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Augusta Commission agrees not to implement some departmental cuts during retreat

Officials agree on using reserves to keep programs

Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 7:11 PM
Last updated Friday, Feb. 17, 2012 2:24 AM
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Augusta commissioners agreed to dip deeper into the city’s savings to cover a 2012 budget shortfall and to hire an efficiency expert during the first day of a commission retreat Thursday.

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Grady Smith (center) shares ideas in a group meeting while Gordon Maner (left) takes notes on his laptop and Bill Lockett listens during the first day of a retreat for Augusta commissioners to discuss local issues.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Grady Smith (center) shares ideas in a group meeting while Gordon Maner (left) takes notes on his laptop and Bill Lockett listens during the first day of a retreat for Augusta commissioners to discuss local issues.

Broken into groups of five and six, each one with a facilitator, Mayor Deke Copenhaver and the 10 commissioners decided against implementing larger departmental budget cuts they previously approved that threatened to end some youth recreation programs, eliminate several city jobs and cripple the city’s engineering department.

Instead, after much discussion, both groups appeared to reach consensus on City Administrator Fred Russell’s new proposal to fill the shortfall with smaller, across-the-board departmental percentage reductions, excluding the engineering department, and with $3.6 million from the city’s reserve fund, currently at $29 million.

One of the groups, a quorum of commissioners Grady Smith, Bill Lockett, Joe Jackson, Corey Johnson and Matt Aitken, and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles also agreed to hire facilitator Malik R. Watkins as an “efficiency professional.”

Bowles was ready to vote on the changes Thursday, but General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie said the body probably hadn’t given sufficient public notice about the retreat agenda to take an official commission action on them, so an official vote might have to wait until the Tuesday commission meeting.

Commissioners sometimes prone to disagree and exchange insults during regular commission and committee meetings spent hours conversing intimately around two tables at the retreat, with facilitators Watkins and Gordon Maner encouraging them to focus on solutions, not problems.

Most everyone who attended the first day of the retreat, held at the downtown Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center, praised the group’s progress.

“It’s really fun to sit down with your colleagues and discuss things and work toward the better good of your city,” Lockett said, adding that it was time to “bury the hatchet” and resume communications with Augusta-area legislators.

Russell said the day had made him “excited again about coming to work” and added afterward that breaking the body into two smaller groups was a good way “to tackle some of the bigger issues.”

The group raised numerous other concerns during the day, which Maner and Watkins took down and will compile into a report to be prioritized at the retreat’s second day today. They included the commission’s image, drafting a mission statement, revising the charter, improving relations, civility, and the importance of sharing information between themselves and consistently with the public.

Comments (19) Add comment
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raul
4625
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raul 02/16/12 - 10:08 pm
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0
Let's waste some more

Let's waste some more taxpayer money hiring an "efficiency expert"

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 02/16/12 - 10:59 pm
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You gotta be kidding me? More
Unpublished

You gotta be kidding me? More moronic behavior. I cannot believe people actually vote for these brainiacs.

dichotomy
32136
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dichotomy 02/16/12 - 11:22 pm
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Politicians just cannot cut

Politicians just cannot cut spending. It's in their DNA to keep spending money until the well is dry and then raise taxes. They will deplete the little "savings" we have now and Fred will be recommending a property tax hike pretty soon. The commissioners will all agree with their heads bobbing up and down like one of those dolls in the back window of a car. They can't agree on anything else but spending money and raising taxes always seem to get the nod. None of them have the courage to take a stand on cutting spending.

Riverman1
82436
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 11:27 pm
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0
Air ball, air ball, air ball.

Air ball, air ball, air ball.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/16/12 - 11:37 pm
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They can't help themselves,

They can't help themselves, it's their high, dichotomy. And it's all they know how to do.

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 02/16/12 - 11:41 pm
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well as least we will soon
Unpublished

well as least we will soon have a new mixed use baseball facility condo superstructure fix all thingie.

Riverman1
82436
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 11:56 pm
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Hiring a "efficiency

Hiring a "efficiency professional" is like doing another of those studies that cost hundreds of thousands and never do anything except collect dust. How much is the "faciliator" or "efficiency professional" or whatever you call him going to be paid?

seenitB4
85748
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seenitB4 02/17/12 - 07:31 am
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0
Oh the key words....aaaahh

Oh the key words....aaaahh

encouraging them to focus on solutions, not problems.

Most everyone who attended the first day of the retreat, held at the downtown Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center, praised the group’s progress.

“It’s really fun to sit down with your colleagues and discuss things and work toward the better good of your city,” Lockett said, adding that it was time to “bury the hatchet” and resume communications with Augusta-area legislators.

I bet I know where they want to put that "hatchet".

Clemintime
190
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Clemintime 02/17/12 - 07:51 am
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No worries, the "efficiency

No worries, the "efficiency professional" comes with a 90-day parts and labor warranty.

TK3
562
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TK3 02/17/12 - 08:28 am
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Actually none of these so

Actually none of these so called agreement or decisions are legal unless discussed, made in a public-forum and as per law, with full press allowed. Otherwise such meetings are from what I understand as being in violation of state and Federal law.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 02/17/12 - 09:02 am
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Who is up for making a

Who is up for making a bet?

My bet is that an "efficiency" guru is hired, spends a whole bunch of time finding ways to save money, makes recommendations and then our commissioners refuse to implement any of them.

Hmmm.... our city administrator who is in the trenches makes recommendations to save money and he gets ignored. What makes an outside guy any different?

By the way, does anyone know who this guy is related to or whose campaign he contributed to?

Shocking that commissioners wouldn't want to put this out to bid to give other people the opportunity to compete, but then again this is the kinda things we have come to expect from them.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 02/17/12 - 09:28 am
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Let me put it this way... The

Let me put it this way...

The commissioners have agreed to hire a guy to do something for some amount of money.

The commissioners weren't presented this guy's resume, background, expertise or experience in government efficiency.

The commissioners weren't presented a contract of what specifically he will do, what he will produce or by when he will produce it.

The commissioners weren't even given a price, much less a competitive bid.

Yet, they agreed to pay up. It's easy when it's someone else's money.

I'm Back Again
307
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I'm Back Again 02/17/12 - 09:38 am
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0
Whats the status of Alvin
Unpublished

Whats the status of Alvin Masons Case of domestic violence?

Lori Davis
905
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Lori Davis 02/17/12 - 09:55 am
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I agree Insider, More of the

I agree Insider, More of the same. My first question was, where did this guy come from? Also, why don't these retreats take place at other area hotels from time to time for good business. I was in the downtown Ramada the other day and they have all of the facilities needed to hold one of these meetings.

Riverman1
82436
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Riverman1 02/17/12 - 10:02 am
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The facilitator is an

The facilitator is an academic who is well known and works to help black elected officials usually. That's one reason Bowles and company were able to get his hiring approved so fast. I still want to know what he will be paid and what his focus will be. This is such nebulous jargon.

Riverman1
82436
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Riverman1 02/17/12 - 10:04 am
0
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Lori, the cabal only meets at

Lori, the cabal only meets at the Batcave. The Ramada is the best thing on Broad St. and does it all without a penny of government money.

Riverman1
82436
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Riverman1 02/17/12 - 10:59 am
0
0
I wonder what the increased

I wonder what the increased motel/hotel taxes dedicated to the Tee could have funded?

Riverman1
82436
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Riverman1 02/17/12 - 11:31 am
0
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I'm still trying to figure

I'm still trying to figure out how the finances were handled for the first parking deck.

TK3
562
Points
TK3 02/17/12 - 12:35 pm
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Riverman1 believe me you

Riverman1 believe me you don't want to know as the powers that be would have to make you vanish.

Lori Davis
905
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Lori Davis 02/17/12 - 12:42 pm
0
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Riverman, you are correct

Riverman, you are correct about the Ramada. Also owned by a stellar businesswoman who could bring a wealth of knowledge to those who remain uncorrupted.

Riverman1
82436
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Riverman1 02/17/12 - 12:56 pm
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Lori, you know more people

Lori, you know more people than I do. The only ones I'm friends with run strip clubs.

Riverman1
82436
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Riverman1 02/17/12 - 12:56 pm
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TK3, I DO KNOW and want it

TK3, I DO KNOW and want it discussed is my point.

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