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Augusta gets recognition from National Association of Counties

Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 9:04 PM
Last updated Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 12:48 AM
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Augusta continues to receive national attention for the government’s efforts to bolster the local economy, most recently from the National Association of Counties, although the attention doesn’t come for free.

Despite otherwise lean budget times, the Augusta Commission has spent more than $11,000 on NACO conference fees, travel and airfare this year, according to documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.

The amount excludes annual NACO dues, paid by the county or consolidated government since Richmond County joined the association in 1985. The dues amount to about 2 cents per resident, and with 200,000 residents, Richmond County’s are about $4,000.

The November NACO recognition, in a publication called Strategies to Bolster Economic Resilience, touts local leadership’s ability to help reverse a suburban exodus and withstand the recession through long-term planning.

Part of that long-term planning included identifying the need to diversify the local economy and expand wastewater treatment infrastructure, Development Authority of Richmond County Executive Director Walter Sprouse is quoted as saying.

“When the recession hit, Augusta was not affected the way some communities were,” he said.

The development authority, too, was able to leverage Augusta’s proximity to Interstate 20, Savannah and Augusta Regional Airport, ensure a suitable industrial site and issue a $200 million industrial bond to last year secure the arrival of Starbucks’ latest soluble products plant, expected to create 140 jobs.

Other details included in the report, which calls the consolidated city-county government “efficiency in action,” tout the city’s ongoing execution of a “thorough downtown development and rejuvenation program.”

Quoting Mayor Deke Copenhaver, the NACO report says private investment in redeveloping Augusta’s Laney-Walker and Bethlehem communities “now matches public investment seven times over” and the city “basically can’t build houses fast enough in the neighborhood.”

In reality, the project was out of money in September, when director Chester Wheeler sought a $2.5 million loan for it to continue until its next bond payment in 2014. At the time, Wheeler acknowledged the oft-cited ratio of private and public dollars was merely an “aspirational goal” that hadn’t been met.

With 41 houses built in three years, the project must find more interest homeowners before it’s able to accommodate what NACO says will be 10,000 new residents in a 1,100-acre area that is near, but not within, downtown Augusta.

While consolidation limited Augusta government to a single commission, it left the city-county eligible for both city and county organizations.

Besides NACO, Augusta pays for membership in the National League of Cities and two state organizations, Georgia Municipal Association for cities and Association County Commissioners of Georgia, for counties. Members of the commission have attended conventions of all four this year.

Augusta is one of 41 consolidated governments in the United States, according to NACO data. Seven are in Georgia. NACO spokesman Jim Philipps said 27 of the 41 consolidated governments are NACO members.

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countyman 12/12/13 - 03:33 am

The NACO mention the new magnet high school in South Augusta, downtown revitalization, the Augusta Tech scholarship with Plant Vogtle, Market on the River downtown, Rockwood Plant, etc.... How come the AC didn't go into further detail concerning even one issue? The only details they went into was related to the LW neighborhood and they didn't mention anything positive. What about the number of homes sold in the two neighborhoods that didn't receive any major help from the city before?

Can we please can name this paper the Evans Chronicle? I do understand how the demographics of Columbia County(white and conservative) have the most in common with the Augusta Chronicle. I hope the AC understands that Columbia County will NEVER be the most important county in the CSRA. What is the purpose of trying to protect the image of the third largest county in your area the most?

This article is right up their with Sylvia's editorial disagreeing with the top ten rankings for the best place to live and retire. I've yet to see any editorial from the Chronicle disagreeing with any ranking for Columbia County.

Please don't try and confuse the public without providing all the details.. The initial $8 million was already spent by September(not the entire $37.5 million) and $3 million went towards land acquisition/demolition. The Laney Walker and Bethlehem redevelopment is over fifty years and nobody expects 10,000 people to move in right now. Many people said the city wouldn't be able to sell ONE home in the neighborhood and they were absolutely wrong. How is two neighborhoods left for decay attracting over $6 million in private investment not a good thing??

Riverman1 12/12/13 - 05:41 am
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

"Quoting Mayor Deke Copenhaver, the NACO report says private investment in redeveloping Augusta’s Laney-Walker and Bethlehem communities “now matches public investment seven times over” and the city “basically can’t build houses fast enough in the neighborhood.”

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Riverman1 12/12/13 - 05:43 am
Did I Miss Something?

Was Columbia County even mentioned in this article?

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 12/12/13 - 09:28 am

Yes, RM, it was in the fourth paragraph when the reporter quoted the term “suburban exodus”.


nocnoc 12/12/13 - 10:19 am
Sounds like nothing more than


A small price to pay so that DOWNTOWN can legitimize the continued waste and spending.

soapy_725 12/12/13 - 10:27 am
Who's Who in America for a Buck. Deke is a member.

Who's Who in America for a Buck. Deke is a member.

deestafford 12/12/13 - 10:41 am
$11,000 plus dues?

We've paid $11,000 plus dues for this PR inaccurate piece? What is some tangible things we got out of this that we would not have got without being a part of this organization? Where are the trip reports of those who have attended their meetings/conferences/training sessions? Where are the after action reviews of implementing the knowledge gained during these trips? It' time we started holding people accountable for their trips with some reports and follow up actions of "what I learned and here are the results that improved Augusta and saved money."

I think these organization certificates are merely something for the city to put on a "look at us" wall.

David Parker
David Parker 12/12/13 - 11:12 am
periodical experts

Is this considered a "fluff" piece?

GnipGnop 12/12/13 - 03:26 pm
The only thing missing

is the consulting fee they paid someone to recommend using the National Association of Counties...

augusta citizen
augusta citizen 12/12/13 - 08:05 pm
"effiiciency in action"

"calls the consolidated city-county government 'efficiency in action,'". Have mercy! hahahahaha! Bless their hearts.

Gage Creed
Gage Creed 12/12/13 - 11:39 pm

Remember... if you're going to drink and blog... have a designated typist....

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