Danielsville Mayor Todd Higdon says people will not want to come to the county seat if the bathrooms at its restaurants carry a sewage smell.
The mayor warned of such scenarios if Danielsville doesn’t upgrade its aging water and sewer systems.
Higdon asked county and city leaders April 10 to consider allocating $865,000 in the next special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) to replacing old water and sewer infrastructure in Danielsville.
“After many years of struggles just to maintain its services, the City of Danielsville has a great opportunity to improve its crumbling infrastructure,” wrote Higdon in a prepared statement to county commissioners and the mayors of other municipalities. “When SPLOST dollars are used as they are intended, all citizens of Madison County win. Operating costs are much less when you are not trying to maintain dilapidated equipment….The next six years are about maintaining what we already have in order to avoid excessive and costly repairs.”
Hidgon pointed out that the city serves the county government complex and the schools in Danielsville. He noted that a recent water leak temporarily shut down the city’s system, which shut off water for the government complex and schools, as well as Danielsville businesses.
“The whole city can be shut down because of a water leak,” said Higdon. “It’s critical to fix our infrastructure.”
In the 2008 SPLOST, the county’s six cities received $1.5 million, with the revenues divided based on the cities’ populations.
Higdon said the division based on population is not a fair assessment of need. He noted that Danielsville has a population of 500, but he said many more people visit the city on business days. He said the Department of Transportation recently counted 12,000 vehicles come through the town’s lone red light in a day.
“When they base it (SPLOST revenue divisions) on population, that’s unfair, we’re serving far more people than that,” said Higdon, who added that other towns also serve out-of-city residents during daytime hours.
Other mayors voiced support for helping Danielsville upgrade its infrastructure.
“Danielsville is hurting and if any raise should come in, I think they deserve more,” said Rufus Kidd, mayor of Carlton.
Mayors Jody Blackmon, Comer, and Chris Peck, Colbert, also voiced support for Danielsville.
Peck brought up the idea of having the county industrial authority, which has requested $2 million in SPLOST funding, help in upgrading Danielsville’s water and sewer system. He said he doesn’t see why the IDA couldn’t help the cities, since city residents pay county taxes.
All mayors agreed that they want their towns to receive just as much funding in the 2014 as they got in 2008.
Commission chairman Anthony Dove asked the mayors if they would support a six-year SPLOST. A six-year tax is necessary to include the cities in SPLOST. Dove also said he thought the mayors agreed to share the revenue based on the same formula as 2008.
Four district commissioners attended the April 10 meeting, with only Mike Youngblood not on hand. The BOC members listened for most of the meeting, but commissioners John Pethel and Stanley Thomas offered some thoughts at the close of the meeting. Both emphasized that the 2014 SPLOST must be primarily dedicated to road funding.
The BOC has received numerous requests from county departments and organizations for SPLOST funding, but the board allocated just $3.95 million for roads in SPLOST in 2008, compared to over $8 million in the 2003 sales tax. Commissioners say short-funding roads is not a mistake they care to repeat.
Pethel said he doesn’t feel people will support SPLOST unless it is mostly devoted to improving roads that are in bad shape.
“If approve everything that’s requested, then that would be a reduction for roads,” said Pethel. “That’s a major complaint in the county, that roads are getting in bad shape. If roads take a reduction, would people vote for SPLOST?”
Thomas agreed that road funding through SPLOST is the top priority. He said the federal government is planning to cut transportation funding, which will lead to less state money for local roads. Likewise, he said the county “did without $5 to $ 6 million for roads for the past six years” since the 2008 SPLOST included less than needed.
“There’s just not enough to give everybody what they want,” said Thomas of the proposed requests.
Higdon suggested that the cities request $2.5 million in 2014, up from $1.5 million. The IDA has requested $2 million for water and sewer upgrades. The sheriff’s department is requesting $1.3 million for new vehicles. EMS is requesting $1.167 million for ambulances and other equipment. The volunteer fire departments are seeking $1.2 million for equipment upgrades. The recreation department is asking for $610,000 for upgrades at county parks and maintenance equipment. The transfer station is asking for $233,000 to replace aging equipment. The 9-1-1 office is asking for $257,000 for an improved radio system that will offer backup protection for the service, as well as other equipment upgrades. And the 4-H office has requested $40,000 for a van to transport 4-Hers to various events.
County leaders project $12.5-to-$12.6 million in SPLOST revenue over six years.
Madison County voters will hit the polls in November offer a “Yes” or “No” on renewing a one-cent sales tax for county and city improvements.
The BOC will soon determine how the potential revenue will be used, but the commissioners have only received requests so far. They have yet to offer any “Yes” or “No” on specific proposals.
The mayors agreed April 10 that the public needs to recognize the importance of SPLOST in maintaining vital services, such as roads and public safety. They said they will work hard over coming months to make sure whatever projects are ultimately approved are fully understood by voters.
County and city leaders also emphasized the need for Madison County residents to shop in Madison County whenever possible.
“It’s important to put your money in the are you live in,” said Blackmon.