Clayton County chairman calls special meeting to discuss MARTA e - CBS46 News

Clayton County chairman calls special meeting to discuss MARTA expansion

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Robert Ashe, III and the rest of the MARTA Board of Directors put the future of public transportation in Clayton County in the hands of the Clayton County Commission Wednesday. In a unanimous vote, the board approved a contract calling for a penny sales tax to pay for bus and rail service to Clayton County.

"Today is a tremendous opportunity. It represents an opportunity to bring Clayton County into a system, a fully built out system, one that has been built out with tens of billions of dollars of public investment over the past 40 years. It would bring a world class transit system to Clayton County," said Ashe, III.

But Tuesday night the county commission rejected the penny sales tax option and approved a one half cent sales tax instead.

Opponents of the penny tax said it will chase businesses away and they also said bringing light rail to the county would cost more and take longer to build than MARTA estimates.

"Listen to your people. You represent the people," said Roberta Abdul-Salaam.

Abdul-Salaam is a Clayton County resident and retired state lawmaker. She said the commission's concerns are not valid.

"One of the concerns that keeps getting echoed is we will have the highest sales tax in the area. Well 45 counties in this state already have 8 percent sales tax, 45 have 8 percent now and they are not crying and screaming they are losing businesses," Abdul-Salaam said.

MARTA added some language in the agreement it approved Wednesday. It says half of the money collected by the penny sales tax would be put in escrow to insure it is only used for rail service in Clayton County and not anywhere else. It's a provision not included in DeKalb and Fulton Counties agreements.

The Clayton County Commission has until Sunday to accept the agreement. Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner has scheduled a special meeting for Saturday morning at 10 a.m. to discuss the proposal. In 2010, C-Tran, Clayton County's own bus service went out of business.

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