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City still talking about tax project
Glynn County officials predict all county projects on the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 4 list will be completed within the year.

But that doesn't mean the county will be able to close the books on SPLOST 4, the fourth in a series of special purpose taxes approved by voters more than a decade ago, in 2001.

The lone project on the list that isn't in the process of being built is a project in the city of Brunswick that was once called the Oglethorpe Convention Center.

The project, near the intersection of Bay and Newcastle streets, has been the subject of on and off discussion by city officials for more than a decade.

One reason for the delay on how to develop the area was a prolonged dispute between the city and county over whether to expand the county jail downtown or build a new jail outside the city, Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson said.

"This project was on the books since before I was mayor (more than seven years ago)," he said.

Thompson says the delay probably helped the city, because of how the economy has changed since voters approved the referendum to fund the $3 million project.

"The whole market changed for how the facility was designed," he said.

Despite the inaction by city officials, Thompson says he believes, and it his goal, that a decision will be made before his term in office expires at the end of the year.

"It's by no means a dead project," he said. "But it's not just a stand-alone project."

The concept being considered now is called the Oglethorpe Meeting House, he said.

The intent remains basically the same -- to be an anchor that will attract the private sector to develop the area, Thompson said.

Thompson says he has a bigger concern than making a decision before his term expires.

"The only sense of urgency I have is to make sure it is designed well," he said. "I don't want to react to pressure that there's $3 million out there and we have to spend it."

County Administrator Alan Ours says the four remaining county projects on the SPLOST 4 list -- improvements to recreation facilities on St. Simons Island and at the North Glynn Recreation Complex, $2.5 million in road projects and improvements at Blythe Island Regional Park to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act-- should be completed within a year. The projects are either under construction or in the bidding process.

As for the city project, Ours says county commissioners have indicated they would like the city to make a decision and move forward with the project so the books can be closed on SPLOST 4 projects.

"I would like very much for the project to move forward," Ours said. "SPLOST 4 has been around a long time, and the county would like to see it completed. Once these other projects are done, we'd like to close this account."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about government and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswick, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 323.

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