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Jonesboro earmarks $250,000 for Streetscape

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

During his campaign, one of the things Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox promised was to stop talking about the city's long-standing Streetscape project and "bring it to fulfillment."

Last Monday, the Jonesboro City Council voted to create a $250,000 line item for the downtown beautification effort. The vote marks a significant move forward on the part of the city, which last year, expended no funds from its general budget for the project.

"It's a very active move ... nothing was set aside in 2007 for Streetscape," said Jonesboro Finance Clerk Sandra Meyers. "It will be able to help us continue to purchase the rights of way and do the engineering."

Historically, Streetscape has been a polarizing issue for the city . Former mayor, Joy Day -- who was voted out of office in the last election -- faced considerable opposition from the city council in her effort to push Streetscape initiatives. Unable to secure the backing of the council, Day purchased many of the rights of way using the city's contingency funds.

In August 2007, the council voted to table a discussion on creating a line item in the budget for Streetscape for 60 days, while the city hired former Clayton County Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Boswell to investigate its spending practices.

During her tenure as mayor, Day helped secure two separate $1 million grants from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) for the Streetscape program, which the city can use if it matches the funds with its own money. Waiting on a written statement of financial commitment from the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, however, the Jonesboro council did not utilize those funds.

Setting aside $250,000, out of the city's general fund, is the biggest move toward Streetscape the council has made in more than a year. With two new council members and a new mayor, Maddox said the vote was a positive sign of Jonesboro's new leadership.

"We might have better leadership now," said Maddox. "We're just pulling together. We've been talking about it for years ... we're going to get started," he added.

"We did have to buy the rights of way to move forward with the Streetscape, but we should have created a line item for that," said councilman Rick Yonce. "We are waiting to receive some more money from the county and the ARC," but "we plan to move forward."

Maddox said "a little over $1 million" has been committed by the county to the Streetscape project from the 2003 Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). He added the city recently received a written statement of financial commitment to Streetscape and expected the $250,000 would "more than fund [Streetscape] until we see some dirt flying.

"I've made my life on production," said Maddox. "I'm used to seeing results. We're going to be getting something done."