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Augusta delegation questions MCG expansion

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The possibility of massive cuts at Medical College of Georgia is giving some Augusta legislators reason to question the expansion of its School of Medicine to a branch campus in Athens.

The potential $1 billion state shortfall that prompted plans for drastic cuts also has them thinking of ways to increase revenues.

The Augusta legislative delegation "is seeking an answer as to why MCG is targeted for a $25.6 million cut at its main campus in Augusta while (there) is evidently no plan to delay the proposed expansion of MCG to its Athens campus," said delegation chairman Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta.

"We want to do everything we can to secure our base here in Augusta," said Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Gracewood, "to include making sure that moving forward we begin prioritizing and minimizing, especially the medical school expansion in Athens that could in fact hurt us here at our main campus in Augusta."

A postgraduate residency program in the Athens area is slated to be chopped if those cuts come through, but the branch campus, in conjunction with the University of Georgia, is still slated to begin its first class in the fall. Existing programs at MCG slated for the ax under the proposed plan should take priority, Murphy said.

"You're talking about eliminating programs that have been established, and we haven't had the first class in Athens yet," he said.

The Athens project is part of an overall $15.9 million effort to expand medical education statewide, but it takes up the lion's share at $10.6 million, according to the school.

Those putting together the plan for additional cuts considered slowing down or eliminating parts of the Athens expansion but ultimately decided to keep it, said MCG Provost Barry D. Goldstein.

"It's critical to the core (mission) here at MCG in Augusta because we need to be able to provide additional clinical sites all across the state to teach and educate our students," he said.

"We looked at that and we just felt that was a program we need to maintain at this point in time."

A cheaper solution might be to "maximize what we have here in Augusta-Richmond County," Murphy said. "We're going to have to slow the process down if we don't have the revenue to support it."

Revenue, and ways to increase it, was also on the mind of Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta. A $1-a-pack cigarette tax is being kicked around by some advocates and others are supporting a liquor tax. Some want to give counties the power to collect their own sales tax revenue, which would bring greater scrutiny on businesses not paying it currently, Howard said.

"It's going to take a combination of both new ideas for new revenue, new resources, as well as some possible cuts but nothing drastic like what has been proposed," he said.

Even though it is an election year, the Legislature will have to face up to some of these possibilities, Murphy said.

"We must think beyond an election to do the right thing for the citizens of our state," he said.

"We have to ensure that all of the needs of our citizens are taken care of. That takes precedence over any election."

The reassurance that the cuts will probably not be as draconian as first thought was comforting to Dr. Charlotte Price, the head of the nursing program at Augusta State University, which was targeted in the cuts.

"The real comfort is they understand how significant this would be if it really occurred for this community, and for the state," she said.

While her students aren't "wined and dined" by hospitals as they were before, they are still getting jobs despite the economy, Price said.

"I talk to the hospitals, and they still are very short-staffed," she said. "The need is still there."

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Junket831
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Junket831 03/06/10 - 08:41 am
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Delaying or ultimately

Delaying or ultimately cancelling the Athens campus is a no brainer from a budget standpoint. It not only saves money in the short term (this year) but as Riverman has pointed out numerous times on different points it will save a bundle in the long run. Conservatives and libertarians should be appalled that the Governor and Legislature have made no attempt to halt these uneeded expansion. It may be a program that would be nice to have, but not during these austere economic times in Georgia. The state just doesn't have the money to expand. So cut out any new programs or still incomplete programs such as the Athens/MCG mess.

Chillen
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Chillen 03/06/10 - 09:20 am
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Looks like someones been

Looks like someones been reading the AC message boards. Do we need more doctors, yes. Do we need the cost right now? No. Abandon ship & do the additions here. It will cost millions less.

Where were these politicians when all this was going on? Too little, too late. Thanks alot and thanks Purdue, we know how you really feel about Augusta.

Brad Owens
4434
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Brad Owens 03/06/10 - 09:49 am
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Junket831, We DO need the

Junket831,

We DO need the expansion but we cannot AFFORD it. I notice that the first place they look to raise taxes is cigs and likker.

Why? Because it is a 'sin' tax and one that people can't argue about.

Why not charge property taxes on all churches instead?

That would raise more revenues in ONE day than we could rasie in a million increases on consumption taxes.

I mean why should churches be excused from paying taxes? What is the idea behind that?

But the obvious answer seems to be evading our elected officials here, why increase taxes BEFORE we do the needed cuts?

I cannot afford a Land Rover but I want one. The reason I can't buy what I want is because I don't have the money. If we don't have the tax revenues to support these programs, then why are we considering MORE taxes instaed of cutting to meet what we have in revenues?

Simple, live within your means. I must do it, why can't the State make the painful cuts that we all have had to make at one time or another?

At one time I was living in a 900sq ft studio and eating one cheap meal a day. I was struggling but I made sacrfices and now I am in a better position. I guess I could have just maxed out my credit and then declared that I was bankrupt huh?

Our society of living high on credit, beyond our means, is coming to a crashing halt. I for one am glad.

Cut the Athens campus and cut admin staff in half. That ought to do it.

Brad

P.S. The only reason the MCG campus was created was to hurt Augusta because of all the political strength Senator Walker drew form MCG when he was Majority Leader. Now we see Augusta, a soild Democratic Bastion being punished by the Gov...at least that is how it looks to me.

Hurt MCG and you weaken the Dems from Augusta. No doubt there, but I notice we don't see any of our Republicans speaking out about NOT cutting programs and making this work with tax increases do we? Only Dems...

akb4483
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akb4483 03/06/10 - 09:53 am
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I am glad to see Sen. Davis

I am glad to see Sen. Davis and Rep. Murphy are backing the Augusta campus. If cuts are to be made, make them at the Athens campus. MCG has been a part of the Augusta medical community for years and needs to stay that way. The Board of Regents need to make the right decision and I applaude Sen Davis and Rep Murphy for their efforts now the rest of the Augusta area lawmakers need to make a united stand with them to keep the $$ at the Augusta campus.

Fiat_Lux
15429
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Fiat_Lux 03/06/10 - 10:32 am
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OK, Brad. Let's tax churches,

OK, Brad. Let's tax churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and every piece of property not already being taxed owned by religions or faith-based entities.

Then we also must tax every piece of property owned by the American Red Cross, the United Way, the American Heart Association, Habitats for Humanity, the Salvation Army (it's a church after all), Goodwill Industries, Golden Harvest Food Bank, every piece of property owned by hospitals & nursing homes regardless of who own and run them, and every single other tangible holding of each and every not-for-profit organization or entity.

If you target one, you target them all. So what if most of them shut down and disappear. All those increased tax revenues from the ones that survive will surely cover everything for everyone they took care of before, right Brad?

And just think of what a great job government will do in place of all those charitable, non-profit organizations to help the needy, disabled and the rest of us. It already has such a proven and stellar record of success on that, right? And we can just let the military deal with all those people in Haiti and such.

We don't need no stinkin' charities or churches. They don't deserve a tax break for all they give and do for mostly the weakest and neediest of us without any compensation. Heck no. Tax 'em all.

Fiat_Lux
15429
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Fiat_Lux 03/06/10 - 10:35 am
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BTW, Brad, I agree about

BTW, Brad, I agree about Augusta and MCG being targeted by Purdue et al. I just can't understand how a smart guy like yourself can be so short-sighted and uninformed when it comes to religion. Is it all religions or just Christianity that you find so pointless?

avidreader
3222
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avidreader 03/06/10 - 10:48 am
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Our local politicians are

Our local politicians are only posturing for future votes. The Athens campus is a sure bet; the real powers-that-be are in control, and our delegation will have very little say so in the matter. Money walks and Augusta talks. And by the way, I thought there was a limit as to the number of words that can be typed into these boxes.

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 03/06/10 - 10:59 am
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Brad, as a former Land Rover

Brad, as a former Land Rover technician, you DON'T want one.

CoastalDawg
125
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CoastalDawg 03/06/10 - 11:06 am
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This is EXACTLY the reason

This is EXACTLY the reason that so many people opposed opening a medical college campus in Athens. The first big error was the closing of the naval school there after fifty or so years - that will cost the government big time but no one seemed to care. Now UGA, my alma mater, will take over the medical college in time and the long time Augusta campus will become somewhat of a ghost town. It will take time but aggressive moves can and will make it happen while those who want to strengthen the local campus are wondering what happened. Overall the Georgia state government schools are in crisis - someone has already posted that it is TIME for governments to learn to live within the available revenue like they expect citizens to do. There's just so many ways to squeeze money from "we the people" and those squeezings have reached their limits. Continued cuts to schools in general and to the local campus of the Medical College of Georgia should cause such an uproar that the powers that be are FORCED to hear us and act accordingly. Once a person is elected to office he/she soon forgets that they work for US, not the other way around. In World War II the American people still had that spirit of being willing to give up luxury in favor of saving the country; now our GOVERNMENT can't grasp that concept. Continued funding of social programs and illegal aliens isn't working. We've diluted the American patriotic base by allowing those with no ties here to just walk in and pretty much take over and be subsidized by our government with tax money. Time to slam THAT door shut and return to common sense government IF we can find anyone with common sense who wants to serve.

youngprofessional
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youngprofessional 03/06/10 - 11:09 am
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To all those opposing the

To all those opposing the Athens expansion... esp aging Baby Boomers, those with young children, those who haven't found a guaranteed means of avoiding cancer of any kind, and, sorry, smokers in particular:
1) Georgia is at a critical level of the ratio of physicians to population. Too many people and not enough medical professionals.
2)This isn't about Augusta vs. Athens. This about the Augusta campus literally not having enough space to add students to fill the medical need.
3) I find all those who would willingly crucify their personal and loved one's medical access extremely short sighted.
4) Smokers Beware: Of course you oppose the proposed tax increase... but I beg you to reconsider. Its a long time between the emergence of smoking related illness and reprieve. Cancer research is your friend.

Riverman1
84011
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Riverman1 03/06/10 - 11:42 am
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Well, we may lose this, but

Well, we may lose this, but we can all say we tried. We pointed out the excessive costs of a new school and the fallacy that it could improve the number of med school graduates produced in Georgia better than we can do right here in MCG Augusta. (By the way, I don't work at MCG, etc.).

Continuing to swing our swords, feeling like those guys in the movie, 300, let's look at what MCG Provost Barry D. Goldstein said as the reason for another medical school in Athens (let's call it what it really is): "It's critical to the core mission here at MCG in Augusta because we need to be able to provide additional clinical sites all across the state to teach and educate our students."

Come to find out, there are very few clinical rotation slots in the Athens area. Even for the small class (they couldn't fill the projected 60 slots and only have 47 students) it was reported they couldn't find enough clinical slots. These students will have to use clinical rotation sites all over the state, exactly as has been done all along with MCG Augusta students who didn’t have slots in the Augusta area. So let's strike that reason off the list.

Next let's examine a point that some may be confused about: "A postgraduate residency program in the Athens area is slated to be chopped if those cuts come through, but the branch campus, in conjunction with the University of Georgia, is still slated to begin its first class in the fall."

Resident slots, which is the true way to increase the number of physicians who stay in Georgia, don't have to be anywhere close to the medical school. Those slots would have been for MCG Augusta students. Athens is not taking a hit here. Their students won't be ready for residency programs for 5 years. This is actually ANOTHER CUT FOR MCG AUGUSTA.

youngprofessional
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youngprofessional 03/06/10 - 11:24 am
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Also, Athens will not take

Also, Athens will not take over the medical school completely. Do not ignore the massive number of hospitals focused in downtown Augusta. MCG, the two VA campuses, University. Medical students needs these hospitals in order to do their training. Do a lil research before you fret. Even the Athens students are periodically returning to Augusta and other cities across the state to do their training. So! Athens can't take over unless they build themselves another 3 or 4 hospitals... and entice the patients to travel there too.

youngprofessional
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youngprofessional 03/06/10 - 11:38 am
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Last thing. I promise.

Last thing. I promise. Medical school expansion doesn't mean that one campus fades over time. MANY states have multiple state funded medical colleges, or one main campus with multiple satellite campuses. Indiana, New York, California, Texas, etc. The more slots the merrier. The goal is to CREATE opportunity: not to open a new campus just to chop its fully functional predecessor. Thats self defeating if you take a moment to think of it objectively. Refer to amcas.com for an example of how many states organize their multiple state funded schools.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/06/10 - 11:56 am
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Youngprofessional, you make

Youngprofessional, you make my case. The reason given in this very article for another school is that the Athens students would have clinical rotations there. Come to find out there are no such opportunities with the fewer hospitals in that area.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with satellite campuses as exist in Savannah and Albany. What is wrong is creating another full four year school with duplicated faculty and support staff that already exists in Augusta.

Sure other states have funded more than one medical school. We have to look no further than South Carolina. MUSC (Charleston) fought long and hard to prevent the establishment of USC Medical School in Columbia. They rightfully predicted funds would eventually be siphoned from the Charleston school to Columbia. Their reasoning was that the first class school would be hurt by decreased funding by creating another marginal one.

So what has happened? USC has one of the lowest ranked medical schools in the nation (usually ranked dead last) and asks why they can't be made the equal of MUSC. Of course, MUSC battles the upstart school for funding.

The UGA school will never be anything more than a third tier school in our lifetime, at a cost of hundreds of millions.

jb1234
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jb1234 03/06/10 - 12:08 pm
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Youngprofessional, like

Youngprofessional, like Riverman said, I understand that the state is at a shortage for medical professionals, but there is NO reason to spend millions of dollars establishing a brand new medical school in Athens when there is ALREADY one established in Augusta. If everyone is SO worried about needing to push more people through the med programs, then expand the existing facility in Augusta, it would be FAR cheaper to expand and add to MCG in Augusta (where there everything is already established and working properly), than to take the money and build and entire new school in Athens and as a result have to cut funding to Augusta just to break even.

It's just a no brainer to me, expand the current facilities at a FRACTION of the cost of building the new ones.

youngprofessional
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youngprofessional 03/06/10 - 12:48 pm
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Here or there, I think we all

Here or there, I think we all agree that SOME form of expansion is required regardless of the economy meltdown that was yet unseen when planning began. The Augusta campus is tight on space. The lecture halls, anatomy labs, etc are cramped beyond belief. They had to fight hell and high water just to buy the low income housing beside them. Faculty apart, land and space are sparce to acqure. Even if they used to new land to build a new school of medicine, the school of dentistry and others would have their need unmet. At some point, an additional campus becomes favored... esp pre-economy meltdown. The Mercer University School of Medicine arrived at a similar conclusion when they invested in their new Savannah campus. Regardless, there are multiple ways to address the shortage issue. I am not partial to Athens or Augusta... as long as the problem is addressed. You guys are right that adding to Augusta vs Athens would have temporarily bandaged the problem for a lower budget, but unless there can be a plan to immediately amp up Augusta's campus (which there cannot)... the medical gap is only going to get worse. My biggest point is aimed to those who would stop expansion completely in light of the new economy. Even in difficult times, priorities must be made... esp in an aging community. Even if magical funding appeared in Augusta to enlarge here, it would take precious years more to implement. Even if additions appeared in Augusta tomorrow, a newborn doctor takes 7-8 yrs to hatch... during which time that Baby Boomers would be hitting their highest needs. My biggest problem is, I suppose, the lack of an immediate contingency plan. My concern is patients.

curly123053
4671
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curly123053 03/06/10 - 12:50 pm
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Common sense makes no sense

Common sense makes no sense to somebody on a mission ! Certain people have their blinders on and instead of loosening those blinders they are tightening them as tight as they can to only see the mission they want accomplished. They don't want to see the picture as a whole if it does not go along with their mission.

whatmistake
100
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whatmistake 03/06/10 - 01:27 pm
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Sonny Perdue has never been,

Sonny Perdue has never been, and never will be, a friend of Augusta. His hatred for Charles Walker, thief extraordinaire, has expanded to include the city which created Walker. UGA President Michael Adams is an empire builder who will never be satisfied with a mere satellite campus of Georgia's only state-funded medical school. Augusta can say goodbye to MCG. Not many years from now we'll be the ones fortunate to have a satellite campus of the UGA medical school. Thanks loads, Sonny Boy.

Brad Owens
4434
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Brad Owens 03/06/10 - 02:18 pm
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I agree Fiat, Let's tax

I agree Fiat,

Let's tax churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and every piece of property not already being taxed owned by religions or faith-based entities.

Why are they exempt anyway? I mena taxes should have nothing to do with HOW you generate capital, RIGHT?

Let's leave God out of our tax structure? I don't think so. Didn't Jesus say something about giving Ceasar his due? Leaving them out seems unfair, and you know that things must be fair at all costs right?

countyman
20129
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countyman 03/06/10 - 03:23 pm
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Didn't MCG just build a $30

Didn't MCG just build a $30 million Cancer Center. There is a $112 million School of Dentistry under construction. A 150 room student dorm will be built on the former Fatmans property. The property is located near Paine College. The old student housing off 15th street. The housing will be demolished after the new student housing opens. Then there will be over $200 million spent. In 2011 for a Medical Educational Commons and School of Medicine.

This little campus in Athens. The campus can't touch the Medical District in Augusta. Augusta is in the discussion for medical center of the south. We got more NIH funding than cities like Miami last year. NIH funding is geared towards research.

devgru1
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devgru1 03/06/10 - 04:57 pm
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The move of MCG to Athens is

The move of MCG to Athens is politically motivated. The northern part of the state has always received more funding, etc. It's a no brainer. MCG has always been in Augusta. Why uproot it?? That's what is happening. The politicians expect everybody to roll over and go back to sleep at some point. Unfortunately, that is probably what is going to happen.

Fiat_Lux
15429
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Fiat_Lux 03/06/10 - 05:26 pm
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Way to go, Brad. Being

Way to go, Brad. Being deliberately obtuse is not something I would have expected from you.

What's your beef with God and religion anyway?

corgimom
32500
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corgimom 03/06/10 - 05:37 pm
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They are building a med

They are building a med school in Athens because they have difficulties recruiting professors- they don't want to come to Augusta. The public schools are terrible, the stats are terrible, and the only colleges are ASU and USC-Aiken- and they don't want to send their children to either one. UGA has name value. ASU does not.

Chillen
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Chillen 03/06/10 - 06:55 pm
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corgimom That doesn't make

corgimom That doesn't make sense at all, where did you come up with that? I don't know how it is where you live but most of the public schools in Columbia County are fine. And we have some good private schools in Augusta, which is where many doctors send their kids. I have family in Athens, believe me their public schools there are no better than ours.

I don't see what ASU & USC Aiken have to do with it. Most people's kids go off to college, especially doctors kids because they have the financial means to pay for housing, etc. If their parents live here, they are free to go to UGA, Florida State, Auburn or Harvard.

Riverman1
84011
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Riverman1 03/06/10 - 07:05 pm
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Corgimom, well, that's a new

Corgimom, well, that's a new excuse for building a new school in Athens. Haha, good as any I suppose, since none of them have held water so far. Keep in mind, Richmond County is a wealthier county than Clarke County. Clarke is the fifth-poorest county in the United States among those with populations over 100,000. Columbia County soars past Clarke and Richmond in all categories.

Youngprofessional, realize MCG paid nothing for the land where the public housing was located. Augusta gave them that land for free.

disssman
6
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disssman 03/06/10 - 07:40 pm
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Brad. If our intent is to

Brad. If our intent is to make money for Augusta, then make it a city code that to rent property you must have a license. Think about all the rentals during masters, and all the other rentals going on. I find it amazing that if I want to open a small store I need a license, but if I have 100 houses (trailers) that I want to rent, I don't. BTW I agree with taxing the biggest money makers in the area for any property that isn't actually being used as a house of prayer. And add the non-profits into that pot also if they collect one cent from a citizen for anything. If they are established for the public good, then make them stand by their word. No more should these private groups own property for years waiting for a plum sale.

baronvonreich
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baronvonreich 03/06/10 - 09:52 pm
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Comparing property owned and

Comparing property owned and controlled by organized religion to that of the American Red Cross, the United Way, or the American Heart Association is utterly absurd.

Fiat_Lux
15429
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Fiat_Lux 03/06/10 - 10:03 pm
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Baron, no one is surprised

Baron, no one is surprised that you would find such a comparison absurd. It's ok; our level of expectation for comprehension is moderated by past history of reading comments under your exalted moniker.

Kapa18
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Kapa18 03/06/10 - 11:03 pm
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Welcome to our world!! MCG

Welcome to our world!! MCG employees have been saying this for the past 2 years. We are always told the money comes out of seperate pot. There is a saying that MCG has always been cocerned about bricks and not people.

Kapa18
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Kapa18 03/06/10 - 11:09 pm
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corgimom, what are you

corgimom, what are you talking about? Athens is a dump and the only thing worth anything is UGA. They have had a murder and numerous academic and ethics violations. Augusta is much more well rounded in it's population. Dude, one thing you can always be sure of, a military installation the size of Fort Gordon would not be in area that was unliveable for the solider. Never happen. Oh did I mention our magnet schools are the number 1's in the state and in the top 50 in the country. Richmond and Columbia county have seen tremedous growth in the pass 10 years not to mention our proximately ATL, Savannah, Columbia and Macon. Sorry but you got it all wrong, very, very wrong.

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