Downtown tax district could include cleanup service

A cleanup service downtown could return under Sheriff Richard Roundtree’s proposed special tax district for that area, according to documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.

Roundtree’s recent proposal, to tax certain downtown property owners an additional 6 mills to fund added law enforcement, would generate enough extra revenue by its second year to “perform a cleaning service” if taxpayers want.

Using the same tax district boundaries as the defunct Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative, the proposal would generate approximately the same amount of revenue, $353,834, enough to fund the salaries of three deputies and three community safety officers dedicated to the district.

After the initial purchase of three $30,000 police cruisers, three $1,000 bicycles and $19,500 in equipment and “alternative,” “less-imposing” uniforms for the downtown officers, the program will have a surplus $120,000 in its second year, according to documents Roundtree has provided certain property owners.

With that surplus, to total roughly $480,000 over the special tax district’s initial five-year lifespan under Georgia law, the sheriff and a new “advisory board” established to guide the program could opt to hire a cleaning service, the sheriff said.

Roundtree did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday about the plan’s details, which many downtown property owners say they have yet to see.

“It seems like it’s CADI all over again,” said downtown property owner Robin Schweitzer, after learning details of Roundtree’s proposal from a reporter. “Now it’s backward. We’re going to do security, and we might sprinkle in a little cleaning.”

The CADI program was billed as additional security and cleaning services, but once implemented was primarily a cleaning service. Roundtree said his plan saves taxpayer dollars because no project manager will be needed to oversee personnel and the city won’t charge the sheriff’s office a 3 percent collection fee.

Also included in the sheriff’s plan is $20,000 from collections to fund special events “to draw consumers into the Central Business District,” according to plan documents.

Schweitzer said she and other downtown property owners she’d met with were becoming anxious because they’d received no information about the proposal besides what they read or saw in the news.

“I just hope that we’re able to voice our opinion in some fashion, and they don’t shut us out like they did with CADI,” she said.

To be implemented, the sheriff’s Continuously Patrolled District must receive supporting signatures from either 51 percent of property owners or the owners of 51 percent of the district’s assessed value. After that, the Augusta Commission must approve it.

While most property owners had yet to receive information about the sheriff’s proposal and doubted they’d support it, at least one up-and-coming downtown enterprise is willing to give the sheriff’s plan a try.

Darby Carpenter, the general manager at Farmhaus Burgers, the second Broad Street restaurant opened by chef Sean Wight, said his company has been impressed with Roundtree’s recent community policing efforts downtown and was willing to pay for more. Wight owns one of his restaurant buildings and is renovating apartments upstairs and adding a third restaurant, Craft and Vine, at street level.

“We started seeing the new officers, not only the police presence, but they’re very helpful to people that are patronizing Broad Street,” Carpenter said. “If that (the tax) is what it takes for people to feel safe downtown, I think it’s fine.”

Sheriff proposes downtown safety plan, new tax to fund it
CADI donating leftover money, equipment to two charities
CADI to be closed down for good
Commission lets downtown tax district expire
Public hearing, debate planned on renewal of downtown Augusta business district
Supporters propose better, more representative Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative
Downtown Augusta business district still seeking support
Continuously Patrolled District management plan

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Sun, 12/04/2016 - 20:05

Pardon our mess