Officials, residents exchange ideas at Augusta government open house

Lurline Glover has been trying to get the city to do something about the drainage ditch in the backyard of her Butler Manor home.

It keeps flooding, eroding land and attracting unwanted pests.

“It has a biblical proportion of frogs. They were getting into my house, my neighbor’s house,” she said.

She brought a notebook with records of every call she has made to the city since April and a video of the problem on her cellphone to the Augusta Government Open House at the Municipal Building on Saturday.

She said she’s battled the problem for more than 20 years.

“I’ve called them several times and talked to several people, but now they get to see me in person,” she said.

That was the point of the event, Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan said.

Fourteen city and county departments were represented, in many cases by directors and other officials the average resident doesn’t often have access to.

“Everybody in here is people that actually make things happen in the city, which is, they’re the right people to help,” Shanahan said.

The open house gave directors an opportunity to explain what their departments do and to hear feedback from those affected by their decisions.

“A lot of times they have ideas they give us that we didn’t have, because they live there and we don’t. So not only are they learning about us, but we’re learning about them. It’s an awesome thing,” Shanahan said. “Not many governments do this because they’re afraid people will come down and complain, but they’ve come down to learn. It’s been great.”

Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said he answered quite a few questions about water bills. Angela Rice, the director of Probate Court, answered questions regarding wills and guardianship, and Sharon Broady, the director of Animal Services, answered questions about pet adoptions and leash laws.

Many of the directors said the foot traffic was good, but they would have liked to have seen more. They’re hoping for a better turnout next year.

“If people have questions and aren’t coming out, they’re missing an opportunity to look eye to eye with the people who can answer those questions,” City Administrator Fred Russell said.

Carrie Braxton was seeking help with overgrowth on county property behind her mother’s house. Like Glover, she said she has called and complained, but nothing has been done for more than two years.

She left the open house with business cards from chief appraiser Alvina Ross, construction and drainage engineer David Smith, lead design engineer Richard Holliday, and District 5 Commissioner Bill Lockett, though she lives in District 2.
She said she felt the open house was “very helpful, but I’ll know later on next week.”

Glover said she also was told someone will be in touch next week.

“We’ll see if it’s actually productive,” she said. “The future will tell.”

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