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Downtown Development Authority members reject Riverwalk Augusta tree-pruning request

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A request to spend $183,000 to prune trees along Riverwalk Augusta got a thumbs-down Thursday from a Downtown Development Authority committee.

Overgrown trees lined Riverwalk Augusta in late July. Two members of a Downtown Development Authority committee recommended rejecting a city department plan to spend $183,000 for Riverwalk tree pruning.  TODD BENNETT/FILE
TODD BENNETT/FILE
Overgrown trees lined Riverwalk Augusta in late July. Two members of a Downtown Development Authority committee recommended rejecting a city department plan to spend $183,000 for Riverwalk tree pruning.

The authority’s Design Committee met to discuss the request from the city Parks, Recreation and Facilities department to allocate $183,000 in special purpose local option sales tax revenue.

Authority Chairman Cameron Nixon and Vice Chairman Scylance Scott Jr., the only members of the seven-person authority in attendance, both recommended rejecting the proposal, but the final say will come when the full panel casts its vote at an upcoming meeting.

The request derives from a city improvement plan to address safety and aesthetic enhancements, which came about this year after the May 3 assault of a South Carolina couple who were on a bench near the former Fort Discovery building on the riverwalk.

The plan called for various improvement projects to fix broken lighting, beef up police activity, and remove trees and limbs on 300 trees, but much of the work remained undone by early September.

Augusta Parks, Recre­ations and Facilities Director Bob Levine, who wasn’t at Thursday’s meeting, has asked the authority for funding help with the tree maintenance portion of the plan.

Scott said board attorney Byrd Warlick advised him that the authority’s sales tax funding should be used for capital improvement projects, leaving Scott unsure if “tree pruning” qualifies in that category.

“In talking with our attorney, he’s saying that it’s a slippery slope,” said Scott, who leads the design committee. “I think to honor this request for pruning trees would put us in harm’s way. That’s my personal opinion.”

Advocating for the riverwalk’s beautification, Scott and Nixon said the authority’s focus should instead be on a large-scale project.

“That way we don’t have a Band-Aid approach,” Scott said.

Of the $1.2 million in current local option sales tax funding designated to the authority, the two members suggested earmarking $1 million for the riverfront property.

“We want to improve riverwalk, and we’re in the process of determining what’s the best way to do that,” Nixon said.

The authority’s executive director, Margaret Woodard, named a former playground that now sits empty near Sixth Street as a potential area of the riverwalk that could be improved.

“I think this allows us an opportunity to really do something big that’s going to attract visitors and is going to be a great place for the people who live downtown,” she said.

One of the authority’s most recent Riverwalk Augusta projects included building a permanent $55,000 stage in 2011 for performances between Eighth and Ninth streets.

Construction of the riverwalk began in 1986, and it took a decade to complete.

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triscuit
2961
Points
triscuit 09/12/13 - 07:52 pm
6
1
Empty playground is right.

Empty playground is right. Not any families heading down there, which is sad because 20 years ago my kids loved to go there and I wasn't afraid to take them.

gargoyle
15888
Points
gargoyle 09/12/13 - 08:45 pm
9
2
If they have a large

If they have a large discretionary public budget when do the citizens get to vote for members ? This whole DDA thing has turned into a little kingdom of insiders requiring few results. Didn't it start to service the bond on a parking deck?

chrishardy
49
Points
chrishardy 09/12/13 - 09:47 pm
5
3
plenty of families at the Riverwalk.

funny, the Augusta Market is at the Riverwalk every saturday. every saturday i'm there and i've not been in fear once down there. don't fear the market!

countyman
19624
Points
countyman 09/13/13 - 12:20 am
1
10
The $1 million approach is

The $1 million approach is the best solution, but the Riverwalk area needs around $4-6 million right now. The gravel and grassy lots/fields can be turned into a bmx/skakeboard park. The fountain in the 8th street plaza needs to become quite larger, or build two of them. People should have to enter some type of round object or flat surface full of water. The benches and some of the trees around the fountain need to be moved somewhere else. A zip line near the Riverwalk could also become another possibility that could bring in money. The 8th street plaza and the amphitheater both need to have weekly events. The area near the fountain should have full 200-400 kids and young teenagers every weekend. The extension of the Riverwalk into East Augusta needs to break ground by 2015-2017. Marion Homes can easily be demolished, and the extension would bring additional riverfront properties into the local tax base..

The city of Augusta needs to concentrate on specific areas in order to make the success more viable. Several restaurants are coming near the Windsor Spring/Peach Orchard intersection, and I've heard HullStorey maybe redeveloping their shopping center on Peach Orchard(post office, goodwill, etc). The object is to attract some national chain restaurants, and big box stores. The city of Augusta should already be coming up with the plans for the new bike lanes, trees, and plants on Peach Orchard. The area of Peach Orchard rd between I-520 and Bungalow road is perfect.

Chris Hardy.. These people usually live 15-20 miles from downtown, and they don't visit downtown regularly. They watch the local news who rarely mentions the everyday life downtown compared to the high profile crimes. The Riverwalk incident in May was the first crime in over sixteen months. Some of the public also believes the crimes reported on the news as 'downtown' that happen in East Augusta, MLK, Old Savannah, bad parts of Laney Walker/Harrisburg, etc are the real downtown. The Market on the River is one of the best activities in the metro. The playground at the Riverwalk is underused, but people still use it.

nocnoc
40968
Points
nocnoc 09/13/13 - 06:37 am
9
1
$183,000 to prune trees ????

Don't we have prison labor for this simple stuff?

nocnoc
40968
Points
nocnoc 09/13/13 - 06:40 am
5
1
BTW: Without pruning

the installation and proper placement of Security Cameras is a NO- GO.

So we saved even more $$$$$$$.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7337
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/13/13 - 06:42 am
10
1
Common Sense

Again, I ask, why is this not in the ARC's budget as regular maintenance? Why are city crews not doing this now? If it takes an arborist, then hire one, not as an overpaid study but as a consultant. Does anyone have any responsibility or is everyone just playing the finger pointing game????

Riverman1
81970
Points
Riverman1 09/13/13 - 06:53 am
10
1
ColdBeer makes a great point.

ColdBeer makes a great point. You mean a county large as this can't cut a few trees and prune bushes? Has our common sense left us? Give any department some chain saws and a few trucks to haul away the debris. The Fire Dept. could do this if necessary. Organize a Saturday clean-up using those great volunteers who did so much in the past. Lots of ways to do this.

bigj706
1105
Points
bigj706 09/13/13 - 06:57 am
4
0
We are not a one light town

We are not a one light town little town with nothing here. We already have a ton of food places can we get more than just that or is that Augusta's only hobby eating once you had a burger they are pretty much the same more activities please fair cityand quit trying to pacify us with food.

nocnoc
40968
Points
nocnoc 09/13/13 - 07:55 am
9
1
How about some WorkFare

to Get Welfare?

badmajon
10
Points
badmajon 09/13/13 - 07:56 am
8
2
lets face it...

The biggest problem with the riverwalk, and in fact all of downtown Augusta, is that the whole area is ringed by a slum. If Augusta is going to succeed in attracting middle and upper middle class attention and money and experience a rebirth, there needs to be some kind of barrier keeping the underclass out. There, I said it. We all know it. From a purely economically minded standpoint, there are desirables and undesirables. Some cities like Chicago literally built freeways (Dan Ryan expy) to keep the undesirables out of the desirable areas.

There's no beating around the bush here. You can fix lights, tidy the place up, add more police etc- but as long as you keep the status quo nothing is going to change. I say the state should call immanent domain on the entire area (excluding riverwalk and broad street) and start demolition.

Build some nice Cabrini Green type tenaments in say, Hephizbah. Resettle the inhabitants there. Reclaim Augusta which used to be a resort town only 20 years ago. It's sad to see it in its current state.

Of course this is America, and in America nobody ever gets to the real issue at hand. We just talk in circles and beat around the bush and nothing ever gets done.

Brad Owens
4226
Points
Brad Owens 09/13/13 - 08:04 am
7
2
Of course the rejected it..

One of the board members may need a sidewalk put in front of one of their properties so they need to save that money for cronies.

Also, where did the DDA get MORE SPLOST monies from? If I were them I would be very careful during the budget process in making waves and showing folks just how useless they really are.

On second thought, keep going DDA, maybe this year you will have some much needed cuts of your budget.

What a useless waste of money that group is.

soapy_725
43672
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 08:16 am
0
0
Capital $ vs. Expense $ New construction vs. maintenance.
Unpublished

Capital $ vs. Expense $ New construction vs. maintenance.

soapy_725
43672
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 08:17 am
0
0
There is an agenda to all of these new taxes. New construction $
Unpublished

There is an agenda to all of these new taxes. New construction $

Riverman1
81970
Points
Riverman1 09/13/13 - 08:17 am
8
2
What do ya mean, Brad? We

What do ya mean, Brad? We brought in the planner of the White Squirrel Festival to run the DDA? What more do ya want?

soapy_725
43672
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 08:19 am
0
0
ARC inmates running the ARC asylum. Owners making millions
Unpublished

ARC inmates running the ARC asylum. Owners making millions

LuvMyTown
2009
Points
LuvMyTown 09/13/13 - 08:22 am
3
3
SLOST money can only be used for capital improvements

Tree pruning is maintenance. This request never should have been made. City needs to budget for maintenance or close some parks.

BAMABOY
20
Points
BAMABOY 09/13/13 - 08:30 am
3
4
The money the DDA receives

The money the DDA receives from SPLOST is to be use for the betterment of the community. They helped pay for the Christmas lights down, 25 percent of the James Brown statue and so on. I believe, as a taxpayer, they should help pay for those improvements. This is all part of the supposed economic engine that drives downtown. Riverwalk needs to look at its best. Oh by the way, tree triming needs to left to the professionals. It is a dangerous job. Also, the commission can take away just as fast a they give the SPLOST.

soapy_725
43672
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 08:45 am
0
0
LameDuck Deke did his little TV tour & all is well at the river.
Unpublished

LameDuck Deke did his little TV tour & all is well at the river.

soapy_725
43672
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 08:45 am
0
0
"gonna lay down my burdens, down by the river side...."
Unpublished

"gonna lay down my burdens, down by the river side...."

GnipGnop
11810
Points
GnipGnop 09/13/13 - 08:46 am
7
1
Some of the public also

Some of the public also believes the crimes reported on the news as 'downtown' that happen in East Augusta, MLK, Old Savannah, bad parts of Laney Walker/Harrisburg, etc are the real downtown. The Market on the River is one of the best activities in the metro. The playground at the Riverwalk is underused, but people still use it.

Those places are all downtown...the 10 blocks of broad street are not the only thing considered downtown....I know you love to brag about the CBD but it isn't the only thing in town...that being said I feel safe downtown during the day, after 11 is a different story but thats when the lowlifes come out everywhere. One more thing, if the Holiday Inn Express at 5th street wants to survive ARC better do some house cleaning. This corner is a haven for prostitutes and druggies.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 09/13/13 - 08:49 am
4
1
meh

there are hundreds of other ways to misallocate tax revenue toward an exclusive betterment. No worries, it'll get spent in due time.

Discussionstarter
478
Points
Discussionstarter 09/13/13 - 10:12 am
6
1
This article and the requests being made...

.... further support the opinions on how poorly this city is being run! I am embarrassed. How could someone even try to say that pruning trees is a capital expenditure.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7337
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/13/13 - 10:24 am
6
1
Please Sir, May I have another beating with a Pipe!

At the rate it's going, until someone is beaten or killed in the area, nothing will be done.. How many Millions of Dollars does ARC have to pay out in a lawsuit for allowing this area to almost become qualified to be condemned for "Demolition By Neglect"? Do I have occasion to visit this area, yes, a few times a year, on business. If something happens will I file a lawsuit, Yes for actual as well as punative damages. 100 Million in punative damages to be exact! I remember a few years back how the ARC was so down on the state for the maintenance of the old Golf and Gardens property!! Talk about hypocrites!!

Little Lamb
45161
Points
Little Lamb 09/13/13 - 11:10 am
5
1
2014 Budget

The sheriff, fire chief, and 911 supervisor submitted their budget requests yesterday, asking for across the board salary increases.

Fred (What, me worry?) Russell will be submitting his budget requests soon. Let's see how much money he will seek for Riverwalk maintenance.

Privy
104
Points
Privy 09/13/13 - 02:52 pm
2
0
Pfffft

ColdBeer & Riverman,
Before Departments were split up, Riverwalk had a regular tree crew from the same department (Trees & Landscape - now defunct) come in and maintain the trees they also did work for other departments. However now the tree crew is under a different Department that now contracts most of their work out, but the crew members have gotten excessive raises to do less. They do not do the work they once did.Talk to Samuel Smith & (Of Recreation) and Roy Simkins of the Tree Commission along with other members of the Tree Commission. Everything is diluted and everyone is trying to do less in the County.

Who is going to take responsibility for the mess?

nocnoc
40968
Points
nocnoc 09/13/13 - 03:38 pm
1
1
Relocate Cherry Tree to Hephzibah like (&%$^#$*(*^#

many years ago Downtown decided to do a lot of things that attracted a population that moved in just to get on the dole.

When Downtown got what it wanted they quickly found out, sure the votes and federal loans and grant $$$$ was there, but the local tax base to support it operations was no longer there.

So Downtown decided to consolidate and suck the county dry of tax $$$$ and the middle class started abandoning ship.

Then Downtown started 1 Million $$$$$ failed REVITALIZE Downtown project after another, but certain people made out very well.

When DOWNTOWN started getting crowded, $$politically skewed $$$ and crime infested, more middle class abandoned ship.

Then Downtown got the idea lets Section 8 and dump our growing problems, that we are attracting on the South Side.

Now the south side from Gordon Hwy to Tobacco rd. is in steady
decline.

So we stand now at a pivot point where the Downtown crowd has been migrating its problems out to the county, while using county taxpayer money to clean up their mess.

How I read the totally unacceptable suggestion:

Relocate Cherry Tree people to Hephzibah

My response:
Like [censored word] [censored word].

It is time Downtown learned to live with the mess it made and quit dumping the problems on what is left of the viable South Side.

IF ARC wants to clean up the mess, reduce or quit feeding the problem for free. Make those that can work earn a living. $180+K to trim trees on River Walk, $$$$$ clean up downtown business areas...etc... why not just use some of those able bodies living free for Work Fare.

Another commenter shared the Bird Feeder Analogy with us a few months ago and it made so much sense.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1824266/posts

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