THOMASVILLE -- In the midst of a series of Thursday meetings about the Thomas County Courthouse, Thomas County grand jurors returned presentments supporting a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to support renovation/restoration of the 147-year-old building.

Grand jury presentments were returned in the third-floor courthouse courtroom, while simultaneously in the second-floor courtroom Thomas County commissioners voted unanimously to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Thomasville.

Grand jurors agreed the existing courthouse is "in dire need of substantial repairs and improvements in its current condition."

By majority consent, the grand jury expressed full support of the proposed SPLOST for improvements to the historic courthouse and construction of a new courthouse.

Georgia law requires an intergovermental agreement stating that the amount and duration of the courthouse SPLOST be limited to the actual cost of the proposed project. Municipal projects are not included, the agreement shows.

In addition to renovation/restoration of the historic courthouse, the SPLOST would provide revenue for the construction of a new courthouse.

The agreement calls for no more than $21 million in SPLOST revenue to be collected for the two-prong project. The amount would include money for acquisition of property for the new courthouse.

Generated tax revenue must be maintained in a separate account from a disbursement fund. The account must be audited annually by the county auditor, and a copy of the audit must be maintained for public scrutiny.

The tax would be terminated when the required funding is completed.

County commissioners are to meet in a called session at 9 a.m. today to approve a resolution that would ask Thomas County Probate Judge Vickie Burnette to put the sales tax question on a March 15 ballot.

After the Thursday meeting, Mike Stephenson, county manager, said the tax would be in effect for four years or until $21 million is raised, whichever comes first.

A 1 percent sales tax generates about $5 million annually.

For weeks, county commissioners had planned to vote Thursday on the resolution. They learned Feb. 2 from Bruce Warren, county attorney, that the city-county agreement was necessary.

Georgia SPLOST legislation says that if a SPLOST will be short-term for a specific project, there must be an agreement between the county commission and, in this case, the City of Thomasville. Thomasville's population triggered the entity's required involvement in the matter.

The maximum length of time a SPLOST may be in force is six years. When the maximum number of years is involved, an agreement is not required.

The City of Thomasville will receive no revenue from the proposed SPLOST.

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

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