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Hyde Park relocations move forward

Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 8:37 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 1:25 AM
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The Augusta Commission gave the go-ahead Tuesday to a $475,206 plan to move residents of the Hyde Park neighborhood so a detention pond can be built at the site, despite the lack of designated funding for completing the pond.

Commissioner Corey John­son, who twice campaigned on the promise of moving Hyde Park residents, praised his seven colleagues for joining him in a consent-agenda vote that included the relocations.

“It’s a start,” Johnson said. “We got the help that is needed.”

Commissioner Matt Ait­ken was absent Tuesday, and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles abstained from the vote because his family owns property in the area.

About a dozen people attended Tuesday’s meeting to hear the result. Among them was lifelong Hyde Park resident Joe-Anne Jones, who said she was glad to resume the relocation she began in February with Housing and Commu­ni­ty Development Director Chester Wheeler.

Jones said she would carefully watch the rest of the process unfold.

After Wheeler surprised commissioners by hiring three people to conduct the relocations, the commission voted in March to seek private firms to do the job for less.

Six months later, all bids that came in were higher than Wheeler’s estimate.

After Tuesday’s vote, Aaron Holiday said his mother, Beatrice, led a charge years ago to move Hyde Park residents. She now has dementia and “won’t get to see her work get finished,” he said.

The area has a history of reported contamination, and signs there still warn children and adults to avoid contact with soil and water, which hasn’t helped efforts to improve drainage in the low-lying area.

Though the relocations will proceed, Augusta has only about $4.5 million in sales-tax revenue dedicated to the buyouts, relocations and construction for what’s estimated to be an $18 million drainage project.

In other business Tuesday, the commission approved, by an 8-1 vote, a $1.25 million settlement with the parents of Ryan Holt and Michelle Borror, a young couple killed Aug. 22, 2006, in a mobile home fire that their families claim was caused by faulty wiring overlooked by the city’s chief electrical inspector.

The couple had moved into a 37-year-old rental mobile home after inspector Lewis Vann reported finding it suitable for electrical service. Vann, however, never went into the trailer, inspecting it from the outside.

The decision to settle came after a second vote; the first vote failed, with Commissioners Grady Smith, Wayne Guilfoyle and Alvin Mason opposed.

Smith said he initially disagreed with the settlement offer because he knew Vann and didn’t think the city was responsible for the deaths.

Told of the additional legal costs of up to $2,000 a day to fight the matter further, Smith said, he changed his mind.

Legal bills topped $500,000 even before the commission voted last year to appeal the case to the Georgia Supreme Court.


At a work session Tuesday, elected officials from Augusta, Hephzibah and Blythe learned of the complexity of House Bill 386, which will exempt area manufacturers from sales taxes on energy, but they took no action toward levying an excise tax to replace lost revenue.

City Administrator Fred Russell said the city’s strong manufacturing base now “is going to hurt us” and agreed to return with as much additional information as he could gather. He extended an invitation to an upcoming meeting to area legislators who approved the bill and to affected industries.

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just an opinion
just an opinion 09/18/12 - 09:34 pm
$2,000 per day to fight a lawsuit?

So, we were paying an attorney $250 per hour, 8 hours per day, 5 days a week? Yea right! The city was getting ripped off. What was the attorney's name? I hope we get a kiss.

TrulyWorried 09/18/12 - 11:19 pm
Hyde Park

I am happy for the folks in Hyde Park that have been waiting!

OpenCurtain 09/19/12 - 07:40 am
Lawsuit settlement better than the original amount

I understand the original trailer lawsuit was around $30M.
After some serious discussions the lawyers agreed to $1.25M.
I also heard one of the few Commissioners, who pushed hard for a realistic settlement, was Wayne G. Dist 8.

I heard some questions raised like: The fire did not happen for over 3 months AFTER they moved into the trailer. The trailer manufacture used Aluminum wiring and many other issues were involved. GA Power and few other are or were also on the hook.

In fairness to the County: To do electrical inspect for a 30+ years trailer would have required no less than every wall socket, light, switch and the fuse panel be opened and each connect inspected. The cost to do 1 such inspect would be justified at at $1500. A lot of houses and trailers would NOT be rented due to the backlog of inspections at about 1 a day per inspector.

I believe the County stopped such inspections long ago. So the lawyers are going to have to find another way into the taxpayers pockets.

Create a County Litigation Dept.
Start with 4 people (2 lawyers / 1 Sr. - 1 Jr. & 2 secretaries)
2.5M in funding for the Dept. and it would still be a lot cheaper than hiring the NEXT IN LINE lawyer to fight the growing number of lawsuits looking at Taxpayer pockets.

Parting Thought
I would suggest everyone read the comments for the related storyline and learn the dangers of Aluminum wiring. A lot of houses and trailers in the 1970's were built with Aluminum wiring. Many are well overdue to a complete electrical inspection.

OpenCurtain 09/19/12 - 07:54 am
He fulfills his promise to Hyde Park.

Commissioner Corey John­son, with his last term in office, he fulfills his promise to Hyde Park.

I understand it took a while to figured out the way to move Hyde park at county tax payer expense. Despite the county NOT being to blame for ANY of the problems in HYDE.

Well, now, the County owns a $18M Retention pond.

The Question now is:
How long before the EPA and/or some Tree-Hugger group sues the New Owners, the ARC Taxpayers, for any Hazardous chemical run off issues?

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 09/19/12 - 08:12 am

The Hyde Park buyout and relocation is so wrong on so many levels. Corey Johnson just bought himself a re-election with taxpayer money. The $13.5 million discrepancy between the estimated cost and the budgeted money will be used as justification to put a new "rain tax" on us Augusta citizens, when actually the "shortfall" is just an accountant's trick. The city is sitting on tens of millions of surplus in local banks at zero percent interest. Spend the surplus on the retention pond boondoggle — No Rain Tax!

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 09/19/12 - 04:55 pm
Answer Me This

From the story:

. . . the commission approved . . . a $1.25 million settlement with the parents of Ryan Holt and Michelle Borror, a young couple killed Aug. 22, 2006, in a mobile home fire that their families claim was caused by faulty wiring overlooked by the city’s chief electrical inspector. The couple had moved into a 37-year-old rental mobile home after inspector Lewis Vann reported finding it suitable for electrical service. Vann, however, never went into the trailer, inspecting it from the outside.

Is Lewis Vann still on Fred (What, me worry?) Russell's staff?

moola 09/20/12 - 03:53 pm
did not mean to use that word

did not mean to use that word but i meant what i said when i say people treat the park like crap but no its not its a wonderful neighborhood if the hood people would just be together like it use to be and keepin there neighborhood together by tellin the city about all the problems the hood has

Roxy 123
Roxy 123 11/12/12 - 10:18 pm
Hyde Park

The president Obama has this country in a financial debt and now the county commissioners office is doing the same. Instead of letting Hyde Park residents find their own housing. I believe if this was a white section no one would rec. funding. The residents of Hyde Park probable rec. some kind of government assistance. That is most than any one else may be receiving in a tough economy. Corey Johnson, wants to rob from the middle class that is already hurting. Why should we pay for your wrong judgement call. Obama has robbed us enough and now our city? Our county commissioners do not care how much they are taxing us as long as they can spend our hard earned money. They could come to my old house because I have drainage problems. I believe you can get all the help you want if you are black in RC. but if you are white in RC you're just out of luck.

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