The Glynn County Commission is gearing up to begin narrowing down a list of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2020 projects.
“Time is getting of the essence now in terms of what we have to do before the May 2020 referendum,” said County Manager Alan Ours.
In past interviews, all seven commissioners told The News they supported imposing a new penny sales tax as soon as SPLOST 2016 collection ends in September 2020. The commission decided to put SPLOST 2020 to a public vote on the May 2020 primary election ballot.
Commissioners were presented with a list of possible projects at their Tuesday work session. The draft list includes 84 projects divided into 10 categories, most falling into the realm of infrastructure.
The draft list also includes some “vertical” projects — new construction not related to infrastructure — repair and expansion of park facilities and implementation of the county’s shoreline protection plan.
According to County Attorney Aaron Mumford, the commission needs to shave down and finalize the list by the end of December.
Ours also noted the projects list doesn’t include any cost estimates.
“That’s on purpose,” Ours said. “My guess is there’s probably some items on the list you won’t agree with as a board. Well, it takes a lot of time to develop cost estimates, and as we all know that’s the most difficult part of the whole SPLOST process is to try to come up with reasonable cost estimates.
“In 2015, we came up with cost estimates that were voted on a year later. The economy gained momentum and took off and now we’re bidding projects today and estimates were developed four years ago ... So we don’t want to waste a lot of time developing cost estimates if it’s not a project you want to continue to discuss.”
Commission Chairman Mike Browning asked for Ours and the county Public Works Department to prioritize the projects on the list.
“Say we throw out half of what you put on here, which half do you want us to throw out?” Browning said.
Ours also brought up the courthouse space needs committee.
Currently, the committee is looking to claims by Glynn County Superior Court judges that the courthouse is too small. Depending on what the committee finds, it may recommend the commission include in SPLOST 2020 a courthouse expansion costing upwards of $50 million.
Commissioner Bill Brunson recommended waiting until after the committee brings its recommendations before working on a projects list.
“The decision that’s made there is going to predicate some things that are left,” Brunson said. “... I think it would be wise to look at their recommendation, and then we have a cut session.”
Rather than wait for the committee, Browning suggested the commission create a list without considering the courthouse expansion. If they need to include the expansion, they can start cutting projects off the bottom of the list, he said.
To give county personnel more time to organize and prioritize the list, Browning told Ours to schedule a meeting for early next month.
The commission is also planning to meet with the Brunswick City Commission on Oct. 1 to discuss SPLOST 2020.
The city of Brunswick and the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission are still working on their project lists.
County commissioners received a letter from Jekyll Island Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks, which includes three infrastructure projects estimated at $2.75 million in total.
Later in the meeting, commissioners heard an update on a proposed new ordinance.
Mumford said a golf cart rental business has been operating in public spaces on St. Simons Island, and he was asked to draw up a new law to address it.
The new law would prohibit renting out golf carts in public parks, rights of way or parking lots.
Commissioner David O’Quinn said he’d personally seen people taking up public parking spaces with rental carts in the Pier Village, the parking lot of the Glynn County Casino and at Mallery Park.
Under the current draft, violators could be cited each day they are in violation and for each rental vehicle occupying public space.
The ordinance would create a “level playing field” for businesses, Brunson said.
Mumford said he could have the final draft ready for the commission’s Oct. 3 meeting.
In other business, commissioners heard an update on the Glynn County Police Department’s progress in addressing issues raised by a report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Since the report was released last year, police Chief John Powell said the department has put a lot of time and resources into improving internal controls, reorganizing staff to improve efficiency, engaging with the public, cooperating with other government and law enforcement agencies and providing more opportunities for training and advancement, among other things.
The commission also heard updates on the Brunswick and Glynn County Economic Development Authority and a report on condemnations and abandonments.