Members of a panel seeking solutions on downtown security in the wake of the shooting after this month’s First Friday festivities have mixed feelings on what to do heading into the group’s second meeting.
“I think my main mission is to make sure that we’re all talking about the same event: an art- and family-centered event that benefits the businesses that are open on First Friday,” said Brenda Durant, the executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council.
The council has run the festival on a limited scale since the Downtown Development Authority relinquished involvement in 2007. After the July 6 shooting, in which six people were wounded, Sheriff Ronnie Strength and others said a group needs to be in charge.
Durant said solutions to crime downtown after First Friday’s 9:30 p.m. close were “out of my area of expertise.”
“I don’t believe that the people who were there in the late night had attended First Friday,” she said.
Also represented on the panel are the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Downtown Augusta Alliance; the development authority; the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative; the Full Circle Refuge; the Augusta Commission; the mayor’s and sheriff’s offices; and the Downtown Advisory Panel, a citizens group associated with the development
authority that advised the commission on downtown issues in 2005 and 2006.
Sanford Loyd, who serves on the boards of the development authority and the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative, said he expected all the groups to take ideas to the meeting.
“I expect that there will be some discussion on what each organization may be able to do to help, as it relates to security, particularly,” Loyd said. “That’s what we were tasked to do: to come up with some kinds of things to help.”
District 1 Augusta Commission member Matt Aitken, whose district includes downtown, said the meeting will help “fine-tune” community readiness for an event that downtown merchants don’t want to see end.
Panel members who attend the closed-door session will consider “what can we do to help Brenda Durant, and what can be done to accommodate the sheriff,” Aitken said.
Scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at the municipal building, the meeting is intended to be a work session and will not be open to the public, according to City Administrator Fred Russell.