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Commission OKs renovations at municipal building

Monday, March 11, 2013 9:52 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 12, 2013 2:21 PM
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The Augusta Commission gave the go-ahead Monday to a full refurbishing of the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building funded by issuing $26.5 million in bonds and by existing and future sales tax revenues.

The plan, discussed at length at Friday, was approved by seven of eight commissioners meeting Monday, with only Commissioner Bill Fennoy opposed.

“I’m not against remodeling, but I think there are too many other concerns in the city that need to be addressed before we spend $40 million on a remodeling project,” Fennoy said, citing concerns such as sewage overflows on Lee Beard Way and flooding in Eastview and on Broad Street.

The project detailed Friday includes new elevators and restrooms expected to make the 1957 high-rise compliant with federal laws, moving the public entrance to face Telfair Street and creating new commission chambers in a former courtroom and new offices for departments that have occupied rented space around the city. It also will see the demolition of some structures in the parking lot, City Administrator Fred Russell said.

The vote, with Commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle and Joe Jackson absent, was the only one taken at the called meeting of the full commission, after which the group broke off into committees.

Actions taken by committees Monday included approving $25,000 for MACH Academy, a south Augusta tennis program previously supported by the commission. Russell said the program offered not only tennis but also “life skills” to participants, several of whom have earned tennis scholarships, according to program officials.

After it received a “no” vote from Commissioner Donnie Smith, the finance committee did not approve a resolution supporting Augusta legislators’ taking a look at salaries of the city’s elected officials.

The motion is a modification by Commissioner Alvin Mason of Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson’s request that the group support the delegation’s raising salaries for Augusta’s two civil and magistrate court judges. It will likely go before the full commission for approval.

“I do not think it’s the appropriate time for us to deal with that,” Smith said. “I don't think it's the Legislature's role to change those salaries, because we have to pay them.”
The delegation last increased through local legislation the salaries of Richmond County’s clerk of court, solicitor general, district attorney, Superior Court judge and sheriff in 2006.

It last raised the magistrate and civil court judges’ salaries in 2002, along with those of the clerk of courts, probate judge, tax commissioner, solicitor general, coroner, district attorney, Superior Court judges and sheriff.

The issue of salaries caused the commission grief this year when Richmond County’s new sheriff and solicitor-general requested pay equal to or higher than that of their predecessors, but the commission eventually approved them, 6-4.

Fennoy said he hoped the delegation would consider Augusta income levels before raising the salaries to levels seen in other cities.

“We’ve also got to look at the income of the various counties that we’re comparing them to,” he said. Chatham County, Ga., for instance, “might have better income to pay these elected officials.”
In other matters, the board heard from Terry Davis, who owns a coal yard at the corner of Walton Way and Gordon Highway that is improperly zoned for that use.

Davis said he used the yard to supply coal to International Paper.

“This had coal on it since before I bought the property,” Davis said. “I had no idea zoning was an issue.”

Johnson raised the issue of three of five subcontractors excluded as subhaulers under Augusta's new solid-waste contract, set to go into effect in June.

“I just don’t understand why we had that much work and we just gave it to one contractor,” Johnson said.

Under the contract, Augusta will employ two waste haulers, who will collect trash and recycling once a week, with two subcontractors they agreed to hire collecting bulk and yard waste, said Mark Johnson, the solid-waste director.

The city’s administrative services committee discussed but took no action on an item that Johnson requested seeking clarity on what an individual commissioner could demand of a department head or other employee who reports directly to the commission.

“The rules have already been in place,” said Com­missioner Marion Williams, who previously served two terms. “Any commissioner can put anything on the agenda. But to give direction to anybody but Fred Russell is another thing.”

Williams said that although a commissioner can seek information from a department head or ask an administrator or the city clerk to get the information, he or she must add the item to a meeting agenda before any action is taken.

Comments (18) Add comment
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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 03/11/13 - 10:15 pm
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MacKenzie

Does attorney Andrew MacKenzie report to Russell or directly to the Board of Commissioners?

countyman
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countyman 03/12/13 - 01:14 am
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5
Slowly but surely

Yes, the city of Augusta finally wants to become progressive. It's much cheaper to do one large renovation than several different phases over time. This would have ended up costing the taxpayers more in the long run.

Now please do something about the Regency Mall property. The regional sports complex & approved lake is the best idea. The city can easily build some type of government building in Southgate or the former Winn Dixie Plaza to protect their investment. Focus on bringing higher quality businesses to the KMART, Southgate Plaza, empty car dealerships, former Winn Dixie Plaza, etc nearby & demolish Regency Mall.

The new shopping areas in South Augusta need to be near I-520/Peach Orchard/Windsor Spring(smaller Augusta Exchange)& the mix-use/lifestyle/town center development either at Mike Padgett/Goshen, Deans Bridge rd/Fort Gordon entrance, or Peach Orchard near the city limits of Hephzibah(Hwy 88).

rebellious
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rebellious 03/12/13 - 01:11 am
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What

Commissioners Fennoy and Williams are on target this time. Smith as well. Raise salaries on 6 figure earners while the little guys can "just eat cake".

Corey, who you wanting to deal with and harass directly? Is there a hard-drive needed?

And pay attention to the funding for this renovation. It will come from a sales tax NOT YET APPROVED! Danger Will Roberson, Danger.

Today's decisions can create tomorrow's disasters.

countyman
20025
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countyman 03/12/13 - 01:20 am
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$18 million

I believe the voters approved $18 million previously.

Riverman1
83493
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Riverman1 03/12/13 - 04:52 am
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$18 million v. $40 million.

$18 million v. $40 million. It reminds me of the way the voters approved the TEE Center. I wonder how far they can take this idea of funding projects with future voter approvals? What if voters in the future say they don't think that was a good idea? Where does this spending of "maybe" future money stop? Can you pawn a building?

nocnoc
42425
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nocnoc 03/12/13 - 04:59 am
7
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Waste behind waste

I can't support this decision for a few reasons:

1. We are consolidated Government, yet Government continues to focus in buildings in the old DOWNTOWN.
2. The building is 56 Years old pre-CODE days and has limited emergency accesses, and from a material design (Marble) costly to upgrade or expand.
3. Parking WHAT Parking Downtown.
4. Regency Mall costs around $12Million and has more parking, a more central location and would serve to re-start growth in the Gordon/Dean Bridge Rd areas.
5.The remodeling the South Side White Elephant in the long run is better for all, all around.
6. Sell the Marble Place recover some loses.
7. Convenience for local lawyers is NOT a taxpayer issue.

nocnoc
42425
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nocnoc 03/12/13 - 05:04 am
4
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Any bets?

On the percentage of Cost over runs?

I am betting 11%

soitgoes
786
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soitgoes 03/12/13 - 08:00 am
6
1
spend, spend, spend

Augusta-Richmond County Commission is becoming just like the US Congress. Spend as much of the taxpayers' money as you can. Give away pay raises. Build monstrous buildings. Renovate extravagantly. Soon taxes will go up in ARC (you heard it here first). ***** We need a local sequester to STOP THE SPENDING. But so it goes...

Little Lamb
45840
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Little Lamb 03/12/13 - 08:06 am
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Shift

I have consistently panned countyman's pleas for city government to "do something" with the "Regency Mall property." I remind him that property is private and the city has nothing to do with it other than collect taxes. But nocnoc's idea is intriguing for me.

If city government would make an ironclad pact with taxpayers to:

1. Begin purchase proceedings for the Regency Mall site to become the new City Hall, and

2. Place the Greene Street Marble Palace on the market to be sold to a non-governmental entity, then

we might be on the road to some sort of reconciliation between the downtowners and the southsiders.

With city hall at Gordon & Deans Bridge we move toward centralization. The sheriff's administration and the Ruff House cover the northeast sector. The sheriff's substation at Daniel Village covers the Hill Section, while the sheriff's substation on Hwy. 56 covers the southeast sector. The utilities maintenance building on Wylds Rd. covers the west.

Sounds like a plan.

dichotomy
32721
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dichotomy 03/12/13 - 08:27 am
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Just like the TEE and Parking

Just like the TEE and Parking Deck, RC projects always costs us more than double than what we are told when Fred first slides them in under the door. That is the normal level of incompetence we have come to expect. I do hope we have some kind of ordinance or state law that would prevent them from floating bonds against a future, unapproved sales tax. I don't know about the rest of you but my intention is to NEVER vote for another SPLOST. Just like TSPLOST, all of these SPLOSTs are for them to tax us to do things WE ALREADY PAY THEM TO DO if they weren't squandering our regular tax money elsewhere.

Does anyone have a total amount that we owe on bonds? I'd like a warm fuzzy that they are not only budgeting for the interest payments but also the lump sum payback when the bonds mature. I'd also like a current comparison of what we owe vs. the projected income from APPROVED, TIME LIMITED, SPLOST sales taxes.

harley_52
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harley_52 03/12/13 - 08:40 am
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Who Owns....

....the Regency Mall property? Are there ties to anybody in ARC government?

What's the fair market value of the property?

harley_52
23163
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harley_52 03/12/13 - 09:02 am
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LL

Superb plan. Makes too much sense.

seenitB4
86723
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seenitB4 03/12/13 - 09:32 am
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Noc noc & Llamb

Great plan for Regency Mall could start the new south side new beginning.

countyman
20025
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countyman 03/12/13 - 11:59 am
2
1
The problem with the rising

The problem with the rising cost is we don't build things once they get approved.

The problem with the Regency Mall is the voters continued to reject every proposal. The sports arena was shot down back in the year 2005.

The Judicial Center site was finally approved in 2005, and won over the Regency Mall location. It makes no sense to move the Municipal building to Regency Mall in 2013.

The $3-4 million lake goes perfectly with the regional sport complex.

Why would you put city hall outside of downtown? The Judicial Center was the best chance, and the public didn't want it at Regency mall.

What if nobody decides to buy the marble place anytime soon? The city ends up stuck with the Regency Mall, and will have to still build on the property. Along with having a large empty building downtown.

Little Lamb
45840
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Little Lamb 03/12/13 - 01:01 pm
1
0
Silly

Bill Kirby's column is next to this story in today's print edition. Kirby wrote about Daylight Savings time, and said:

People do silly things when they are sleep-deprived, and this is the most sleep-deprived week of the year — so look out!

That explains the first sentence of this renovation story above.

dichotomy
32721
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dichotomy 03/12/13 - 05:10 pm
3
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"Why would you put city hall

"Why would you put city hall outside of downtown?"

Well, we are not just a downtown anymore. There is a city limits sign down at the Jefferson and Burke county lines. How about locating city hall IN THE CENTER OF THE "CITY OF AUGUSTA".

Oh, I know. We are only a "city" when it comes time to pass out the tax bills. The rest of the time the "city" is downtown.

countyman
20025
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countyman 03/12/13 - 06:26 pm
2
1
The city hall of the

The city hall of the overwhelmingly majority of consolidate counties in the US are downtown.

I just find the downtown conspiracy theories funny, because Augusta just started on it's downtown revitalization(far behind Charleston, Savannah, Greenville, Chattanooga). The majority of commissioners also live south of Gordon Highway.

nocnoc
42425
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nocnoc 03/12/13 - 09:26 pm
1
0
Either run ARC like a EQUALLY consolidated

Government, or allow the old county to leave.

There are laws on the GA books that allow Deconsolidation and annexation into other towns or to form another town.
It has already been done 5 times here in GA since 2005.

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