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Commission lets downtown tax district expire

Opponents want volunteer plan

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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.

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Michael Walraven addresses the Augusta Commission as proponents and opponents of the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative face off at a hearing on renewing the program. Walraven called the program unnecessary.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Michael Walraven addresses the Augusta Commission as proponents and opponents of the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative face off at a hearing on renewing the program. Walraven called the program unnecessary.

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.

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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Little Lamb
43803
Points
Little Lamb 04/02/13 - 10:06 pm
1
0
Fix is in

It is wrong to reject the bids out of hand just because Paul Simon hypnotized a few commissioners with his charm. Send out bid proposals, have people respond, evaluate, select the best terms for the city. Use the bid process, not the good ole boy system.

Brad Owens
4098
Points
Brad Owens 04/03/13 - 05:51 am
1
0
Thank you Commissioners.

The choice of the Commissioners to NOT levy the Business Improvement District Tax on downtown property owners again was the right one in December and it was right yesterday.

Commissioner Alvin Mason was on point with his ability to NOT be fooled by the folks supporting this tax.

Commissioner Joe Jackson showed that he was exasperated with them always pushing and pushing again on items that have been settled.

It was obvious from the start that a small group of people downtown have benefited from this tax and it has been obvious that the "greater good" was never the intended purpose.

This looked great from the outside, but the facade covered the fact that this was little more than a private slush fund of public monies used by the DDA and CADI Company to have certain properties cleaned and maintained.

It was clear from the start last year that the ones pushing this renewal of this tax so hard were obviously getting something directly out of it, otherwise they would not have pushed SO hard for additional taxes.

I mean what business person pushes for MORE taxes on themselves and especially during hard economic times like we have now? Here's a hint, ones who PROFIT from it.

Every dollar a property owner doesn't have to spend on maintenance that is being done by CADI with tax dollars is one that goes directly to profit. Simple and effective way to profit off of this without taking a dime directly huh?

Those same insiders controlled the Board of CADI using the DDA, so a handful of property owners who own large parcels of commercial property get to not only levy a tax on the others, they control the Board, the money and CADI. They denied anyone outside the "cabal" to sit on the board and so it was pretty much just private club running a private company paid for by public funds.

Commissioners got this one right in December, and again yesterday as well.

Awesome job,

Brad

...point to ponder
705
Points
...point to ponder 04/03/13 - 07:32 am
1
0
Keep downtown clean...

It is the responsibility of the elected county commissioners to come up with a way to keep our downtown clean..period.
Maybe they should visit our central business district more often and maybe they should carry a broom and really do something productive keeping our only central business district spotless.

Joyce Maurer
9
Points
Joyce Maurer 04/03/13 - 11:38 am
2
0
Good News!

This is one of the best moves the commissioners have made in awhile. And why should the commission come up with a solution? Keeping it clean benefits the businesses, let them come up with a plan.

Little Lamb
43803
Points
Little Lamb 04/03/13 - 03:45 pm
0
0
Street

The wind blows leaves into the street and into my yard. The rain washes the leaves into my gutter. Do I wait for city government workers to clean those leaves up? No. I sweep, rake, and put the leaves into my compost bins.

The downtown businesses should clean up the sidewalks and street in front of their own storefronts. No more. No less.

Oh, yes, sometimes neighbors and passersthrough throw litter into my yard; and others allow their dogs to make deposits in my yard. Do I insist city government workers clean it up? No. Neither should downtown merchants.

Brad Owens
4098
Points
Brad Owens 04/03/13 - 07:33 pm
0
0
Funny...

I don't see any long winded defenses of this today...

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