THOMASVILLE — Mayors and council members from seven Thomas County municipalities and county commissioners met for two hours Thursday night to discuss a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

At the top of the proposed formula is rehabilitation of the historic Thomas County Courthouse and construction of a government facility to provide space not available in the 148-year-old county office hub.

The tax, if approved by voters, would end after six years.

A date for putting the question to the electorate has not been decided, but July 18, the date of the primary election, and the general election on Nov. 7 were discussed briefly Thursday.

County commission Chairman Josh Herring, who presided at the meeting, pointed out county offices spread throughout Thomasville and a recent lease agreement entered for commission office housing.

“The need’s more than a want,” Herring said. “It’s something we have to do.”

Not only are space needs critical, but judges are calling for courthouse and courtroom security measures that would be costly and impractical at the exiting courthouse, the oldest in continuous use in Georgia.

To pay for what has to be done to meet county government space and courthouse needs, commissioners would have to double property taxes each of the next five years, Herring said.

Whether the electorate votes for a sales tax or turns it down, “We’ve got to do it,” the chairman said.

Revenue from the tax also would provide funding to resurface roads paved two or three decades ago, Herring said, adding that cities can use their prorated share of SPLOST revenue for any purpose allowed by law.

Herring said county commissioners would not try to tell municipalities how to use their money. City officials know their entities’ needs, he added.

“You know what you need. ... And we agree to support you in that effort,” Thomasville Mayor David Lewis told Herring.

Any revenue collected above $36 million would be distributed to governmental entities on a prorated basis.

Commissioner Mary Jo Beverly said state government would pay 60 percent of the cost of an additional 12,000 square feet at library headquarters, with local revenue funding the remaining 40 percent.

“That’s what the library would do if they got their money,” she said.

Thomasville City Manager Steve Sykes said city government would ensure 100 percent countywide communications coverage with the radio system.

A March 2005 SPLOST referendum — with all revenue earmarked for courthouse rehabilitation and a new building — failed by 21 votes. One of the complaints voiced during the referendum campaign was about the facade design of the new structure.

“Let’s make it loud and clear. It won’t be the same one proposed last March,” said Beverly, chairman of the commission public properties committee.

A design committee made up of citizens will be formed, Beverly said.

Mayors of each small town were asked specifically if they approved of the proposed formula.

Coolidge Mayor Diane Causey said she had “serious issues” with the recreation aspect, while Pavo Mayor Faye Walker said she had concerns about the radio system.

Lewis said he was pleased with the spirit of cooperation among governing bodies. The Thomasville mayor predicted great things for the community.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 220.

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