Franklin, Southampton receive good news from HRTPO meeting

Published 1:55 pm Saturday, October 19, 2013

COURTLAND—Some good news from House Bill 2313, the Hampton Roads Transportation Bill approved this past April, is coming to the City of Franklin and Southampton County.

The bill imposes a .7 percent sales tax and a separate 2.1 percent tax on the distributors of motor oil in the Hampton Roads region, and the money from these taxes would be earmarked toward transportation in the district.

Instead of joining the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, both Franklin and Southampton formed a memorandum of understanding with the group so that tax money collected in the two areas would be earmarked for local use, said Mike Johnson, Southampton County administrator.

“Because we are not members of HRTPO, they had to make special provisions for us,” he said. “Starting in July, they set up ‘fund set asides’ for both Franklin and Southampton County. They are tracking the funds separately, and it is reserved for projects here.”

The good news coming from that recent HRTPO meeting Johnson attended was that it was anticipated that over a 20-year period, the taxes would generate $50 million to be used for new transportation projects in both localities.

“That’s going to be a substantial source of revenue for new transportation projects,” Johnson said.

In just the month of August, Franklin and Southampton County generated just under $100,000 in the .7 percent sales tax alone. Johnson said final figures for the fuels tax would lag behind a couple of months.

He said the county has yet to discuss what to do with the money.

“This source of revenue just began to accrue starting in July,” Johnson said. “But we certainly need to have that conversation, and we need to have it soon.”

In Franklin, City Manager Randy Martin said this could have a positive impact on the city’s highway improvements plan.

“We have a lengthy list of highway improvements, and some could qualify in terms of relieving traffic congestion and improving traffic flow,” Martin said. “We have a good plan, but we had no money. Now we have a source of funds for capital improvement means.”

He said it was fortunate the situation worked out the way it did on how the money would be distributed.

“This is really advantageous to us because of the rural nature of our community,” Martin said. “It is a lot of money for us, but it would be a pittance compared to the billions of dollars that the region is going to get.”

One particular project, he said, could be a road connecting the Pretlow Industrial Park to South Street through the new Love’s Truck Stop being built near the Highway 58 overpass. Other projects down the road could include widening some roads, such as Hunterdale and Fairview.

“If the projections are correct, this is a lot more money than has been spent on highway improvements in a long time for this area,” Martin said.

“These funds might allow for us to match to get state dollars to address them quicker, as well, by us having local funds to put in the pot.”

Another bit of good news coming out of the meeting is that HRTPO is considering using funds generated in the other member communities on projects that will affect the local roads.

The biggest one, Johnson said, is a SPSA regional landfill overpass. Based on traffic demands, to develop any future landfill cells, SPSA would have to build an overpass as part of any expansion.

“That’s a big ticket item,” Johnson said. “Interchanges are measured in millions of dollars. The good news is, the region is considering funding that overpass through revenues generated through the house bill.”

Without funding from the bill, Johnson said, the eight-member community of SPSA would have to pay for it through tipping fees. It would have a substantial impact on tipping fees, Johnson said.

“Nothing is set in stone, but the good news is the project is on the table at this point,” he said.