Boxing director fights move

Club leader hoping private citizens step up to keep ring open

Like Public Services Director Mike Greene and Licensing and Inspections Director Rob Sherman, Tom Moraetes is one of those most affected by a plan to restructure Augusta's government.

 

Moraetes' 35-year-old Augusta Boxing Club, a city-funded operation since 1995, was targeted in the reorganization plan for a significant downsizing and relocation to a smaller space in the May Park Community Center downtown.

The move would cripple the successful program, which serves about 100 boxers and has produced such stars as Ray Whitfield, Vernon Forrest and Frank Durst while continuing to serve as an outreach to youths, Moraetes said.

"Putting our program in May Park is very similar to taking Notre Dame Stadium and putting it on Richmond Academy field. I'm not saying that it wouldn't work; it's just not going to be the same," Moraetes said.

Rather than sit back and await the inevitable, Moraetes is drawing on his experience finding sponsors who already donate equipment, scholarships and their time to keep the club afloat and is searching for a new benefactor to replace the city, which pays for utilities and his and two part-time salaries.

Plans are in the works for such a benefactor to take over and possibly expand the program in its existing location, a Walton Way storefront that houses three boxing rings, locker rooms and scores of donated equipment. Use of the property is donated to the club by owner James O'Quinn.

When Augusta Boxing Club secured the Olympic trials for the 1996 Atlanta Games, the city took the department in.

"I have no animosity at all for the recreation department; they've been here for us for years," Moraetes said.

Recreation Director Tom Beck said he was glad to hear the private sector might step in to keep the program intact.

The recreation director will soon become more of a parks and facilities specialist as the department takes in 85 groundskeepers, electricians, plumbers and other maintenance personnel when Augusta's public services department is eliminated.

Detailed in a 164-page draft reorganization document released by the city last week, the change nearly doubles Beck's department to about 198 employees and gives him a raise.

The largest division of the reconfigured department is not recreation but parks and facilities, whose 116 employees will maintain everything from Augusta Municipal Golf Course and five city cemeteries to the Joint Law Enforcement Center.

While seven recreation positions are being eliminated, about 65 recreation specialists and administrative personnel will continue to operate recreation programs at the city's six recreation centers, tennis center, aquatics center and five community centers.

Restructuring

Plans to restructure Augusta's government aren't on the agenda for today's 5 p.m. Augusta Commission meeting, but they will be discussed at a Friday work session called by Commissioner Bill Lockett.

Lockett, who has questioned commission efforts to restructure, said he hopes to have questions ready and get the plan vetted before its 2011 savings, which are initially estimated at $1.5 million, run out.

 

More