SPLOST passes overwhelmingly

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 johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

PRECINCT RESULTS

PrecinctYesNo
101Asbury United Methodist Church 8238
102Crawford Avenue Baptist Church 3614
103Dyess Park 467
104Eastview Recreation Center 11611
105Second Mt. Moriah Church 181
106Julian Smith Casino 117
107Julian Smith Casino 16862
108Covenant Presbyterian Church 270
109May Park 234
110Housing Authority Administration Building 1615
111Paine College 267
112St. John's Towers 5816
113May Park 261
201Augusta Deliverance Evangelistic Church 439
202Bernie Ward Community Center 9744
203Mt. Calvary Baptist Church 545
204Asbury United Methodist Church 6221
205Johnson Recreation Center 3510
206Highland Avenue Fire Station 5219
207Mt. Vernon Baptist Church 4610
208Minnick Park 5018
209Mize Memorial United Methodist Church 3019
301Covenant Presbyterian Church 23286
302Augusta State Athletic Complex 337
303Aquatics Center 15643
304Crossroads Fellowship Community Church 00
305First Baptist Church Of Augusta 6021
306First Baptist Church Of Augusta 11543
307Woodlawn Methodist Church 19259
308Augusta State Athletic Complex 1010
309Bayvale Baptist Church 207
310Crossroads Fellowship Community Church 14550
401Gracewood Community Center 15133
402Mcduffie Woods Community Center 7018
403Morgan Road Middle School 7324
404Wildwood Christian Church 11231
405Diamond Lakes Regional Park 9014
406Jamestown Community Center 9116
407McDuffie Woods Community Center 20
408New Life Worship Center 133
501First Shiloh Baptist Church 6020
502Trinity Cme Church 45
503Henry H. Brigham Community Center 12331
504Aquatics Center 509
505New Life Worship Center 4212
506Trinity Cme Church 10026
507Minnick Park 3313
508Bayvale Baptist Church 2812
509Bayvale Baptist Chruch 115
601Gracewood Ssh E And R Center 7549
602Cokesbury United Methodist Church 12365
603Burns Memorial United Methodist Church 12832
604Southside Baptist Church 3617
605Vfw Post 649 7752
606New Horizon Church Of God 7335
701Aldersgate United Methodist Church 24780
702St. Marks United Methodist Church 15687
703National Hills Baptist Church 17391
704First Baptist Church Of Augusta 88
705St. Augustine's Episcopal Church 17951
706Warren Road Recreation Center 196115
707The Vineyard Church of Augusta 8233
801Blythe Community Center 2819
801bBlythe Community Center 2319
802McBean Community Center 4426
803Jamestown Community Center 00
804Jesse Carroll Community Center 4324
804hJesse Carroll Community Center 10655
805Southside Baptist Church 3316
806Pine Hill Baptist Church 9567
807Jamestown Community Center 3222
808Cross Creek High School 9356
809McBean Community Center 5545
AbseAbsentee 1,529891
ProvProvisional* Not reported
Total6,7722,891

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