Request for crime panel withdrawn

ASU official says interest is spurred

Augusta State University Athletic Director Clint Bryant on Monday withdrew his request to the Augusta Commission to establish a crime task force, but he said his concerns remain.

"I feel that it can be done without necessarily going through the commission and having them involved to set it up and so on, and still get the type of accountability and help and support that I think we need in our community," Bryant said.

Through lengthy conversations with Sheriff Ronnie Strength, Bryant said, he had determined that the creation of a group "giving citizens an opportunity for being part of the solution" was more likely with the direct involvement of the sheriff, but that his request had spurred interest.

"I floated it out there at the commission, and it's a buzz people are talking about -- how do we fight crime?" he said. "I even think our commissioners -- maybe they've put it at some priority on their agenda."

Strength said more discussions would be needed before a citizens group could be formed.

"I'm not in a position to say yes; I'm just not there," the sheriff said. "We're looking at some things, and he and I in the future will be meeting."

The commissioners had other concerns during committee meetings Monday, including a new 263-page personnel policy and procedures manual that they will sit down to review with City Administrator Fred Russell on Friday.

The document simply tweaks many existing policies and procedures, but also allows the administrator "to make some decisions that are currently commissioner decisions," Russell said.

Shifting functions such as the reclassification of employees from the commission to the administrator will ease the "slowness" and burdensome nature "of some of the kinds of decisions we have to make," he said.

Commissioner Matt Aitken said he was comfortable with what Russell and other staffers had drafted, but Commissioner Bill Lockett was not.

"Trust but verify," Lockett said, citing a long career in human resources.

After the committee meeting, where Lockett, Aitken and Commissioner Jerry Brigham approved it, Lockett said several recent commission agenda items -- the personnel manual, Russell's plan to restructure Augusta government and a proposed revision of Augusta's charter -- were moving too fast.

"They're trying to push this thing through, and I know there's some stuff in there that's borderline," Lockett said.

In other action

Despite opposition from Thurman Norville, the director of nearby United Methodist Children's Home, the Augusta Commission's public services committee on Monday OK'd a retail beer and wine license for Aficionados, 307 Eighth St.

Norville said the area already was frequented by the homeless, for whom another alcohol retailer would increase traffic; owner William Williamson said the establishment would cater to shoppers with a median income of $75,000.

The committee also approved a bid for $4.8 million to Reeves Construction to add 1,000 parking spaces at Augusta Regional Airport.

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