Wrightsboro area residents touched off a Black Lives Matter sort of moment when they demanded action during Monday night’s McDuffie County Board of Commissioners work session. Homeowners said they want county officials to commit additional SPLOST VII funding to upgrading sewer infrastructure for neighborhoods along Daniel Place and Dagget and Hamilton roads. Residents argued that their families are facing health risks from failing septic systems. Several individuals stated they have been working to resolve the issue with county officials since 1986. Others publicly vowed to ensure County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton fail in his re-election bid come November’s election.
Newton responded that he has visited the neighborhood, spoken to residents and has seen the issues they describe. He reasoned that there were ways other than SPLOST to fund the needed infrastructure improvements. Newton said one road in the area of concern had only 23 homes and he wasn’t sure all those homes were occupied. He suggested funding for smaller sewer projects would be better handled through loans.
Commissioner Fred Favors said he wants the board to consider changing its current proposed project list and make a Wrightsboro area sewer project a priority. Favors asked his fellow commissioners to vote to dedicate $1.6 million to upgrading sewer infrastructure in the Wrightsboro area at Wednesday’s regular commission meeting. He said monies from other proposed projects, such as $4.7 allocated for installing broadband, could be redirected to a specific Wrightsboro area sewer project.
“I want to know why its not separate, why its not there,” Favors said, referring to the dozen proposed projects listed under a common water/sewer infrastructure upgrades category for SPLOST VII.
On June 11, community leaders held a joint meeting at the depot to review proposed projects to be funded by a SPLOST VII, should voters approve a referendum on Nov. 3 to continue the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. SPLOST funds are used for specific capital improvement projects. This includes public buildings, equipment and infrastructure. If approved, revenues from a SPLOST VII collection would begin in January 2021.
Currently the proposed SPLOST VII project list allocates $4 million toward water and sewer projects. Water and sewer projects have an estimated total cost of $19,287,457.50 million. Proposed projects include improvements to the Augusta Road Water Treatment Plant, Big Creek Panel upgrades and water meter replacements.
County Manager David Crawley reiterated there has been a 10 percent decrease in revenue from the current SPLOST due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn. This trend of reduced sales tax revenue could continue should the coronavirus outbreak further impact the nation’s economy, county officials warn.
County officials estimate SPLOST VII will bring in tax revenues of $21,206,480 million over a six-year period. Where SPLOST monies won’t cover the full cost for certain projects, grants and funding from the previous SPLOST could be used.