The termination Thursday of the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative was bittersweet for its board members, but two charities will benefit from the remaining money and equipment.
Established in 2007, the program was developed to provide supplemental housekeeping and visitor services within the boundaries of a special downtown tax district, but the Augusta Commission declined to renew the district last year after it lost support from property owners.
The initiative’s board of directors voted Thursday to set aside $10,000 from the district’s $37,000 in leftover funding for legal services, to hire an accountant to review its books and to repair two Segways with dead batteries.
Under Georgia law, the remaining assets must be turned over either to another 501(c)(3) or the government, said board Chairman Bob Kuhar.
The initiative, which took out a line of credit in 2008 in anticipation of tax collections, has no outstanding liabilities, board member Davenport “Dee” Bruker said.
From the remaining money, the board voted to give $12,000 to Trees for Augusta Inc., a nonprofit that has planted ginkgos along Henry Street, Fleming Avenue and Battle Row.
The board also voted to give Trees for Augusta the initiative’s remaining equipment, including a Green Machine sidewalk sweeper and landscaping tools. A pickup truck belonged to Service Group International, which provided the downtown initiative workers, and wasn’t a part of the donation, Kuhar said.
The board voted to donate the remaining $15,000 and anything left after expenses to the Community Foundation of the CSRA’s Garden City Improvement Fund for use downtown.
Guided by businessman Barry Storey, the foundation’s Garden City Improvement Fund has landscaped and maintained medians along Bobby Jones Expressway, Alexander Drive and St. Sebastian Way, said Barry White, the director of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau and a foundation director.
Bruker and board member Natalie McLeod expressed regret at seeing the program officially end.
“To me, it was working. I see (downtown) now and it looks horrible,” Bruker said.
A recent push to address crime, cleanliness, broken infrastructure and other issues such as parking, however, gave Kuhar, who is also the vice president of facilities for Morris Communications Co., hope that change was in the works. Recently, commissioners toured Riverwalk Augusta and asked Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities to develop a plan to address issues such as broken lighting and overgrown landscaping after two tourists were brutally beaten there in May.
“I’ve heard more talk about all those things in the last three months,” Kuhar said. “Maybe it will all coagulate into one big movement.”
The board members questioned the level of support that Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree and City Administrator Fred Russell will have for their recent proposal to establish a new tax district to fund added law enforcement downtown. The district would require the approval of property owners. Roundtree said the supplemental law enforcement would not replace the three deputies now assigned to the area.
The board voted to donate the two repaired Segways and bicycles formerly used by the program’s staffers to the sheriff’s office, with the stipulation they be used downtown.