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Commission to discuss redevelopment loan request

Monday, Aug 19, 2013 8:16 PM
Last updated 10:49 PM
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Augusta’s Housing and Community Development department says it needs a $2.5 million loan to continue the “momentum” of the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem redevelopment initiatives.


The “bridge loan,” requested by HCD Director Chester Wheeler, is required because the department has spent nearly all of the $8 million the city borrowed three years ago to start the project, officials said.

At least two commissioners said they have questions about the loan request, which is item 10 on a loaded agenda going before the commission for approval at the body’s regular meeting Tuesday.

“Where’s the money going to come from?” Commissioner Donnie Smith asked.

Three years ago, the city issued $8 million in bonds, with a total debt service of $9.2 million, for the urban renewal project.

The $8 million amount was chosen based on expected annual project revenues of $750,000 from an excise tax the commission imposed on hotel and motel room rentals in 2008, according to Finance Director Donna Williams.

The Laney-Walker and Bethlehem project is guaranteed $750,000 annually from the tax for 50 years – a total of $37.5 million – in a deal struck several years ago to win support from commissioners reluctant to move forward with construction of Augusta Convention Center.

The city has about $31 million in its general fund savings accounts from which it could loan the money in anticipation of issuing more bonds in 2015, the next opportunity it has to do so, Williams said.

However, Smith questioned the impact of depleting the city’s savings on its stellar AA2 bond rating from both Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings.

The ratings agencies use a complex, proprietary formula to issue credit ratings, but the amounts a government has in savings are part of the formula, Williams said.

Asked how the money had been spent, Wheeler said the city had built 19 houses, all of which are occupied, and spent the rest on contractors, land acquisition, and other expenses associated with the award-winning project.

Commissioner Marion Williams said the loan request warranted a conversation at Tuesday’s meeting.

“All those commissioners who want to rush through the meeting don’t realize the importance of dealing with the taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Also up for discussion at the meeting are:

• Unveiling of the final design of a mural to adorn the Rosa T. Beard Memorial Bridge

• An update, requested by Williams, on instructions the commission gave regarding the collection of data related to racial disparties in the city’s award of contracts

• Discussion, requested by Commissioner Joe Jackson, of hiring a department director to collect disparity data and handle equal employment issues, as the city charter specifies

• An update, requested by Williams, on the city’s downtown parking plan and reconsideration of parking recommendations from a 2005 parking study

• Reconsideration, requested by Williams, of a proposal to merge Augusta Municipal Golf Course with First Tee of Augusta

Comments (43) Add comment
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GnipGnop
13758
Points
GnipGnop 08/20/13 - 02:32 pm
3
1
Facts?

I can tell some people don't spend much time in the urban core of Augusta.

How can you miss the new streetlights, roads, demolished homes, parks, commercial buildings, etc in Laney Walker and Bethlehem?
For 8 million dollars? You have to be kidding if you think this is a good deal? No wonder this city is going broke...they spend money like drunken sailors. If the commission is dumb enough to get in bed with Paul again they should all be run out of town on a rail. I cannot believe people are so naive....then again they put Marion "the Drag Snack Preacher" back in office....Dichotomy uses Tax payer money because your lovely LW redevelopment that only uses hotel/motel tax cost us 50 million for the TEE and the sweet deal that Paul and Billy got....don't be so naive!!

CobaltGeorge
218114
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/20/13 - 03:07 pm
3
1
I Really Would Love To See Augusta Become Beautiful.

Year after year, Day after day, I have heard and read every possible reason why Augusta will not make it. Everybody is so scared to face, speak or take action on the real Augusta Mall truth in fear of having their comment pulled or run out of town.

The handwriting is in bold letters on the wall.......Detroitville......Corrupt people, uncontrollable Crime and tax robbery.

countyman
23597
Points
countyman 08/20/13 - 03:22 pm
2
5
The city owns multiple

The city owns multiple properties in the Laney Walker/Bethlehem areas. Somebody can't just start to build new amenities in the urban core without acquiring properties first. The area was already built up, and this wasn't existing farmland.

The city of Augusta has millions of dollars in the reserves also. The citizens of Richmond County approved the TEE center.. It's amazing you continue to bring up the TEE, but have no problems with North Augusta planning to build one without any voter participation. Columbia County didn't let their citizens vote on their new exhibition hall either.

David Parker
7925
Points
David Parker 08/20/13 - 04:18 pm
2
1
How come so much funding is

How come so much funding is allocated to this particular urban decay? Is it so much more important than other blighted areas? Who's machination was it? And how will it now transcend into a profound "game-changer" for this city? I understand signage and stop lights but with all due respect, 8 million dollars should "stand-out" a little more than this. Who wants to be the first to educate me?

Riverman1
121210
Points
Riverman1 08/20/13 - 04:19 pm
4
1
Hotel Tax

So if the hotel tax isn't paid by the citizens of Richmond County they don't have a say in how it's used? Do the property taxes of the huge industrial concerns in South Augusta not belong to the citizens also because they didn't pay it?

countyman
23597
Points
countyman 08/20/13 - 05:11 pm
2
5
I've yet to see any comment

I've yet to see any comment related to the building CC leaders spent almost $10 million on..

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
19157
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 08/20/13 - 05:59 pm
5
2
CC

That's because this article and comments are about ARC not Columbia County or North Augusta!!

GnipGnop
13758
Points
GnipGnop 08/20/13 - 06:55 pm
3
1
Sorry countyman

the citizens of RC did not vote to spend 50 million dollars I don't care how much you continue to say it....the difference between AC doing a stadium and NA is politicians. NA comes up with a plan and sticks to them...Augusta comes up with plans and sticks it to the tax payer. Heck all you have to do is drive across the 13th street bridge. It's almost like driving into another country.

corgimom
51733
Points
corgimom 08/20/13 - 07:02 pm
2
1
I quit going into

I quit going into Laney-Walker and Bethlehem when the crack cocaine came in. I still feel that way.

corgimom
51733
Points
corgimom 08/20/13 - 07:05 pm
2
1
Yeah, when you develop raw

Yeah, when you develop raw land you only have to remove trees and do extensive grading, install new sewer lines, electric and gas lines, put in roads. . God knows, that's far cheaper than to tear down a SHACK.

WHO WOULD EVER BELIEVE THAT FOR A MINUTE???

Countyman, sorry, your spin REALLY doesn't work this time.

gargoyle
24525
Points
gargoyle 08/20/13 - 07:08 pm
1
1
Our City Government Doesn't

Our City Government Doesn't understand the concept of a dollar well spent and don't seem to understand if a dollar is wasted opportunity is also wasted. To be a happy taxpayer in Richmond County you have to have a short memory not to be frustrated by all the boondoggles we have paid for

corgimom
51733
Points
corgimom 08/20/13 - 07:09 pm
2
1
A $10 million building is FAR

A $10 million building is FAR different than spending $8 million on 19 houses in a ghetto!

If the houses sell at an average at $150,000- and I am being exceedingly generous here- that would be $2,850,000

Leaving $5,150,000 for land aquisitions, demolition of a few shacks, and putting in street lights? FOR REAL???

Augustaisdying
526
Points
Augustaisdying 08/20/13 - 07:38 pm
0
0
The elephant in the room revealed
Unpublished

As Scott Hudson's excellent investigative reporting revealed over a year ago, these people are corrupt. Marion Williams is also, for it's obvious he's in bed with these clowns. Why? They are black. Plain and simple. The only black politicians in Augusta in recent years who didn't seem to be corrupt were Moses Todd and (possibly) Bobby Hankerson. This will NEVER end. The only answer is for respectable people of all persuasions to continue to move away (as they've been doing since the 80s). Without a tax base, Marion Williams and his ilk will not be able to spend money willy-nilly, because there will be none. At that point, put barbed wire around the city and let it be like "Escape from New York." Countyman would be killed by thugs in less than a week, while he tries to save his life with news of a new 5 Guys opening. Augusta is not worth saving any longer. Let 'em have it.

David Parker
7925
Points
David Parker 08/21/13 - 08:25 am
2
0
yeah, it's laughable. On it

yeah, it's laughable. On it goes in the funky cycle that seems to have rooted itself in the city administration. Everybody, sans countyman, sees things for what they are, yet week after week there are new and inventive ways of fleecing the tax payers of ARC reported. Little here, alot there. In the end, not one person in the municipal government stands up to address or respond any of the concerns or questions. The silence is deafening.

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