Commission chair talks project funding

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2024

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During a presentation to the LaGrange Lions Club on Tuesday, Troup County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews spoke about the funding for several ongoing and recently completed county projects.

Crews spoke about and answered questions on the renovations at the William Griggs Center, the Oakfuskee Conservation Center, the Whiteville Road Soccer Complex conversion and the upcoming Pickleball facility.

Crews explained that the county was able to accomplish these projects by utilizing outside dollars combined with local SPLOST funds to get the best bang for the buck for local taxes.

“We were in a unique time when money was flowing. A lot of money was flowing from the federal government and from the state. They were pumping a lot of money into the economy but that money had stipulations on the way we could spend it. We couldn’t just put it in our regular checking account and buy a fire truck or build a fire station. We had stipulations on where it could be spent and the types of projects,” Crews said.

Crews said one of the biggest projects, the renovations at the William Griggs Center, started with a 55-cent letter.

A letter sent by LaGrange native and current University of Virginia athletics director Carla Williams to the Callaway Foundation inspired nearly $10 million in renovations to the community recreation center where she grew up.

While local taxes in the form of SPLOST funds did pay for a small portion of the renovations, Crews said the vast majority came from other sources.

For the first phase, the Callaway Foundation put in $2 million, the federal government gave $1.2 million, SPLOST provided $300,000 and the City of LaGrange put in $1.2 million, Crews said.

The second phase, which includes the new public pool, was paid for using $1 million from the Callaway Foundation, $2.2 million from the state, 1.5 million from SPLOST and $300,000 from LaGrange.

Crews said that the idea of building something on West Point Lake at Pine Road Park went back several decades but doing so is difficult because it has to be cleared by the Army Corps of Engineers. When the idea for Oakfuskee came about, the county requested $3 million for the project in the SPLOST but by the time architectural designs came in the facility had ballooned to a $9 million project.

Crews said with some “value engineering” they were able to get the costs down to around $6 million but they still needed much more funding which they were able to get from state and federal grants and the Callaway Foundation.

When Oakfuskee was completed it was done with $1.5 million from the Callaway Foundation, $1.5 from the state, $5.5 million from the federal government, $4.53 million from SPLOST along with a half million in capital funds.

As for the upkeep of the facility, it’s more than paying for itself and is already booking into 2026.

“I think that long term this is going to be a big draw for this community for our lake. Sure, we put a lot of money into it. A lot of this money came to us from outside sources,” Crews said.

Crews also briefly discussed the conversion of the former Whitesville Road Elementary School to an athletic complex and the creation of a new Pickleball Complex near the senior center.

The county is converting the former school into a soccer and basketball complex to serve recreation department programming using $200,000 in federal funding, $1 million in SPLOST funds, and $200,000 in capital funds.

Funding for the Pickleball complex comes from a $500,000 grant from the Callaway Foundation and a $2.2 million grant from the governor’s office.

“The general rule of thumb for SPLOST is that 35% of that is paid by out-of-town people that come here to pay that extra sales tax,” Crews said. “That’s why it’s so important that you create things that make people want to come here.”

For all of the projects, the county received $5 million from the Callaway Foundation, $6.2 million from the state, $6.9 from the federal government, $7.3 million from SPLOST and $1.5 million from the city and other sources to the tune of $700,000.

“Take the SPLOST of $7.3 million and you take off 35%, which is about $2.5 million, assuming that money is what comes in from people that visit Troup County. Take that number and add it up, the citizens of LaGrange and Troup County paid about $6.3 million out of those projects for a total of $27,600,000,” Crews said.

“We invested about $6 million and we got in return almost $28 million in projects here in our community.”

“That was a very wise decision on our part as your leaders, but also on you as citizens for supporting us, giving us SPLOST. That really helps us leverage what we can do in our community,” Crews said.