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Commissioners to begin sales-tax discussion

Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 8:20 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 2:10 AM
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Ideas are trickling in for how Augusta might spend millions in new sales tax dollars.

Members of the city commission are set to approve Tuesday a short timeline for developing the city’s seventh special-purpose, local-option sales tax package, although at least two commissioners have said they need more time to develop the proposal before seeking voter approval.

Commissioner Donnie Smith said the requests he sent Mayor Deke Copenhaver for the tax are strictly for infrastructure, including improvements along Skinner Mill, Dennis and Mayo roads; a new fire station near Fort Gordon’s Gate 1, where homeowner insurance is higher because of lack of fire coverage; and possibly new equipment or facilities for Augusta’s animal services department.

Smith said he also supports Sheriff Richard Roundtree’s request to upgrade the department’s radio system.

Voters, who also might be asked to approve an accompanying bond issue May 20, won’t favor more than necessities, Smith said.

“I’m not sure at this point, with the way things are going, they’re willing to pay for fluff,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said he’ll likely recommend a request from the Greater Augusta Arts Council for a new downtown performing arts facility and a request for funds for Imperial Theatre, but the decisions need more study.

“We’ll probably have a couple of work sessions,” Johnson said.

Commissioner Bill Lockett, who last week suggested that the area around the defunct Regency Mall should get some of the funds, said Monday the city needs more time to decide what it needs and should put the referendum on the November ballot.

“They expect the commission to do a resolution this month. It’s not going to happen,” Lockett said. “We have not done anything toward finding out what projects our constituents want, and so forth.”

The short schedule going for approval Tuesday was requested by the finance department, according to the meeting agenda. It has all special-purpose, local-option sales tax requests due by Jan. 17, with a resolution on a May 20 referendum approved by Feb. 10.

In other business, a revised notice for a 1:15 p.m. special called meeting before the 2 p.m. regular session includes approval of a new contract with ambulance provider Gold Cross EMS.

The document, negotiated by former City Administrator Fred Russell and Gold Cross officials, allows Gold Cross to assign call priorities, with 90 percent of the most urgent Priority 1 calls arriving in an area north of Willis Foreman and Brown roads within eight minutes.

While the contract has much more detail, such as quarterly reporting, than a self-renewing agreement that had been left in place for years, allowing Gold Cross to set call priority levels affects the accuracy of response time data and is problematic, according to Lynn Masters, the vice president of Augusta Professional Firefighters Association.

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Little Lamb
46404
Points
Little Lamb 01/06/14 - 11:51 pm
8
2
Misguided

Sheriff Richard Roundtree's request for SPLOST dollars to purchase a new communications system is way off the mark. Whatever hardware and software he purchases will be obsolete in three years.

Communications systems are the sort of thing one should lease because they depreciate from the day you get them.

Say NO! to Roundtree and to Smith.

Little Lamb
46404
Points
Little Lamb 01/07/14 - 12:02 am
9
2
Fluff

First we hear from Donnie Smith:

Voters, who also might be asked to approve an accompanying bond issue May 20, won’t favor more than necessities, Smith said. “I’m not sure at this point, with the way things are going, they’re willing to pay for fluff,” he said.

Then, we hear this:

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said he’ll likely recommend a request from the Greater Augusta Arts Council for a new downtown performing arts facility and a request for funds for Imperial Theatre.

Augusta already has the James Brown Arena, the Bell Auditorium, the Imperial Theater, the Miller Theater, the Jessye Norman Amphitheater, Lambeth Chapel at Paine College, the theater at Le Chat Noir, the Augusta Mini-Theater, Maxwell Performing Arts Center at Summerville Campus of Grooo, First Baptist Church Sanctuary, and many other auditoriums and sanctuaries across the county that are available for rent for performing arts.

Corey Johnson is nuts!

Little Lamb
46404
Points
Little Lamb 01/07/14 - 12:07 am
5
1
The first sane argument yet - - -

From the story:

Commissioner Bill Lockett . . . said Monday the city needs more time to decide what it needs and should put the referendum on the November ballot. “They expect the commission to do a resolution this month. It’s not going to happen,” Lockett said. “We have not done anything toward finding out what projects our constituents want, and so forth.”

Lockett is exactly correct. This project list is ill-conceived precisely because it is rushed.

Take your time, commissioners. The current SPLOST does not expire until well into 2015 or later. Do not waste your energy on lists at this time.

You commissioners need to hold public hearings to discover what the people want.

countyman
20236
Points
countyman 01/07/14 - 02:27 am
2
6
Moving Augusta forward!!

The creative creative class, young professionals, etc leave Augusta for larger cities because we can't offer the performing arts center. How can you expect to attract the best citizens and businesses unless you offer the best? It's not that hard to understand why Greenville moved ahead of Augusta the past decade and were just now catching back up. How can you expect to grow without the simple amenities? The convention center should have been completed years ago and the Regency Mall should already be redeveloped...

The performing arts center and the widening/extension of Mayo road are both desperately needed..

The city of Augusta, nonprofit organizations, local philanthropist, private sector, etc can all make the performing arts center become reality.. The population of Muscogee County is smaller compared to Richmond County and metro Columbus is much smaller than metro Augusta(CSRA is larger than metro Augusta). The city of Columbus spent $100 million through an private-public partnership on their performing arts center.
http://media.yellowbot.com/r/650x500/photos/19wV-2DFuvC_x--/rivercenter-...

The arts community in Augusta was one of the main selling points for the new Starbucks plant in South Augusta.. Let's build on something the city is doing good and help attract the private developers.. The Artist Row, Westobou Festival, Arts in the Heart, future Artspace development, etc

The new townhomes and subdivisions on Dennis road have created additional traffic in North Richmond.. The widening of Dennis road would also open up the area to new private development..

Riverman1
84919
Points
Riverman1 01/07/14 - 08:28 am
4
2
Someone Has To Pay

Misguided spending. Yeah, we end up with a Convention Center they use to play basketball in at the cost of tens of millions. Are you telling me they couldn't have found existing places to play basketball? No one is leaving Augusta because of lack of a performing arts center. As LL said, there are too many existing venues. Realize none of this is free money. Someone is paying for every penny spent in a sales tax or other tax. Augusta has come down to what Wayne Guilfoyle said, "Give me sumptin."

story1
802
Points
story1 01/07/14 - 09:27 am
5
1
Vote No

We all have to get out and vote "No" when this comes before the tax payers for approval. Intentionally planned in an off election year so only a few residents will show up to vote. "Splost" has no oversight from our elected leaders to assure the money is being spent the way it was approved.

jwilliams
893
Points
jwilliams 01/07/14 - 09:40 am
3
2
Hello LL, with all due

Hello LL, with all due respect, the fire station is desperately needed in the gate one/ Gordon Highway area due to the many homes that have been recently, and continued to be built in that area, so for that I say thanks to the district 7 commissioner Donnie Smith; but if you live in this area 310/district 3, you have to wonder why didn’t “OUR OWN” district 3 commissioner Mary Davis notice this need. Has anyone seen her since she “ASKED” for your vote? Has she had any informational/district Q&A meetings for the “ENTIRE” district? Obviously, that answer would be no, because if she did she would have known that there was a need for this fire station. Now on to Corey “Because I’m Great” Johnson (his words, not mine). LL you stated in your post that, “Corey Johnson is nuts!’ I say to the good people of Senate seat district 22, do you want a “NUT” representing you under the golden dome?

seenitB4
88155
Points
seenitB4 01/07/14 - 10:53 am
5
2
How do you spend taxes that you don't even have

Tax this & tax that....just another way to run the citizen to another county.....it floors me that a politician can plan to spend money they don't have....& may NEVER have.

countyman
20236
Points
countyman 01/07/14 - 11:52 am
3
3
Facts not opinions

The citizens of Richmond County approved the TEE Center and the residents of Columbia County didn't even get to vote on the exhibition hall.. All of the competitors have their own convention center(Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville) and you really think Augusta can compete without one..

I know you love to hype up the growth in Columbia County but every city will offer growing suburbs. The suburbs of many cities similar to Columbia County have been attracting thousands of good jobs while Columbia can only offer Taxslayer and local medical facilities. The local medical facilities don't count because it's not organic growth.

The citizens over 18 leave Columbia County for the larger cities even faster than Richmond County...

Seenitb4... Why didn't you run to another county when Gwinnett voted for the $498 million in 2013?
http://gwinnett.patch.com/groups/elections/p/how-did-gwinnett-county-vot...

Sweet son
10553
Points
Sweet son 01/07/14 - 01:29 pm
2
2
Quote Mr. Lockett: "It’s not going to happen,”

Anytime you get the group called the Augusta Commission together NOTHING is going to happen. It will be interesting to see how this "us vs them" saga plays out. And you know exactly what I mean by "us vs them."

As always it will be interesting to see how they waste our money on their pet projects.

I also agree that the Sheriff does NOT need new radios. I'm sure that the current system has dead spots but all two way radio systems have dead spots. You could probably ask a Columbia County Deputy about dead spots with their new system but the answer would probably not be truthful since so much money was spent on the system. Roundtree has already gotten too many new play toys!

nocnoc
43444
Points
nocnoc 01/07/14 - 01:39 pm
3
1
They haven't even got it

an have already spent more in dreaming about it, than it would likely bring in.

Personally I say NOT ANOTHER CENT FOR:
* Any Privately owned businesses.
* Downtown dream until the outlaying areas are equally addressed.

But not another SPLOST until we have a Criminally enforceable Code of Ethics for all county employees, elected officials and appointees in place.

Which addresses the illegality of family consulting gigs, sky boxes, trips, meals, parties, campaign donor rewards, extended loan items. Plus common conflict of Interest issues and etc. It would also need to cover themselves and family members (blood or by marriage 2 layers deep).

seenitB4
88155
Points
seenitB4 01/07/14 - 01:38 pm
4
3
You are too funny countyman

Gwinnett county isn't perfect BUT I'll take the decisions here anytime over the Richmond county commish...
I can see the difference in spending & I will say they have made some good decisions spreading the tax money......they don't prop up downtown to satisfy a few brokers.....they don't try to make it something it will never be again.....Charlotte Nash would be an asset to Richmond county.....our chairwoman........just wish we could loan her for a few months to get yall on the right track. :)

seenitB4
88155
Points
seenitB4 01/07/14 - 01:54 pm
3
2
Why would I?

Seenitb4... Why didn't you run to another county when Gwinnett voted for the $498 million in 2013?

They have made some excellent decisions..imho.

seenitB4
88155
Points
seenitB4 01/07/14 - 02:05 pm
4
3
Some advice for you countyman

Read corgimom's post about arriving in downtown augusta the other day....she spelled it out for you....what she saw---how she felt---what turned her off & etc.....the sad thing is when someone is honest yall shake your head & find fault with the comment....what she witnessed, others will too. Some things just need some cleaning...how hard is that to do...

bob0142
480
Points
bob0142 01/07/14 - 02:46 pm
4
1
I do not have a dog in the
Unpublished

I do not have a dog in the hunt as far as Richmond county goes but I do know that anytime politicians get together to talk about taxes and spending, one better grab good hold of their wallet, duck their head, and pray like heck.

triscuit
3099
Points
triscuit 01/07/14 - 03:06 pm
5
1
Little Lamb,

you forgot the Kroc Center theater and remember the Miller, whenever they raise enough to finish that. A new performing arts theater does not need to be at the top of any list.

countyman
20236
Points
countyman 01/07/14 - 03:16 pm
3
3
How is Augusta propping up

How is Augusta propping up downtown? The leaders in Savannah, Charleston, Greenville, Chattanooga, etc have invested more in their downtowns compared to Augusta. The last splost included projects for the entire county..

I live downtown and how is Corgimom's opinion anymore valid than mine. She lives in Charlotte and the majority of her post towards Augusta are overwhelmingly negative anyway...

What about the opinions from the millions of people who visit Richmond County every year and love our downtown?

The same people tell me I'm wearing rose colored glasses when I present facts. The private construction in the CBD speaks for itself..

Seenitb4 loves to praise Columbia County but continues to portray downtown is doing so bad..

Please tell me what part of Columbia County has a new hotel, office space, restaurants, etc underway right now in 2014 like the CBD?

She also doesn't have any problem with the leaders of CC building almost everything in the Evans area.. Please ride around Harlem sometime and look at the infrastructure compared to Martinez/Evans...

countyman
20236
Points
countyman 01/07/14 - 03:24 pm
2
4
The Kroc Center requires you

The Kroc Center requires you to have an membership and belongs to the Salvation Army... The facility can't handle the amount of people interested in the arts..

The Miller Theater is small and needs the larger PAC...

I don't understand how anyone expects for large companies to flock here unless you start building up the city.

Why should they invest into Augusta if the city won't?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 01/07/14 - 03:33 pm
5
1
Good grief

Yall jez need to get outta the way and let the entrenched powers-that-be go about the routine of extracting money from you and applying it on your behalf. Yall have no idea what is good for you and they say it in a thousand little ways day after day, meeting after meeting.

I may figure out a way to repay the favor to ARC for their recent vote on the transportation tax dealio, which forced CC payers to chip in against our better judgment. VOTE YES to SPLOST, any SPLOST, b/c those in office know what's best for you and always will.

morganeve
3
Points
morganeve 01/07/14 - 05:11 pm
1
0
Splost

Hello, I am not an avid reader of the comments section, but did want to reach out and make myself available to answer any questions that a resident may have concerning my votes as a Commissioner. Please feel free to call me or email me and I will respond to you or will set up a meeting with you. I do my best to ensure that I am at every called meeting as a Commission and in my first year, I did attend every Committee and Commission meeting so that my vote does count on any particular matter. I do realize that not everyone will agree with my decision, but I can promise that I do my best to make the best decision for all of Augusta. As far as the upcoming SPLOST package, I am still in discussions with our dept. heads to prioritize needs in District 3 and in Augusta as a whole. Donnie Smith and I are both in agreement about the need for an additional fire station in the Fort Gordon area and have been in discussions for a few months now. In conversations with our Engineering Dept, we are looking at infrastructure needs around Marks Church Rd, Wrightsboro Rd, and Central Ave. I am open to hear of any other needs that residents have before we get a package approved. I am excited about 2014 for our city as we prepare for many opportunities in growth. Thank you, Mary Davis, Commissioner, mfdavis@augustaga.gov

corgimom
33161
Points
corgimom 01/07/14 - 09:35 pm
0
0
Correct me if I'm wrong, but

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a Performing Arts Center in Aiken? They would be built too close together, they will cannibalize each other.

But that wouldn't stop anybody in Augusta, that would make too much sense.

dichotomy
33522
Points
dichotomy 01/07/14 - 09:41 pm
0
0
8% SALES TAX is too

8% SALES TAX is too high.

Vote NO on SPLOST.

Definitely NO OUTSIDE ENTITIES including the Arts. No churches, no charities, no private agencies.....nothing on the SPLOST list but county projects......hopefully some of which would be in SOUTHEAST RICHMOND COUNTY. But since there won't be any of those.......just VOTE NO ON SPLOST.

And countyman we DID NOT approve the TEE......we approved about 1/5 of what the crew of clowns ended up spending on everything. As the man said...."WE WAS ROBBED". As we are robbed on every SPLOST with every non-government Tom, Dick, and Harry standing there with the hands out waiting for TAXPAYER dollars to support their hobbies and habits.

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