Commissioners discuss goals at retreat

The Augusta commission, including its four new members, talked about their goals in a four-hour retreat Thursday.

Held in a meeting room at the downtown main library, the session included a presentation from each commissioner.

“It was interesting that all of us seemed like we were on the same page,” Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said when the meeting was over.

Grouped by topic, commissioners’ goals targeted “personnel” and “economic development” most often.

Included under economic development was new District 3 Commissioner Mary Davis’ goal of collaborating with Georgia Regents University officials to ensure the merger of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities is beneficial to Augusta in the long-term.

New District 7 Com­mis­sioner Donnie Smith included working with nonprofits to reduce poverty, partnering with area governments to develop “a regional approach” to economic development and developing an inland port at the city’s south Augusta industrial park.

Commissioner Bill Lockett raised a familiar issue of “distrust” among com­mis­sion members and the mayor and repeated a call not to be ignored.

“For the mayor to have a great legacy, we’re going to have to start counting to 10 and quit stopping at 6,” said Lockett, of the minimum of six votes required to pass a measure.

“The rules of the game is what they are,” said Commissioner Alvin Mason. “If you want it differently, perhaps you change the rules of the game.”

New Super District 9 Com­missioner Marion Williams, who served previously as District 2 commissioner, listed two goals: Addressing abandoned properties and Adminstrator Fred Russell’s job. The group did not discuss Russell at the retreat, although several commission members included a goal of improving the city’s handling of blighted properties.

New District 1 Com­mis­sion­er Bill Fennoy suggested the group tour blighted areas in Districts 1 and 2, in the day and night.

“There are people in Augusta who have that type of element to deal with daily,” he said.

Davis, Smith and Commissioner Alvin Mason raised the need to reform the city’s two-tiered tax code, which bills residents at different rates depending on where they live. Mason said he’ll revive a committee formed last year to address the issue.

Johnson also raised the issue of the city’s vacant human resources director and recreation, parks and facilities director positions. The city hasn’t had a permanent HR director since late 2011 and has been without a recreation director since April.

At the end of the retreat, the body heard from the city’s new sheriff and solicitor. Sheriff Richard Roundtree told the commission of his plans for the department and invited each commission member to nominate a resident from his or her district to serve on a citizen panel.

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