Small cities say their SPLOST projects are a big deal for them

The City of Varnell's SPLOST project list includes $267,000 for capital improvements for the city's parks and recreation offerings. "We want to add some more equipment to our playground. We want to add a dog park and a covered picnic area," said Mayor Tom Dickson.

When Whitfield County voters go to the polls for the May 19 general primary, they'll have an opportunity to decide the fate of a four-year, $66 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

The voters' attention may be on the big ticket items the SPLOST would fund for the City of Dalton and Whitfield County, such as a planned Riverbend Park near Southeast Whitfield High School ($13 million) or renovations to Heritage Point Park and the building of a new John Davis Recreation Center ($11.175 million).

But the cities of Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell would also get projects funded if the SPLOST is approved. They would receive a total of $1.875 million, or about 2.84% of the total.

Officials with the smaller cities say their share is very important to them.

"We probably won't be able to do some of our projects without it," said Cohutta Mayor Ron Shinnick.

Cohutta would receive $378,560 if voters approve the SPLOST. The biggest item on its list is $150,000 for renovations to town buildings.

"We are going to do some things at Town Hall. It has some roof issues. We want to put a generator in there, so we know we'll have power in emergencies," Shinnick said. "We'll also be doing some work on our community center. It's used for birthday parties, weddings, family reunions. It's used probably a couple of hundred times a year. It needs some painting on the inside, some sheetrock work. We need to work on the kitchen, some new appliances."

Cohutta would also receive $125,000 for public safety.

"Not right away, but probably in two or three years, we'll be buying a couple of new police cars," said Shinnick. "We'll also be getting some new technology, upgrading the computers in our cars."

Tunnel Hill would receive $490,945 if the SPLOST is approved. The largest item on its projects list is $300,000 for the city's historic train depot. Officials hope to turn it into a community center.

"So far, we have repainted the building, put new mortar in," said City Manager Blake Griffin. "We've cleaned out the inside. We tore the ceiling out, and we are about halfway through replacing the roof."

The city would also receive $145,945 for sewer. Griffin said there's a trunk line that runs up Highway 41, through the city and east to Coahulla Creek High School.

"Sewer is vital to development and to redevelopment. We've got a lot of houses with failing septic systems, and if they are on small lots they may not be able to replace the septic. They are going to need sewer," he said.

Varnell would receive $1.055 million if the SPLOST passes. The largest item on its project list is $267,000 for capital improvements in its parks and recreation department.

"We want to add some more equipment to our playground. We want to add a dog park and a covered picnic area," said Mayor Tom Dickson.

Varnell would also receive $240,000 for a new garbage truck, $100,000 to extend sewer to more of the city and $35,000 for sidewalks.

A SPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county that can be used for capital projects and some other items but not operating expenses.

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