It was standing room only Tuesday night at Sope Creek Elementary School for a combined informational meeting about Sope Creek Bridge and SPLOST IV.
Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott and Cobb School Board Member Scott Sweeney spent a little over an hour speaking to about 150 east Cobb residents about Paper Mill Road improvements, the Sope Creek Bridge replacement and the fourth special purpose local option sales tax, which is scheduled to go before voters March 19.
Ott said the Paper Mill Road repairs will include the county’s cleaning up, grading and putting in streetlights around a dangerous curve along the road where accidents have resulted in a number of deaths or serious injuries.
He also said construction of the bridge over Sope Creek, which is estimated to cost around $1.1 million, will include removing the existing piers so no portion of the bridge is in the creek, adding tone colors to the concrete and stone veneer to help it blend into the natural setting, and building a sidewalk.
Utility lines will also be placed under the bridge and out of sight.
Construction is scheduled to start just before the end of the school year in May, and the bridge will be closed to traffic for about five months, beginning the day after school ends.
Questions from those in attendance included whether the hiking trails at the national park would remain open, if the upgrade would continue to prohibit trucks along the runway and if the improvements would maximize the visibility of the area. Ott replied, “yes” on all points.
The second half of the meeting was dedicated to Sweeney, who opened his discussion of the $717.8 million SPLOST IV with the statement, “I’m not here to tell you how to vote.”
Last week he was accused by an east Cobb resident of advocating for the referendum, which is not allowed by state law if school district resources are used.
A majority of Sweeney’s 30-minute session involved his taking questions from the audience.
One resident asked why the board did not wait until November 2013 to host the special election when some people argue the turnout will be better and the school Cobb and Marietta districts would not have to pay for it.
Sweeney said the March date allows for a “seamless” continuation of collections between SPLOST III and SPLOST IV, and he said next month’s special election is costing $20,000 more than it would next fall.
He was also asked why five more theaters are proposed in the referendum at a ticket price of nearly $90 million when Lassiter High School’s concert hall was supposed to serve the county.
In response to why Walton High School specifically needs a theater, Sweeney said Walton’s Symphony Orchestra can’t even fit in its own venue, which was built shortly after the school’s construction in 1975.
He also said it was his understanding that the Lassiter music hall was not designed to fit all events because there would still be a number of scheduling conflicts with events.
One of the last questions was about the nearly $30 million career academy.
“You’re asking us to vote on something we don’t know anything about,” a resident said.
Sweeney responded by saying that the district is hoping to work with Cobb’s colleges and universities to determine which of the 17 pathways may be included in the academy, along with waiting to hear from the state about the recommendations of the College and Career Ready Performance Index.
For a detailed list of the SPLOST IV project list, visit cobbk12.org.