Commission authorizes funds for cyber parking deck

Augusta officials set in motion Tuesday plans to borrow $12 million to build a parking garage for the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center.

 

The Augusta Commission voted 9-0 after a lengthy closed-door session to authorize City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson to negotiate terms by which the city will pay for construction of a parking deck through a $12 million bond issue. Commissioner Grady Smith was absent and said he’d had cataract surgery.

Mayor Hardie Davis called the vote “generational and transformational” as Augusta puts its money toward the state’s plan to invest $50 million in the innovation center on the city’s riverfront.

Architectural drawings showed a five-story parking garage at the current site of parking for the former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, a state-owned property where the innovation center is fast-tracked for construction.

The commission didn’t discuss openly how the city will repay the bonds, whether through a tax increase or reprogramming sales tax funds from other projects.

In a related matter, the city’s general fund ended 2016 with a surplus of $2.6 million, according to an unaudited annual financial report presented by Finance Director Donna Williams.

Much of the surplus came from an October $2 million reimbursement check from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expenses from a 2014 ice storm, and $1.1 million more was transferred to savings to replenish city reserves diminished by the storm, leaving an actual “break even” surplus of $188,105, Williams said.

The city’s fire protection fund added $1 million to its fund balance, with help from $375,000 in unbudgeted 2016 fire insurance premium taxes, but $465,000 of the surplus is obligated for a purchase, she said.

The “break even” surplus of $188,105 appears despite the infusion of about $15 million in new revenue from the stormwater utility fee the commission implemented last year. The fee is being used to pay for and supplement services previously paid from the general fund or sales taxes but was not covered in the report.

One-percent sales tax collections - which include the special purpose tax for capital projects, the local option sales tax used to offset property taxes and the Transportation Investment Act - remain below projections.

According to Williams’ presentation, penny sales tax distributions were below 2015 amounts for every month of last year except December, and December 2015 was when the state demanded Augusta refund a local business that had been overpaying its taxes.

In other action by committees Tuesday:

The city’s public services committee voted to put Last Call Upscale Restaurant and Lounge on probation but let it remain open for six months after Richmond County sheriff’s Investigator Ty Hester presented a list of reasons to shutter the Gordon Highway club for 90 days. Hester said deputies had repeatedly smelled burning marijuana in the club, caught a felon with a firearm and underage people on premises, saw alcohol being served after hours and had reports of people being shot either at the club or shortly after leaving. Keion Taylor, who owns the 1721 Gordon Highway business formerly known as Alter Ego’z, claimed his staff hadn’t seen the reported activities taking place and wouldn’t allow them.

The administrative services committee voted for the city law office to examine ways to address sagging pants, the practice of wearing pants low enough to expose underwear or buttocks. General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie said any ordinance had to balance free speech with the city’s right to regulate decency standards.

Activist Monique Braswell told commissioners that city building inspectors had missed various defects in the heating and air conditioning system in her new home, despite returning and being helpful after she contacted a commissioner.

Heather Drive homeowner Rod Pearson complained about no action being taken against management for gunfire, noise violations and other problems at Oxford Glen and Fox Den apartments off Wrightsboro Road and behind his home. Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, unfamiliar with the area where Darrel Lee is accused of killing Juwan Doby on March 28, referred Pearson to Planning Director Melanie Wilson.

The administrative services committee voted 2-1, a failing vote, to deny a request from the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to open a satellite office on the second floor of the Municipal Building. Central Services Director Takiyah Douse, who relayed the request, said the state would pay costs to build the office. Kemp recently announced his run for Georgia governor next year. The request now moves to the full commission for a vote.

 

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

Jerry Whitcomb 6 months ago
They keep approving a bond for this and a bond for that. Do they actually have a TOTAL of how much the taxpayers are obligated to PAY for interest and principal on ALL of the bonds each year for the next 10 or 30 years? Are they spending money today based on UNKNOWN future tax and fee increases because they are too stupid to add numbers? We are paying for a whole lot of "nice to haves" but none of them are "got to haves".

They keep spending our money in the name of growth.......but nothing they are doing is growing the revenue enough to make up for the debt they are putting the taxpayers on the hook for. Detroit here we come. 
B. M. Michales 6 months ago
Wow, the kickbacks are on the way.
Bill Pinot 6 months ago

One-percent sales tax collections  remain below projections."

Anyone with any sense could have told you this.  This has been predicted by many former posters here for a few years.  Welcome to Detroit/Chicago South!

Jerry Whitcomb 6 months ago
"The Augusta commission voted 9-0 after a lengthy closed-door session to authorize City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson to negotiate terms by which the city will pay for construction of a parking deck"

So we have 10 commissioners who basically abdicated their responsibility to have a plan on how to pay for this project and basically turned it over to an overpaid, under qualified administrator who had to hire 5 more people to do her job. Our supposedly intelligent commissioners approved going into millions of dollars of debt without have ANY CLUE about how we are going to pay for it. The only people I have LESS confidence in than our commissioners is Janice Jackson and our Mayor. 

Sales tax revenue is DOWN, hiring is UP, certain employees have had HUGE salary increases, they've spent all of the last round of tax and fee increases and have had to already cut operation budgets in the departments. Where do they think the money to pay interest and principal on these bonds is going to come from..........HUGE TAX AND FEE INCREASES...........AGAIN. 

We are in big trouble folks. Our commissioners all have the "free money" welfare check mentality when it comes to floating bonds. It seems anyone can talk the commission into mortgaging our future tax increases to float a bond for any "all that glitters is gold" project. The commissioners have no idea of how much we already owe on various bonds and they approach every new "all that glitters is gold" project with the philosophy that they can always raise our taxes again to pay for the latest gleam in their eye if the kickbacks are big enough. 
Bill Pinot 6 months ago
So, will this parking garage have a bridge over Reynolds St or a tunnel under Reynolds St to access the facility, and will it be built at the same time or will they wait until someone gets hit by a car and they pay out a large settlement to build it?

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