What's in a name? In Augusta, giving a proper name to a building, road, park or other facility might mean disputes, accusations and hurt feelings.
Augusta Commission member Joe Jackson's proposal in late 2012 to name the new sheriff's administration building for retiring Sheriff Ronnie Strength surprised many, including Strength. It caught Commissioner Bill Lockett so off guard that he questioned the choice, although he and the entire commission later supported it.
Lockett also questioned former Commissioner Jerry Brigham’s successful request last year to name Fire Station No. 10 for Herb Beckham, the late county commission chairman, while commission debate over naming Augusta’s new courthouse for the late civil rights lawyer and Georgia Appeals Court Chief Judge John H. Ruffin Jr. lasted more than a year.
After Jackson’s recommendation, Lockett asked the city to develop a uniform system for naming city-owned facilities; that goes before the city's administrative services committee Monday.
The guidelines require names be based on geographical, historical, ecological or functional factors, or for people who have given much for the betterment of Augusta.
The people should already be dead, with the exception of those making large financial or land contributions or “other extraordinary circumstances,” according to the ordinance, which specifies no minimum period of time after the person’s death. Renaming cannot occur for 50 years.
Commissioners, staffers and anyone else may suggest a name, but the proposer must fill out a form explaining why the facility should be named. The city administrator, engineer, planning director and facilities director then review the name and hold a public hearing before it goes through the committee and commission cycle for approval.
Brigham, who left office in December after serving two terms, said there had been a similar policy in effect more than a decade ago but the commission has ignored such rules.
“Usually they end up doing whatever they want to do,” he said.
The ordinance does not specify how the name is applied to the facility, an issue that arose at the new courthouse, now called the Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse.