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BOC postpones deadline for SPLOST agreement

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted to push back a deadline for the county's six municipalities to sign an intergovernmental agreement consenting to a new six-year Special Local Option Sales Tax.

Officials from the county sighted not yet receiving outlined lists of projects from the cities of Jonesboro and Lovejoy as the reason for the delay.

"Lovejoy and Jonesboro obviously needed additional time," said Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell. "What I would like to do, would be to defer these issues, [so that Lovejoy and Jonesboro can submit their final drafts] "and county attorneys can have the proper conversations with the attorneys from the other cities."

Bell said that the matter would be delayed until the Nov. 6 regular business meeting, at which time, "we expect to resolve all issues."

Some Jonesboro officials have expressed doubt about the new SPLOST. Jonesboro City Councilman Rick Yonce said there were $800,000 worth of projects during the current SPLOST -- which began in January 2004 -- that the county had not yet delivered on.

The current SPLOST will end late next year, or when the county meets the $240 million cap, but Yonce said he was suspicious of adopting a new SPLOST when he believed funds from the current SPLOST had not been spent correctly.

Commissioner Virginia Gray defended the new SPLOST, saying the county was trying to secure its economic future, and prevent a gap in SPLOST collections. "We are planning ahead," said Gray.

Bell said the county had already built three recreation centers -- the Carl Rhodenizer, Virginia Gray, and Jim Huie recreation centers -- and that the county currently has sufficient funds to build two more recreation centers. He said the reason for the delay is that the county is still researching locations to put them.

The Clayton County Branch of the NAACP and the Clayton County Wide Homeowners Association contested, saying that the county has only built two recreation centers with SPLOST funds, and that the Jim Huie Recreation Center was built several years before the current SPLOST, through a financial agreement between the county and the Board of Education.

CCWHA co-founder Synamon Baldwin said the root of the problem is that the county has not followed through with the promise to build six recreation centers. "Everybody agreed that the SPLOST was necessary," said Baldwin. "The issue here is integrity. We we're told that there would be six recreation centers."

Dexter Matthews, president of the Clayton County Branch of the NAACP, said there was "no good excuse" for holding off on the recreation centers. "They are holding our money in the bank to gain interest," said Matthews. "They have land all over the county ... and have enough money in the bank to buy some land. What's the good excuse for not building the centers?"

While Matthews said that the new SPLOST should be delayed until the six recreation centers have been built, cities like Lovejoy are anxious to press forward with a new SPLOST.

"The city is looking forward to supporting the new SPLOST," said Lovejoy Mayor Joseph Murphy. "I haven't heard anybody complain. We had three or four SPLOST projects and they worked out really good. We think that it will be good for the whole county. We hope it will pass," he said.