Water park eliminated from SPLOST project list

Sunday, June 25, 2023–12:23 p.m.

-Adam Carey, Rome News-Tribune-

The SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee rejected on Thursday a $20 million water park project for inclusion in the package that will be placed on the November ballot.

The committee is sifting through $175 million worth of projects proposed for funding with a 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax that could bring in up to $90 million at most.

Chairman Bob Berry requested that committee members vote on the water park project first, due to the cost of the request.

“The water park would take a huge part of the city’s SPLOST budget,” Berry said. “We need to address it first.”

The committee discussed the feasibility of the project, with some members pointing out that it’s the only project on the list that has the potential to bring in revenue.

Some members compared the water park to the Rome Tennis Center and the Rome Braves stadium, as projects that made sense mainly due to their economic impact in terms of visitor draw and hotel rooms sold.

However, many felt there were too many unknowns to the project — including staffing of lifeguards — and most were concerned with the $20 million price tag, saying that perhaps a private company could be brought in to build the park.

The question of who would operate the park was also discussed.

“The county has no desire to be in the water park business with the city,” Floyd County Commissioner Scotty Hancock said. “From an operational perspective, we’ve already got our hands full with the Ag Center.”

A new agricultural center was the major driver of the 2017 SPLOST, with $8 million earmarked in that $63.8 million package.

Rome City Manager Sammy Rich also informed the committee that the water park project was not endorsed by a majority of the city commissioners, which further eroded support for the project.

“I’m also concerned about the timing,” committee member Jake Hager said. “People are very upset now about property tax increases, and they are telling me that.”

The project was proposed by Rome City Commissioner Bill Collins, who was acting as a private citizen not as a commissioner.

“I’m friends with Bill; he’s been talking about this for year,” said committee member Evie McNiece, a former city commissioner. “It’s a brave idea, and he’s very positive about it, but I don’t think it makes sense.”

The final vote was 10-3 against including the project in the package. The committee will meet again next week to, hopefully, finalize the list.

This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at northwestgeorgianews.com:

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