Panel favors moving ahead on demolitions

 Many of Augusta’s worst properties could be leveled by the end of the year.

The properties, many of them privately owned but abandoned, already have court approval for demolition and are “clearly beyond rehabilitation,” Code Enforcement Manager Pam Costabile told the city’s administrative services committee Monday.

By a 3-0 vote, the committee favored letting the city begin contracting with demolition companies to tear down the dilapidated sites for what Costabile said would cost about $5,000 each. Commissioner Alvin Mason was out.

Costabile said 188 sites would be cleared or under contract to be cleared by the end of the year, with the possible addition of 30 to 40 sites scheduled for an October court hearing.

Commission Jerry Brigham motioned to approve the demolition, spending $500,000 in city funds from the urban services district or suburban district, depending on the properties’ locations.

Most of the sites are within the old city limits, Costabile said.

“Some of these areas have been neglected for far too many years,” said Commissioner Matt Aitken, whose District 1 contains many of the properties.

“This is a win-win,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said.

Brigham requested a report on which properties cleared by the city in recent years have been redeveloped or, if none exist, a report on future redevelopment of cleared tracts.

“We’ve got to get somebody that’s interested in owning this property other than the city,” Brigham said. “If we don’t put the structures back … it’s going to affect our digest.”

When the city begins taking and clearing the sites, commissioners will see “the land bank on steroids,” City Administrator Fred Russell said.

A government entity, the Augusta Land Bank Authority acquires and holds properties, typically until they can be redeveloped and sold.

In other business, Lockett’s motion to reinstate an advisory board to oversee activities of Augus­ta’s Housing and Com­mu­nity Development De­part­ment failed with only two supporting votes. Ait­ken voted against.

Lockett said he wanted the law department to revamp the board’s bylaws because it had too much authority before, but Aitken said he wanted to address “the overall picture and the landscape of boards” instead.

The city has nearly 30 advisory boards involved in issues ranging from animals and trees to the Savannah River and riverfront development.

The Engineering Services committee approved Russell’s recommendation on a modified remodeling job at the Municipal Building. The project, funded through a sales-tax allocation, has outgrown its budgeted money because of delays and new 2010 requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Russell said.

Among several options, Russell recommended a $22.8 million design that will extend a new compliant elevator tower from the east wing; remodel the Board of Elections, tax commissioner and tax assessor offices; and move the offices of the mayor, commission and law department to the second floor.

 

Augusta struggles to keep up with growing number of abandoned properties

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MAP: Abandoned properties scheduled for demolition

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