Safety at Riverwalk Augusta was on Augusta Commission member Bill Fennoy’s mind before a couple was mugged and beaten late Friday behind Port Royal.
Already on today’s meeting agenda was Fennoy’s request for the commission to consider installing security cameras and warning signs along the riverwalk, an effort he said might deter crime and make visitors feel safer.
“It was surveillance cameras that were used to help find the Boston Marathon bombers; once the criminal element knows how effective those cameras are, it could keep them from coming downtown to try to commit a crime,” Fennoy said.
How to proceed with placing, monitoring and funding the cameras would be up to the commission and Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Fennoy said.
Commissioner Mary Davis said she was “very concerned” about the incident.
“Something needs to be done,” whether better lighting, better security, emergency phones or something else, Davis said.
Commissioner Joe Jackson urged residents not to let their guard down when downtown but welcomed the idea of cameras, with an eye toward their cost and using private funding.
“It should have been done 15 years ago,” Jackson said. “Do I think a camera would have prevented this? No, I think a camera would have identified the subjects.”
Any new programs ought to be viewed in light of the city’s limited operations budget and the possibility that the next special-purpose local option sales tax will not pass, Jackson said.
“There’s already $40 million spent on a SPLOST that we haven’t even passed yet,” he said of the commission’s decision to renovate the municipal building by issuing bonds, whose debt service is assumed to come from the next tax.
Commissioner Marion Williams said he hoped to see the sheriff put the muggers and other downtown miscreants “under the jail” but said he supported the idea of cameras.
“Cameras are used to catch people speeding, shoplifting, breaking and entering,” Williams said. “I think that would be a good use of taxpayers’ money.”
The commission will also look at tearing down a burned-out mill that Williams said is overdue for demolition.
Southern Milling, on the Augusta Canal at1015 Twiggs St., has unpaid property taxes and fees dating at least to 2002.The tax commissioner said in 2011 that it can’t be auctioned because of environmental issues, including asbestos.
In the meantime, the burned mill and its 20-plus silos have fallen further into disrepair, Williams said.
“People question me every day about it,” he said. “People want to know when are we going to look like the rest of the city.”
Williams said that the city might have the resources to demolish the mill and that he’d like the commission to explore its options.
Fennoy said that although his focus has been on dilapidated houses in District 1, the city has a problem with dilapidated buildings, too, including in areas used as gateways for the city.
Licensing and Inspections Director Rob Sherman said the mill’s owner will appear at today’s meeting to hear the commission’s concerns.
The last time the planning department looked at options for demolishing the mill, estimates came to around $150,000.The demolition company was given the right to salvage materials from it, Sherman said.