VALDOSTA — With the 18-county South Georgia region approving T-SPLOST, Lowndes County residents will see a 1 percent sales tax increase effective Oct. 1.
According to Corey Hull, transportation and environment director for Southern Georgia Regional Commission, the commission is moving forward with the transportation special purpose local option sales tax.
T-SPLOST will raise more than $500 million to fund about 150 transportation projects across the region, including nine for Valdosta and 12 for Lowndes County.
Tuesday, residents across the region voted 19,975 in favor to 17,731 against, according to a county-by-county compilation of results available at the Georgia Secretary of State's website. Lowndes County voted against T-SPLOST by 1,377 votes.
Hull said the commission is working with Georgia Department of Transportation on the next step as far as beginning the process for transportation projects in the region.
He said the commission is reviewing state law to see what it needs to do for implementation. A residents review panel will need to be created, which will monitor the projects as they proceed, he said.
Some of the smaller projects, such as road resurfacing, could start as soon as 2019, Hull said. Larger projects, such as widening Old Clyattville Road west of the interstate and installing an overpass on St. Augustine Road, will take more time to get off the ground.
Hull said the reactions from counties were varied.
"Some of them didn't know what to expect, but they knew it was going to be close," he said. "Some counties were much closer than they anticipated, while others really knew where their county stood on the matter."
Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter said he is glad T-SPLOST passed because there is a need for funding for transportation and road improvements in Lowndes County.
He said he would have liked for more residents in Lowndes County to have voted in favor, but he believes the people against were more motivated to make it to the polls than those in favor.
"If all of those in favor of it would have turned out, I think the margin would have been closer," Slaughter said. "I think those yes voters were more complacent while those against were really against it."
Slaughter said he wasn't surprised the vote was decided by the smaller, outlying counties. He said those counties lack the tax base that Lowndes has and are in more need of the projects.
Valdosta Mayor John Gayle said he also wasn't surprised by the vote but was very pleased with it.
"I'm happy that we were able to close the gap between those against and in favor," Gayle said. "We didn't have a campaign to really push for this last time in 2012 but I think it made it difference this go around."
There are those who are extremely dissatisfied with the vote and Gayle has heard from them. He said he hopes they can take a step back and see the good that will come from the projects.
Tim Golden, secretary for the State Transportation Board of Georgia, said he was extremely pleased, relieved and happy when he heard the results. Golden said he is happy Valdosta and Lowndes will join other regions that have approved T-SPLOST and receive the benefits of transportation projects.
"I think, in 10 years time, all of this anger and dissatisfaction will die down, and people will be pleased with the results and with how much we will improve," Golden said.
Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256