The Downtown Development Authority voted down a $183,000 tree pruning request along Riverwalk Augusta in favor of allocating $1 million in 1 percent sales tax funding for a more substantial project on the riverfront property.
The board on Thursday denied the request from Augusta’s Parks, Recreation and Facilities department, which would come out of its special purpose local option sales tax revenue. Instead, the panel tasked the authority’s design committee with formulating potential projects at the riverwalk for $1 million of the $1.2 million available in current local option sales tax revenue.
“I think it will give us a useful shelf life on the activities that we can create with $1 million as opposed to $150,000,” said Scylance Scott, a member of the board. “Rather than have that Band-Aid approach, we would in turn make an impact on riverwalk.”
In September, the authority’s design committee discussed and recommended not approving the request.
Scott, who heads the committee, said that state sales tax funds should only be used for capital improvement projects and didn’t believe tree pruning qualified under that category.
The request derived from a city improvement plan to address safety and aesthetic enhancements, which came about this year after the May 3 assault of a South Carolina couple sitting on a bench near the former Fort Discovery building on the riverwalk.
The plan called for various improvement projects to fix broken lighting, beef up police activity, and remove trees and limbs on 300 trees, but much of the work hadn’t been done by early September.
“We’re all trying to align our synergies to work in the same direction,” Scott said. “We truly believe that the growth potential for the riverwalk is exponential.”
Authority Executive Director Margaret Woodard said they had, at one point, considered spending $150,000 for improvements at the riverwalk but more money was needed to make a “significant” impact.
“The question then became, what can we do for $150,000 that’s going to make an impact, and the answer was really nothing,” she said.
One of the authority’s most recent Riverwalk Augusta projects included building a permanent $55,000 stage in 2011 for performances between Eighth and Ninth streets.
Construction of the riverwalk started in 1986 and took nearly a decade to complete.