Thirty-six homes and other buildings funded for demolition by an Augusta Commission committee are just a start.
The city’s Public Services committee on Monday authorized Phase 1 of a $3 million countywide push to rid Augusta-Richmond of blighted properties, some 290 properties spread across six commission districts whose demolition Development Manager Rob Sherman said “will make an impact on a neighborhood.”
The 36 houses and other structures are the first to go out of some 290 already identified by the Planning and Development department as in need of tearing down. Most are privately owned with unpaid taxes and are deteriorated beyond repair or burned, but frequented by prostitutes, drug users or the homeless, Sherman said.
Behind them, another 250 structures have been identified as in need of demolition, he said.
Commissioner Alvin Mason said many homes around the county “look like they ought to be in this category, but people are still living in them.”
Sherman said tenants can contact his office if a landlord has refused to make repairs.
The $200,000 in funds approved Monday, most coming from capital outlay, can’t be reimbursed using sales-tax dollars unless the city owns them, Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said.
The city’s SPLOST 7 package, up for voter approval May 20, includes $4 million for a demolition program.
Commissioner Bill Fennoy, whose District 1 includes 111 properties on the list of 290, asked if Augusta wasn’t inadvertently tearing down its history.
“So 50 years from now, we won’t be talking about various communities that at one time were the most prominent communities in the area,” he said.
Planning and Development Director Melanie Wilson said stricter enforcement of codes will ensure existing homes are kept in good repair.
Commissioner Donnie Smith said while his District 7 had no properties on the list, several bank-owned properties weren’t being kept in proper repaid.
“We would treat them like we would treat a private homeowner,” Wilson said.