Augusta’s engineering committee voted 3-1 in favor of naming the structure for retired Lt. Gen. Robert E. Gray, the first black commander at Fort Gordon who later retired in the Augusta area.
Most of the 10 commissioners present for the committee meeting Monday as well as Mayor Deke Copenhaver knew and spoke highly of Gray, who died early Wednesday morning when his pickup collided with an 18-wheeler outside of Millen.
“This is the very least that we could do for such a great American,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said.
The designation was presented to the commission by the Rev. Larry Fryer, who with the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Committee has for months requested that the Walton Way bridge spanning the CSX and Norfolk-Southern line at Sixth Street be named, initially for former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre, the city’s first black mayor.
Fryer, whose agenda item Monday was to name the structure the Children Memorial Bridge, said the MLK Memorial committee had planned to honor Gray prior to his untimely death, then decided upon the viaduct after Monday’s meeting agenda had been printed.
Joe Jackson was the only commissioner on the engineering committee to vote against naming the structure for Gray, saying it was “too short notice.” The other three committee members are Alvin Mason, Grady Smith and Corey Johnson.
The full commission must approve the recommendation.
In other business, two controversial items on committee agendas were pulled prior to discussion or approval Monday:
• Lockett, chairman of the administrative services committee, deleted an agenda item requested by Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle to extend former human resources director Rod Powell’s consulting contract for three more months.
Powell, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and Guilfoyle said the move would allow the city to explore outsourcing most of its human resources functions, jeopardizing as many as 50 city personnel whose jobs are to perform those functions.
“I think that three months is sufficient” for Powell, who Lockett said may have been shopping around for a contract extension. Since Powell’s August retirement, the city has had no full-time human resources director, although according to Admininstrator Fred Russell, it has narrowed down a list of candidates.
Lockett said rather than have a new HR director join a department that’s being outsourced, the city should “take a holistic approach of revamping this government.”
• Also pulled from Monday’s finance committee agenda was a $1.445 million contract award to Tunnnell Spangler Walsh and Associates to implement the Augusta Sustainable Development Agenda, a $500,000 master plan prepared by consultants last year.
Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who chairs the finance committee, said a bidder was protesting the selection committee’s choice of Tunnell, so the award needed to be delayed.
According to procurement documents, qualified bidders not selected by the committee were Aecom, Cranston Engineering, Genesis Group, HKS, Pond & Company, Sizemore Group and Wilbur Smith Associates. Aecom, Cranston and Pond were short-listed with Tunnell.