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$721 million in projects sought from sales tax

Commission has deadline for May vote

Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 8:17 PM
Last updated Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 12:57 AM
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A proposed sales tax project list city leaders hope to include in a May 20 ballot referendum leaves much work to be done.

City department heads and other agencies held little back in their wish lists to the city finance department, according to a compilation of their requests distributed to commissioners Thursday and obtained Friday by The Augusta Chronicle.

The requests total about $721.7 million. They include $370 million sought by the engineering department for roads and drainage projects, $106 million requested by the recreation department for upgrades to its facilities, and $64 million sought by outside agencies, such as the Augusta Regional Colla­boration Project founded by Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

While Augusta Com­mission members have un­til March 21 to vet the list, Copenhaver revealed last week that the tax referendum must include an $8 million match for Georgia Regents Uni­ver­sity to break ground on a cancer research center. He said the sales tax package must be passed in May to borrow $8 million against the future tax collections to get the matching funds in the bank by a June state deadline.

Some commissioners think they can get the list whittled down in the next six weeks, in time to make the May ballot, while others including Commissioner Bill Lockett have said the process is moving entirely too fast.

“Obviously, we are not going to do that,” Com­missioner Donnie Smith said of the entire slate of projects.

When Augusta voters were presented a sales tax package valued at $476 million in 2004, they rejected it, but they approved a scaled-down version with $160 million in projects a year later.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he hoped city staff will help the commission produce a package that doesn’t overlook south Richmond County.

“I would like to see it done in May, if we can get it done right,” he said.

DOCUMENT

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BIG-TICKET ITEMS

A look at the five proposed special purpose local option sales tax projects with the biggest price tags:

$47.5 million

for drainage and road work on Second through Eighth streets in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem districts

$34 million

for Diamond Lakes Regional Park

$30 million

to repay bonds issued for renovations at the Municipal Building

$15 million

for a new public safety radio system

$14 million

for the Arts Council’s Public Art Implementation

PROPOSED SALES TAX PROJECTS

Among the projects costing at least $1 million sought from the next special purpose local option sales tax package:

COST PURPOSE

$12.9 million Symphony Orchestra Augusta to renovate the Miller Theater

$12.5 million Water park

$12 million Augusta Regional Collaboration Project’s Mills District plan

$11.3 million New 911 center

$8.5 million Dyess Park

$8 million Cancer center match

$8 million Paine College’s James Brown Community and Fine Arts Cultural Center

$7.5 million Three fire stations

$6 million Imperial Theatre renovation

$2 million Richmond County marshal’s operating center

$5.75 million Improvements at the Maxwell, Friedman, Wallace and Appleby branch libraries

$5.6 million Downtown Development Authority’s Augusta Commons Phase II

$5 million “Project administration” by the mayor and administrator

$5 million For demolitions

$5.2 million Elliott Park

$4.75 million Augusta Museum of History expansion

$4.7 million Hephzibah multi-use recreation facility

$4 million Sheriff’s office civil division building

$3 million Newman Tennis Center

$3 million Downtown business incubator

$1.5 million For Blythe – undetermined

Comments (45) Add comment
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dichotomy
37649
Points
dichotomy 01/24/14 - 08:59 pm
13
1
and $64 million sought by

and $64 million sought by outside agencies, such as the Augusta Regional Collaborative"

NOOOO!!!!. NO OUTSIDE AGENCIES. I can save you $64 million right there. You have NO BUSINESS GIVEING TAXPAYER MONEY TO OUTSIDE AGENCIES. If it isn't for a COUNTY government project it should not be on the SPLOST list. I don't appreciate being blackmailed by having everyone's pet charity or pet hobby put on the list with REAL COUNTY PROJECTS that we need and being told it's ALL OR NOTHING.

The first OUTSIDE AGENCY I see on the list and I'm voting NO !!!!

countyman
21687
Points
countyman 01/24/14 - 09:38 pm
4
9
Poor West Augusta and North Richmond

What proposals will create historic change(counted 10)? The mayor will have to reveal the full details surrounding Project administration before I can decide either way..
1. Mills campus
2. water park
3. cancer center
4. Augusta Common
5. Hephzibah
6. Diamond Lakes
7. Miller
8. Imperial
9. Dyess Park
10. Elliot Park

''$14 million for the Arts Council’s Public Art Implementation''
This is a waste of money since the performing arts center didn't make the list(scale back to $1- $2 million).

Why does the commission require the richest areas of the county to depend on private investment? The urban park in the Augusta Exchange, side walks/bike lanes on Washington road, etc should have been included among the proposals..

Please tell me the location of the water park is somewhere on I-20, Wheeler rd, Riverwatch parkway, or I-520 in West Augusta/North Richmond... The price of the water park must be in the range of $20-$30 million to become a 'real' attraction.

The Augusta Museum of History expansion and DDA incubator can wait... The money can be used to build a new precinct in the CBD and increase the size of the water park. The hotel tax can help fund the infrastructure projects in Laney Walker/Bethlehem and $47 million is entirely too much.

tl-bro
180
Points
tl-bro 01/24/14 - 09:38 pm
6
8
Dichotomy

Do you have any idea what that Augusta Regional Collborative project is doing? It is the best way to spend these tax dollars - get them out of the hands of politicians and (almost) to the private sector so that real developments that improve the community can get off the ground. That group has nothing but the best interests of Augusta as it's mission.

Augz79
1083
Points
Augz79 01/24/14 - 10:02 pm
8
0
Non-governmental organizations in SPLOST draft

Non-governmental organizations on the SPLOST list:
-----------
$12.9 million for Symphony Orchestra Augusta to renovate the Miller Theater

$8 million for Paine College’s James Brown Community and Fine Arts Cultural Center

$6 million to renovate the Imperial Theatre
-----------
Agree w/ previous commenter on non-governmental organizations getting SPLOST money. I have nothing against any of these groups, but if they want money.... let them stand outside Walmart with a red kettle and get it that way!!! Not by forcing everyone who enters the Walmart (or Target, etc.) to subsidize them through a mandatory 1% tax on their purchase. Giving some groups SPLOST handouts is unfair to the other groups having to fundraise the hard way.

Deke and the commission need to realize that T-SPLOST is going to make regular SPLOST harder to pass this time around -- focus on quality-of-life improvements that make Augusta less of a dump, and let the non-profits do their own fundraisers.

Augz79
1083
Points
Augz79 01/24/14 - 10:13 pm
3
0
Question for Countyman or AC staff

The master plan years ago included Morris's art museum anchoring the north end of the Common... is that still in the plans, and if so - will SPLOST funds go toward any of that or is that a separate privately-funded plan?

GnipGnop
12753
Points
GnipGnop 01/24/14 - 11:05 pm
10
1
It should be illegal to put

Anything on a splost list that is a private entity. Enough already!!!

csraguy
2395
Points
csraguy 01/25/14 - 01:40 am
8
1
Public Safety MUST be a

Public Safety MUST be a priority for this community as it is one of the 3 primary directives of any community and yet even when you combine the Sheriff's Office, Fire Department and 911 lists they barely reach 1/2 of the amount requested by private entities.

These funds should be used to bring all vehicles within Public Safety up to current standards, greatly increase all technology needs of these agencies and to plan for future needs.

NO MONEY should be spent on private entities and little if any should be spent on non-essential services. Get public safety what they need, improve the county infrastructure and some recreational facilities. It would also be very prudent to approve demolishing all of the dilapidated buildings in our area as they increase crimes in the surrounding areas.

Riverman1
94321
Points
Riverman1 01/25/14 - 07:30 am
8
2
Metaphysical Question

This is not a serious question; it’s more of a metaphysical one because I know it won’t be answered. How do you tell what Deke’s Augusta Collaboration Project does with its money? We have some kind of organization using taxpayer money, headed by the highest elected official, outside of the control of the Commission and the people. Matt Kwatinetz is the director of this thing, yet, we are not told what he is paid. We are not told what plans they have. I don’t get it. Do we have a quasi- secret government?

Earlier the image cultivated for the Augusta Collaboration Project was that city contributions would not amount to that much with this thing, but it’s getting to be a routine matter to give it more funding. Now they want a share of the sales tax.

Deke is not open about anything he does. His wife runs a company, Magnolia, LLC, that we find out owns dilapidated property in Laney Walker while he promotes investments in the area. His in-laws are involved in buying PUBLIC and private property around the city. If Deke wants to head something, how about he heads the Commission as he was elected to do?

It’s mind boggling the he is given money to hire whom he wants, pay them what he wants and do what he wants without oversight. DO NOT FUND his often questionable spending. If he wants a place to hang out where he can feel cool and meet Matt and his friends, instead of building him a city owned “jazz café,” how about they get together at one of those little tables at McDonald’s by the trash can where the seats are bolted to the floor.

LuvMyTown
2009
Points
LuvMyTown 01/25/14 - 07:26 am
7
0
Just Say "No" To The Arts Council

Try the private sector first. Looks like a huge money grab for unknown uses.

seenitB4
98646
Points
seenitB4 01/25/14 - 07:41 am
4
1
Leverage is now

Your leverage is now before the vote..use it to your advantage.....a quick ok is NOT what they should get...you want improvements ....well make them put it in black/white....sayin ain't getting......& you have been through this before.

jmo
18670
Points
jmo 01/25/14 - 07:48 am
7
0
At this point"

JUST SAY "NO"!

seenitB4
98646
Points
seenitB4 01/25/14 - 07:53 am
6
0
South Augusta

Now is the time to show up at the meetings.....they want something from you...YOUR YES VOTE....you need work done in YOUR AREA....make a visit in person....have a list in hand...you can't complain if you get kicked in the behind if you don't speak up!

Graymare
3809
Points
Graymare 01/25/14 - 08:09 am
6
1
Once again the Commissioners fall short

Once again the Commissioners fall short of their duty. Richmond County has some serious issues and this list looks like we are sittin' in high cotton without a problem in the world! Ridiculous! Send that back to the table and pass out some sharpened pencils! This should be a list of the Needs, not the Wants!

story1
807
Points
story1 01/25/14 - 08:19 am
9
0
We Must VOTE NO!

If you live in Richmond County, you must get out and Vote NO for this Splost. $12.9 for SOA? They received Splost money last go-around for their new home and they are asking for additional funds. Something really smells here. $64M for outside agencies! The only way I will consider a "Yes" vote is when "Outside Agency" money is $0.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 01/25/14 - 08:53 am
6
0
No is the right answer!

This list needs to be cut by over 1/2, but the public safety part needs to be expanded. I see that we are raising money to pay off the borrowed money we spent years ago. What stupidity! Unless I see some serious cuts here, I am going to spend a lot of time working against this!

Junket103
471
Points
Junket103 01/25/14 - 09:26 am
6
0
Dead on Arrival

Excellent comment by Graymere. It is a waste of time to ask government bureaucracies what they want. Same goes for the charities. It would be wiser to ask them first what is their top 2 priorities and what would they do with a specific level of funds (read limited) if provided. If the Commision doesn't agree, then you get nothing in the SPLOST proposal.
GRU should get zero out of this. Had the Regents and Azziz not provided such poor community support during the past year they could have easily raised the match in the local private sector. This is where leadership and dialogue with your community is key. You reap what you sew. While Paine College provides some community support I believe it is a private endeavor and not a public institution. SPLOST should support only public institutions and publicly controlled/accountable projects. A water park sounds all well and good, but this should be privately financed as it is surely doomed to failure.

Little Lamb
49258
Points
Little Lamb 01/25/14 - 09:30 am
7
0
Transfer

I oppose the transfer of tax dollars to private organizations. It is just flat wrong even if handled honestly. But when you throw in the greed, corruption, and cronyism factors, it cannot be justified.

Look at the list — Augusta Symphony and Paine College — they have already gotten millions from this current SPLOST phase. Now they're back at the trough for more. You would think they would award different groups instead of the same old ones.

Esctab
1324
Points
Esctab 01/25/14 - 10:12 am
5
0
Atlas Shrugged.

Atlas Shrugged.

Little Lamb
49258
Points
Little Lamb 01/25/14 - 10:50 am
5
0
Dredging

On page 4 I see $5,000,000 for Augusta Canal Dredging and Maintenance. That is sneaky. The SPLOST law was set specifically and solely for capital projects. Operation and maintenance were not to come from SPLOST funds. But Augusta government never lets a little hindrance like state law interfere with their shenanigans.

Little Lamb
49258
Points
Little Lamb 01/25/14 - 11:00 am
3
2
Radio

On page 9 they have $15,000,000 for a radio system. Can you imagine that?

I reminded readers a few weeks ago that a famous financier from decades ago gave this financial advice to his clients: If something increases in value, buy it. If something decreases in value, lease it.

A new radio system will begin going down in value the day after it is installed. Technology changes rapidly. The city does not need to be saddled with a costly radio system when instead they could lease it. The thing is, they can't lease it with SPLOST money because that would be operational money.

Do you see how this SPLOST program is just like candy to the commissioners. Just because they know taxpayers will purchase items, bringing sales tax money rolling in, the commissioners make unwise choices. SPLOST is poison.

Little Lamb
49258
Points
Little Lamb 01/25/14 - 11:06 am
6
1
Incubator

On page 17 is $3,000,000 for a "downtown business incubator." I guess that is the mayor's and Matt Kwatinetz's jazz café in the old chamber of commerce building in the middle of Broad Street.

This $3,000,000 is just the tip of the iceberg. Citizens will be on the hook for every cockamamie feel-good project the huckster Kwatinetz can dream up. They ran him out of Seattle for his harebrained schemes. I guess we'll have to suffer a while until he moves on.

Little Lamb
49258
Points
Little Lamb 01/25/14 - 11:10 am
7
0
$12 Million Study

Take a look at page 20. The whole page makes me sick. The $12,000,000 line item for Mills District does not build even an outhouse. No, the $12,000,000 pays only for a conceptual study. Can you imagine how many of Deke's cronies will get a piece of that pie?

countyman
21687
Points
countyman 01/25/14 - 11:52 am
2
5
Deke Copenhaver > Ron Cross

''Columbia County’s online property records show that the land was sold for $826,200 to Bailey from Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross in 2006. Cross had owned the property since 1999, when he purchased it for $425,000.''

Why is Ron allowed to make $400,000 but Deke's wife can't even own property in Laney Walker? The black commissioners(Betty Beard)were initially the main supporters of the Laney Walker redevelopment and the mayor really wanted the TEE Center..

The mayor of Augusta got over 60% of the votes and doesn't have to explain anything to Columbia County voters. Mayor Deke flew to New Jersey on his own dime to meet with the ADP officials. The $40 million/1,000 job investment opened in West Augusta a few years ago..

The money for the ARC project will improve the city.. The high tech incubator on Broad can foster growth among the leaders at Fort Gordon, SRS, GRU, etc when discussing ideas..

The ARC is paying Mr. Kwatinetz through the private sector. The $200k from Starbucks and the $100k from the private..

1. Mr. Kwatinetz decides that South Augusta is the best location for Starbucks..
2. The city hires Mr. Kwatinetz away from Starbucks..
3. Starbucks and the private sector donate $300,000..
4. Renovation of the Chamber of Commerce..
5. Mills Campus and Cultural Campus proposal..
6. $20 million renewable energy facility announced near Starbucks

countyman
21687
Points
countyman 01/25/14 - 11:59 am
1
5
Mills Campus

The $12 million for the Mills Campus will include actually construction..

The studying of the Mills Campus is happening right now.. The city donated $300,000 and the GRU master plan is underway.

Little Lamb
49258
Points
Little Lamb 01/25/14 - 12:26 pm
4
1
Mills Construction

We might as well build windmills over there. It is outrageous for citizens of Richmond County to pay for dorms and classrooms for Grooo. The University System of Georgia has its own funding stream. We need to keep things separate around here.

Riverman1
94321
Points
Riverman1 01/25/14 - 12:43 pm
4
2
Thanks For Validating My Concerns

Countyman said, "The ARC is paying Mr. Kwatinetz through the private sector. The $200k from Starbucks and the $100k from the private.."

You have no idea how much he is being paid and whose money goes to where. All we know for sure is they want millions from the city and don't give the people an accounting.

When I pointed out Deke's wife owning "dilapidated" property in Laney Walker, you pointed out Ron Cross' dealings which I don't agree with either. Thanks for validating my concerns.

Riverman1
94321
Points
Riverman1 01/25/14 - 12:48 pm
7
0
Kwatinetz's Salary

"The ARC is paying Mr. Kwatinetz through the private sector. The $200k from Starbucks and the $100k from the private.."

If by chance, Kwatinetz is being paid $300,000 a year, I'm going to puke.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 01/25/14 - 01:48 pm
5
0
RM….

….get a bucket because the answer to your question is….Yes!..

Countyman said it, so it must be true right?

My take is I can see spending money (that we don't even HAVE yet) on things like roads, sewerage systems, police radios etc. But freaking Jazz Cafe's?..Please…

NEEDS BEFORE WANTS you bunch of lazy bureaucrats!!..If the city is clean, safe and in decent shape you wouldn't have to BRIBE Starbucks and others to move here.

Using consultants like Kwatinezt to tell us things we already know AND getting paid six-figures to do is is a fools errand..

Maybe those in city government and those PAID to post here,could use the money to actually improve the city for a change..

I forgot…"if we don't build it then they can't steal from it"..

Riverman1
94321
Points
Riverman1 01/25/14 - 02:04 pm
6
0
Bizarre

How about this: "The $12 million for the Mills Campus will include actually construction.."

So now something is to be built there that the public knows nothing about? This is getting to be bizarre.

"The city donated $300,000 and the GRU master plan is underway."

The GRU master plan calls for them to consolidate around the Frog Hollow campus.

countyman
21687
Points
countyman 01/25/14 - 02:26 pm
1
3
Facts vs opinions

How did the city bribe Starbucks(national brand) to move here?? The local arts scene really helped them choose Augusta in the end..

Why didn't Starbucks believe hiring Mr. Kwatinetz is foolish?

Why is the salary of Mr. Kwatinetz even important when the private sector is paying it?

The Mills Campus has been discussed numerous times and the public is familiar with the overall concept..

The new master plan hasn't even been completed yet.. The old Sasaki study and the new GRU master plan underway are two different things. Please stop trying to confuse the public with misleading information..

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