The desire of state leadership to encourage a sense of regionalism across the state was much of the focus of discussion among Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs committee members Wednesday.
State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, recalled the initial meeting of representatives from across the 15-county region related to the development of a project list for the transportation tax.
“They didn’t want to be there,” Dempsey said. “It was wonderful to witness as they figured out how important it is to work together.”
Angie Lewis, chairwoman of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce, told the committee that leaders from the
Floyd, Bartow and Gordon county chambers will participate in a joint photo shoot next week to begin a last-minute effort to sway voters to support the transportation tax.
“We decided to save our limited advertising budget until the very end,” Lewis said.
Not everyone was sold on the regional teamwork concept.
“People in Polk County have absolutely no interest in what’s going on in Murray County,” said Rich Hammond, former Bekaert plant manager. “I don’t know if there is a quasi-sub-regional approach that can be tied to Rome.”
Hammond brought up the Ga. 400 tollbooth issue to illustrate how citizens have become disgruntled with government.
“Continuing the toll on 400 played right into their hands,” Hammond said. “The timing of that couldn’t have been worse.”
The tollbooths were supposed to have been taken down after bonds to pay for the road project northeast of Atlanta had been paid off, but the state just announced that those booths would remain in place even though the bonds have now been paid.
Dempsey pointed out that the TSPLOST is restricted to 10 years. It could only be extended with voter approval.
“There is a lot of information flowing around that is incorrect,” said Ansley Saville, who chairs the chamber committee.
She said a no vote would send a negative message to potential industries looking at sites across the entire 15-county Northwest Georgia region.
“The whole thing is economics,” said Rome City Commissioner Buzz Wachsteter. “It’s not about roads; it’s about jobs.”
Saville agreed, concluding, “I don’t think any one of us wants taxes, but the bottom line is jobs.”
The TSPLOST is expected to raise $1.4 billion during a 10-year period to finance road projects across the Northwest Georgia region.
Key Floyd County projects to be funded include the widening of Ga. 140 from Armuchee east to Interstate 75 in Bartow County and the widening of Ga. 101 from the Ledbetter Interchange south to Rockmart. Funds for the U.S. 411 connector to I-75 are also included on the list.