“Burned children are scared of fire,” said Sampson Kelly, who lives in one of the area’s nicer homes, a tidy Leona Street brick ranch with bars on the windows.
Kelly and resident Frankie Taylor doubted plans to create a regional detention pond at the site. A proposal to pay for moving the residents is on today’s meeting agenda, according to Engineering Director Abie Ladson.
“They’ve been saying that for years,” Kelly said. “Show me.”
Resident Carrie Logan said her landlord hadn’t mentioned contamination or flooding three years ago when she leased the house where she and four grandchildren live. She said that uprooting her family would be difficult but that she’d do it if they were at risk.
Whether a nearby junkyard, the subject of a $10 million federal Superfund cleanup, also contaminated the neighborhood hasn’t been settled. City officials bypassed the environmental determination when proposing instead to build the detention pond.
The dry pond will drain the entire area, from flood-prone Wilkinson Gardens along Olive and Old Savannah roads and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Doug Barnard Parkway, Ladson said.
“We’ve had a lot of complaints; I’ve seen the flooding,” he said.
Because the city has paved Old Savannah Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a $2.3 million sales tax allocation can be used to begin moving the residents, he said.
Another sales-tax allocation specifically for Hyde Park brings the total to about $4.3 million, most of which will go to buying land and relocating, Ladson said.
Florida Road resident Nora Roberts, who has lived in her Hyde Park home since 1971, said she thinks the city is going to rip off residents by paying them pennies on the dollar for their homes.
“The city’s doing a highway robbery without a pistol,” Roberts said.
District 2 Commissioner Corey Johnson told her the city would “make her whole” when she is asked to move, Roberts said. Johnson, who made help for Hyde Park residents a campaign promise twice, did not return a call requesting comment.
According to city officials, Augusta’s Housing and Community Development Department will be involved with the relocations, potentially moving residents to new houses in the Laney-Walker neighborhood.
“If I’ve got to buy these people houses, or give them money to move, then it makes sense that I can pay myself,” City Administrator Fred Russell said of plans for residents to move to Laney-Walker.
The pond will “serve the drainage needs in that area,” Russell said, calling residents’ skepticism “a sign of the times.”