Where do you want to see your money spent? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Where do you want to see your money spent?

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Albany city leaders are trying to decide how to spend $53 Million in expected sales tax revenue, if taxpayers pass another SPLOST referendum.

They are identifying priority projects for the city. and unlike some of the sales tax projects of the past, this next grouping will focus on essential equipment and infrastructure for Albany.

Broken, cracked and uneven sidewalks. If you don't travel them everyday, it's no big deal. "When someone don't have to use a wheelchair, sidewalk improvements are not important to them," said Willie Williams.  He is disabled and travels through Albany on his motorized wheelchair. "It's my only transportation."

Folks like Williams are why the city has listed sidewalk repair as a $2 Million priority for the upcoming SPLOST referendum. "That sounds very nice," he said.

And the infrastructure improvement proposals go well beyond sidewalks. Sewers, storm drainage and street improvements are big ticket items.  City Public Works Director Phil Roberson said, "Even though they are out of sight and out of mind, they're very vital to the infrastructure of the community."

Most of our sanitary sewer lines were built 50 to 60 years ago and are in disrepair. Asinkhole along 16th Avenue was caused by gas erosion. For each mile of sewer lines repaired, the city will spend about $1 Million. A cost too big to pass along to ratepayers, but too important to ignore.

Roberson said, "These are our obligations that are our number one responsibility, public safety, the roads and the sewers."

The Albany airport may also get some money for major improvements. The terminal here was built more than 50 years ago and needs a major upgrade. Upgrades there, could increase traffic to the airport in the future.  Director Yvette Aehle said, "We hope that the positive environment will give a more positive feedback into Albany and enable us to go back to ASA and other carriers and say, 'look at what we have now to serve our community and we feel you need to give us another shot and look at it'."

While special projects , like the Civil Rights Institute and Thronateeska Heritage Museum are often tacked on to SPLOST referendums, this time, community projects that aren't essential to citizens, haven't made the cut.

Mayor Willie Adams said, "They can see the Thronateeska, they can see the Civil Rights building, but underground is just as important as those visual things we've talked about." Maintaining solid infrastructure, giving the city solid ground to build on in the future.

Each city commissioner can earmark a million dollar project they would like to see make the list. One example is the SOWEGA Senior Center. A $4 Million request by the organization didn't make the cut, but Mayor Willie Adams said he wants to put his money toward that project.

Of course, no list will be approved and final until you vote on it. Taxpayers will vote on extending the local option sales tax in November.

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