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Lancaster County Capital Sales Tax Commission members have begun parsing the details of public proposals and comments gathered over the past month that will help determine the future of the county’s 1 cent capital project sales tax.
With Lancaster County’s current 1 cent capital project sales tax set to expire next year with payoff of the $42 million Lancaster County Courthouse, commission members are now working to craft a November ballot measure for voters to decide if the tax should be reauthorized.
The commission’s shift in focus comes at the end of a five-week public comment period that ended Friday, May 30.
Commissioners have begun meeting weekly to set the project list by June 23 when they must present it to Lancaster County Council.
During meetings May 22, and Thursday, May 29, commission chairman Larry Durham reminded his fellow commission members of the hard work ahead of them over the coming weeks.
“The task, of course, will be to rank these projects,” Durham said. “It may come down to choosing one specific project and trying to make (others) fit around it, or spreading them out and funding several. I don’t know where it’ll lead.
“I want you to begin now thinking about these projects, and the benefits of these projects to the public,” he said.
By noon Friday, the commission had received 21 proposals from county residents and organizations.
Among the proposals:
u A $12.7 million proposal from the Lancaster County Library board for a new Lancaster main library and upgrades to the Kershaw and Del Webb libraries
u An estimated $20 million proposal from Lancaster County Parks and Recreation Department for a new sports complex in Lancaster; and $2 million to $3 million in upgrades to current facilities
u A $9.5 million proposal from Lancaster County Emergency Management to upgrade it’s outdated analog radio system to a new digital system
u An estimated $300,000 proposal from the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office for a forensic lab
Recently added to the list is a Lancaster County School District proposal requesting $6.3 million to expand its successful South Middle School Chromebook initiative to the entire school district.
The funding would buy Chromebook laptop computers for all third through 12th-grade students and faculty countywide and fund the purchase of digital infrastructure, software and equipment to support them.
Another major suggestion discussed by residents during the public hearings was to use the sales tax to repair roads and bridges in the county.
The problem for commissioners is that with the tax estimated to bring in only about $37.4 million over seven years, according to county analysts, the costs of roads could easily consume the entire tax.
“The problem is that when we first started this, the estimate was $40-something million and now it’s $37.4 million? That’s seven, eight million less,” vices chairman Ted Hoover said. “That’s a lot.
“Still, the public can rest assured this commission is going to act in the best interest of the county, and when it comes to roads, we’re going to be looking at the length of the road, condition, traffic and importance to the county,” he said. “But bear in mind that money is tight.”
During both meetings, commission members received information from county and state roads officials to help them study the issue, including lists of roads on the state’s road repair list, local state-maintained roads that didn’t make the list and county-maintained roads in need of repair.
Next week, commission members plan to conduct site visits to several places, including the Lancaster County Library, schools, parks and recreation facilities and, hopefully they said, problem roads in the central and southern parts of the county.
Durham said the “hard work” of choosing projects in earnest will likely begin after the commission’s June 10 meeting when they meet with county lawyers on the legal aspect of their task.
“We may not be able to get everybody’s project,” Durham said. “We may have to prioritize and do some of these as we go. We’re going to have to face it and squeeze in what we can out of $37 million.”
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151