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Downtown Augusta property owners to weigh in on law enforcement plan

Friday, July 19, 2013 9:34 PM
Last updated Saturday, July 20, 2013 1:07 AM
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Property owners in the 500, 600 and 700 blocks of Broad, Greene and Reynolds streets get to weigh in on the prospect of paying higher taxes to fund six additional law enforcement personnel downtown.

The nine downtown blocks, which include the city’s adult entertainment district, weren’t a part of the city’s last Business Improvement District, which funded the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative through an additional tax levy. The Augusta Commission declined last year to renew the district, which spanned downtown roughly from Eighth to 13th streets, due to property owner complaints.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree is proposing the new district as part of a comprehensive plan to improve safety downtown. The plan includes installation of surveillance cameras, which Roundtree said await funding authorization from the city before he’ll seek bids for their purchase, and his recommendation that the city close Riverwalk Augusta between Fifth and Ninth streets from 11 p.m. to sunrise.

“Eventually, if it works, we’re always thinking about expanding further up,” Roundtree said. “With the next five years, you don’t know what the potential for growth would be.”

The five-year districts, established under Georgia law, require approval by either 51 percent of property owners or the owners of 51 percent of the district’s assessed value. The commission authorized Roundtree to present his proposal for a new Continually Patrolled District by an 8-2 vote last week.

Roundtree said he’s obtaining a list of property owners and will mail his proposal to them in the next few days, including dates he’ll hold meetings for owners to learn more about the services.

“I think people need to see the proposal,” Roundtree said, “what they’re getting, and they can ask questions. Once they see it, I’m confident they will like it.”

Roundtree said all the deputies won’t always be downtown at once but will be assigned to work at peak hours, based on crime statistics.

Roundtree said he has spoken with the district’s “major stakeholders” such as large property owners but warned owners against judging the program before they learn more.

No property owner contacted Friday would speak on the record , but Sandy Watkins, the owner of the Sports Center in the 500 block of Broad, said she expects her landlord to increase the rent if the district goes through.

“In my heart of hearts, it’s the county’s responsibility to police,” Watkins said. “We should not have to pay extra for police protection.”

Watkins’ recommendation? “Shut down First Friday.”

The event, which started as an art crawl, has devolved into a late-night gathering of young people, most of whom aren’t old enough to patronize the venues that remain open, she said.

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Little Lamb
44082
Points
Little Lamb 07/19/13 - 10:14 pm
2
2
Shift

Wow! What a change in direction! In the Clean Augusta Initiative they taxed property owners from 8th to 13th Streets. This time they're aiming at 5th to 8th Streets. Do they think these property owners don't talk to the ones uptown who have experience?

And what about intimidation? In the last initiative you had Queen Margaret Woodard and her minions distributing the ballots and telling the property owners that there would be clean, friendly, uniformed employees on Segways picking up cigarette butts and liquor bottles and leaves and sticks and trash — and things would be wonderful.

This time you will have hard-nosed sheriff deputies telling the property owners that if they don't vote yes, they might not get a response to their 911 call!

It's kind of like a reverse protection racket scheme.

countyman
19178
Points
countyman 07/19/13 - 10:45 pm
1
3
Lets move Augusta forward

The city of Augusta definitely needs to keep First Friday, and do better at promoting the different events throughout the year. The buses can easily be used in terms of displaying the local events/festivals. Increase the number of police walking after 12 am if you want to end some of the fights downtown. The proposal from Roundtree is probably the easiest way to pay for additional police working in one single area. We need to start thinking of new ways to bring in additional revenue in order to increase the police presence everywhere, but specifically in Harrisburg, Laney Walker, the older parts of South Augusta closer to 520, East Augusts, MLK, Turpin Hill, East Augusta, Regency mall/Southgate area, etc.

First Saturday is the best option, and families in the metro would love to come out. The Saturday Market runs from 8am to 2pm, and First Saturday could run between 12pm to 5/6pm. The event should try to focus on using the amphitheater on the Riverwalk, 8th street plaza, and the common.

The future experience at night might include the bright lights, resturants, condos, upscale club, bars, etc facing the water in the background. The Riverwalk in Savannah is open 24 hours, and this is our competition. The nightlife along the Riverwalk in the future will become one of the main reasons for attracting larger numbers of new residents, businesses, and tourist pushing Augusta into another level of recognition. The future of the Watemark property, train depot, and Golf & Gardens could turn into anything.

Hopefully the city will realize the easiest solution is building substations on Broad, near the Medical District/Josey, and one included in the redevelopment of the Regency Mall property. The urban core of Augusta should have more police walking and riding bikes.

daviddunagan
331
Points
daviddunagan 07/19/13 - 11:42 pm
3
2
The Sheriff's Citizens Advisory Board endorses this plan

The board unanimously endorsed this plan after it was presented by Sheriff Roundtree. Hopefully, the presentation will be available on social media soon so all those with an interest can see what proactive moves the Sheriff's Department is making. This is a good plan with some innovative ideas. DD

Riverman1
79841
Points
Riverman1 07/20/13 - 04:25 am
4
0
HAS to Be Done....Somehow

The example I keep using is the mall. It hires off-duty officers for security on a level that could police the entire old city of Augusta. The mall deems the security necessary to its business. The downtown businesses can either approve this tax or do it privately, but it HAS to be done.

...point to ponder
718
Points
...point to ponder 07/20/13 - 07:53 am
3
0
... Why?

Why is the Sheriff trying to sell this added tax?

Too bad our supposed 'leaders ' didn't have the foresight to both keep the Central business District clean and safe when the special tax was already in place.

I believe our elected officials need to stop their special taxes and get the job done with the tax revenue already generated from the businesses operating in the CBD.

They have money for studies, special programs of all descriptions BUT when it comes to PROVIDING day to day services (security and cleaning) they (the Mayor, the Administrator, the Commissioners) don't have a clue.
*they can't even get the trash can system working right!

They had a hard time finishing the Tee Center...and they never even considered the other spokes of the wheel.... security and keeping the area clean.

Regrettably, I just don't trust this tax proposal. Our elected leaders have failed us again.

Little Lamb
44082
Points
Little Lamb 07/20/13 - 09:09 am
2
0
Small District

If I were a property owner in the 5th Street to 8th Street area covered by this new proposal, I would be a bit miffed that property owners in 8th Street to 13th Street area were not paying the tax, but presumably will reap some benefit by sheriff deputy presence.

The rectangle bounded by 5th to 8th and by Savannah River to Greene St. seems too small to me.

Since David Dunagan actually heard the plan, perhaps he can answer this question: Did the sheriff say whether the vote on the new tax would be each parcel owner gets one vote per parcel, or do the property owners get proportional voting by the tax appraisal on their properties?

daviddunagan
331
Points
daviddunagan 07/20/13 - 10:11 am
3
0
The Sheriff wants you to hear this plan

Call 706-821-1000 (this is the office front desk during business hours) ask for "Community Affairs" (this is a new department). Ms. Freeman can give you the times and places to hear the presentation. Or if you have enough in your group that are in this district they may put one together for you. This is why our board proposed a presentation to be placed on social media. We feel like the more people who can see plans like these the better. The Sheriff has been an open book so far and there are a lot of new ideas and strategies being implemented throughout the department as a whole. One of his campaign promises was to engage the citizens more. This is an example of that.

Little Lamb
44082
Points
Little Lamb 07/20/13 - 10:15 am
2
0
Thank You

Thank you, Mr. Dunagan. I will try to find out the answer from Ms. Freeman. I'm sure it won't be printed here.

I have been wary of these BID taxes. They do not go through the Board of Elections. There is no transparency in how the ballots are distributed or tabulated. In the first BID it was Margaret Woodard who distributed and counted the ballots (she called them petitions, not ballots). In this one it apparently will be the Sheriff who distributes and counts. It just seems fishy to me.

Little Lamb
44082
Points
Little Lamb 07/20/13 - 04:45 pm
1
0
Phantom

From Ms. McCord's story:

Property owners in the 500, 600 and 700 blocks of Broad, Greene and Reynolds streets get to weigh in on the prospect of paying higher taxes to fund six additional law enforcement personnel downtown.

What about property owners in the 500, 600 and 700 blocks of Ellis Street? Do they get to "weigh in?" Are their properties exempt from the proposed BID tax? Will the special police paid for by the BID tax not respond to call from Ellis Street?

Conservative Man
5320
Points
Conservative Man 07/20/13 - 07:30 pm
1
1
To possibly clarify...

LL, I think that 500, 600, 700 street owners get to weigh in AS WELL as the rest...Remember the original BID used to fund CADI did not include these blocks..I know more than one business owner in this area who was miffed at being excluded from the CADI vote...As far as the Ellis St. issue I'm not sure...I guess it depends on where the boundaries of the BID will be drawn...

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