THOMASVILLE — A strong local economy brings about many good things in a community. In Thomas County, the favorable condition is bringing about more Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue.

The tax, which was implemented Jan. 1, is to generate $36 million during a six-year period. The projected monthly revenue is $500,000.

During the first six months, the tax generated $3.5 million. “That’s an average of $569,987 a month,” said Mike Stephenson, county manager.

To date, the amount is $419,922 more than projected receipts.

“The local retail economy is doing better than projected,” the county manager said. “We have a strong retail economy here.”

The revenue goes to the county commission office, which immediately issues checks to the county’s seven municipalities and to county government.

Some $16 million is earmarked for a new courthouse, while $10 million is to be spent on restoration/renovation of the 1858 Thomas County Courthouse.

Revenue collected above $36 million will be prorated to municipalities and county government.

Stephenson is cautious about the current housing slump. The degree of a local slump, if any, will be reflected in July SPLOST figures.

“The state holds back (tax revenue) for two months,” he explained.

Negotiations are under way to acquire land needed for construction of the new courthouse near the intersection of North Madison and Washington streets.

Opposite the site, Thomas County Public Library System headquarters will receive SPLOST revenue for improvements.

Less than 2 percent of the library system’s share of the money has been spent. State grants are being sought — and obtained — to make SPLOST dollars go further, said Nancy Tillinghast, library system director.

At headquarters, the Flipper meeting room will be enlarged, and the computer room will be enclosed. Expansion of the genealogy room is on a wish list.

“We can’t go up. It wasn’t built that way. We have to go out,” Tillinghast said about headquarters expansion.

A timetable for headquarters expansion has not been set.

Branch libraries have seen the following improvements:

• Ochlocknee — Refurbished, first-ever circulation desk, new carpet and flooring, paint, book purchases.

• Pavo — New carpeting, floor repaired, new heating-and-cooling system.

• Coolidge — New heating-and-cooling system, more renovation planned.

• Meigs — New shutters, exterior doors.

• Boston — New front doors, new storage area shelving.

Another SPLOST-funded project is an interoperable communications system.

“The city is responsible for the project,” said Don Atkinson, Thomasville assistant city manager/utilities.

The system will allow Thomasville and Thomas County emergency and public safety agencies to communicate with each other. “And outlying cities can share,” Atkinson explained, adding that the city has hired consultants to advise during the process.

The system will continue to use radio equipment in which taxpayers have made a large investment. “We will build upon what we already have invested to some extent,” Atkinson said.

In addition to be being able to communicate within the county during emergencies, including weather events, the system will operate regionally.

Work is under way to connect to an Albany communications system.

The system will connect to a 300-foot radio tower in north Thomas County, which will leave space on the existing radio tower at the Jail-Justice Center.

Bids are being solicited on radios and antennas to interface with the Albany system. Eventually, Cordele, Tifton and other cities will connect with Albany, Atkinson said.

Summerhill Road remains county government’s No. 1 priority on the SPLOST road work list.

Situations on roads change because of increases in traffic, among other factors, said Thomas County Commissioner Louis Rehberg, chairman of the commission road committee.

“It’s not a list that is written in stone, but it’s roads we thought needed attention,” Rehberg said.

Summerhill, he explained, has the greatest number of problems and will be the most costly to fix.

“It’s No. 1, but that doesn’t mean it will be done No. 1,” the commissioner said.

Summerhill bridges and culverts need to be reworked and widened before the road is resurfaced and/or rebuilt.

Whether to remove sharp curves on the road will be addressed in an engineering study.

Summerhill is an old farm-to-market road that was not designed to accommodate the amount of traffic that travels on it today. Rampant residential development off Summerhill has brought a great deal of traffic to the stretch.

Recreation is another area to be funded with SPLOST revenue. Information about recreation plans was not available.



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









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