Funded by sales tax and PCI
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Escambia County (Ala.) officials confirmed this week that money generated by the county’s recently passed sales tax, supplemented by funds from Poarch Band of Creek Indians, would be used to finance a planned $2 million-plus project that will put new surfaces on several county roads, including many that have been neglected for decades.
“The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is contributing one million dollars for infrastructure projects,” reported County Administrator Tony Sanks, who pointed out that “there is not yet a timeline established on the projects.”
Sanks said the PCI funding represents the second year of a three-year agreement under which the tribe will chip in $1 million per year for infrastructure improvements across the county.
Commissioners voted during their September 24 meeting to allocate “about $2.5 million” to resurface roads and shore up bridges that are not eligible for state or federal funding.
Commission Chairman Raymond Wiggins said during a recent appearance at Atmore’s SAIL Center that the one-year-old, one-cent countywide sales tax implemented last July had thus far produced the desired results.
“Thanks to the sales tax and Poarch, we’re going to finally be able to address some of the county’s worst roads, some of the ones that really need some work,” Wiggins said. “We won’t have the money to do all of them right off, but we’ll be able to get to some of the ones that really need it.”
Commissioner Brandon Smith, whose district includes Atmore and much of the surrounding area, said each commissioner has been asked to come up with a list of the roads in his district that are most in need of rehabilitation. Smith said Monday, October 8, that he would have his list finalized within a week and would make it public once he has done so.
The District 4 rep said he and other commissioners were happy that the county is finally able to make some much-needed repairs to the county’s roads and bridges without having to rely on state or federal funding sources.
“We finally have a way to address some of our infrastructure problems without having to wait for financial help from outside sources,” he said. “With our sales tax revenues we have been able to make up some of our budget shortfalls and put in an infrastructure program we’ve never had before. Some of our roads haven’t had any work on them for 40 or 50 years.”
Smith noted that not all the county’s roads and bridges would be brought up to speed during the first phase of the program, but commissioners hoped to eventually wipe out all the problems that now exist.
“We have nearly 900 miles of roads in Escambia County, and we can’t address them all at one time,” he said. “But if we know that we have money coming in every year, we are eventually going to address all of them.
“The people who live on our rural roads live, ride and pay taxes just like the folks that drive on the state roads. We had to find a way to address our decaying roads and bridges, and this is a way to finally do that.”
He added that the pending series of resurfacing and repair projects would also provide county residents with a means of assessing the expenditure of their tax dollars.
“With this, we will be able to show the taxpayers where their money went,” Smith said. “A lot of people are scared of taxes because they never see the results. To them, the money just goes into a bottomless pit. This way, they can lay their eyes on where their money is going.”