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12-14-01 Oconee Sewer & Oconee SPLOST History

Priorities can change but voters remember and expect road improvements (in progress for years) and water/sewer service projects that will promote fire protection and economic development.

AVOC

December 14, 2001

Oconee Sewer & Oconee SPLOST History

By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.

OCONEE SEWER SERVICE:   For the last couple of years there have been several claims for unlimited sewer service coming from Watkinsville property owners/developers. As City Attorney, I was very much involved with the City in acquiring its sewer system in the mid-eighties- also involved were at least three members of the current Mayor and Council. In those days, it was tough trying to get easements and support for a sewer system (EPD wanted the raw discharge in Call’s Creek to stop). The City used a hired appraiser and a negotiator for easements. All agreements were reduced to writing and signed by the Mayor (Carol Puryear) or Mayor Pro-tem Billy Porterfield. Existing contracts of the City were assumed by the County. Most of the current sewer capacity has been obtained with County SPLOST funds that are directed to commercial and institutional uses to improve the County and City Tax Base. The system cannot physically supply large-scale residential development for the foreseeable future.

OCONEE SPLOST: The Special Purpose Sales tax has been a blessing for many local governments in GA. It provides funding for capital projects that would not be funded from property tax alone. Oconee has benefited greatly, i.e.: jail, civic center, recreation, roads, water, sewer, library etc. Oconee has passed four and had one in effect since authorized by the state in the late eighties. The tax has to be reauthorized every five years. While some flexibility is allowed, state law lists specific type projects that are authorized. Local governments are more specific in calling the election. While road projects and water/sewer projects have been listed in general, there are usually project lists that voters see and consider in voting for or against the tax.

The School System has been criticized for too rigid wording for their first SPLOST that will fund the new elementary and new high school on GA 53. The County has allowed more flexibility in its votes. However, the current Board of Commissioners, in my opinion, has been too flexible in redirecting money to projects they prefer.

Priorities can change but voters remember and expect road improvements (in progress for years) and water/sewer service projects that will promote fire protection and economic development. I do not think this principle has been closely followed by the current board.


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