The Augusta Commission inched closer Monday to implementation of a stormwater fee to pay for improvements to the city’s system. A committee voted to hire AMEC Inc. for $484,452.54 to handle the next phase of the project.
Pushed by Engineering Director Abie Ladson, the fee will be charged based on a property’s square feet of impermeable surface, such as roofs and parking lots. For a typical homeowner, the fee would amount to a few dollars a month. Unlike a tax, no owner is exempt, unless the commission opts to exclude that owner.
District 8 Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle spoke out against the next phase of the project, which the commission set in motion last year, saying the handful of ditches that help drain his largely rural, flat district have been viewed with “total disregard” by city maintenance crews until recently.
“If (stormwater) doesn’t go into a creek or pipe, let’s figure out a way to exempt the people,” Guilfoyle said. “Whoever gets county water and sewage, bill them.”
Ladson has promoted the plan as a needed source of money to complete an inventory of existing stormwater structures required by federal law and a way to fund infrastructure improvements. The fee is expected to generate $9.9 million annually, according to Ladson. The fee also could be used to repair roads and other infrastructure damaged by flooding, he said.
According to a schedule included with the agenda item, AMEC and its subconsultants will use the money to complete an educational program for the public using stakeholder meetings and town hall presentations, create a list of capital needs, and develop a rate structure and billing system for implementing the plan.
District 1 Commissioner Bill Fennoy, whose district experiences significant flooding from inadequate or aging infrastructure, made a motion to approve the bid award, which is funded through existing sales taxes. He was seconded by Commissioner Mary Davis, and the motion was approved by committee, 3-0, with Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson absent Monday.
Johnson and Commissioners Alvin Mason, Donnie Smith and Grady Smith were absent Monday, causing the cancellation of three other committee meetings for lack of a quorum.
The six present made up a quorum for a called legal meeting, however, and spent a half-hour behind closed doors with attorneys and City Administrator Fred Russell.
After the legal session, the group approved a $123,460 settlement with former city employee David Pugh. According to the settlement, Pugh had worked for the government since 1969 and experiences chronic lower back pain, despite four surgeries, that leaves him 15 percent permanently disabled.
In another matter, although some commissioners have expressed a desire to evaluate Russell’s job performance for the first time since he became administrator, the effort had grown Monday to an evaluation of all employees who report directly to the commission, such as the city clerk, deputy administrators, city attorneys, environmental services director and finance director.
Though Augusta has an existing evaluation tool for all employees, it lacks anything specific for “direct reports,” those department heads and other staffers who answer directly to the commission, said Human Resources Director Tanika Bryant, who was hired this year.
To evaluate the top city staffers, Bryant said, she expected commissioners to contribute their recommendations toward a model under development that will allow commissioners to evaluate top staffers online.
Bryant said she hopes that if the commission approves the initiative, she would have the evaluation for direct reports in place by January.
The administrative services committee referred four agenda items related to the personnel evaluations to a work session scheduled for 2 p.m. Oct. 16.