Commission to consider $10 million in SPLOST

By Justin Boron

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners is set for a contentious business meeting Tuesday morning when it will act on about $10 million worth of roadway improvement proposals. The move, opponents say, would diverge from an earlier stated plan to slow the roads portion of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax program in favor of the publicly demanded recreation centers.

SPLOST expenditures have been scrutinized closely since a slew of citizens and community leaders came forward earlier this year to criticize the progress of six recreation centers paid for by the one-cent sales tax initiative. At the time, County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said some of centers may not be completed.

The proposals for Tuesday's meeting are a range of milling and resurfacing projects.

Clayton County NAACP President Dexter Matthews, one of the most outspoken critics, said he is convinced the county will never make good on the centers, pushing him and other community members closer to a lawsuit.

"If this is what they call speeding up the recreation centers, I don't want to see them slow them down," he said.

Matthews also questioned the placement of the projects on the agenda of the morning business meeting, which typically is not as well attended as the evening meeting at the beginning of each month.

"They're doing it on purpose because they know we're coming to the evening meeting."

He said members from his organization would be present Tuesday morning.

Bell and the interim county commission spokesman Bill Horton were unavailable to comment for this story despite repeated attempts to arrange interviews.

But the chairman and county staff directors have maintained that the centers will be built. They point to the progress on the natatorium near the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, which was planned in SPLOST information literature to be separate from six other centers.

County Commissioner Wole Ralph, another strong advocate for allocating the center funding immediately, will not be present at the meeting because he is attending a conference in Hawaii.

His and Commissioner Virginia Gray's absence leaves three commissioners who on numerous occasions have voted together.

"It sends the message that the board is going to do something at the business meeting to avoid the outcry that would happen at the night meeting," Ralph said.