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SPLOST, zoning, BOE featured at NAACP Town Hall session

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Branch of the NAACP will host a town hall meeting Thursday to address the county's proposed Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), zoning issues, and problems in the Clayton County School System, among other topics.

The meeting will take place at Riverdale First United Methodist Church from 7 to 9 p.m. The church is located at 6390 Church Street in Riverdale.

"It's basically a community meeting on voter education," said Dexter Matthews, president of the Clayton's NAACP. "We try to have forums close to election time. A lot of people vote on things that they know nothing about. We're trying to educate the public as to what the issues are."

At the top of those issues will be the six-year, $305 million SPLOST referendum set for Feb. 5, which will be during the Georgia presidential primary.

The county plans to use the tax dollars derived from the 2008 SPLOST to fund a new Juvenile Justice Center, three new police precincts, two new libraries, a new multipurpose Fire Department training facility, and transportation improvements.

The NAACP, however, has opposed the SPLOST, complaining that the county has yet to deliver two recreation centers promised in the 2003 SPLOST.

"We are pretty much in a recession, but nobody wants to say it," said Matthews. "Everybody in the country is suffering. This is $305 million coming out of taxpayers' pockets. You want to make sure that this is money being spent wisely, and you are not just collecting money from people because you can," added Matthews.

In the past, Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell has said funds from the 2003 have been put in the bank to gain interest. That interest would then be leveraged to build better recreation centers.

Matthews believes the money is not being used effectively.

"The interest they are earning does not seem to be growing [with] the costs they are incurring," said Matthews. "It makes no sense to give people money when they haven't spent the last SPLOST money correctly," he added.

Bell said he had made several attempts to meet with Matthews about the NAACP's concerns, and said efforts to oppose the new SPLOST were "misguided."

"I've offered all of the resources of the county to meet their concerns," said Bell. "It unconscionable that anybody could be against the SPLOST."

In a past report, Bell said he would carry out the promises made in the 2003 SPLOST, vowing to begin construction on two new recreation centers by "the close of February.

"We are compelled to follow the law," said Bell. "We can't switch it up and build something else."