“Veterans Expressway” effort gains little ground

Augusta’s John C. Calhoun Expressway was named in 1966 after Calhoun Street in downtown Augusta was incorporated into another road. File/Staff

An effort to rename the John C. Calhoun Expressway faltered Tuesday with commissioners determining they were stopped by state law from doing so.

 

Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who represents the area around the commuter route, sought to rename it “Veterans Expressway” to honor the region’s many military veterans.

“Augusta is a veteran city,” he said. “We have two VA hospitals; we have Fort Gordon and we have a lot of residents that are retired military that live here in Augusta.”

Calhoun, the South Carolina statesman who called slavery a “positive good,” isn’t who an Augusta road should honor, Fennoy said.

“John C. Calhoun is not someone that residents of Richmond County should be proud of,” he said.

Commissioner Ben Hasan, citing Sen. Harold Jones, said the commission’s hands are tied by a state law against altering any memorial to military service, including service to the Confederate States of America, although Calhoun died in 1850, before the Civil War.

“We don’t have the ability to rename anything,” Hasan said. Jones did not return a request for comment.

Hasan said the commission’s best bet is to draft a resolution calling for local officials to get “local control” over public monuments in their jurisdictions, with the hope the legislature takes it up next year.

Hasan’s motion to do so failed in the Engineering Services committee 2-1, however, with Commissioner Grady Smith voting no and Commissioner Sean Frantom out. It now goes to the full commission for a vote.

In another matter, commissioners moved toward “flow control,” or requiring garbage produced in Augusta to stay in Augusta, at the city-owned landfill near Blythe.

City Attorney Rachel Mack said two U.S. Supreme Court decisions established that local governments can require garbage produced within their boundaries be taken to their publicly-owned landfills, but not to private facilities.

After a motion from Hasan, Engineering Services authorized city attorneys to begin drafting the requirement.

The city Finance committee also approved setting limits on the amount of funding local nonprofits can receive from the city’s general fund, a request from Commissioner Sammie Sias.

The committee approved capping funding for the Augusta Museum of History and Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History at $125,000 annually; Greater Augusta Arts Council at $150,000; and all others at $25,000.

Commissioners took no action regarding the Augusta GreenJackets stadium at Lake Olmstead in a discussion item requested by Fennoy.

While the GreenJackets are set to move into their new stadium in North Augusta in the spring, their lease ends Sept. 30, 2018, Central Services Director Takiyah Douse said. The GreenJackets sublease the stadium to Augusta University for baseball games.

Commissioner Andrew Jefferson said the city shouldn’t be prevented from repurposing the stadium once the GreenJackets move out, and suggested creating a performing arts amphitheater at the site.

City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson said a “best-case scenario” might allow both AU sports and Augusta events to use the venue.

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

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Thu, 09/21/2017 - 22:23

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