Numbers were small but margins of victory were wide when Catoosa County voters went to the polls on Tuesday.
Of the county’s 41,790 registered voters, a total of 1635 — 3.91 percent — cast ballots in a countywide referendum regarding an optional sales tax.
SPLOST, special purpose local option sales tax, is a penny-per-dollar tax that funds capital projects and is either renewed or expires every five years.
Catoosans adopted SPLOST in 2004 and in 2009 and again this week extended this self-imposed tax by a greater than 7-3 margin with 1,193 supporting the referendum and 442 opposed.
Fort Oglethorpe residents had the opportunity to vote in two elections: the SPLOST referendum and a special election to fill the city council seat vacated by Councilman Eddie Stinnett’s death last November.
In his first race for public office Clay Kissner defeated veteran politician Judd Burkhart by nearly the same 7-3 margin of victory as in the SPLOST vote.
Mr. Kissner received 403 votes, 72.6 percent of ballots cast either in advance voting or on election day.
Mr. Burkhart, who previously served on the council and as mayor, was the preferred choice of 152 voters.
Mr. Kissner said he wants to represent everyone living in the city and intends to run as an incumbent in the upcoming November election.
Mr. Kissner will be administered his oath of office at 2 p.m. this Friday and will attend his first council meeting the following Monday, March 25.
The newly elected councilman, a lifelong resident of Fort Oglethorpe, said revitalization of the downtown/LaFayette Road district is a critical need, as is supporting new and existing businesses.
Already scheduled for his first council meeting is a presentation of REFRESH Fort Oglethorpe’s masterplan for downtown (re)development.
The council is also expected to reconsider placing a referendum regarding Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages on the ballot this fall.
Last November, voters in Ringgold and the unincorporated areas of the county approved a referendum that allows such sales which left Fort Oglethorpe as the only part of the county that is “dry” on Sundays.
The decision by Fort Oglethorpe’s city council to not include a Sunday sales referendum on that November 2012 ballot has resulted in one de-annexation request for 42 acres of foreclosed property near the intersection of Dietz Road at Battlefield Parkway.
Officials with Northwest Georgia Bank asked that the property be removed from the city tax rolls because its sale is contingent on the possibility of seven-day-a-week sale of alcoholic beverages, either for onsite consumption or package sales.
County officials approved the de-annexation request, the city refused to discuss the issue, and the matter is being decided today by a vote in the state legislature.
State Senator Jeff Mullis and Rep.Tom Weldon, in a jointly signed letter, stated, “We are duty bound to promote the best interests of the citizens of Catoosa County, which includes the local economy.
“....Through the de-annexation of the 42 acres from the City of Fort Oglethorpe, opportunities are created and the clear directives of the citizens of Catoosa County are fulfilled as expressed in the November 2012 referendum.”