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Consolidation bill up for debate

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Many components of the Augusta-Richmond County government established in the city's 1995 consolidation bill - from the mayor's qualifications, term limits and voting power to the sheriff's role as sole law of the land - are up for debate as Augusta moves toward revising the document.

A list posing such "issues to consider," drafted by General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie at the urging of Mayor Deke Copenhaver and City Administrator Fred Russell, lists 25 questions for the Augusta Commission to review and answer before having an outside firm draft a new charter. Eight of the questions deal specifically with the mayor.

Copenhaver, who briefly urged the commission to vote him wider powers as the city's chief executive, wants the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in Athens to review and revise House Bill 805, the consolidation bill, after leaders reach a consensus on what kind of government the city should have. The questions will be on the agenda for a commission retreat Friday.

Russell, who also will present details from a 200-page draft reorganization plan for city government at the retreat, said he hoped the mayor and commission can narrow the focus of the bill to several key issues in need of change.

"I think we need to define the mayor's role as what it needs to be, and the administrator's role as what it needs to be," Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said. "That seems to be the most contentious issue among the commission ."

Among the questions posed by MacKenzie are whether the administrator's office and duties should be spelled out in the bill. They currently are not. Also asked is whether the mayor should have a veto, be able to vote on all decisions instead of simply to break ties, be counted toward a quorum, and be term-limited, as he is now, at two.

"I definitely believe in term limits," said Bowles, whose duties and qualifications as a commissioner and as mayor pro tem also are up for consideration.

Three questions posed by MacKenzie deal with the city's special service districts, which tax residents differently based on where they live.

Commissioners questioned whether the city had time, with a budget deficit and proposed governmental restructuring looming, to address issues with the consolidation bill now.

"I think it's more critical to discuss the reorganization than it is to discuss the charter," Bowles said.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said the retreat Friday might have been "hastily called." An accountant busy with tax preparation, Brigham said he had cleared part of his schedule to attend the retreat, which might have a facilitator from Vinson, but doubted agreement would be reached.

"I don't know that there's any consensus on doing anything," Brigham said.

Commissioner Bill Lockett said the commission should slow down on the consolidation bill and wait for an opinion requested of the state's attorney general.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215
or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

Top 10 Questions

A set of questions about the city's consolidation bill proposed for discussion  has something for everyone. Here are a few of the 25:

  1. Should the consolidation act be amended to include the office of administrator as well as what powers and duties are to be within the office of administrator?
  2. Should the commission be able to change the form of government by Home Rule to create a management form of government?
  3. Should the mayor have the right to vote on all matters, not just to make or break a tie?
  4. Should there be any modifications to the term limits of commissioners?
  5. Should the qualifications to be the mayor be changed?
  6. Should the duties of the mayor pro tem be modified?
  7. Should the powers and duties of the mayor be modified to include hiring and firing authority?
  8. Should the Urban Services Districts be eliminated or modified?
  9. Should there be a police department subject to the control of the commission?
  10. Should all boards, commissions, panels and authorities of Augusta  have two legislative delegation-appointed members?

In Other Business

  • Augusta Commission  took several actions but did nothing regarding an ordinance codifying City Administrator Fred Russell's authority over employees as was spelled out in a new personnel manual because the Administrative Services Committee lacked  a  quorum.
  • The Public Services Committee voted  to approve two on-premises alcohol licenses, three retail alcohol sales licenses and a special events license for a Masters Week event held at a Washington Road restaurant. A nearby hotelier, Nayna Patel, said the annual event had created much noise at her hotel less than 20 feet away, but she said she was working with proprietor Jan Sholer and the city  on the issue.
  • The Finance Committee approved what Engineering Director Abie Ladson called a "wish list"  of projects  being submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation  that the city would complete if voters approve a new regional sales tax for transportation. The  list  includes the resurfacing or improvement of  roads and bridges, plus  improvements at Augusta Public Transit, Augusta Regional Airport, Daniel Field and elsewhere.
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Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 03/08/11 - 03:37 am
1
0
We vote our Sheriff into

We vote our Sheriff into office and he runs the department. We know who to go to when necessary and the buck stops with him. He in turn knows law enforcement and runs a great departmetn.

Should we have our own police department? That shouldn't even be a question as we sure as heck don't need the commissoners trying to run or micro-manage law enforcement. They can't get their own jobs done now and no one is responsible or acoutable for anything as they can each blame each other.

Put the Mayor in charge of the city, leave the Sheriff in charge of the Sheriff's Office and start workng on improving Richmond County.

Riverman1
81490
Points
Riverman1 03/08/11 - 05:58 am
0
0
I understand the frustration

I understand the frustration with the crime problem in the old city, but creating another police department is not feasible. At least with the sheriff, a constitutionally elected public official, the public has some say with their vote. Recently, we have seen the sheriff respond to our insistence in new policing methods in the city. Of course, remember which commissioners brought this idea up. They want power over law enforcement as they want it over personnel.

The other puzzling proposal was the one establishing the qualifications of mayor? What the heck is that about? Show a birth certificate? Make him sign an agreement not to wear speedos in public?

C. Hannah
0
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C. Hannah 03/08/11 - 07:50 am
0
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Question? With all of this

Question? With all of this going on in local government and having to call into play an outside organization, what is the purpose of our Georgia Legislators? Matter of fact; WHERE ARE THE LEGISLATORS? Oh yeah, they were told to worry about the business in Atlanta. Funny thing; I thought Richmond County business were their business in Atlanta.

WoodyKaminer
2
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WoodyKaminer 03/08/11 - 11:33 am
0
0
Since the ARC commissioners

Since the ARC commissioners love to travel so much, each of them should be assigned to a city/county somewhere else, that has proven its form of government works. I know there are other places that have consolidated, so this should not be a hard task. After going over their findings, they could basically copy the reorganization plan and the charter of that particular town. It seems to me that if someone else already has an efficient plan in place, and it works fairly well, we could just mirror what they are doing. Let someone else take the guess work out of it. Its not rocket science. And I didnt stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

corgimom
30326
Points
corgimom 03/08/11 - 10:50 am
1
0
Woody, Augusta can't copy

Woody, Augusta can't copy what works in other places. It wouldn't be Augusta if it did that. That would make too much sense.

WoodyKaminer
2
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WoodyKaminer 03/08/11 - 11:35 am
1
0
haha thats funny Corg. And

haha thats funny Corg. And sad, but true.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 03/08/11 - 01:19 pm
0
0
Since Augusta can't afford to

Since Augusta can't afford to pay a new police force maybe they should take advantage of the New Augusta Crime Stoppers.org? This way they get a "Force" working for them and everyone else too, and it won't cause everyone’s property taxes to continue to skyrocket as they are planning on doing now. Volunteers ran most government and police for about the first yrs of America’s infancy, before some government “employees” decided it despised working for the public so badly someone had to pay them to do what our founders did for free. Why did America’s founders work for U.S. for free? Because they LOVED America. The real problem is we need folks who LOVE our city, not folks who LOVE money. We have some folks who love our city like Tonya on the River living on a raft to raise money to clean up the river and win votes for a huge grant to build a new park on the river.
Click here to outvote our competitors for a new Disc Golf Waterfront park on the river.
http://www.rivernetwork.org/2011-millercoors-watershed-grants-contest
Joe Bowles, and Joe Jackson, Alvin Mason and Deke have volunteered for Augusta and there are others I’m sure we don’t’ know about. I have cleaned up Augusta for over 14 yrs after being popularly Nominated National Guard of the year, for 8 yrs of OUTSTANDING service, then joined up with Scott Hudson’s First Saturday Foundation to clean up even more of Augusta this last year. No local tax money involved because WE LOVE AUGUSTA.. But some who just love money flocked to local government for money, then cheated, stole, left the safe wide open after refusing to put the tax money on the brinks truck, dealt crack, and lied, as we have all read recently in this paper. Now we are out of money and again they don’t want to serve their fellow man like all the volunteer’s that really make this city go. Things will change as soon as as we find the folks who really love Augusta and give them the tools they need to help them, help us. Most of them will probably be volunteers. I say anyone who wants to work for tax money in the future should first be required to VOLANTEER for the city for at least a period of time to see if they love Augusta or just love money like most of them now. When we fix this it will go a long way towards fixing Augusta as it already has. Let’s get back to the VOLANTEERS that built the most prosperous nation on earth, not the ones that are Bankrupting U.S. with our own tax money. They should be charged with misappropriation of tax dollars and all their possessions seized and sold to pay U.S. back. We want our money back.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 03/08/11 - 03:55 pm
0
0
We need to finally figure out

We need to finally figure out if we are a city or a county. I personally think consolidation has been an absolute failure from the get-go. Now, if we can finally get this horrible charter rewritten and get a workable form of government, then I say let's do it, because these problems will continue to crop up if not addressed. The problem was that they rushed this consolidation through and let Walker have far too much control of writing the structure. I understand compromise is necessary in politics.. but way too many compromises were made to get this utterly pathetic form of government. In retrospect, some form of annexation would have been the best remedy for the city... and maybe just consolidate some departments.. like what Savannah and Chatham county did. But this is what we have.. so we might as well fix it now that we have the opportunity. But you have to wonder if it were put up to a vote to rescind consolidation, how the numbers would play out?

dichotomy
31715
Points
dichotomy 03/08/11 - 06:07 pm
0
0
So somebody explain to me

So somebody explain to me more about Urban Service Districts and the specific difference in taxes.

Sweet son
9988
Points
Sweet son 03/08/11 - 07:29 pm
1
0
dichotomy, you need to go to

dichotomy, you need to go to the federal pen and talk with Charles Walker.

dichotomy
31715
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dichotomy 03/08/11 - 08:30 pm
1
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Sweet son....yeh, I know he

Sweet son....yeh, I know he could explain it to me since he is the one that engineered this fiasco. But I can't talk to him and I know someone out there knows the specific details about how certain districts are taxed differently than others. I don't think a lot of the taxpayers are aware that there are two classes of taxpayers in RC.

Riverman1
81490
Points
Riverman1 03/09/11 - 07:21 am
0
1
Dichotomy, the downtown

Dichotomy, the downtown business district pays more in taxes because they are provided more services. Lights, sidewalks, more garbage pick-up (I think that's still the case), etc. In other words, they kind of pay "city taxes" in addition to county taxes. Remind you of how it was before consolidation?

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