Fund will push downtown improvements

Staff
Business Improvement District: Click on graphic for a larger image

Public safety bike patrols and maintenance personnel on carts will hit downtown streets on the day after Valentine's Day.

A downtown Business Improvement District is in effect, but the improvements won't begin until the middle of February.

A 10-person board overseeing the district will meet Jan. 31 to iron out the final details, said Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority of Augusta, which led the charge for the district's establishment.

The BID covers 30 blocks of downtown Augusta, encompassing an area from 13th Street to Albion Avenue and the Savannah River to Greene Street. Businesses inside the district are assessed more taxes to pay for additional services, such as sidewalk cleaning, security, graffiti removal, beautification and trash collection.

The additional tax assessment would create a $337,000 fund to pay for the services above and beyond what the city provides.

"We're working with two banks to get a bridge loan because the taxes don't get collected until next year, so we're always running behind, but we're not going to wait another year," Ms. Woodard said.

Properties in the Business Improvement District are levied at a rate of $7.25 per $1,000 of assessed value. A few blocks near the river are assessed at a lower rate of $6 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Ms. Woodard said a professional company will be used to operate the district. It will have an office near the Downtown Development Authority inside the White's Building on Broad Street.

The BID was formed in July after a petition drive convinced the Augusta Commission that it was wanted and needed. It will end in December 2012, unless another successful petition process allows it to continue.

In other business, the authority on Wednesday approved the expansion of its boundaries to include Harrisburg, Paine College and more of the Medical College of Georgia campus. The new boundaries can be brought to the commission for approval.

Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or timothy.rausch@augustachronicle.com.

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