Downtown Business Improvement District lacking support for renewal

Jere Iacobucci (left), of the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative, helps to clear leaves from the 600 block of Broad Street.

 

 

A program intended to help keep downtown Augusta clean and safe is in jeopardy.

Renewing the Business Improvement District was 20 votes shy of the 110 needed, said Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, after an Augusta Commission committee meeting Monday. BID renewal requires support from 51 percent of property owners in the district or approval from those with control of at least 51 percent of the properties’ assessed value. The district, which was created by a 2007 commission vote, runs from the Savannah River to Greene Street and from Sixth to 13th streets.

Not all of the property owners of the 220 parcels in the BID had been contacted by Monday, Woodard said. The authority will continue going door to door for the remainder of the week to collect support.

If the 51 percent support is not obtained, renewal of the BID will be removed from the regular commission meeting agenda Dec. 18, Woodard said. The BID would not come before the commission again and would expire at year’s end.

Business owner Michael Walraven, of Schweitzer Art Glass at 980 Broad St., voiced his opposition to the BID, telling commissioners the BID’s Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative program has not delivered promises of keeping the streets clean and safe. Trash piles up, sidewalks are not pressure-washed and graffiti are not removed, he said.

“The services being provided are already being provided by the city,” Walraven said.

Several commissioners questioned the effectiveness of BID and the cleanup initiative, and also expressed concern about representation on the initiative’s board of directors, which includes two members from the Augusta Marriott Hotel at the Convention Center, which pays a lesser tax rate than other property owners.

Woodard said the Marriott requires fewer cleanup initiative services because the property has its own security, landscaping and maintenance workers.

“Maybe the intention of this original BID has changed over the years,” Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said. “We rely on DDA to protect, clean and it became a $350,000 cleaning service. Before BID came on board, prisoners kept it just as clean.”

In other business, commission committees approved the following items:

• Naming of the sheriff’s office administration building for retiring Sheriff Ronnie Strength, with approval from the full commission

• A $473,858 change order for architectural fees to Virgo Gambill Architects for design renovations at the municipal building

• A nearly $1 million pedestrian bridge connecting the Augusta Convention Center and its parking deck

• A $268,000 change order to add landscaping and an irrigation system at Augusta Regional Airport after parking lot construction.

• A motion to continue negotiating a lease contract with Virginia Beach Golf Management to operate the Augusta Municipal Golf Course.

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