As county commissioners each prepare a list of projects in their districts to be funded with a proposed 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax, Cupid says spending $25 million on building more sidewalks is her top priority.
Cupid estimates her south Cobb district would collect $80 to $100 million during a six year SPLOST. County Chairman Tim Lee says a six year SPLOST would collect a total of $750 million.
Other list-topping projects include updating support technology, improving public facilities and providing better public safety resources.
On July 22, the board is expected to decide on a final list of projects to be spread over the four or six years, during which a new round of SPLOST money would be available if voters approve a November referendum.
“I haven’t made my list definite,” Cupid said. “I’ve come up with a list, but I still think there needs to be balancing from a cost perspective.
“I’m trying to look at some areas that really have not been on the radar that need some attention,” she added.
The south Cobb representative expressed concern about the pace at which the county is moving on SPLOST initiatives.
“It feels a little uncomfortable that this is how we’re moving forward with investing in our SPLOST,” Cupid said. “I question whether we’re giving (voters) an ideal amount of time to really flesh through what they’ll be investing a penny in.”
Cupid said she wants to place an emphasis on making her district as pedestrian-friendly as possible.
She listed sidewalks, streetscaping and making the area friendly to bicyclists as steps she would take toward realizing the goal. The amount of funds set aside for sidewalk projects in the last round of SPLOST was not enough to keep up with the area’s need for roadside walkways, Cupid said.
“What I’ve seen offered from DOT for sidewalks in the district is still not going to meet the already-stated demand,” she said, “let alone new demand that’s probably going to come up in the next six years.”
Cupid said the county had set aside $12 to 15 million for sidewalks across all districts, with just $5 million for her district.
“I need to see at least a minimum of $20 million — perhaps $25 million — for sidewalks, just to meet already-stated demand,” she said.
While Cupid acknowledged such a heavy focus on sidewalks would divert dollars from other road projects in the district, she said street projects, such as repaving, would remain on the table.
But other road proposals would take a back seat to sidewalk construction.
“My No. 1 issue from (constituent) feedback before (coming into) office, in office, has been sidewalks.”
Outdated technology has hampered more than just productivity in her district’s office, Cupid said.
“Technology has been something that we haven’t really been investing in like we should,” she said. “We’re really limiting our capacity for efficiency.”
Cupid said the county government sometimes struggles to attract new hires with its outmoded office technology.
“They’re concerned their skill set is going to become quickly outdated with what we provide here at the county,” she said of county employees. “It limits me, even from just a work perspective, because I had a very slow-running computer,” Cupid added.
Beyond putting new computers on county desktops, Cupid said she wants to use a cut of SPLOST funds to build a better online infrastructure. She used the example of a small business in need of a license to illustrate how useful such an infrastructure could be to constituents.
The owners of a business could one day visit “an online one-stop shop for various applications,” Cupid explained, where all of the county’s resources could be accessed on a website dedicated to helping different organizations and individuals.
“But we need to have infrastructure to do that,” she said.
Of the $80 to $100 million south Cobb would receive in SPLOST funds over a six-year stretch by what she refers to as the “Lisa Cupid methodology,” roughly $10 million may go toward building a new recreation center in the Marietta-Osborne area.
“They have no real community facility there, which puts a lot of stress on the school system because students are utilizing that campus — sometimes when they should be, sometimes when they shouldn’t be — just to find recreation,” Cupid said.
Eddie Canon, director of the county’s parks department, said the proposed center would provide Osborne residents of all ages with community programs.
“We would have classes, athletic leagues and all types of camps,” Canon said of the proposed facility. “Summer camp is one of the largest programs we do county-wide in our recreation centers. We would also be able to partner with volunteer organizations on activities that those organizations sponsor.”
Canon said the county has not yet settled on a location for the center, nor has it sorted through which programs the center would provide.
“Our typical recreation center has a gymnasium, multipurpose rooms for a large variety of classes and rooms for the community to use,” Canon said of similar facilities. “We normally have a kitchen in our recreation centers.”
Cupid said she would set aside a cut of the funds to restore Fire Station 1 on Mableton Parkway by Veterans Memorial Highway.
Fire Chief Randy Crider said the dated station is beyond the point of repairs.
“We’re really at the critical point where we feel like we’re throwing taxpayer money at something that needs to be replaced rather than repaired,” Crider said.
“The current facility was built in 1968, and of course we know what goes along with a building with that kind of age on it,” he added.
Over the past five years, Crider said the station has undergone assorted improvements, including a kitchen remodel and the addition of new lights.
“We kind of put a Band-Aid on things,” he said.
In 2005, the county purchased a nearby piece of land on which to relocate the station, Crider said, but hasn’t been able to pay for construction since. Crider estimates the relocation will cost around $3 million.
The station is among six county firehouses that need attention.
“We have one where the bay area is so small that we have to order a special truck that will fit in that bay. A lot of these facilities just don’t meet our needs,” Crider noted. “Their useful life has ended, but we know we can only replace a certain number of these at a time.”
Other public facilities that could see SPLOST money include the south Cobb tag office off Austell Road near South Cobb High School and the county woodwork shop, which sits at the intersection of Roswell Street and Cobb Parkway.
“When you come into our tag office in south Cobb, you’re going to have extended waiting times compared to other areas of Cobb, because we don’t have the space to put in sufficient staff to run those offices,” she said.
The county’s woodworking house, the facility where all cabinetry, shelving, carpentry and doors for county buildings are made, is in “horrible, deplorable condition,” Cupid said, and will find a place on her SPLOST list.
“I just can’t believe we have a county facility that looks this horrendous.”
Cupid said she would set aside money to revamp her district’s police precinct, located in the same government services building as the tag office, providing a new enclosure for precinct cars to keep them safer at the station as well as a crop of take-home vehicles for county officers.
Smaller projects on her docket include adding more seats to the Mable House Amphitheatre, which Cupid said has too few seats to consistently turn a profit.
Robert Edwards, the facility’s coordinator, said adding more seats to the venue could have a “dramatic effect” on the surrounding area.
“Basically, adding more seats would increase the revenue potential for each concert, allowing us to book larger artists in the venue,” Edwards said. Expanding the amphitheater’s concert season programming would “increase revenue to local businesses and restaurants,” he added.
Constituents of District 4 can weigh in on proposed SPLOST projects at a meeting July 10 at 7 p.m. in the South Cobb Community Center.