Overhaul of planning and development sought for Augusta-Richmond

A sweeping overhaul of the city’s planning and development department that some city leaders say is needed to help Augusta plan for the arrival of the Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon goes before a commission committee Monday for review.

Presented last month by Planning and Development Director Melanie Wilson and based on a Carl Vinson Institute of Government consultant’s review, the plan relies mainly on license and inspection fees and a handful of fee and tax hikes to fund the addition of 10 staff members – three in licensing and inspections, two in building inspections and five in planning.

Commissioners Bill Lockett and Alvin Mason have said the additions are vital to adequately plan and address licensing and codes enforcement issues in advance of the Cyber Command’s arrival, expected to bring more than 2,000 jobs to the region by 2019.

The additions also will aid a backlog in plan approvals that sometimes require developers or builders to wait months to get a routine plan approval, Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said.

Still, Wilson is seeking the additions as all departments are being asked to trim 2.4 percent from their budgets to fill a projected shortfall. Wilson defended the plan against the cuts, citing the millions in license and fee revenue the department generates for Augusta-Richmond County.

The plan goes before the city’s Administrative Services Committee on Monday. Commission committee meetings and a called legal meeting of the full commission get under way at noon in the commission chamber, 530 Greene St. in Augusta Municipal Building.

Other business going before commission committees Monday includes:

• Turner Construction Co.’s guaranteed maximum price of $5.6 million to construct a new building adjacent to Augusta Municipal Building for the city’s Information Technology department

• A discussion of recommendations made by attorney Colette Holt about steps Augusta should take toward developing a race- and gender-conscious program in the award of city contracts. Her recommendations include instituting a pilot program for contracts over $200,000, using data collection software and procuring a new study of disparities in the city’s award of contracts within the next two years.

• Hearing allegations from Horace Lee Jamison and Pamela Williams about being wrongfully terminated by McDonald Transit, which operates the city bus service

• A status update on bids received for management of Augusta Municipal Golf Course

• An update on the 2.4 percent budget cuts ordered for all departments

• A discussion of the revised job description a subcommittee recommended to use in the search for former City Administrator Fred Russell’s replacement, and of hiring a selected recruiting firm to conduct the search

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Cyber Command construction starting at Fort Gordon in 2016
Army Cyber Command announces Fort Gordon as new headquarters
Five plans drafted for Army Cyber Command center at Fort Gordon
Growth of military cyber security could benefit Fort Gordon

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