Editorial: Public attendance at SPLOST advisory committee meetings has been light so far; that needs to change

Three meetings in, and the general public's attendance to observe the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) citizen advisory committee is what we expected.

Not good.

So far the public hasn't taken a keen interest in the advisory committee's work. Attendance has been light, with a few elected officials and others who are regulars at local government meetings showing up. That's consistent with the public's attendance at Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, various city councils, school board and other local government meetings.

The group of 16 members and two alternates is tasked with studying projects for a potential future SPLOST, then recommending to elected officials which items should be listed on the ballot. The committee has no actual power as elected officials will decide what projects county residents will vote on.

A SPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county. The revenue can only be used for capital spending and special projects. This past March, voters turned down a proposed six-year, $100 million SPLOST.

While we would like to see more public participation at the committee meetings, we understand why attendance has been light. The meetings are on weeknights when many are busy with their children's activities (football, dance, etc.) or are tired after a long day at work. Two meetings have been on Wednesday — which is a traditional church night in our area.

All meetings so far have been in the fifth floor conference room at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Dalton. That is Whitfield County government's new home base. Perhaps people aren't sure exactly where they should go to attend a meeting.

The next meeting is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Edwards Park community center in Varnell. If you are not able to attend, the county is livestreaming the next meeting and future meetings at livestream.com/accounts/25637515/events/7960637. We commend county officials for making the meetings available online in real time.

We would certainly like to see more people attend and take an increased interest in a potential SPLOST. A new SPLOST could have an enormous impact on our community.

It will be your decision. And your money.

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