Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick got approval Tuesday from the Augusta Commission to enter a new lease at the Publix shopping center, 2816 Washington Road, and at a new south Augusta location at 3457 Peach Orchard Road.
Despite its central location, the rent at the new Washington Road space is lower than the city paid Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corporation annually to house the tag office on the ground floor of the ANIC building, according to Commissioner Bill Lockett.
Lockett said he learned of the comparison from a detailed presentation Kendrick made Tuesday. The tax commissioner did not respond to a message Wednesday seeking comment.
“I think it’s a great plan. Steven Kendrick, he’s a very smart man, and he’s looking out for the interest of the entire community, rather than one small group,” Lockett said.
The city has leased space in the ANIC building since 2003 and spent $94,000 to run fiber optic cable to the building, with the idea of drawing traffic and development to the blighted area.
A 10-year lease in 2008 set the tag office rent at $76,725 annually for 4,650 square feet, with 3-percent annual increases. Today, that amounts to $19.12 a square foot, among the highest in Augusta for office space.
The new 3457 Peach Orchard Road tag office, near Rosier Road Shopping Center, will replace the tag office at 2029 Lumpkin Road. A third location, under renovation at Augusta Municipal Building downtown, remains open.
The ANIC building won’t be left empty, however. Augusta Housing and Neighborhood Development, the city department responsible for revitalization efforts in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem communities, is still a tenant.
Augusta Utilities, meanwhile, will take over the tag office lease for a year or so, according to Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier.
Walk-in customers will be able to pay their utility bills at the former tag office starting this spring until renovations are complete at the former Augusta main library, where Utilities customer service and administration intend to move permanently, Wiedmeier said.