Augusta Commission OKs naming interchange for fallen deputy



Augusta Commission members gave the go-ahead Tuesday to renaming a Bobby Jones Expressway interchange for Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy James D. Paugh, who was gunned down during a routine traffic stop Oct. 23.

The mayor and commissioners gave unanimous support Tuesday for a resolution in support of renaming the interchange at Bobby Jones and Gordon Highway -- near where Paugh was killed -- as the J.D. Paugh Memorial Interchange.

Erecting a sign at the site now awaits approval by the Georgia General Assembly when it convenes in January, said City Administrator Fred Russell, a former police officer who joined the Augusta community in a widespread showing of grief after Paugh was killed by a Fort Gordon soldier who killed himself.

The commission did little else during its regular meeting, which followed a public hearing on the 2012 budget attended by very few people.

Several consent agenda items -- code amendments related to the merger of Augusta’s planning and licensing and inspections departments -- failed 4-4 with Commissioner Matt Aitken absent and Commissioner Grady Smith away from the dais during the vote. The commissioners opposed, Bill Lockett, Alvin Mason, J.R. Hatney and Corey Johnson, cited ongoing litigation filed by The Baptist Ministers Conference of Augusta over the legality of the city’s new personnel manual as their reason for dissenting.

Motions to refer the city’s proposed smoking ordinance to a workshop for revisions, extend a current management agreement for the new Trade, Event and Exhibition Center parking deck and approve Blue Cross Blue Shield as Augusta’s medical insurer for 2012 passed unanimously with little discussion.

No one spoke at the budget hearing, but officials present said they’d continue to examine potentially raising the city’s fire tax as a way to help balance the 2012 $134 million general fund budget, which as currently written has a $7.3 million operating shortfall.

The move wouldn’t be a good one, according to Charles Masters, the vice president of the Augusta Firefighters Association, who attended the hearing but did not speak.

“We don’t want to raise the tax on the backs of the firefighters,” Masters said after the hearing. “What we need to do is reorganize, cut the fat and get our department back to lean, then see.”

Masters said he had concerns about how the fire tax portion of the millage rate was used to “back bill” other departments such as human resources, information technology, maintenance and legal for the services they provide to the fire department.

“All that money should be going to fire protection,” Masters said.

Russell will present his final budget recommendations during a work session scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday.