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Commission to discuss buying building, renovating old library

Sunday, April 21, 2013 7:02 PM
Last updated Monday, April 22, 2013 1:16 AM
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An ambitious relocation plan for Augusta Utilities Department that includes the purchase of a Laney-Walker Boulevard building and renovation of the former downtown Augusta library goes before an Augusta Commission committee Monday for approval.

CAN’T BE THERE?

Staff Writer Susan McCord will post updates from the Augusta Commission committee meetings on Twitter. Follow McCord @reportr1

Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said the department wants to buy the Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corporation building at 924 Laney-Walker Blvd. to house its downtown customer service office, which is to be relocated when renovations at the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building begin.

Wiedmeier said the department proposes purchasing the building and its fixtures for $1.76 million, the appraised value, with the expectation that Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick’s tag office on the first floor will relocate, while Augusta Housing and Community Development will continue leasing offices on the building’s second floor.

Augusta Land Bank Authority, which also rents space in the building, acquired the nearby Mr. J’s Famous Door Supper Club last year to provide city-owned office space for Housing and Community Development, Executive Director Chester Wheeler said at the time.

The neighborhood improvement group, which has rented space in the building to city departments since 2003, collected $176,840 in city rent last year though it has dozens of unpaid property tax bills, according to tax records.

The second part of Utilities’ plan addresses the $15,000 monthly rent the department pays to house its administration, finance and engineering offices at 360 Bay St.

Wiedmeier is proposing moving those offices, which house about 40 employees, to the former downtown main library, which has been vacant since completion of the adjacent new library, and paying the high bid of $425,000 made for the property when the city tried to surplus it last year.

“There’s plenty of space for what we would need, and there was discussion of using that top floor – there are acres of bookshelves up there – for records retention for the city,” he said.

Parking, an issue for the new library, would be addressed by Utilities’ demolition of the adjacent former Talking Book Center, which was donated to Augusta by the state last year, he said.

Another Utilities change-up for committee approval Monday is shortening the utilities billing cycle from 56 days to about a month over a period of 10 months.

The time lag, in effect for decades, is no longer necessary because of faster meter-reading technology and billing software configurations, Wiedmeier said.

“I get a lot of calls where people say, ‘I know I didn’t use this water last month,’ ” he said. “It was actually from the month before, when they might have been watering grass.”

The shorter cycle, accomplished by moving the due date back two days each month, will allow the department and customers to notice and address usage issues faster, he said.

“That’s the primary thing, to give people more current information about their usage so they can adjust it and react. If a leak has shown up, they’ll know it a lot sooner.”

IN OTHER ACTION

Other items set for discussion by Augusta Commission committees Monday include:

• Amending the secondhand goods ordinance to regulate precious metal and gem dealers to prevent the sale of stolen property

• Amending an agreement with Virgo Gambill Architects by $579,257 to include design services for Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building

• Approving the donation of three sheriff’s office vehicles for Paine College Police Department

• Approving $275,000 in Transportation Investment Act discretionary funds for the on-call vegetation maintenance contract with Larry McCord LLC

• Approving a $426,450 change order for Cranston Engineering for Augusta Canal and Warren Lake dredging

IF YOU GO

The committee meetings will begin in the eighth floor commission chamber at the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building, 530 Greene St., after an 11:30 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony for renovations being made to the building and a noon called legal meeting with attorneys.

Comments (11) Add comment
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LuvMyTown
2009
Points
LuvMyTown 04/21/13 - 09:32 pm
0
0
Better to Pay $1.76 million for the old library and

$425 thousand for the Laney-Walker property. Other than government tenants there are no buyers for the Laney-Walker property.

...point to ponder
760
Points
...point to ponder 04/22/13 - 07:56 am
2
0
High bid...

Why didn't the city take the high bid from the private citizen who wanted to buy it and convert it to a commercial tax paying use?

How can they now sell it for the price that it refused to accept earlier?

The private citizen who bid on this property would have put this property on the property tax rolls..... If utilities buys it then it stays off the tax rolls. Another loss of revenue.

**A government entity paying rent is common. Most government leases for space include electricity ,Heating and cooling, daily or scheduled cleaning services....The state and federal government lease space for their agencies all the time. Typicallly leasing space is much more cost effective than a government owned structure. Leasing space at least gets the tax dollars back in circulation to tax paying property owners.

I'd question the cost benefit of leaving a lease with the true cost of buying a property, renovating a property, cost of maintenance, cost of electricity, cleaning, etc....

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 04/22/13 - 08:19 am
4
0
Property

They will buy questionable property for top dollar. They will give away valuable things. They will give selective pay raises with little if any performance requirements. But they will not give taxpayers a break.

dichotomy
34415
Points
dichotomy 04/22/13 - 08:30 am
4
0
Didn't I read an article a

Didn't I read an article a few months ago about the huge amount of VACANT. UNUSED office space we already leased or owned. Did anyone ever check to see whose pockets we were lining with taxpayer money? Have we remedied those problems yet.

And if ANIC owes back taxes, don't buy their building. Seize the damned thing for back taxes and just take it. That is what you would do to me if I owed back property taxes and you wanted my property.

nocnoc
44950
Points
nocnoc 04/22/13 - 09:51 am
1
0
From the Story Headline

From the Story Headline

Commission to discuss buying building

I was hoping they decided to purchase REGENCY MALL and move the Government Offices & operations to a CENTRAL location for our SO CALLED - "CONSOLIDATED" Government.

GnipGnop
12466
Points
GnipGnop 04/22/13 - 10:05 am
2
1
Thank you...ARC

My house payment went up another 30 dollars a month. I cannot wait until the market turns around so I can remove my name from the ARC tax digest.

my.voice
4924
Points
my.voice 04/22/13 - 12:50 pm
0
0
"Approving $275,000 in

"Approving $275,000 in Transportation Investment Act discretionary funds for the on-call vegetation maintenance contract with Larry McCord LLC"

>>Don't we have a trees and landscape department?
>>Don't we have a jail full to the brim with prisoners?

my.voice
4924
Points
my.voice 04/22/13 - 12:51 pm
0
0
Why not just lease the space?

Why not just lease the space?

dichotomy
34415
Points
dichotomy 04/22/13 - 04:04 pm
0
0
Hey folks, it's just funny

Hey folks, it's just funny money to them. If they need more.....they'll just take it. If you don't pay 'em, they'll just take your property.......unless you are ANIC or one of the other protected species.....you know......commissioner....lawyer....judge....."connected' community leader.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 04/22/13 - 05:34 pm
0
0
Tag Office

Funny, I was downtown in this very building this morning. It currently is the tag office. I guess that the tag office will move back to the Marble Palace and then the Water Works bill collection office will take over 924 Laney Walker for a place for people to pay their water bills. In typical Fred Russell fashion, the number of parking spaces is quite small. But at least there's a rib shack next door with some good aromas making the area pleasant. The rib shack is right across the street from the Health Department, so you know they're tip top.

I cannot believe the city government thinks that $1.8 million for a water bill collection center is a good investment. Sure, the purchase money comes from our water and sewer bills instead of from our property taxes; but it's still a waste of money.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 04/22/13 - 06:51 pm
0
0
Foundation

This is good foundational reporting by Ms. McCord. On tonight's WJBF News at six, George Escola filled in a few more gaps — it seems the city has been gouging the Utilities Dept. with a $15,000 a month rent bill for that office space on the first floor in the Marble Palace, built in 1957 (and, thus, long since paid for). I don't blame Tom Wiedmeyer for wanting to get out from that crushing slumlord rent slavery; but paying $1.8 million for an office building on Laney Walker Boulevard seems a bit excessive.

There surely is cheaper and more centrally located office space available.

Leadership is what is lacking. Don't expect Fred Russell to worry about that.

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