MCG, city officials put aside differences

Imagine coming into the city off Calhoun Expressway at 15th Street toward the merged Georgia Health Sciences/Augusta State University and seeing an attractive retail development, including bikeways and sidewalks, instead of a mostly vacant parking lot.


Some very influential developers have been working together in hopes of making the stretch of property between the expressway and Walton Way into a gateway to the university and the city, MCG Foundation President and CEO James Osborne said.

It all started after City Administrator Fred Russell kicked over a hornets’ nest by recommending the city sell the transit bus land to a developer to build a boutique Walmart.

Boutique Walmart? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Anyway, commissioners voted behind closed doors in February to sell the property to Blanchard and Calhoun for $505,000, a move causing consternation, protestations and heart palpitations over at the foundation, which had repeatedly offered $1 million. That, however, is all behind them now, and everyone is singing from the same sheet of music. Nobody’s saying who the choirmaster is, but I suspect it’s Russell.

Vic Mills and Mark Senn of Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial Corp. are working with Will McKnight, the owner of McKnight Construction Co.; Barry Storey; and Jim Hull in a “philanthropic spirit” with direction from the MCG Foundation, university officials and the city.

“We’re looking at creating a gateway to this campus and some identity to this campus, which we don’t have now,” Osborne said. “These companies are contributing their expertise and time for the betterment of the university and the community with no direct personal gain.”

Plans are for about 20 acres to be developed, including 15 acres owned by the foundation and the transit property.

The medical campus and city will have a gateway, an identity and a brand that people will be proud to come into, Osborne said.

“We hope to have bike trails, restaurants and amenities other medical campuses have,” he said.

“Nothing is done yet,” he cautioned, “but they’re all working together to support this consolidated university that Dr. (Ricardo) Azziz is in charge of forming.”


SOMEBODY IN THE CITY READ THAT THE REAL ESTATE MARKET IS IMPROVING. SO HERE WE GO: Has your book collection gotten completely out of hand? The city of Augusta has the solution. It will sell you a 33,000-square-foot old library on Greene Street, along with 1.12 acres of land, for the right price.

Did your childhood dream of being a fireman go unfulfilled? There again, the city can help with two vacant fire stations for sale. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to run your own railroad. The city will sell you the depot and 6.27 acres on Reynolds Street in downtown Augusta. It will be up to you to get the railroad.

You can take advantage of these investment opportunities and others as the city tries to unload 11 surplus properties through sealed bid in coming months, including a traffic engineering building, fire stations on Reynolds Street and Washington Road and the old Chamber of Commerce building on Broad Street.

For more information, please read The Augusta Chronicle.


THE ROAD TO PUBLIC OFFICE IS PAVED WITH CASH: Richmond County sheriff’s candidate Capt. Scott Peebles has raised about half the money needed to run a good primary campaign with $63,100 through March 31 but is still way ahead of his competitors. Contributors donating the maximum $2,500 this go-round are Lewis Blanchard, Braye Boardman, Clayton Boardman III, Will McKnight and Russell Scott. Twenty-three others contributed $1,000 or more, including Augusta Commissioner Joe Jackson, school board member Frank Dolan and Spiro Papadoupoulas.

Candidate Lt. Robbie Silas has raised $13,250. Timmy Pittman; Charanne Powell, the wife of former Sen. J.B. Powell; and Darren Smith, former Augusta Commissioner Jimmy Smith’s son, each contributed $2,500.

Richmond County School Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree raised $8,926.67. Marian Ebron and Wright One Paint and Body Shop each donated $1,000. Frails and Wilson law firm donated $750; Club Velvet and Bertha Stokes each contributed $500.

Lt. John Ivey and Republican candidate Freddie Sanders had no contributions to report.

District 1: Incumbent Matt Aitken had not filed a report. He previously said he might not run again, but we have it on good authority he will. We don’t know for sure, though, because he didn’t return a phone message.

Candidate Lori Davis’ supporters hosted a fish fry fundraiser for her at A.L. Williams Park on Broad Street last week. They sold all the tickets and cooked all the fish, and when it was over, Davis said it was a success, but didn’t say how much was raised. Her March 31 report was also mailed to the secretary of state’s office and not available online.

As of last week, announced candidate Stanley Hawes, the former president of the Laney-Walker Neighborhood Association, had not filed an intent form with the secretary of state.

District 3: Candidate Mary Davis has raised $35,315. Her campaign chairman Clay Boardman is also her largest contributor, donating $2,500. Monty Osteen Jr. donated $1,000; Ann Boardman, $800; William Fair III, $1,100; and Enterprise Mill Events Center donated the facility and refreshments for a campaign event valued at $1,230.50.

Candidate Ed Enoch has raised $14,374. Kendrick Paint and Body Shop and S&K Capital Partners each donated $2,500; Katherine Nave, $1,000.

District 7: Candidate Donnie Smith has raised $14,000. Southeastern Carpenters Regional Council PAC donated $2,500; Louis Blanchard and Mark Walpour each donated $1,000.

Candidate Ken Echols didn’t file a report.


OVERDRESSED OR UNDERDRESSED?: Enoch said he’s caught a lot of grief over an unusual move he made right before speaking to the Committee for Good Government last week.

Enoch walked to the front, took off his jacket and after folding it neatly, draped it over the podium. After speaking to the crowd, he asked whether anyone had any questions for him. Committee member Carol Pender asked him where he went to college and after answering her, he asked whether anyone else had a question. After a short silence, Pender said, “You can get dressed now.”

“I can get dressed now?” he said with a laugh.

He said he took his jacket off because Augusta Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Carlisle Overstreet, who had spoken previously, did not wear a jacket.

“It just occurred to me I probably should stay in the same vein as he had,” he said. “Until I realized I didn’t have any place to put it.”

He said his campaign manager, David Steele, told him it looked like he was getting ready to make a really long speech.


POWER TO THE PEOPLE: A longtime political operative says Augusta’s black community is up in arms and determined to run a black candidate in every race. The community is upset because David Fry got probation instead of prison. Fry was charged with trying to bribe Commissioners Alvin Mason and Corey Johnson by offering to make them parking deck executives if they’d vote for the TEE Center deck.

“They feel the white man is always targeting black officials, and they always go to prison, but white officials get a slap on the wrist. The second thing they’re up in arms about is Rep. Barbara Sims going around the local delegation to change the commission voting date to July and then putting (Republican) Bill Jackson in the Richmond County delegation, weakening their power. The black preachers are really fired up, and they’re going to make sure people vote.”

So Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is running against Overstreet, and Vanessa Diane Hewitt-Quinland, a black State Court assistant solicitor, is challenging State Court Judge John Flythe.

In addition, State Court Judge David Watkins’ secretary, Hattie Sullivan, is challenging incumbent Richmond County Clerk of Court Elaine Johnson.