Legislation that sets the state general partisan primary for May has Augusta officials scrambling to put a special purpose local option sales tax package together and get it approved by voters to meet a critical June 30 deadline.
“The election date being pushed back to May 20 has created a major time crunch on the SPLOST that we’ve never experienced before,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.
Eight million dollars being proposed for the Georgia Regents Medical Center Cancer Center will need to be approved by the Augusta Commission along with the rest of the package, the mayor said.
In that package will also be $28.5 million to pay off bonds used to complete renovations to the Marble Palace.
“The urgency of the timeline is that our community needs to have $12 million in local funds committed prior to the end of June in order to access $48 million in state funding for the cancer center,” Copenhaver said. “There is the potential that we will get a 25 percent match of $4 million from the private sector to go with the city’s $8 million investment to cover the full local commitment of $12 million. However, if we don’t have that amount committed prior to the end of June, the $48 million goes away.
“So either we get the $8 million approved, which will then bring in a total of $52 million – $4 million from the private sector and $48 million in state funding – or we lose out on the $52 million altogether. It’s unfortunate that the state has put us in this situation as the stakes couldn’t be higher for the upcoming SPLOST, but I believe as our community is educated on how much the package will mean to the future of our city that we’ll be able to get this done.”
Augusta mayoral candidates and candidates for five commission seats also will be scrambling to get their messages out to voters by the May 20 election.
A RAT’S TALE: Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams said city employees probably ratted him out on his $3,654 in delinquent property taxes because he made them mad by criticizing those who don’t live in Richmond County.
“I don’t give a rat tail about that,” he said. “It makes me happy when they’re mad.”
IS A CONCEPTUAL IDEA THE SAME AS A LIE? Apparently Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz and his administration don’t give a rat tail about their own word, much less anybody else’s. It makes them happy when we’re mad.
In August, they revealed blueprints showing “Georgia Regents University Augusta” would replace “Augusta State University” on the brick pillars at the school’s entrance on Walton Way and other gateway signs throughout the campuses.
But that was only a “conceptual idea,” said David Brond, GRU’s senior spin doctor.
No matter that the plans for the $3.8 million project were vetted by students, faculty and staff members and authorized by the state Board of Regents. King Azziz and his court came up with another conceptual idea that turned concrete, and the signs installed last month read “Georgia Regents University” above “University System of Georgia,” with no “Augusta” in sight.
CAN YOU SPOT THE LIES? “The most vocal are the people who are going to be either very positive or very negative (to the GRU name). Our real work now is in coming together as a community to make this the best decision, the best choice. We are listening to the reaction, and we are really beginning the work of moving forward in a positive direction to create some enthusiasm in the community.” – Brond, Aug. 8, 2012
“What we will see, and what the world will see and what the state will see will be Georgia Regents University Augusta.”
– Azziz, October 2012
Questioned about altered photos in a new publication that touts Augusta State University’s athletic traditions while erasing the former school’s name and insignias from team uniforms, Brond said the changes were done to avoid confusing future students with names of the former institutions that merged in January to create GRU.
“The question was how to alleviate that confusion.” – Brond, Feb. 26, 2013
“I accept full responsibility for the approval of the Georgia Regents University Augusta view book in question, independent of Dr. (Ricardo) Azziz and other senior administrators.” – Vice Provost Roman Cibirka, Feb. 28, 2013
“We messed up! And because at the end of the day the buck stops at my desk … my team and I have to take full responsibility for this error (altered photos).”
– Azziz, March 6, 2013
“The final signage that is being placed as we speak on the campuses now has been tweaked, yes, from what we were sharing, but those were conceptual ideas.”
– Brond, Jan. 13, 2014
“Really it’s not about the signage; it’s about the educational quality provided, the academic programs, the research. The signage is literally just a gateway to get people to our campus.”
– Brond, Jan. 13, 2014
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TWEAKING AND NITPICKING? Not much.
An Augusta Commission subcommittee met last week to “tweak” the administrator’s job description.
Among the duties enumerated was for the administrator to present commissioners with a balanced budget every year, which is one thing they faulted Fred Russell for not doing, which, of course, was misplaced blame. It was they who didn’t have the guts to get together and approve one of several budget-balancing alternatives Russell presented. He could have easily put in a 2-mill tax increase as several commissioners suggested and the excise tax on electricity, and plopped it down in front of them. Then what would they have done?
The stringent requirements for education and experience are likely to weed out most candidates except for out-of-town retired administrators wanting to relocate in the sunny South. Why else would someone with a master’s degree in business, etc., experienced in managing budgets of $600 million subject himself to abuse from some of those yahoos who can’t make their subjects and verbs agree?
OUT OF THE FIRE SERVICE AND INTO THE FRYING PAN: The Clayton News Daily reported that the Morrow City Council narrowly hired former Augusta Fire Chief Ronnie Few as city manager last week, although half the council members said they’d never heard of him before.
The four-member council was divided on hiring Few, and Mayor J.B. Burke had to vote to break the tie.
“Who is he? What are his qualifications?” council member Jeanell Bridges asked new councilman Chris Mills, who made the motion to hire Few, the newspaper reported.
The hiring bypassed the city’s vetting process for job candidates.
Few was fire chief in Augusta from 1997 to 2000 and left amid a grand jury investigation to become chief of the Washington, D.C., fire department, where his tenure was rife with controversy. He resigned from Washington in 2002. The grand jury investigation did not yield an indictment.
He was hired as chief of the Demopolis (Ala.) Fire Department in 2007. In December 2012, the council voted not to rehire him.