downtown. So folks when the busses quit running I will not be surprised, will you?

Brad Owens
4098
Points
Brad Owens 06/17/09 - 08:22 am
0
0
This is a great day for big

This is a great day for big shot devlopers who get rich on our tax payer funded projects. YAY!!! I expect the Regency Mall area to be turned around in less than three years due to the 'lake' baing built there.

pointstoponder
153
Points
pointstoponder 06/17/09 - 08:31 am
0
0
dissssman, check your math.

dissssman, check your math.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 06/17/09 - 08:35 am
0
0
It is all "bait and switch."

It is all "bait and switch." Now you have voted for it, I will bet you $100 that no lake gets built at Regency Mall, that Paine College does NOT get $2.5 million for a Learning Complex ( which it shouldn't anyway), the Miller Theatre will end up costing $8 million(which is a money pit), and there will be a baseball stadium.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 06/17/09 - 08:52 am
0
0
Splost helps relieve the

Splost helps relieve the already overburdened taxpayer by spreading the cost around to everyone who spends money in Richmond County. Certainly the person who does not own property doesn't want it because it increases the cost of the products they buy but the property owner should because it keeps their taxes from going up as much and doesn't put the cost of improvements on their backs. My wife and I were 2 of the 27 that voted at Covenent. What a bad turnout.

Tots
25735
Points
Tots 06/17/09 - 08:56 am
0
0
Dujudge I hope your wrong but

Dujudge I hope your wrong but your probably right.

Little Lamb
43803
Points
Little Lamb 06/17/09 - 09:04 am
0
0
We could save some money in

We could save some money in the future by closing precincts 304, 407, and 803. Hats off to the voters at Trinity CME Church, which was the only precinct to say NO!

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 06/17/09 - 09:21 am
0
0
Welcome to Augusta! Where
Unpublished

Welcome to Augusta! Where less than 7,000 people involved special interest groups decide the fate of over 140,000 voting aged citizens. I hope you find our property taxes higher than all of our surrounding counties. Make sure you check out our famous Augusta Commission meetings on Comcast channel 104 Saturday mornings @12 P.M. This weeks episode "Commissioners Gone Wild" where we'll find out what our Commissioners do on a 184 MILLION publicly funded shopping spree. Oh, and the drama will continue the following week with "Tee'd Off about the TEE". Stay tuned!

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 06/17/09 - 09:29 am
0
0
Ha, Johnny Edwards wrote
Unpublished

Ha, Johnny Edwards wrote "[the SPLOST] was overwhelmingly approved". Wow Johnny, less than 7,000 people sure is an overwhelming amount of people for Augusta. I bet you'd have a hard time finding that many voting aged citizens in the Wal-Mart right now -NOT!

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 06/17/09 - 09:48 am
0
0
Janie peel said, "those that
Unpublished

Janie peel said, "those that were educated got out and voted." No Janie, you mean those people with their hands in the public money pot got out and voted. I'm willing to bet the majority of those six thousand people knew little to nothing about SPLOST other than their organization was getting some of the monies -and that's all they needed to know.

gooddaysunshine
0
Points
gooddaysunshine 06/17/09 - 10:24 am
0
0
I agree that the turnout was

I agree that the turnout was lousy, but is it really much better in a general election? I just hope it makes new jobs for workers in Augusta and helps the economy and perhaps build more Community Centers in RC so we don't have to (pay for) & go to churches to vote!

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 06/17/09 - 11:15 am
0
0
gooddaysunshine it is much
Unpublished

gooddaysunshine it is much better in the general election. Over 79,000 voted on or before November 4 of last year.

Ode
5
Points
Ode 06/17/09 - 11:26 am
0
0
Get your lakefront property

Get your lakefront property near Regency Mall quickly before prices skyrocket for that prime real estate.

jewel
3
Points
jewel 06/17/09 - 11:26 am
0
0
Look again Little Lamb.

Look again Little Lamb. Trinity is listed twice.

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 06/17/09 - 12:03 pm
0
0
They must have fixed that,

They must have fixed that, because I only see it listed once. Anyway, when I went in to vote I was the only one there to vote. The question is were people not there because they are apathetic, uninformed, or just plain fed up? Can't blame them really. But they can't complain if they don't vote. And if they vote yes, then they shouldn't complain either. But they will.

Cestlavie
134
Points
Cestlavie 06/17/09 - 01:10 pm
0
0
I admit that I flip-flopped

I admit that I flip-flopped on this issue. I was planning to vote for it initially. . . then when Betty Beard got rolling, I decided to vote against it. I ended up voting yes yesterday for a couple of reasons: 1) I did some research and discovered that the money allocated for the various arts projects and Paine College are actually challenge grants. Each entity is responsible for raising a significant portion of the funds and the city will administer grants only if the matching money is raised. If that entity doesn't raise the matching funds, the money goes back into the general SPLOST fund. 2) Most of the money is going toward repairs and maintenance of the city infrastructure, and I thought this needed to continue to be funded. Now, our property taxes are already at the cap, so if this didn't pass, we wouldn't have the funds to continue this process.

Cestlavie
134
Points
Cestlavie 06/17/09 - 01:11 pm
0
0
One thing I would like to see

One thing I would like to see happen is that a citizen's oversight committee be established (much like the one in Gwinnett County) that would make sure that projects designated by the SPLOST actually get completed. That way, projects such as the TEE center, the judicial center, and the library wouldn't get bogged down in bureaucracy and everyone would continue to focus upon the objectives of these funds.

Ode
5
Points
Ode 06/17/09 - 02:01 pm
0
0
Why should the taxpayers fund

Why should the taxpayers fund Paine College? It is a private college affiliated with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church. Why not let the esteemed alumni of Paine College and the the churches support it? Oh the hypocrisy of government.

augustalibertarian
4
Points
augustalibertarian 06/17/09 - 03:00 pm
0
0
Hey guys, take heart. Over

Hey guys, take heart. Over 140,000 residents of Richmond County who are over the age of 18 decided to NOT vote "Yes" on a plan to impose more taxes on those who shop in our county. Given that this SPLOST package had, what?, 119 pork barrel, vote-buying projects in it, the fact that the organizers and supporters of SPLOST were only able to get fewer than 7,000 to vote for it is a positive sign that the majority of Richmond County residents are not so willing to force other people to fund special interests with taxpayer money. Life is good!

augustalibertarian
4
Points
augustalibertarian 06/17/09 - 03:00 pm
0
0
cestlavie, you should go back

cestlavie, you should go back and look at what happens to SPLOST projects after the voters approve them. There are "high priority" projects which must be completed before other "lower priority" projects are done. When those higher priority projects go way over budget, the lower priority projects have their budgets revised downward. For instance, "road resurfacing" and similar road repair and maintenance projects were budgeted over $24 million in previous SPLOST's; by the SPLOST report issued in October, 2007, these projects had been budgeted down to around $10 million. And contrary to what DuhJudge says, the Regency Lake probably will be done since it was sold as a "drainage project"; drainage projects have been among the worst offenders for soaking up budget over runs. And the fact that this particular "drainage project" will enhance the wealth of a particular sector of the business community at the expense of the taxpayers is just icing on the cake for those of the political class.

Frank I
1158
Points
Frank I 06/17/09 - 03:33 pm
0
0
Hey guys, take heart. Over

Hey guys, take heart. Over 140,000 residents of Richmond County who are over the age of 18 decided to NOT vote "Yes" on a plan to impose more taxes on those who shop in our county. Given that this SPLOST package had, what?, 119 pork barrel, vote-buying projects in it, the fact that the organizers and supporters of SPLOST were only able to get fewer than 7,000 to vote for it is a positive sign that the majority of Richmond County residents are not so willing to force other people to fund special interests with taxpayer money. Life is good!
Posted by augustalibertarian on Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:00 PM that's a heck of a spin job... the alternate could be said by stating even considering all the rhetoric, the opponents of the splost only managed to convince 2000 people to vote NO..

my.voice
4643
Points
my.voice 06/17/09 - 07:36 pm
0
0
Looks like Betty can build

Looks like Betty can build her trailer park now!

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 06/17/09 - 08:23 pm
0
0
That's it, they've convinced
Unpublished

That's it, they've convinced me: I'm moving to Columbia County.

Mudfish
0
Points
Mudfish 06/17/09 - 10:02 pm
0
0
If you look at the picture of

If you look at the picture of the poll worker with this article, you will see why there are no more voters casting ballots than there are. This person is an arrogant and authority wielding boss. Anyone knows where to go and how to vote!
No one wants to have to deal with a bossy person like this.
People like this should never be allowed to serve as a public servant.

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