SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah is still finalizing the plan for the new arena project. A third town hall meeting was held Wednesday night to get public input and talk about extending SPLOST.
Alderman Van Johnson held the meeting in District 1 – the district where the arena will be built. Of course, the arena brought a lot of discussion, but SPLOST 7 also did. Next year, Chatham County residents will get to vote on whether they want to keep the extra penny on their current sales tax – or get rid of it.
SPLOST – which stands for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – is exclusively used for capital projects and is voted on every six years.
“We have a long way to go in many communities, but SPLOST has definitely been the way that we have been able to create equity in many of our communities, allows us to build big things that our general fund can just not support," Alderman Johnson said.
Big things like the arena come from SPLOST. Many people brought signs to protest the sales tax. Some say some of the money designated for the arena needs to come back into the areas that will be impacted by it.
“We know people are going to come buy tickets to the shows and whatever, but at the same time, there is money that can be generated that can come back into these impacted neighborhoods and that’s not happening," said community activist, Pam Oglesby.
Alderman Johnson says the purpose of the town hall meetings are to discuss what type of projects citizens would like to see funded. He even has a few projects on his personal wish list.
“We have aging sewers and pipes and I think that has to be addressed. We have streets that are old that have not been paved in years. I would really like to see that, and then we have community parks and community centers that have not seen attention in many years," Johnson said.
Johnson also says the arena is needed for Savannah, and it’s past time for it.
“And we are pumping money into a building that is really over 40 years old. It makes sense for us. If we are going to be a world class city, we have to have world class facilities," he said.
Oglesby says if we want to be a world class city, we need to fix other problems too.
“When these kind of developments come into an area as much money that’s going to be generated from this arena, our problems should get fixed from some of the money that’s coming into the area," Oglesby said.
More town hall meetings will be held about the arena and SPLOST. For a full list of scheduled meetings, click here.