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City of Augusta has not allocated enough money to relocate Hyde Park residents

Project faced with shortage of funds

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Augusta has allocated enough money to buy all the property in Hyde Park, but it will hardly be enough to relocate all 107 families estimated to live there.

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Many former residents have abandoned their homes in the Hyde Park neighborhood.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Many former residents have abandoned their homes in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

The assessed value of 325 privately owned tracts in the black neighborhood slated to become a drainage pond is $2.8 million, according to a database compiled by The Augusta Chronicle.

With $4.5 million banked for the project, however, paying the city’s book value for the property leaves about $10,000 per family to find the equivalent of a two- or three-bedroom house.

Chester Wheeler, whose Hous­ing and Community Develop­ment department also oversees the redevelopment efforts under way in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods, has given residents the option of relocating to a new house, custom built for them in Laney-Walker or Bethlehem.

The new houses aren’t going for anywhere near $10,000, however, and no source of additional funding has been identified.

The average value of a Hyde Park house on the city’s books is $13,100, according to The Chronicle’s analysis. Nearly $1 million of the neighborhood’s assessed value is on Leona Street, where total home values are four times higher than any of the other seven streets. Although the values of the remaining parcels are likely low, additional legal work will be required to determine who to compensate. According to the Richmond County Tax Assessor’s Office, more than 30 2011 tax notices mailed to Hyde Park owner addresses were returned as “undeliverable” by the post office.

Despite the shortage of money, the endeavor is so large that Wheeler hired three new employees to work 60 hours a week for up to five years to handle the relocations. The new personnel will deplete designated funds by up to $400,000.

The area’s low property values stem from its reputation of being contaminated by a nearby factory and former junkyard. Many residents moved away or even abandoned their properties completely.

However, neither the contamination nor occasional flooding is substantial enough to make Hyde Park eligible for federal funds, according to City Administrator Fred Russell.

Wheeler estimated total resident relocation costs will be around $8 million, nearly twice what the Augusta commission authorized going forward with in October.

An Augusta Commission committee rejected Wheeler’s three new hires, but they could be approved by the full commission. Whether the group would reallocate additional existing sales tax dollars is unclear.

“There’s already $3 million that’s been allocated, and I’m not going to go in and allocate more sales tax dollars without it going to the voters,” Commissioner Jerry Brigham said.

Russell said the remaining money will likely come in the next special purpose local option sales tax referendum.

“It’s a multiphase project, obviously,” he said.

Augusta has collected about $40 million toward SPLOST VI’s goal of $184 million, so the next opportunity voters will have to approve a new SPLOST probably won’t be until 2014, according to Assistant Finance Director Tim Schroer. By then, area residents might be paying 8 cents sales tax on every dollar if a new transportation sales tax referendum passes later this year. Augustans rejected a sales tax referendum in 2004.

Staff Writer Sandy Hodson contributed to this story.

Comments (8) Add comment
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raul
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raul 03/18/12 - 04:01 am
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Follow the money.

Follow the money.

desertcat6
1140
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desertcat6 03/18/12 - 04:07 am
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How many of the 325 homes are

How many of the 325 homes are abandoned already? Surely the reporter doesn't mean to imply every land owner will get the same price.

JRC2024
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JRC2024 03/18/12 - 08:59 am
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Renters do not deserve

Renters do not deserve relocation money nor do real estate trusts or owners of rental property and as desertcat says neither do the owners of abandoned property. If the tax bills come back I would think they were not paid and the city should just buy that property for no more than what is owed or the value whichever is lower. But a new house at taxpayer expense-never.

allhans
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allhans 03/18/12 - 11:30 am
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I agree with JRC2024. Well

I agree with JRC2024. Well said.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 03/18/12 - 12:08 pm
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Let us not forget that the

Let us not forget that the whole retention pond project is not necessary nor even desirable. The retention pond was created as a multi-million dollar fig leaf to kow-tow to a handful of loud-mouthed landlords and residents in Hyde Park who want a bail-out of their underperforming properties.

There is no reason to "re-locate" anybody.

Now that we have set precedents never imagined vis-a-vis the Land Bank Authority, a better solution would be for the city to offer the current tax assessor's valuation to anyone who wants it and just let them walk away. Those who want to stay in Hyde Park can stay. The properties that are in the land bank can be managed by the Authority.

csraguy
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csraguy 03/18/12 - 12:13 pm
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Government at so many levels

Government at so many levels is just a joke.

GaStang22
910
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GaStang22 03/18/12 - 03:04 pm
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Exactly JRC2024 and Little
Unpublished

Exactly JRC2024 and Little Lamb. Its sickening. This whole country kowtows to the loud mouths who want bailouts at others expenses for their bad choices.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 03/18/12 - 03:22 pm
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From the article

From the article above:

Russell said the remaining money will likely come in the next special purpose local option sales tax referendum. . . . Augusta has collected about $40 million toward SPLOST VI’s goal of $184 million, so the next opportunity voters will have to approve a new SPLOST probably won’t be until 2014, according to Assistant Finance Director Tim Schroer. By then, area residents might be paying 8 cents sales tax on every dollar if a new transportation sales tax referendum passes later this year. Augustans rejected a sales tax referendum in 2004.

If I'm still around in 2014, you can count on me to remind you to vote NO! on SPLOST.

GaStang22
910
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GaStang22 03/18/12 - 03:44 pm
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Thanks Little Lamb. I've
Unpublished

Thanks Little Lamb. I've noticed that sometimes too. Its like they have 2 different spots for the same article. Sometimes they merge them, sometimes they don't. Looks like they are one in the same now. =)

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 03/19/12 - 10:26 am
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Sometimes, people's comments

Sometimes, people's comments show up on the Discussion page but not on the page of the article. That is the case of jasonbennet's post, relayed here:

What kind of idiots, besides Russell, are running richmond county?

It is a veritable village of idiots, Jason.

Let's think about the properties with vacant houses, mostly dilapidated and abandoned. You know that the vast majority of them are way delinquent on property tax payments. Surely the city is not going to forgive what the owners owe on taxes and compensate them on top of that!

Look at this incredible statement from the article up above:

Although the values of the remaining parcels are likely low, additional legal work will be required to determine who to compensate. According to the Richmond County Tax Assessor’s Office, more than 30 2011 tax notices mailed to Hyde Park owner addresses were returned as “undeliverable” by the post office.

Unbelievable.

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