Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, opposes spending the funds, which would come from a 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax renewal vote in November, on two new facilities for Cobb first responders.
The first is a $55 million new headquarters and evidence storage room for the Cobb Police Department. The second is $52.9 million for a new training facility for police and firefighters.
Ott opposes both, saying officers are more concerned about pay and vehicles.
Commissioner Helen Goreham, on the other hand, believes the new buildings would be a good investment.
“We need to have the highest level of training possible,” Goreham said. “We are outgrowing the facility and technologically we need an update.”
Goreham said the training facility was built in 1992, when the Cobb police and fire departments had about 800 employees. Today, there are almost 1,500, according to Cobb Public Safety Director Sam Heaton.
Police officers have requested higher pay in recent months, but Goreham said SPLOST money legally cannot be used for salaries or benefits. She did say one SPLOST line item involves a take-home car policy for some officers, which she supports.
The new training facility would have an indoor firing range. Goreham said neighbors around the firing range often complain about the noise.
Cobb district commissioners say they’re opposed to throwing in $100 million toward a bus rapid transit line as part of the SPLOST vote.
Commissioners Lisa Cupid, JoAnn Birrell, Ott and Goreham all said they’re leaning against the project’s inclusion in the SPLOST list. They also fear voters won’t approve the sales tax if the bus rapid transit line, which would run from Kennesaw State University to Midtown Atlanta, is part of it.
“I’m leaning against it,” said Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb. “I still haven’t seen the impact studies and environmental studies on that. I think there’s a need for other improvements and infrastructure we need to look at first before the BRT. I’m very concerned about the SPLOST being affected, it may not pass if it’s on there because of what happened with the T-SPLOST.”
T-SPLOST was a 1 percent sales tax that would have been levied in the 10-county metro Atlanta area for transportation projects. It failed in 2012, with 65 percent of voters opposing the tax.
Commission Chairman Tim Lee supports the project, but appears to have no support from his board.
Commissioners were given a master list of potential SPLOST projects totaling more than $1 billion from county departments this week. They now have to decide which projects they want to see included in a potential six-year SPLOST, which is expected to bring in $750 million.
The term “bus rapid transit” isn’t found in the line item from the Cobb Department of Transportation. It’s referred to as a “high capacity multi-modal transit along Cobb Parkway” instead.
The description details how the system will allow for “improved access/mobility for existing businesses and future business growth.”
Goreham said she can’t support the rapid transit dollars “at this point” and would rather see the project financed some other way.
“The details of financing haven’t been shared and if there’s any chance that it might hurt the passage of the SPLOST, I’m not willing to take that chance,” said Goreham, who represents west Cobb. “I believe in the value of a SPLOST. Historically, it works. It’s cost-effective and it keeps our property taxes low.”
Ott picked up on the new name for the BRT, saying it appears to be a “rebranding” so people don’t realize it’s the BRT.
Birrell said one of her biggest concerns is having a police precinct in her northeast Cobb district.
“There is not a police precinct in District 3,” Birrell said. “I’d like to see something in the Shallowford-Sandy Plains area because right now that area all, all the way to Highway 92, is serviced by precinct four on Lower Roswell Road.”
Birrell said she’s been pushing for a police precinct in her district since she was first elected in 2010.
Though there is no precise location listed, the SPLOST list includes the addition of an $8 million new police precinct which would be located either in Birrell’s or Goreham’s district.
The item says the new precinct “will improve officer availability at shift change” and “will improve patrolling in the area.”
The $8 million price tag is for both a new police precinct and a new fire station. A stand-alone police station would cost $5 million, according to SPLOST documents.
Other big projects on the list include $30.4 million in technology upgrades, $20 million in renovations to Jim Miller Park near Marietta, $20 million in improvements to Lost Mountain Park in west Cobb, $20 million for improvements to Pitner Road Park in west Cobb, $10 million for a new tennis complex at Perry Parham Park near Marietta and $24.7 million to replace the county’s five oldest fire stations.
Transportation projects include $35 million for new sidewalks, $20 million to match federal and state funding for transportation projects, $10 million for road improvements to be specified at a later date, $101 million for road resurfacing, $30 million for a Windy Hill Road/Terrell Mill Road Connector and $21 million for improvements to Mars Hill Road and Lost Mountain Road.