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Regional roads group meets today
Tasked with determining list of road tax projects
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Dawsonville plans to submit a downtown resurfacing project to a group tasked with influencing the direction of a proposed regional transportation tax, though the mayor is skeptical of its chances.

 

Members of a newly formed roundtable of the 13-county Georgia Mountains Regional Commission are set to hold their first official meeting at 5 p.m. at the Lumpkin County Parks and Recreation offices at 365 Riley Road in Dahlonega.

 

The meeting marks the region’s first significant step toward a 2012 vote on whether to levy a 1-cent sales tax for transportation.

 

“What I’m hearing from people, I don’t think the voters are going to go for it,” said Mayor Joe Lane Cox.

 

Dawson County currently has 1-cent sales taxes that fund education, public safety and other government projects.

 

“There are so many 1-cent taxes, people are getting tired of it,” Cox said.

 

Each county and city government in the region submitted a list of transportation projects for consideration.

 

Commission Chairman Mike Berg said Dawson County’s proposed projects include widening Hwy. 53 near the Forsyth County line and improving the Dawson Forest Road-Hwy. 9 crossing.

 

The county would also like to possibly widen Lumpkin Campground Road.

 

“Basically, because of the criteria, we are very limited in our selection,” he said. “The improvements must be for state roads that benefit more than one area.”

 

A transportation tax was a hot legislative issue before the General Assembly passed the Transportation Investment Act last year.

 

The law allows voters within established districts throughout Georgia to decide whether to add the sales tax to pay for transportation and transit improvements, from new roads to maintenance and operation.

 

Berg said the key is to put the issue before voters.

 

“Getting it on the ballot gets us 20 percent more than what we would get under future DOT allocations,” he said.

 

Each regional commission must knit together a regional transportation group, including a county and city representative from each county in the region.

 

“Wednesday’s meeting will have the opportunity to vote for the representatives from those regions,” Berg said.

 

To proceed toward a 2012 vote on the tax, the roundtable must decide on a final project list by Oct. 15.

 

If voters within the district approve the tax, the state would begin distributing proceeds in 2013, with 75 percent of the money dedicated to regional projects decided on by the roundtable and 25 percent going to local governments using their discretion on projects.

 

Adam Hazell, planning director at the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, said the first meeting is mainly logistical in nature.

 

“It’s for appointing members to serve on the executive committee and ratifying the criteria that’s going to be used for evaluating projects,” he said.

 

Georgia Department of Transportation staff will also “be on hand to make sure those things get done and that everyone has their questions answered,” Hazell said.

 

The region took part in a preliminary meeting last month in preparation for today’s meeting.

 

 

Jeff Gill of the DCN regional staff contributed to this story.

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