After serving more than three decades on the Effingham County Board of Education, Charlie Heidt was recognized Thursday night for his service.
Heidt, a member of the school board for 34 years before his retirement in 2006, received the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce’s Treutlen Award at the Chamber’s annual meeting.
“I appreciate this honor,” he said, “and I should have smelled a rat when I saw my grandkids here.”
Incoming Chamber president Talbert Edenfield read a letter from Gov. Nathan Deal to Heidt, paying tribute to Heidt’s many years on the school board and with the state school board association.
“Mr. Charlie Heidt’s service to Georgia is remarkable and worthy of special recognition,” Deal wrote. “He is one of the outstanding Georgians, and we are thankful for his contributions to education in our great state and our community.”
Heidt praised former schools superintendent Dr. Michael Moore, with whom he worked for many years, and current Superintendent Dr. Randy Shearouse.
“Over the years, I enjoyed working with some very good people in the Effingham County School System,” Heidt said. “I trust that our school system will move forward and do good things in the future.”
State Rep. Ann Purcell also encouraged the meeting’s attendees to support the Transportation Investment Act. The act’s funding provision, a one-cent special purpose local option sales tax, will be on the ballot July 31.
“A lot of us are saying we have to pass the tax,” Purcell said.
Much of the state’s transportation measures, particularly repairs and upgrades, have been funded through gasoline taxes, Purcell pointed out. But the revenues from gasoline taxes have been declining, she said, as fewer people are driving and are finding ways to use less gasoline.
“But the demands for new roads and new bridges are still there,” she said.
If approved, the tax will be assessed throughout counties that comprise the state’s regional commissions. Effingham is one of 10 counties in the Coastal Regional Commission, so the taxes collected in the 10-county area would remain in that area, Purcell said.
“It won’t go statewide,” she said. “It will only go to the 10 counties right here.”
Originally, lawmakers looked at a statewide T-SPLOST before choosing to enact the one-cent taxes on a regional basis. The T-SPLOST, if approved, will last for 10 years. If the projects listed to be completed through T-SPLOST revenues are finished before the 10-year window ends, the tax will cease, Purcell said.
State projections call for the 10-county area to raise $1.6 billion in revenues for road and other transportation projects. Only the Metro Atlanta region is projected to raise more.
It is also estimated that 40 percent of the money raised will come from tourists and out-of-state visitors to coastal Georgia.
“We have a great opportunity for economic development,” Purcell said. “We have a great opportunity here, if you so choose to vote the sales tax in. That opportunity for economic development is certainly there, and we will have a lot of users traveling I-95, I-16, as they come in to visit the area.”
Also, the tax can be approved and put in place in one region, even if it fails in other regions.
“Everybody is going to be making a contribution to the transportation needs of Coastal Georgia,” Purcell said. “The rest of Georgia can do what they want to. It doesn’t matter what they do in Atlanta.”
If voters approve the T-SPLOST, there is a list of 75 projects to be funded through its proceeds. Seventy-five percent of the revenues raised will go toward those projects. The remaining 25 percent will be distributed among the 10 counties and the municipalities to use at their discretion. The T-SPLOST is expected to fully fund 63 of the 75 projects. The other 12 are expected to get federal funding as well, Purcell explained.
“How many of y’all have called me on the phone and said, ‘something has got to be done at 21 and 95?’” Purcell said. “Well, it’s on the list. How many of you have said, ‘we need a way to get out.’ It’s on the list. Chatham County has stepped up to the plate.”
Effingham’s list of projects includes all four phases of the Effingham Parkway/Georgia Portway and an improved interchange at I-16 and Old River Road. Chatham County’s extensive list includes widening of I-16 from I-95 to I-516 and interchange reconstruction at I-95 and Highway 21.
“I am ready for something to be done at 21 and I-95,” Purcell said.
She also said the cloverleaf interchange at I-95 and I-16 will be reworked.
“And it’s about time,” Purcell said.
Purcell also said getting back and forth from Georgia Southern University football games will be much easier, since Highway 67 widening from I-16 to the Statesboro bypass is part of the T-SPLOST list.
“This 1 percent increase will benefit us and it’s us who receives the money, not the state of Georgia,” she said.