Clean Augusta not dead; ends ties with DDA

 

The board of directors that governs the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative has severed ties with the Downtown Development Authority and authority Executive Director Margaret Woodard to improve the chances a new downtown service district has of succeeding.

“We just all decided that if the CADI was going to get new life it would probably be better if it were on its own,” said Robert J. Kuhar, the vice president over properties and facilities for Morris Communications Co. and chairman of the Clean Augusta board.

For the past five years, the downtown authority has administered the board’s contract with Service Group Inc., which supplied about eight downtown service workers known as “CADIs” and a manager.

In December, however, the Augusta Commission didn’t renew a special tax district, despite the presentation of supporting signatures that Woodard said represented half the property owners in the district.

From the start, the tax district had its critics, but in recent years downtown property owners became increasingly divided on the merits of paying extra property taxes to fund the cleanup and ambassador-type services provided by Clean Augusta. After six people were shot at July’s First Friday event, some called for Clean Augusta to serve more of a public safety role, but authority officials said that was cost-prohibitive under its annual budget of nearly $400,000.

More recently, two of the district’s largest property owners, Morris Communications, which owns The Augusta Chronicle, and businessman Julian Osbon expressed doubts about the program; in December, Morris withdrew its four supporting votes.

Since terminating the relationship with the authority Feb. 22, the Clean Augusta board hopes “to go back to the commission to get the CADI program reinstated,” Kuhar said in an e-mail Monday.

The city has stepped up its sanitation efforts downtown since the CADIs lost their jobs, but “I think you can definitely see a decrease in the cleanliness downtown,” City Administrator Fred Russell said.

The expired district’s boundaries can’t be changed, and reviving the program means starting a new application under state laws to create a new district, said the city’s general counsel, Andrew MacKenzie.

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