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City's engineering department seeks budget increase

Department wants to be proactive, not reactive

Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 9:00 PM
Last updated Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 1:21 AM
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The department charged with handling the bulk of visible infrastructure maintenance in the Garden City wants to change into a proactive, rather than reactive, department.

“The major issue is funding,” Engineering Director Abie Ladson told four Augusta commissioners who attended a Thursday budget work session. “What we are doing (now) is being reactive. We don’t have a preventative maintenance system in place. All we’re doing is responding to the requests.”

Of 5,366 resident calls for service to 311 or Augusta Cares during 2012 and 2013, 2,146 engineering work orders remain open, according to a chart Ladson presented.

A May 2011 restructuring of city departments that eliminated the Public Services department and sent the maintenance work to Engineering was intended to increase efficiency, but Ladson said staff can’t keep up.

His requests for the 2014 budget that begins in January include:

• Increasing engineering maintenance staff from 19 to 50, adding two concrete crews, four grading crews and a second seven-member downtown maintenance crew.

• Adding six eight-inmate crews, bringing workers from 20 to 80.

• Increasing traffic engineering maintenance staff from 10 to 31 by adding two three-member tree crews, two six-member pothole and paving crews and an on-call guardrail crew.

• Purchase two Vac-Cons, used to vaccuum storm drains, two Grade-All excavators, two tandem dump trucks and a pothole patcher.

The budget request for the additions is $4.15 million, bringing Ladson’s total request to more than $17 million; however, all but the guardrail maintenance could potentially be paid using a new stormwater fee consultants are developing, depending on its root cause, he said.

“If the stormwater program was passed, a lot of our problems would go away,” Ladson said.

The fee is charged based on a property owner’s square feet of impermeable surface, such as roofs and parking lots, and tax-exempt properties are not exempt from paying the fee.

Another way to fund the increase would be through a tax increase of approximately one mill, which would raise property taxes on a $100,000 house by $35, Russell said.

Frustrated, Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle asked if SPLOST dollars could be used. City Administrator Fred Russell said SPLOST was reserved for capital improvements, not maintenance and again advised commissioners to ask the legislature to change SPLOST laws.

“We need to get away from this building industry,” said Guilfoyle, who represents the largely rural District 8. “The biggest cost is engineering, utilities and trash. That’s all the people want is service. They don’t care what’s going on downtown.”

Russell said Augusta attempts to be creative and use SPLOST dollars to create more efficient buildings that require fewer staff members, while doing more was “walking a real fine line.”

“We find the money when we want to do our little pet projects,” Guilfoyle said.

Ladson also asked for raises for traffic engineering staff due to passage of the Transportation Investment Act, or TSPLOST. The department is taking on management of 80 percent of Augusta’s TSPLOST-funded transportation projects.

Guilfoyle said he wanted a list of roadway projects duplicated on older SPLOST referenda and the TSPLOST project list.

Other budget requests made Thursday include:

• A $3 monthly street-sweeping fee charged by Environmental Services

• Changing to an entirely fee-based system for garbage collection, rather than using a mill rate in the urban areas

• Increasing the cost of garbage service, currently about $26 a month, by $1.13 a month

• $11 million for rehabilitation of the Augusta Diversion Dam, installation of a fish ladder and renovation of the former Augusta main library as headquarters for Augusta Utilities, which uses water and sewer revenues to fund its activities.

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soapy_725
43678
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soapy_725 09/20/13 - 06:20 am
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0
Who will steal the "maintenance funds"? WHO WHO WHO
Unpublished

Who will steal the "maintenance funds"? WHO WHO WHO

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 09/20/13 - 06:20 am
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No maintenance funds are spent on maintenance. WHO WHO
Unpublished

No maintenance funds are spent on maintenance. WHO WHO

Little Lamb
46343
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Little Lamb 09/20/13 - 07:11 am
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Leeches

We citizens of Richmond County are doomed. The sheriff and fire chief asked for big budget increases last week. The engineering department makes the sheriff look like a piker with the requests up above. Each and every department is coming to the feed trough asking for more, more, more.

Russell is smiling.

movingtoaugusta
62
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movingtoaugusta 09/20/13 - 11:01 am
2
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Augusta's Problem

Augusta's problem is the same as the federal governments. There are too many people at the trough. Our population is under educated, under housed, under able to take care of themselves and people like Fred Russell are making a living doing nothing about it. More taxes, or storm water utility fees will cure nothing. Quit giving handouts and those who are willing to get off their bottom and work, will. Those who wake up every morning with a frown on their face and their hand out, will go somewhere else.

How do you think that they got here?

Wake up.

bubbasauce
21083
Points
bubbasauce 09/20/13 - 08:36 pm
2
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As far as I'm concerned they

As far as I'm concerned they need to start cutting costs. Mr. Abide Ladson I find it very amusing you go before commissioners begging for more money. A lot of people I think are starting to take notice of leeches in our government such as your engineering department. It is a absolute joke and insult that you say, " The problem will go away if we just had more money and staff". What a CROCK! Get some of your personell out of them nice little pretty trucks they ride around all day long and make them do something. And yes I believe your number of open calls at 2,146. That's because you all are not doing your jobs. I am convinced you all think that because you work for the Government that you do not have to do anything!
I forgot to mention that you Wayne Guilfoyle are doing a great job at least trying to look out for District 8.

Little Lamb
46343
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Little Lamb 09/20/13 - 08:55 pm
0
0
Amen, Bubba

Thank you for telling it like it is!

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