A citizens advisory committee has finished its work and submitted a recommended list of projects to fund with SPLOST 2020 to the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission.
The list went through some major changes since a tentative one was given to commissioners in March. Earlier this month, the commission voted to preemptively put $82 million for a new courthouse and renovating the existing courthouse into city government offices on the SPLOST list, as well as $45 million for affordable housing, funds for the cities of Bogart and Winterville and $21 million in interest on bonds to get projects started earlier. That left the committee with just $127 million out of the $278 million the 1 percent sales tax will raise over an approximately 10-year period.
The biggest change is that $59 million for a Classic Center arena is gone. So is $14 million to renovate Bear Hollow Zoo. Some projects that made it through the first round remain on the list, but in a reduced form—for example, the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation will get $6 million for Beech Haven Park, which is enough to restore a historic house on the Middle Oconee River property near West Broad Street and build amenities like trails and a pavilion, but not enough to construct a greenway connecting it to nearby neighborhoods.
Other projects among the 88 originally proposed that have survived so far include:
• $5.3 million to match state and federal grants for Ben Epps Airport.
• $600,000 to renovate the ACC animal shelter.
• $10.6 million to replace police cars and fire engines, $2.9 million to replace fire department equipment, $767,000 for an E911 phone system and $6.4 million to replace the Whit Davis Road fire station.
• $6.8 million to bring wireless broadband internet to the outskirts of the county.
• $7.9 million to renovate Memorial Park, $14.7 million for improvements at Holland Park, $310,000 to modernize exhibits at Sandy Creek Nature Center, $1.8 million to buy land for a future park in the Atlanta Highway area and $3.9 million to open up the Tallassee Forest to visitors.
• $8.5 million for a new recycling center at the landfill, and $1.1 million to turn the existing processing facility on Hancock Industrial Way into a center for hard-to-recycle materials and teacher reuse store.
• $2.8 million to remediate environmental hazards.
• $3.6 million to produce renewable energy at ACC facilities, another $10.8 million to shift Athens to renewable energy and $1.1 million for sustainability projects.
• $14.5 million for an Eastside library, which could be located at Southeast Clarke Park or the old Gaines School site, where $15.5 million is also set aside for a Boys & Girls Club and a Junior Achievement Biztown where students will learn about entrepreneurship.
• $1.9 million for a sidewalk on Vincent Drive.
The next step is a work session on May 14 where commissioners will discuss the list and possibly make changes. The advisory committee will host a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. May 16 at the ACC Library. The commission will vote on the final list in July, and a referendum is scheduled for November.