MOULTRIE — Moultrie City Manager Bob Hopkins could be the happiest man in Colquitt County today. County voters overwhelmingly supported a 1-cent sales tax that will bail Moultrie out of hot water with its wastewater crisis.

“I’ve always been optimistic about the future of Moultrie and Colquitt County, and this vote just reaffirms that optimism. I think this reflects the community’s willingness to invest in itself, and I’m just pleased as I can be with the turnout and the results,” Hopkins said.

The six-year penny sales tax will begin at the end of the year in an effort to raise $30 million. The bulk of tax revenues, some $12.5 million, is slated for roads and bridges, but hinging on the sales tax’s passage is a project the City of Moultrie is desperate to begin — to double its wastewater capacity, which is nearly maxed out. The tax would be used to fund $9.725 million of the estimated $20-million project. The remainder is expected to come from bonds and increased service rates.

More than 87 percent of the 4,429 residents turning out for the primary voted in favor of the sales tax.

In contested local races, incumbent Democrat Chairman Max Hancock won narrowly over political newcomer Gene Rabenstein, whose candid campaign launched barbed comments toward the current and past county boards. Unofficial tallies are 1,079 for Hancock (53.48 percent) and 924 for Rabenstein (46.52 percent).

Hancock saw the election results more as votes against him rather than in support of Rabenstein, commenting that his decisions, which he believes are progressive for the county, haven’t been met with favor by all of his constituents.

“I’m glad to see this one pass, and I’m looking forward to November. I plan to continue to run on my record. I feel like I’ve established a record that I can run on. I certainly support what I’ve done in the past. The citizens can look forward to more of the same of what I’ve done in the past, and my campaigning will be based strictly on what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Hancock said. “The county’s moved forward without question in the eight years during my term as chairman, and I feel like I’ve been a part of that. If reelected, I will continue to do the same.”

Hancock has served on the board for more than 11 years. He now faces Republican candidate Benny Alderman in the general election. In his race, the sole candidate for chairman on the Republican ticket, Alderman brought in 1,770 votes.

Hancock acknowledged that the November race will be a difficult one for him.

“I have a very formidable opponent. Maybe I’ll have my work cut out for me,” he said.

Agribusinessman Terry Clark won the board seat for District 3 in a Republican race among three candidates. Clark garnered 549 votes (more than 58 percent) out of 940 in the district. Agribusinessman Lavon Stripling came in second with 312 votes (33 percent) while building contractor Michael Morton came in third with 79 votes (nearly 8.5 percent).

Clark told The Observer he was surprised that the primary ended without the need for a runoff.

“I’m honored and humbled by the District 3 people who voted for me and supported me during this election. I hope I can be the commissioner that works with the people for the betterment of our community, and I pledge to do the best job I can possibly do. It just really humbled me to win without a runoff,” Clark said.

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