TSPLOST passes, Riverwatch expansion first up for Columbia Co.

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. -- The votes are in and TSPLOST has passed in the CSRA.

That means a 1-cent increase to the sales tax for transportation projects throughout the area. That 1-cent sales tax will begin on Jan. 1 and will be used to fund over 80 projects throughout 13 counties.

In Columbia County, first on the list is the expansion of Riverwatch Parkway, and it's something that's causing a mixed reaction.

Joon Kho and his family opened Evans Cleaners off Old Petersburg Road 12 years ago with one purpose in mind.

"Even though this place is kinda far away from a lot of traffic, she knew about this project and she knew that once this road expanded it would bring in a lot of traffic -- that's why she chose this place," Kho said.

More than a decade later, it's still not done.

"We're just waiting," Kho said.

But after voters passed TSPLOST on Tuesday, their wait is almost over.

Matt Schlachter, director of Construction and Maintenance in Columbia County, said, "Riverwatch Parkway is our number one priority in Columbia County. That project has been going on for a long time."

Now the money from TSPLOST will help them complete it. About 54 percent voted for the 1 percent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects while 46 percent voted against it.

"I know it was a topic of a lot of discussion. Was it needed, was it not needed? We're glad to have the opportunity to collect this money," Schlachter said. "There's a lot of project's we're gonna build with this money, a lot of needed projects. It's gonna help traffic flow, get people moving from Richmond County to Columbia County, hopefully bring some businesses out here."

For businesses that traffic flow may be great, but those who live along the road don't feel the same way.

"If we had known that they were gonna take as much of our front yard as they are, we would've bought somewhere else," said Richard Cleveland, who lives on Old Petersburg Road.

The expansion will cut about 10 feet into his yard.

"I have a grandchild that I like to play with in my front yard, and it's already dangerous with the traffic and now you're talking about more traffic and people drive up and down here like it's I-20, so I don't think it's a good idea. I really don't," he said.

But Cleveland says he's not against TSPLOST in general, just the plans to take away part of his yard.

"If it's gonna generate some more income so the city can do what it needs to do, then it's good," he added.

That tax increase will begin on Jan. 1. They are hoping to have some money in to the county by March and start projects, like the Riverwatch expansion, by next summer.

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