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Commission to vote on inmate labor, racetrack proposals

Controversial decisions on using inmate labor for demolition work and building a racetrack go before the Augusta Commission on Tuesday.

 

Commissioner Sammie Sias called for Augusta to return to using state prisoners housed at Richmond County Correctional Institute for demolition projects to save money. Some 100 city-owned houses slated for demolition in Hyde Park were a suitable starting point, with contractors continuing to handle asbestos abatement, City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson said.

Sias hasn’t returned messages seeking comment but signed up to address the commission about “administration access” after other commissioners accused him of working in isolation with Jackson and Commissioner Ben Hasan on the project.

Hasan said he “got his own information” and hadn’t joined with Sias in tasking Jackson with the project, which would help Environmental Services “stay solvent” and not increase garbage fees to cover an expanded demolition program it began last year.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who opposed the plan, has invited three local demolition experts to speak about the proposal, including Thompson Building and Wrecking President Hiram Thompson.

Reached Monday, Thompson questioned the city’s ability to manage demolition projects, particularly in the area of asbestos abatement.

“They spend piles of money doing inspections, then don’t hire anybody to oversee whether it is done,” he said.

Thompson also questioned why demolition work was being singled out for inmates to do.

“If you’re going to take professional people out of the scene, why not do that with other trades?”

Hasan revived Commissioner Marion Williams’ decade-old plan to build a racetrack in south Augusta to increase tourism.

In 2006 the commission approved moving forward with the project but Augusta Development Authority refused to allow it to go on empty land in Augusta Corporate Park, which is now home to a Starbucks soluble products plant. Williams was questioned by the GBI about his son-in-law’s purchase of nearby land before the location was made public but no one was charged.

“I think the drag strip is a good idea,” Hasan said Monday.

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

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Augusta Commission meeting

WHEN: 2 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Augusta Municipal Building, 535 Telfair Street

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