Commission lets downtown tax district expire

Opponents want volunteer plan

Supporters’ efforts to revive the special tax district that funded the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative for five years stood little chance Tuesday before the Augusta Com­mission.

Sanford Loyd, the treasurer for the initiative’s board, who spoke on the defunct program’s behalf, said the district had gathered the necessary signatures, about 51 percent of property owners, required under state law to renew it.

“We stopped soliciting when we had to come to this body,” Loyd said of the program’s first attempt at reinstating the Business Improvement District in December, when the commission took no action to renew it. The body did the same Tuesday.

Loyd said that property owners dissatisfied with the district, which generated $300,000 to $400,000 annually for Clean Augusta through a special property assessment of either 6 mills or 6.89 mills, should have said something.

“You had five years to get it right,” said Commissioner Joe Jackson, who offered a motion to deny the renewal outright. Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said property owners’ complaints had been ignored.

Under the program’s first five years, the Downtown Development Authority received a $25,000 fee to administer the contract with Service Group Inc., but in an effort to revive the tax district, the Clean Augusta board recently announced plans to sever all ties with the authority, to increase outreach and open its board to more of the district’s smaller property owners.

Property owner Michael Walraven blasted the program as unnecessary, showing a single bag of trash he collected on a recent Saturday nearly three months after Clean Augusta was terminated. He and some property owners are pushing for a volunteer group to address downtown’s needs.

Despite the program’s tendency to polarize its board and downtown property owners, some good did come from the debate, said Commissioner Mary Davis, who recently met with District 1 Commissioner Bill Fennoy and downtown property owners on both sides of the issue.

“There was good discussion,” Davis said. Fennoy said Clean Augusta “didn't have a chance” Tuesday.

“I hope that the groups will somehow come together and do what it takes to keep the city clean,” he said.

Public hearing, debate planned on renewal of downtown Augusta business district
Supporters propose better, more representative Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative
Clean Augusta not dead; ends ties with DDA
Opinions continue to differ on ways to keep downtown clean
Dissatisfaction growing over Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative among business owners
IN OTHER ACTION

The Augusta Commission authorized City Administrator Fred Russell to reject two bids from firms seeking to manage Augusta Municipal Golf Course in light of a recent push to have the course work with First Tee of Augusta, a youth golf program that adjoins the city-owned course. Russell said he needed to reject the bids to seek new proposals from the firms and First Tee, but hoped to have someone besides city staffers in place at the course by May 12.

– Susan McCord, staff writer

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