A handful of outside agencies seeking funding from Augusta’s seventh special purpose, local option sales tax met with an even smaller group of Augusta commissioners Thursday to detail what the entities plan to do with the funds.
To get SPLOST 7 on the May 20 ballot, the commission has until early March to narrow down a list of some $741 million in projects requested by city departments, elected officials and outside agencies to a five-year program of about $200 million, but so far has eliminated none.
The list must include $8 million in matching funds for Georgia Regents University’s cancer center and $30 million for ongoing renovations at Augusta Municipal Building, as the commission has voted to borrow money in advance of those collections.
Seeking $4.75 million from SPLOST 7 Thursday was Augusta Museum of History, whose executive director Nancy Glaser said plans for the funds were to purchase Broad Street property adjacent to the museum parking lot, create a new wood shop on donated Reynolds Street property, expand interior exhibit and storage space and buy a dedicated freight elevator.
Playing James Brown, Lady Antebellum and Brenda Lee clips over the commission chamber audio, Glaser said she hoped the museum could enhance the downtown “cultural district” under development by consultant Matt Kwatinetz.
Plans include expanding the popular exhibits “Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown” and “Local Legends,” she said were big draws for the museum, as well as adding exhibit space for “significant art collections” presently kept in storage because of lack of display space.
Also seeking funds is Richmond County Mosquito Control, which wants $450,000 for a new storage facility to replace a two-bay, crowded shed near the Burke County line with a new one near Augusta Environmental Services, director Fred Koehle said.
Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever are reappearing in the United States, and locating the equipment near the landfill will save enough time and fuel to give the department 40 more opportunities to eliminate mosquito breeding sites, Koehle said.
Augusta Mini Theatre, too, is seeking $1.83 million to complete a 250-seat theater at its Deans Bridge Road arts and life skills complex, Executive Director Tyrone Butler said.
The Mini Theatre has an existing $857,173 SPLOST allocation from a prior referendum for which it has raised $65,000 of required $215,000 in matching funds, but will raise the rest by November, Butler said. The Mini Theatre employs 10 and classes are taught in dance, music, drama, visual arts and life skills, according to project documents.
Seeking $2 million from the next SPLOST is Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy, which runs a nature park and research center on 1,100 acres at Phinizy Swamp.
CEO and senior scientist Oscar Flite said the funds would go toward nine sub-projects, including the purchases of research equipment, a research vessel, replacement of boardwalks and a bird watching area.
Scheduled to present Thursday was Christ Community Health Services, which sought $600,000 for renovations to its health clinic at Widow’s Home, but did not attend the session.
Mayor Deke Copenhaver and just three commissioners – Donnie Smith, Grady Smith and Mary Davis – attended the Thursday session and took no action on the requests. A second session is scheduled for 11 a.m. today with representatives from the regional library, Imperial Theatre, Symphony Orchestra Augusta, Georgia Regents University and Paine College.