Few government-related topics generate as much discussion these days as the proposed Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) referendum, slated to be decided by voters in the fall. 

Already, residents are raising questions about the special referendum slated to appear on the November ballot when voters will ultimately decide its fate.

If approved, it would mean that a special tax will be collected to go toward road and bridge projects in the city and county.

In recent years, voters have rejected similar transportation referendums.

This year, local officials hope voters will see fit to pass such a referendum.

To counter the previous outcomes, government officials are sharing their message with residents in the community.

Baldwin County Manager Carlos Tobar discussed the proposed T-SPLOST referendum during an Eggs & Issues breakfast meeting last Wednesday, held at Central Georgia Technical College.

“We had it (T-SPLOST) on the ballot two years ago, but it didn’t pass,” Tobar said.

Three county commissioners attended the “State of the County” breakfast — Emily C. Davis, Johnny Westmoreland and Kendrick Butts.

“You all are calling them saying, ‘You need to do something,’” Tobar said. “Well, either we raise your property taxes 9 mills or so — so we can raise enough money to go in and fix all of these roads — or we put the Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax back on the ballot.”

Tobar said if approved by voters, the additional 1-cent tax would generate the funding needed to tackle “a massive problem” with roads in Milledgeville and Baldwin County.

“There are a lot of things that you don’t see as you’re driving down the road,” Tobar said. “Some of these roads that you’re driving on have no base. Back in the day, 50 or 60 years ago, they just said let’s put some dirt here and we’ll pave this.”

There was no consideration given to drainage or base in those days, he said.

“If we just go and pave a road that is like that, we’re just throwing money away, because, in three or four years, it’s going to have potholes again,” Tobar said. “That’s why we can only do about five miles a year because some of these roads are a disaster.”

Tobar explained that county workers had to go out and dig about six-feet of “slush” out and then truck in rock to make the kinds of repairs needed on one particular road.

The project was very expensive, Tobar said.

The county is confronted with similar road problems quite often, he pointed out.

“We need that extra revenue to be able to get these roads fixed the way they should be,” he added.

Westmoreland told the captive audience that about 90% of the county’s roads are in “real bad shape.”

Westmoreland, who serves as vice chairman of the county commission, said the majority of the roads were never built for the number of trucks presently using them daily.

Recent rains have made the situation even worse, he noted.

“You can ride down Log Cabin or North Jefferson Street and you can see where the centerlines where the road is separating,” Westmoreland said. “That’s because the water is getting under the pavement and the ground is eroding out from under it.”

Tobar also talked about drainage problems.

“If your yards are full of water and the water is coming from the roadway, that was never taken into account back in the day,” Tobar said.

He said an easement should have been obtained and a pipe installed underneath the roadway.

Such didn’t happen.

“Right now, it’s carrying silt and muddying up waters and all of that mess,” Tobar said.

It’s a problem repeated within all five county commission districts, he added.

The county manager said drainage issues would also be addressed in this next T-SPLOST referendum.

Tobar said $2.5 million will be on the ballot for drainage improvements.

He said a list of road resurfacing projects is still being compiled.

Dr. Noris Price, school superintendent of the Baldwin County School District, attended the meeting and suggested that the list of roads be included on the ballot this time around so voters can identify the roads in line for improvement.

Price said she believes doing so might impact the outcome of the upcoming referendum.

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