Time crunch moves SPLOST vote to March

A marathon meeting of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners started Thursday evening and stretched into early Friday, totaling five and a half hours and ending at 12:30 a.m. There were plenty of key topics to tackle on lengthy agenda, including what to do with the timeline for a proposed SPLOST vote. Due to concerns that the process might be too rushed, the SPLOST will now be a Special Called Election in March 2017.
“We felt like there was enough concern from meeting with the mayors that it was in our best interests to keep the integrity of the process, be very transparent, and move the election to the March cycle,” said County Administrator Steve Rapson, saying the very compressed time frame they had been working under to get the vote on the November 2016 ballot left questions as to whether or not adequate notice had been published.
The last time a SPLOST vote made the ballot, it failed, but Rapson expressed confidence that this time would be different, largely because of greater cooperation between the county and cities.
“We were pretty much on our own. The municipalities weren’t out there advocating for the county’s SPLOST,” said Rapson, noting that it still nearly passed with 46 percent of the vote. “We’ve got all the municipalities rolling in the same direction now, and that’s radically different. They’re going to be out there getting their voters to approve those infrastructure projects that they feel are critical for their cities to move forward.”
Commissioner Charles Rousseau said it would be imperative to educate the voters on how much a SPLOST could benefit the whole county.
“We sold people on voting for us, let’s sell them on what’s good for them. This is good medicine, I think,” said Rousseau, noting that limited resources and, in some cases neglect, have left infrastructure in dire need of repair. “We need to give them the facts of what we’re facing.”
The move to March would pass 4-1, with Commissioner Randy Ognio in opposition because of a likely lower voter turnout then, as opposed to waiting until November 2017.
“Voter turnout is going to be a big issue. It’s going to be the only thing on the ballot,” said Ognio. “There’s no incentive for the voter to go to the polls.”
Ognio’s concerns were echoed by others, but ultimately it was felt that the wait would be too long to delay so far out.
“The consensus (from the municipalities) is the momentum is there,” said Chairman Charles Oddo. “They won’t lose the momentum going to March. They’ll have a tough time keeping it up until the following November.”
The Special Called Election is tentatively scheduled for March 21, 2017.

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Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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