Government

More News | | | Editor

Group to meet Wednesday on downtown security

Monday, July 23, 2012 3:17 PM
Last updated Tuesday, July 24, 2012 12:59 AM
  • Follow Crime & courts

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.

Comments (14) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Little Lamb
43827
Points
Little Lamb 07/23/12 - 03:33 pm
2
3
DAP

The way the story reads, the Downtown Advisory Panel has not done any advising since 2006. Shouldn't they disband themselves.

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 07/23/12 - 03:44 pm
5
2
To solve the problem you may

To solve the problem you may want to invite Plan Parenthood to the meeting.

itsanotherday1
40159
Points
itsanotherday1 07/23/12 - 03:55 pm
2
2
;) on HS's 3:44.

;) on HS's 3:44.

Lori Davis
748
Points
Lori Davis 07/23/12 - 04:23 pm
7
1
DDA's responsibility

It is the DDA's responsibility to keep DAP active. Margaret Woodard has not done this. The DAP has a considerable amount of power and I imagine the DDA does not want competition. The DAP can go straight to the Commission with problems, thus skirting the DDA. The DAP was put in place by Commission Resolution. They had just elected new officers in early June to begin to be heard with their downtown concerns that were being ignored by the DDA. One issue concerns the removal of the downtown clock without input from the citizens or DDA BOD approval. First Friday was another issue that prompted the DAP to have their caucus. DDA was invited to participate and did not.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 07/23/12 - 04:41 pm
7
1
Backstory on the DAP
Unpublished

Little Lamb, The Downtown Advisory Panel was created by the Augusta Commission in 2003 as a group that would represent downtown businesses, property owners, and even residents. It was envisioned to be the organization that would advise the commission on the direction for downtown like what ordinances might be needed and to coordinate with the Sheriff's dept over public safety.

It was the DAP who introduced the panhandling ordinance. But sometime in 2006 the powers at the DDA decided they did not want the competition from the DAP, so they made a power play to have it shut down.. and that is exactly what they did. It was also around this same time that the DDA shut down Main Street Augusta.. the group who had sponsored First Friday for years. Main Street was getting money to host the event that would pay for security. When the DDA folded down Main Street they automatically absorbed the money they were getting to sponsor First Friday. BUT the DDA decided they did not want to sponsor First Friday anymore.. but they kept the money anyway and did not disperse it to The Arts Council when they picked up the event in 2007. The DDA is still getting that money. What are they doing with it?

Just recently though the Downtown Advisory Panel was resurrected by voting in a new Board of Directors.. and they have once again become an active group. They just held a heavily attended public forum last Monday to discuss the future of First Friday. More than 80 ppl attended. But no one from the DDA bothered to show up, instead the DDA held their "own" forum to try to marginalize the DAP forum.

The DAP is the group that the commission should be consulting with over First Friday and other daily issues that affect downtown. The DAP is made up of the real stakeholders downtown. the DDA is made up of mostly appointed political cronies who are tone deaf to the real needs of downtown.. as most of them don't even own a business downtown, or any property for that matter. If any group should be disbanded it's the DDA. They get hundreds of thousands of tax dollars every year but they do not seem to be doing a very good job managing it. The DAP was reactivated by downtown business owners who have become fed up with the DDA. It's time to defund the DDA.

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 07/23/12 - 04:34 pm
3
0
Good afternoon Lori, Is the

Good afternoon Lori,
Is the DDA public funded? If so, where is the money being spent?

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 07/23/12 - 04:35 pm
3
0
Well Shellman answered my

Well Shellman answered my question while I was typing. Thanks

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 07/23/12 - 04:46 pm
4
0
Btw
Unpublished

Whereas the DDA has an executive director making $80,000 a year and gets hundreds of thousands of tax dollars a year, the DAP is made up of all volunteers...and they all either own property, a business or live downtown. The DAP costs the taxpayers nothing. The commission needs to seriously look at how much money they have been throwing at the DDA and ask is it worth it. The DDA can still function as a bond servicing authority WITHOUT an expensive exective director's position and they do not need to get a penny from Richmond County taxpayers. It needs to be defunded now.

dpresnell
12
Points
dpresnell 07/23/12 - 05:08 pm
3
0
Downtown Advisory Panel

Various forms of the panel have existed but were disbanded previously. The newly formed DAP is an attempt to reestablish and thus inform commission from perspective of business owners, esp. small business owners. The DDA has managed to "speak" for downtown business owners while not representing the majority. That is my understanding....Whoops- question answered more than sufficiently by others....

Conservative Man
5295
Points
Conservative Man 07/23/12 - 06:25 pm
5
0
The DDA is in Damage Control Mode

Shellman and Ms. Davis are right on the money.....The DDA is staffed by cronies and hacks and should be defunded immediately...They've done nothing of substance under the so-called stewardship of Ms. Woodard, other than spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on asinine studies, deflect blame, and collect salaries that could be put to MUCH better use...
The DDA's time has come....
Commissioners, put the DDA out of OUR misery.....

eb97
835
Points
eb97 07/23/12 - 08:04 pm
1
0
Yes , get rid of the DDA and

Yes , get rid of the DDA and maybe old Russell want have to tax us so much by running up the mil. rates and any other way he can get and misuse our tax dollars.

Riverman1
79277
Points
Riverman1 07/23/12 - 11:56 pm
2
0
naycan
42
Points
naycan 07/24/12 - 01:15 pm
1
0
Setting the record straight

Let's set the record straight. The DDA receives a little more than $150,000 from taxes to perform economic development, which includes promotion, of the central business district.

In 2003, after the brawls after First Friday, the commission approved a Downtown Advisory Panel made up of stake holders in the CBD. The DDA has the responsibility to hold annual elections and meetings and then report to the commission decisions and outcomes of the DAP. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the DDA that is law and the Director is responsible for holding any meetings and holding the elections.

When the DDA dropped the Main Street program, the dropped running and paying for the security at First Friday. Security was hired to run from 6 p.m. unitl 1 a.m. When someone put up the money, the Arts Council said they would run the event. Oh, by the way. there are guidelines for vendor and group set ups for First Friday which the director of the Arts Council was involved in writing. When the money ran out, apparently the Council said we cannot run it any more and backed away.

Ms. Durant says they were not responsible for after First Friday, she knows better, because it was discussed at numerous Main Street meetings of which she was the PR Chairman.

My purpose of this is to get the facts correct and make all of you who comment aware that it is the untimate responsibily of the DDA to deal with this sitiation in their district and not someone else.

Brad Owens
4102
Points
Brad Owens 07/24/12 - 09:05 pm
0
0
History repeats itself with the DDA

I have broken my self imposed silence on here after 32 weeks to help set the record straight on the DDA and DAP.

Naycan, the Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is not "responsible" for holding the meetings or the elections, the DDA is just suppose help facilitate them and the DDA has one seat on the Downtown Advisory Panel (DAP)

The DAP is a stand alone group and reports directly to the commission.

The DDA has tried to marginalize the DAP because they want to be the only group speaking for all of downtown. Which they have done a great job at spinning their many failures and a terrible job of helping develop downtown.

I am glad to see the DAP getting itself back together and proud that they are taking the lead on helping solve some of the problems facing the community there. When I served on the DAP we moved many things forward that helped downtown like the aggressive pan handling band and we tried to focus on the NEEDS of downtown's small business owners and residents.

The DAP should be the group that the commission, the sheriff and the business owners should use to help sort out these First Friday issues not the very group that has caused so much of the problems with the event, the DDA.

The DDA should not play a role in any of this given the many times they have been given public funds and not used them for the intended purpose, not the least of which is to provide extra security on weekends and special events (almost exact words in the ordnance) through the BID and CADI program.

I heard that the Sheriff needs $32,000.00 to fully fund security on First Friday, well the 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.

And this is not this first time First Friday security funding has been in question either, read here how the DDA cut funds to First Friday with no vote back in 2006 and was forced to continue funding it after massive public outcry.

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2006/10/13/met_100278.shtml

More here on that one...

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2006/10/14/met_100498.shtml

I fought to get the funding cut form the DDA budget and redirected to the Greater Augusta Arts Council (GAAC) when they took over the event. Here is a link...

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2006/10/12/met_100167.shtml

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.

I urge the commissioners to take a serious look at the funding this group gets each year and target it for cuts. Look no further than the few (out of many) examples I have listed here of our tax dollars being wasted by the DDA with little or no return on the public investment to see why it should be done.

When I was on the DDA I was a proponent of cutting their funding due to the waste I saw, and now I see with these shootings on July 6th that the chickens have come home to roost.

I guess trolley studies are more important than 14 year old little girls being shot down in our streets to some people.

De-fund the DDA.

Brad Owens
Past member of the DAP and DDA

corgimom
27781
Points
corgimom 07/24/12 - 09:13 pm
1
0
Don't forget the $25,000 that

Don't forget the $25,000 that DDA receives to "administer" the CADI.
I still haven't figured that one out, what does the DDA do, exactly, for that $25,000?

Brad Owens
4102
Points
Brad Owens 07/25/12 - 10:55 am
0
0
The DDA gets a cut because they made it happen.

crogimom,

The DDA gets that as a "management" fee which means they are the giverment organ that the $350K passes through to get to the CADI company.

The DDA already GETS all the money they need to provide extra security. The CADI company is suppose to provide added security on weekends and events.

The First Friday art event was over but the event of the First Friday "after" crowds was not over and there is NO difference on the security side.

When Main Street sponsored and organized the event the extra duty officers stayed till 1a.m. The funding for this was sent by the county to Main Street through the DDA. Main Street was dissolved by the DDA and the DDA kept the funding and never passed it to the Greater Augusta Arts Council for the event.

So, in comes the CADI company that also gets tax money from the BID Tax through the DDA to provide security on weekends and events, yet they also do not. CADI is a private company and it also is partially at fault for the shootings too because they have ignored the promised mandate to provide security with the tax money they receive t do so.

No one at the DDA and CADI company can say they didn't know about the after crowds or the security concerns of business owners and residents on First Fridays. It is well known and has been a problem since at least 2004.

I wonder what all the money was spent on all these years, over $4,000,000.00, if not on the NEEDS of the downtown? I mean they claim that the "perception" of downtown being unsafe is the major obstacle to growth right? Yet their spending priorities are not focused on eliminating the actual security threats and the perception that insecurity creates in the public's mind about downtown, WHY?

Want to know where a person or groups priorities are? Look where they put their dollars. I guess it is safe to say that the DDA cares more about parking and trolleys than security and safety, if not, how can they explain their spending?

Brad

Back to Top

Top headlines

Board rejects fine arts charter school

Organizers behind a proposed fine arts charter school in Columbia County said they are optimistic state officials will approve their plan to open a school in 2015 - a plan that was unanimously ...
Search Augusta jobs