Commission to take up new garbage fees

Count Richmond County property owner Sarah Seago among the growing opposition to a new $155.25 fee charged for vacant lots.

“I cannot understand the reasoning behind charging for garbage pickup on a vacant lot,” said Seago, who owns a grassy lot on Fenwick Street downtown. “There’s no building, there are no people, there’s no garbage, there’s no pickup – period... It’s paying for something that’s not even there.”

Seago is just one of several property owners to speak out against the new fee, which appeared on last month’s estimated tax bills sent to every property owner. The charges won’t be due until they appear on tax bills mailed later this year.

Members of the Augusta Commission, set to discuss the fee and other waste collection changes Tuesday, have said they don’t recall approving the vacant lot charge, although it was included among numerous other changes in a sweeping solid-waste resolution signed by the mayor last year.

Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson said he expects the vacant lot fee to generate about $1.3 million in new revenue from 11,800 vacant parcels upon which it will be assessed, according to the agenda item.

Johnson said eliminating the fee also would cut into projected revenue to be paid to Augusta’s small haulers who previously handled much city garbage collection. Working as subcontractors, several of the haulers now perform vacant-lot cleanup and yard-waste collection.

Though garbage, including Johnson’s proposal to reinstitute curbside tire collection and the increased fee for properties inside the old city limits, is expected to highlight Tuesday’s regular 2 p.m. commission meeting, commissioners have several other items of business on the agenda.

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ON THE AGENDA

Other business going for Augusta Commission approval Tuesday includes:

• A presentation by Angela Avery, of IFS Securities, on including minorities in Augusta Utilities’ water and sewer bond refinancing

• Approving McDonald Transit’s hiring of Mark A. Dorner as interim general manager of Augusta Public Transit

• Approving commissioners’ purchase of their chairs from the former commission chamber for $25

• A discussion about the legality of procedures used in the city’s contract with the Mercer Group, hired to conduct the search for an administrator

• Approving the reallocation of space around the commission’s new dais in the new commission chamber. Commissioner Bill Lockett said the current arrangement “gives the appearance of three separate groups” and wants to divide the space equally between each commissioner, with double space on either side of the mayor.

• A presentation by Finance Director Donna Williams on several city employees’ recent weeklong software training trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

• Discussions about using a city-owned Reynolds Street depot as a source of revenue and beautifying Gordon Highway and Deans Bridge Road.

• A presentation from Karen Zipperer about the increase in soli-waste fees inside the old city limits.

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