Oversight panel begins redevelopment project

The panel charged with general oversight of an $8 million-plus redevelopment project in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods set sail Thursday, although several board members questioned their precise roles in the project.


"It's exciting that I'm having this opportunity to push things forward," said former Augusta Commissioner Betty Beard, whose district had included the neighborhoods. "My disappointment, I think, was that it's taken as long as it's taken."

For Beard, named by the commission vice chair of the Urban Redevelopment Agency, it's her return to civic involvement since deciding last year not to pursue another term as commissioner.

While bylaws drafted by bond counsel state the board is required to meet only once a year, Beard questioned how the panel could meet so rarely and keep up with the redevelopment efforts.

Board member Erick Montgomery asked why the board was expected to meet once a year, "wave a magic wand" and approve the spending projects.

With members selected by the commission, the panel includes Chairman Barry White, James Kendrick, George Patty, Beard and Montgomery. Kendrick and White replaced two earlier appointees after it was determined they did not live in Richmond County.

Attorney for the bond issuers Doug Batchelor told the group Thursday that they could meet more often than annually and receive reports on the redevelopment efforts if they desired.

The Augusta Commission already has approved a Laney Walker-Bethlehem redevelopment plan. The plan names Augusta Housing and Community Development as the entity that will carry out the redevelopment.

The activities will be funded through an $8 million bond issue the group approved Thursday, $1 million of which will pay back a loan authorized by the city earlier this year.

The bonds likely will be validated by a judge the week of June 7, Batchelor said.