Comments were taken in writing at the Clarence Brown Conference Center concerning proposed projects including 11 in Bartow County and 94 others spread across the remaining 14 counties in the northwest Georgia region.
Jeff Lewis, GDOT board member representing Bartow and the 11th Congressional District, spoke on the importance of infrastructure investment and expressed his approval of legislatures putting the measure before voters rather than approving of it independently.
"Of all the things Georgians are asked to vote on, tax wise, this is probably one of the better ones for voters to consider," Lewis said. "Transportation infrastructure is needed, both in the county and the region as a whole. I don't think anyone would dispute the need for it.
"Transportation is the single most important thing that can accommodate economic development. Nothing can have more of an impact for positive economic development than good transportation infrastructure."
The proposed list was created by an executive roundtable of county commissioners and mayors then reviewed by a larger roundtable of mayors before submitted for public comment. Paulding County Chairman of the Board of Commissioners David Austin oversaw the executive roundtable discussions. His observations, echoed by others in attendance, was a fair conversation in which a formula was devised for calculating project and financial disbursement.
"I was just amazed. ... If you think that this is 15 counties with 12 regional commissions -- and I think our project list was the first to be completed. We prayed before every meeting and we did a pledge," Austin said.
Tuesday's meeting may have covered more than 100 projects, but a number of attendees had only one in mind. The Coalition for the Right Road showed up with signs in hand opposing the much-debated 411 Connector redirecting U.S. 411 linking Rome and Interstate 75. Coalition members stood along SR 20 and at the conference center entrance quietly protesting the chosen route defended by the Rollins family.
Tracy Rogers and his wife Leslie Crawford moved to Bartow for an escape from busy roadways like the one which as proposed will lie just a quarter mile from their home. As members of the coalition, Rogers and Crawford cite fiscal and ecological reasons for opposing route D-VE and its inclusion on the proposed TSPLOST project list.
"D-VE became a battle between the family who owns Dobbins Mountain and the people at GDOT," Rogers said. "The truth is, there's a lot of people out here that are opposed to it for other reasons and the best reason for not going through Dobbins Mountain is ecological damage. I mean, when are we going to hit that tipping point where the planet is not going to be habitable for humans? When are we going to destroy enough?"
The next public meeting will be held Thursday at the Whitfield County Courthouse in Dalton from 5 to 7 p.m. The proposed project list is scheduled for a final vote by the roundtable on Sept. 29. Voting on the matter will take place next year. The Georgia General Assembly will decide in their regular session whether the vote will take place in the July primary or the November general election.