Commission agenda packed, renewed call for administrator's firing

Most eyes might be on Augusta Commission member Al Mason and City Administrator Fred Russell as the former mayor pro tem again calls for Russell's "termination, effective immediately" during today’s commission meeting.

The agenda is chock-full of other items, however, including some that seemingly conflict with Mason's call.

To start, at 4:45 p.m., the commission plans to set the property tax rate at 8.075 mills, up from 8.056 mills last year.

The increase, which amounts to less than $2 in additional property taxes on a $100,000 house, is so small that the commission is not required to hold a public hearing.

Even with the year's budget woes, including an $8 million-plus general fund shortfall, most commission members maintain that raising taxes is not the answer, including one vehemently opposed to the privatization of city services and reorganization of departments that Russell says will save the city money.

"Because of loss of faith," Commissioner Bill Lockett said, he won't suggest raising taxes now.

At today's regular 5 p.m. meeting, expected to draw as many as or more than Aug. 29's fiery committee meeting, the commission first will honor a former Richmond County employee, longtime county administrator and elections official Linda Beazley.

In other business, Charles Masters, an Augusta firefighter and vice president of the local firefighters union, will speak to the commission. Masters previously has been highly critical of department administration's decision to pull an aerial truck off southside fire calls and the implementation of firefighter furloughs.

Also, the commission will vote on an action previously approved by three commissioners – Mason, Lockett and Matt Aitken – in a committee meeting Aug. 29, to rescind 44 pay raises Russell implemented for certain workers affected by the reorganization plan. The raises, which totaled more than $350,000, should be revoked "based on their non-compliance with the personnel policy and procedures manual," according to the agenda item.

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