The mayor’s Easter egg drop wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.
City officials were supposed to drop 20,000 Easter eggs from the bucket of a fire truck onto the Augusta Common, but, as it turned out, they weren’t real eggs, just plastic replicas with candy inside.
“Eggs were plastic for safety reasons,” Mayor Hardie Davis replied when asked who boiled and colored 20,000 Easter eggs.
The drop turned out to be a fun event for the children, although the folks in charge couldn’t get the eggs to drop as planned, and the kids got impatient and kept storming the field ahead of time.
The city has dropped a few other things lately, but not on the Common.
Last week, City Senior Counsel Jody Smitherman dropped the news on the pension and audit committee that for almost a decade the city’s Human Resources Department failed to make retirement withholdings and contributions for 226 city employees. And taxpayers will be thrilled to know the $89,009 bill for “human error” with compounded interest will be dropped on them.
The city also dropped another 3 percent increase in utility bills on folks, as well as last year’s rain tax.
One thing they should definitely drop is the droopy drawers debate.
Is the Foundry Floundering? The deal is for developers to put in 20 percent and the city 80 percent of construction costs for a 221-unit apartment development on 7.6 acres of city-owned land at Wrightsboro Road and R.A. Dent Boulevard. But some Augusta Commission members want to drop it.
The subject of Foundry Place came up during Davis’ #SOGO conference and bus tour of Gordon Highway and Regency Mall last month, where some developers told them they’re financing too much of the project.
Some commissioners are upset that the project, which started out as moderate to low-income housing, doesn’t seem to be headed in that direction. So whole commission approval agreeing to back the bonds has stalled. The bond documents were supposed to be approved at last week’s committee meetings, but they weren’t ready for prime time.
The commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Augusta Regional Collaboration Project to pay them 1.75 percent of the total cost for bringing forth a deal that was acceptable to the commission, but that now seems iffy.
Also, the budget the developers presented to commissioners shows an additional $300,000 to the ARC for their work on the project.
“You’re talking about a $32 million project, and they want the city to invest $27 million, and I don’t think we should be putting that kind of money in it,” said Commissioner Ben Hasan. “From the city’s perspective, the developer should be putting more than 20 percent in it.
“Most things that start in the Laney-Walker area are affordable housing, and this property is between two railroad tracks, one on Poplar Street, and tracks on R.A. Dent Boulevard. Putting that much money in there for upscale apartments. I’m not sure they’re going to get a return on that.”
Commissioner Marion Williams said the project isn’t a good fit for the area.
“You’re talking about $950 a month for an apartment,” he said. “I don’t know who’s going to rent them. Not very many people can afford that. Maybe the parents of the college students can.
“If one dollar of federal money goes in it, it has to be for low to moderate income as well.”
Williams is also skeptical of assurances that retail businesses will develop around the apartments.
“I’ve been told that retail will come,” he said. “The property values over there is very low. We paid a lot of money for that property. What they’re saying is too good to be true to me.”
Commissioner Dennis Williams said the project will be “good and positive” for the city.
“It will help promote getting some businesses into this area,” he said. “I think the community will be able to support it with the market-rate rent because of the location and the product they’re going to provide. We’ve got to keep an open mind. Augusta is growing faster than our thinking right now.”
He Got Dropped and Kicked, Too: It remains to be seen whether the Foundry Place project is a good deal or not, but think about all the other projects overseen by then-City Administrator Fred Russell that were excoriated but turned out to be good for Augusta, such as the convention center, a catalyst for five new downtown hotels. It will host the state GOP convention in June. And the parking deck that some folks had cats over. It must be doing pretty well because they’re building another $12 million one down the street.
And there was the Gilbert Manor housing project the city paid $10 million to buy and close down to make way for Augusta University’s $160 million dental school and student commons building. And the Costco deal and the Cabela deal, which seem to have worked out OK. And don’t forget the judicial center and the $30 million-plus Marble Palace renovation.
In retrospect, Russell did some good things for the city, and all he got for his trouble was to be dropkicked out the door.
A Remarkable Metamorphosis: Awhile back, I told you the story of Henny Pammy, the very unusual hen who lived on a farm in the affluent county of Columbia.
Henny Pammy was so good at her job of alerting the countryside when storms were coming that her boss Cock Scott grew resentful and started clipping her wings. Henny Pammy stood it as long as she could but finally squawked “Fowl” and flew the coop. Then Cock of the Walk Cross called on Foxey Locksey in the sheriff’s department to investigate.
We hadn’t heard from Henny Pammy for weeks, so naturally we thought she’d been grilled to death. But as it turns out, she escaped from Foxey Locksey and metamorphosed into Politician Pammy, who hopes to rule the roost in the county of Columbia – after she cleans house and is Scott free.
What’s That You Say? Ernie can’t hear me. I can’t hear him. And three of our old dogs can’t hear it thunder.
Ernie says it’s because I’m always asking him questions when my head’s in the refrigerator. I say I can’t hear him over the loud TV. He says I’m always telling him something when I’m in the back bedroom and he’s in the living room. I say he doesn’t hear me because he doesn’t want to. He says I don’t hear him because I’m not listening. That might be right in both cases.
As for the old dogs, it’s a blessing they can’t hear it thunder because back when they could, they paced and trembled and salivated something awful. I bought them all Thunder Shirts, but by the time I got them all trussed up, the storm was over. I tried Valium, too.
Sometimes I’d take it and sleep through the whole thing.
The rest of our dogs hear very well, especially when somebody says “go” or “cheese.”
The World’s a Lonelier Place: I’ve started thinking that more people I loved or thought a lot of are dead than are still alive. And last week, another one joined the ever-growing list. Former Augusta Utilities Director Max Hicks died last week. He was the nicest and kindest person I’ve ever known in local government.