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Regional Transportation Roundtable Forms
Monday, 24 January 2011

January 24--  A group of area mayors and county commission chairmen are organizing a Regional Transportation Roundtable to implement a new state law on funding of transportation projects, primarily road paving and resurfacing.

In our area, the roundtable includes seventeen counties and 63 towns.  At an organizational meeting last Thursday night in Mount Vernon, the group elected its executive committee including Mayor R. Bayne Stone of Hazlehurst, Mayor Billy Trapnell of Metter, Mayor Joey Fountain of Mount Vernon, Toombs County Commission Chairman Buddy West and Laurens County Commission Chairman Buddy Adams who was elected to chair the group.

"I think we've come together and we'll try to look after each other, each county and each city, to get this thing going.  We need to work together to benefit all citizens of this region," Adams said.

The funding will come from a one percent sales tax for transportation which all the governments will share starting in 2013 if the voters approve the regional tax when they vote in the Primary Elections of 2012.

"I think this will help us keep our ad valorem taxes down, too," Adams says.  "Without a sales tax, we couldn't survive in our county today," he noted.

State officials project the transportation sales tax in this area will raise an estimated $35,267,000 for this region in 2013.

The Director of Planning for the Department of Transporation,Todd Long, has conducted organizational meetings like the one in Mount Vernon all over the state and is optimistic about making the new funding formula work.

"Statewide we're very optimistic.  We've gotten tremendous feedback from a lot of the regions, and this region is OK, too.  We had some discussions about how to change the criteria, but overall, my optimism after finishing off 12 meetings is much higher than it was when I began," he said.

Members of the Roundtable Executive Committee expect to have a list of projects for approval and prioritization by the end of March.  Once the list is set, officials in each jurisdiction will attempt to educate voters on why they should vote for the new sales tax in 2012.  If approved, the sales tax would remain in effect for ten years.

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