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Dissatisfaction growing over Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative among business owners

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Dissatisfaction is mounting about a private service responsible for helping clean up downtown Augusta. Some property owners say they won’t support it when it comes up for renewal this year and want more security after the shootings after the July 6 First Friday festival.

A Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative patrol heads down Broad Street. Some businesses now oppose it.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
A Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative patrol heads down Broad Street. Some businesses now oppose it.

The Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative was hired four years ago as the service of choice to be paid by the Business Improvement District, a special tax district spanning roughly 25 blocks bound by Reynolds and Greene streets from Eighth to 13th streets, plus a few facing parcels.

When the management plan was approved by the Augusta Commission in 2007, the Business Improvement District contract stated that in addition to sidewalk cleaning, landscape maintenance, and graffiti and panhandler removal, it also would offer “night safety patrol” and “police weekend night patrol.” all within an anticipated district budget of $335,400.

After the contract was approved, however, hiring special-duty police or paying private security was deemed by those in charge as too expensive and unnecessary.

“It tremendously increased the cost of it,” said accountant Sanford Loyd, who serves on the board established by the Downtown Development Authority to guide the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative. At the time, “security issues did not appear to be a major concern,” Loyd said.

“We felt like to try to do all of those things in the Business Improvement District for here would not work,” he said.

Instead, the initiative has focused on cleaning. Armed only with radios to call for help, its eight staffers work mostly weekdays, removing debris from sidewalks, a service that authority Director Margaret Woodard and a handful of downtown business owners say is invaluable.

Bill Merry, who owns an antiques market among his 15 tracts in thedistrict, said the initiative provides a service on which the city was falling short.

“The city doesn’t have the money to take care of it daily,” said Merry, who paid about $3,600 in extra taxes for the initiative’s services last year, according to tax records.

One of the district’s largest property owners, Julian Osbon, acknowledged support for the district is waning, however.

“I think it’s in trouble right now. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s a lot of other things,” said Osbon, whose companies own 17 district parcels.

“The original idea was to increase the amount of security and cleanliness,” Osbon said. “I supported it years ago, before we got in it. It doesn’t seem to have accomplished what we tried to accomplish.”

Osbon and others want to make sure security and cleanliness are sufficient when Augusta Convention Center opens in January and draws more tourists downtown.

“Those conventions ... are the first impression (of Augusta) for a lot of people,” Osbon said.

Sae Shin, who owns Blue Sky Kitchen and Soy Noodle House and co-owns 1102 Downtown Bar and Grill, all Broad Street restaurants inside the BID, said the cleanup workers were “kind of slack” when it came to cleaning and dispersing panhandlers.

“If you’ve got five or six guys, they should get it done,” Shin said.

Max Bolgla is one of several property owners who said he opposed the tax district five years ago and will again when the development authority distributes ballots. He loves his downtown apartment building but says empty storefronts remain downtown while the initiative offers nothing to customers.

“All my tenants worry about is their tattoos,” Bolgla said.

CoCo Rubio, the owner of The Soul Bar who helped pioneer a revival of downtown nightlife, said he supported the district the first time around but no longer. Restaurateur Jai West, who rents space in the J.B. White’s building, said she, too, was disappointed by the cleanup initiative’s performance.

“We kind of all thought it was going to be one thing, and then it just turned out to be something different,” West said.

Woodard said she’s preparing surveys now to distribute to downtown property owners for their opinions about the cleanup services and will later distribute ballots to owners. The development authority unanimously voted in May to continue the tax district and potentially increase its boundaries and obtain letters of support from the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, Augusta Tomorrow and the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The approximately 260 property owners inside the district are assessed an additional 6 or 7 mills on their properties’ taxable value, resulting in extra taxes ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $35,000 annually, depending on a parcel’s value.

Augusta businessman Clay Boardman, who owns properties in the district, said he supports the continuation of the district and the cleanup program. He doesn’t expect any change in the program without an increase in the district tax.

This Friday, the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative has agreed to work late for First Friday. The events at the monthly festival will include a concert on Augusta Common and a nighttime concert at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater.

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Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 07/28/12 - 11:19 pm
7
0
It's Time

Shut CADI down.

rebellious
20780
Points
rebellious 07/28/12 - 11:20 pm
6
0
Interesting

Why not pay the panhandlers to pick up trash. And there is NO security problem downtown, just a media problem.

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 07/28/12 - 11:21 pm
4
0
But, then

you would need to fire Fred (What, me worry?) Russell and hire a city administrator who would mercilessly insist on city workers showing off a sparkling clean downtown for our visitors and tourists.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/28/12 - 11:54 pm
12
0
So, the DDA presented a

So, the DDA presented a contract to the Augusta Commission for its approval knowing that it could not afford to fulfill everything in the contract.

In other words, the DDA duped the commission into approving something it never intended to follow through on. Some might consider that fraud.

I just have one question: When, oh when, will the DDA finally be dissolved?

Brad Owens
4429
Points
Brad Owens 07/29/12 - 12:05 am
11
2
CADI needs to go.

The Business Improvement District Tax was sold to the property owners as a mostly security related extra tax, not some glorified street sweepers on segways.

The CADI is a non-profit private company contracted to do the "work" by the BID and the DDA gets $25,000.00 a year to "manage" this BID program.

Also, members of the DDA also serve as corporate officers for CADI, Sanford Lloyd is listed as the CFO and he sits on the DDA, can anyone say conflict of interest? Don't believe me? Here's a link to the Secretary of States page for CADI, see some names you know?

http://corp.sos.state.ga.us/corp/soskb/Corp.asp?1396532

Also, the "Registered Agent" is Margret Woodard, Executive Director of the DDA. Another conflict of interest? You decide.

Who serves on the BID Board? It was suppose to be elected from the "stakeholders" that make up the landowners that are paying the new tax, yet it was not. Don't believe me? Look up the commission meeting where the vote took place to authorize this new tax, Commissioner Jerry Brigham questioned why the BOD selection process was left blank, he was assured by DDA Board Attorney Bryd Warlick that the language would be put in there before it was signed into law, but it was NOT! It was signed the same day it passed by the mayor and the BOD language was never put in. All true.

This is just another revenue stream that is squandered by the DDA and as a new property owner downtown through a partnership, I can assure you me and my partners will not be supporting this unneeded and much wasted tax.

De-fund the DDA and all other wastes of tax payer dollars.

Brad Owens
Former member DDA and DAP

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 07/29/12 - 12:10 am
9
0
Expensive Street Cleaners
Unpublished

So this program collects $350,000+ a year from downtown property owners and all they get are 8 sidewalk sweepers, some walkie talkies, and a couple of segways.

Let's see, for this amount of money you could have about 8 full time permanent police officers patrolling downtown, and it sounds like that's what the business owners wanted from the beginning. Just how on earth could this program be so costly? And they don't even work on weekends.

It sounds to me the downtown property owners were duped about what this BID would be about. After it passed, the DDA changed the provisions of what it would include. Sounds like a con job to me.

If I owned property downtown, I would be furious about how this was handled. It looks like to me this CADI program is nothing but another slush fund for the DDA. Commissioners, do your duty and pull the plug on the DDA ASAP! Do not give this group any more of our tax dollars. This is outrageous!

Brad Owens
4429
Points
Brad Owens 07/29/12 - 12:25 am
12
1
Insider Info, the DDA is an obsatcle to progress downtown.

The DDA cannot be dissolved, it services bonds on several parking decks for the county, but it can be de-funded and have all its activities curtailed that way. If no more money for the general fund is sent their way these problems will "work themselves out" as I say.

The DDA is an obsatcle to progress downtown. The DDA sucks up public funds meant for downtown development and we have nothing to show for it as tax payers except a 27% decrease in business licences being issued downtown after almost $4,000,000.00 spent through the DDA since 1995 and a Executive Director that gets paid more than the mayor does. What a waste huh?

The DDA has been at the forefront of every bad idea I can remember (parking meters anyone?) and have only served themselves in trying to make sure that the tax revenues being used to fund them continue to flow to fund these outrageous wastes of tax payers dollars.

Trolley study anyone? Parking study anyone?

DDA wasted $37,000.00 on a trolley study...see?

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2009/10/22/met_552834.shtml

They also wasted $52,000.00 on a parking study.

Parking Meters anyone? Sidewalks in front of Board members clients property anyone? Tax and interest free loans ($370K for four years) to insiders anyone?

De-fund the DDA.

Brad

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/29/12 - 12:27 am
9
0
If I presented an elaborate

If I presented an elaborate scheme to my bank, knowing all the while that I was merely lying to the bank in hopes of tricking them into giving money, what would happen to me?

If the DDA presented an elaborate scheme to the Augusta Commission, knowing all the while that it was merely lying to the commission in hopes of tricking it into giving money, what would happen to the DDA?

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/29/12 - 12:27 am
5
0
If I presented an elaborate

If I presented an elaborate scheme to my bank, knowing all the while that I was merely lying to the bank in hopes of tricking them into giving money, what would happen to me?

If the DDA presented an elaborate scheme to the Augusta Commission, knowing all the while that it was merely lying to the commission in hopes of tricking it into giving money, what would happen to the DDA?

grinder48
1957
Points
grinder48 07/29/12 - 06:21 am
0
0
Here's A Solution
Unpublished

The first 2 paragraphs of Shellman's comments are right on target. Plus we need to get past all the sarcasim and focus on a solution. Here's one: Have several cleanup crews made up jail inmates clean the district daily, during the day. Use the >$300K from the special tax to pay for additional patrols by LEOs. Get rid of Richmond Summit. Strictly enforce the crewfew currently in place for the adolescent crowd and institute a 1:00 AM total curfew (except for those with special permits, like shop owners, etc.) Need to get aggressive - within the limits of the law - and fix this problem. It's inexcusable.

CobaltGeorge
158890
Points
CobaltGeorge 07/29/12 - 06:47 am
11
0
Common Sense

solution.

Poo-can DDA would be 1st common sense action taken.

Go down to the bldg. 401 and pick up some already taxpayer paid unemployed (unlimited available) clean up crew and keep it squeaky clean 7 days a week.

So Simple.

CobaltGeorge
158890
Points
CobaltGeorge 07/29/12 - 06:53 am
5
0
Just Think

No transportation cost, use foot travel.

There is enought funds available to hire 2 guards to follow and keep any hub caps from being taken during clean up.

LuvMyTown
2009
Points
LuvMyTown 07/29/12 - 08:18 am
1
10
Downtown is Much Cleaner with the CADI Program

Before and after photos show downtown is much cleaner with the CADI program. CADI Ambassadors appear to work well with low-level safety issues like vagrants, lost folks, graffiti. Dealing with nut jobs with guns seems like a Sherriff's issue, let's hope they can up their presence downtown.

john
989
Points
john 07/29/12 - 08:57 am
0
8
slack?

If Sae Shin wants to see slack, he should eat at his own restaurant.

Riverman1
83979
Points
Riverman1 07/29/12 - 09:09 am
7
0
Good Info Brad

The wrong downtown people are making decisions. They should contact our friend for advice.

Brad Owens
4429
Points
Brad Owens 07/29/12 - 10:06 am
10
0
Absolute bollocks..

LuvMyTown,

You posting smacks of someone that has not been downtown very long and is right out of the DDA talking points memo on "CADI."

CADI has spent over $1.5mil BID tax dollars over the past five years (that is a conservative estimate by the way) to achieve a little less litter? Are you serious? WOW!

These things you listed mean nothing without safety and security. Also, the program is a complete waste of resources and not what it was suppose to be spent on.

The property and business downtown didn't pass the BID because they wanted cig butts picked up, it was sold as a "safety and security" program and it is in danger of failing now because they misused the funds and the people are tired of it.

Only when the issues of safety and security are addrressed can we begin dispelling the perception of the downtown being a "dangerous" place in the community.

The BID should not pass this year, the CADI contract should be closed and the DDA should be de-funded, then we can start over.

Brad

@Cobalt, you are 100% right, I would take crews down at between 02:00 and 04:00hrs to do clean up. That way the good citizens don't need to see the trash picking up the trash. Where does Marshal Steve Smith stand on that one?

Just My Opinion
5632
Points
Just My Opinion 07/29/12 - 10:11 am
2
5
Besides all the political

Besides all the political crud everyone is looking through regarding this issue, the REAL problem here is the performance of the workers, right? I mean, if the workers were cleaning and patrolling the way it was intended, then there'd be no complaints from the storeowners, right? All the other things y'all are bringing up is just muddying the waters.....they may all be true, but it's not resolving THIS issue in THIS article. Your comments, although probably all right on the money, are for another issue and another article. Anyway, back to the performance issue...I wonder how much these workers are REALLY getting paid? If it's not enough, and there's money still left in the existing budget (I'd bet there is plenty left), then either pay them more or get other workers. It can not be that hard to find people willing to pick up a few cups and candybar wrappers! If needed, think outside the box and hire students, the elderly, handicapped people, etc.. I'd bet any of those folks would LOVE a steady, non-stress job like that.

CobaltGeorge
158890
Points
CobaltGeorge 07/29/12 - 10:27 am
7
1
John

Just for you information. Restaurants have 3 levels of food they can purchase from their suppliers.

I have known Sae Shin for many years and I also am a personal friend of the account holder that supplies all the food ordered by Sae Shin.

He has never ordered anything except the top level meats, vegetables and can goods for his restaurants. For over 5 years I have patronized 1102 and have had many meals. Never once have I received a bad one. More than I can say for some the finer restaurants in the area.

Just maybe you are accustom to low quality meals and when you get a good one, it doesn't fit you taste.

I believe your comment is not called for.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/29/12 - 10:34 am
7
0
Why not dump CADI and hire

Why not dump CADI and hire off-duty deputies to enforce our already-existing litter laws?

Once a few morons get slapped with a ticket for tossing their Big Mac wrappers to the ground, that should help deter future littering.

Obviously, the presence of deputies would also deter crime.

If it's not below deputies to act as chauffeurs during Masters week, then it shouldn't be below them to replace CADIs.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/29/12 - 10:34 am
4
0
Why not dump CADI and hire

Why not dump CADI and hire off-duty deputies to enforce our already-existing litter laws?

Once a few morons get slapped with a ticket for tossing their Big Mac wrappers to the ground, that should help deter future littering.

Obviously, the presence of deputies would also deter crime.

If it's not below deputies to act as chauffeurs during Masters week, then it shouldn't be below them to replace CADIs.

HenryWalker3rd
2393
Points
HenryWalker3rd 07/29/12 - 10:43 am
0
4
I've spent much of my summer
Unpublished

I've spent much of my summer DT from 8until. EacH morning, I see workers cleaning, picking up trash, removing trash from cans, etc. They always speak and are polite. It's not the workers, ith the BACKWARDSNESS of Augusta....or moreso the money hungry leaders.....the love of money is the root of all evils....Augusta is being controlled by those evils. Just look around....it's great, no good, no OK here in Augusta, BUT COULD BE SO MUCH BETTER.

HenryWalker3rd
2393
Points
HenryWalker3rd 07/29/12 - 10:53 am
4
3
1102 and others
Unpublished

I have had many negative experiences at 1102....but I love the food, so a few WAITSTAFFers attitude or I'll feelings towards me don't bother when quality food is involved.

Soy Noodle has a great staff, What UP Frank?! The firecracker shrimp rolls are good!

Blue Sky...omg the shrimp and grits and coconut soup are to die for....EXCELLENT staff!

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 07/29/12 - 10:58 am
6
0
Don't Clean the Medians
Unpublished

I saw on a news report elsewhere that for the outrageous sun this program costs, CADI does not even clean the medians on Broad Street downtown. I parked in one of those "pits" the other day and it was filthy with litter, beer cans, etc.

Just why is this program so expensive? What is the overhead? Who is being contracted to run this service and how much are they getting in kickbacks? The chronicle reporter could have asked these tough questions but instead as usual, gave the DDA a pass.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 07/29/12 - 11:13 am
7
0
Too Expensive
Unpublished

Bottom line is... this CADI program should NOT be this expensive. You cannot tell me that 8 people with brooms and walkie talkies should cost $350,000 a year. Just how much are these CADI folks making? This should be like an $8 to $10 an hour job max. What this tells me is there is some major overhead with this program.

The DDA says they take an addition $25,000 fee to "manage" this program. I wonder what other hidden fees there are? How much are the officers of this company making? Like I said in my earlier post, for this amount of money you could have 8 full time permanent deputies patrolling downtown.. enforcing things like the litter and panhandling law. That would keep downtown safe and clean.

DMPerryJr
1698
Points
DMPerryJr 07/29/12 - 12:00 pm
6
0
Just Follow The Money

It's a sure bet that some slimeball politician and/or powerful business interest is running off with the lion's share of the loot.

Lori Davis
920
Points
Lori Davis 07/29/12 - 12:06 pm
8
0
Brad Owens is right on and I

Brad Owens is right on and I personally did several Open Records Requests to find out what this group was all about. One thing that blew my mind, and still does is that the CADI program started by borrowing money, which they still do. Why did the DDA not wait until the free money rolled in to begin the program? The city loaned the money to the DDA interest free for the first two years. Now Ga. Bank and Trust does the loan with about a $7000 interest payment every year. Who ever thought this was a good idea? Defund the DDA and get rid of CADI. If the BID stays in place it should be for Public Safety only.

Grumpy ole man
29
Points
Grumpy ole man 07/29/12 - 01:09 pm
7
0
Common Sense!

Here's an idea thats worked for hundreds of years! Business's clean up the area in front of their Store front, a broom, a garbage can, some personal pride. Running off panhandlers would seem to me to be a function of law enforcement, if they are breaking a law, otherwise is someone not opening themselves up to a lawsuit? Landscaping, if the city cannot afford to maintain it with city employees then maybe they need to concrete over it or find charitable organizations or business owners willing to sponsor those areas. Why is it always more money and outside contracters that are looked at for the solution to problems downtown?

KSL
129549
Points
KSL 07/29/12 - 02:26 pm
3
0
I thought littering was

I thought littering was against the law. How about some law enforcement. I can foresee the establishments that are not open being used as dumping grounds for litter. There are so many low rents out there who will throw it down on the street rather than holding it for the nearest trash cans.

Brad Owens
4429
Points
Brad Owens 07/29/12 - 04:51 pm
5
0
One more point...

Let me point out that the BID area (CADI) stops at 8th street except for a few volunteer property owners. Go downtown today and look at the 500, 600 and 700 blocks, they are clean with NO help from CADI. If CADI goes away the rest of downtown will also "take care of its self" too.

De-fund the DDA and vote down the BID.

john
989
Points
john 07/29/12 - 08:50 pm
1
0
re Slack

Sorry Cobalt, I was referring to the service at Soy. The food has been good, when it gets there. I cant keep taking 2 hour lunches. I do enjoy blue sky.

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