THOMASVILLE — The recently passed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, traffic problems and improving the city’s image were the main topics in Taxplayers President Lloyd Eckberg’s address to the Thomasville Business Action Council.

Eckberg took issue with the SPLOST, suggesting local officials sweetened the proposal with promises of funding to small towns in the county and street improvement projects.

“The city and county governments — we ought to take their candy store license away from them,” he said.

Eckberg said he conducted a poll in which a majority of those interviewed were against a SPLOST to fund courthouse improvement and construction projects. After the poll results were released, Eckberg said county officials guaranteed extra funding from the state Department of Transportation if the SPLOST passed, in addition to adding other projects to the proposal.

“I’m not against SPLOST. In fact, I’m for it. When SPLOST legislation came up years ago, I supported it,” Eckberg said. “The problem I see with SPLOST is that we’re locked into a six-year program right now, and SPLOST is going to fail to do what it was originally intended to do.”

Eckberg said as long as SPLOST referendums continue to pass, sales taxes will keep increasing.

“Now that all the cities and all the counties are bumping the ceilings with a 7-percent sales tax, you know the next thing that’s coming down the pipe — they’re going to go to 10 cents or 12 cents,” he said. “That’s coming in the next few years. Mark my word on that.”

He pointed out that in Sweden the sales tax is 25 cents on the dollar, and that state and federal legislators may soon be pressured to raise the tax bar in a similar manner.

Eckberg suggested welcome signs should be put at entrances to the city and that trees should be planted along the medians of corridor highways.

“We’ve got six entrances into this town, and you can actually go through at night and not even know you passed through Thomasville,” Eckberg said. “We’re getting a lot of national attention, but when people come through they don’t even know what town they’re in.”

Eckberg said the Hansell Street underpass looks unattractive, as does the new fence around the nearby State Farmers Market.

“I don’t know how much that fence cost, but we didn’t have to pay for that one, did we?” he joked. “They put up a six-foot fence around there when a three-foot fence would have done the job just as well. They’ve got two big entrances that never close, so the fence isn’t there to keep anybody out, I don’t think,” he said. “With a little imagination, that could have been a beauty spot. All we can say now is that we got a new fence, but it looks like a prison.”

Eckberg said the Thomasville-Thomas County Tourism Board should play a part in improving the city’s image.

“I think they need to be a much more vocal group, and they need to get citizen input when they do things,” he said. “An awful lot of money goes through that tourism association — hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — and sometimes you wonder what you’re getting for it,” Eckberg said.

Eckberg also took issue with traffic situations at the intersection of Ga. Hwy. 202 and U.S. Hwy. 19, and on Remington Avenue.

“Why the city doesn’t bite the bullet and do the improvements (on Remington) is beyond me,” he said. “We need sidewalks, those open ditches need to be closed and it needs to be at least three lanes. It would look a lot better and ease the traffic situation.”

He suggested the hiring of a traffic engineer who would help both city and county governments resolve street issues and coordinated more effectively with the DOT.

Eckberg is former executive director of the Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce and was also instrumental in the creation of the South Georgia Chamber of Commerce. He has lived in Thomasville since 1963.

To contact reporter Brewer Turley, call (229) 226-2400, ext. 226.

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