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Augusta Commission seeks to narrow SPLOST projects to about $200 million

Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 8:25 PM
Last updated 8:29 PM
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The Augusta Commission on Thursday directed city staff to begin narrowing a $700 million wish list down to about $200 million of realistic projects that could be funded by the next phase of the special purpose local option sales tax.

Commissioners must approve the SPLOST VII project list by March 10 so it can be included on the May 20 ballot, when voters will also elect a new mayor and five commissioners. If the list is not ready in time, it can be added to the November ballot or one of two election dates in 2015 since SPLOST VII will not take effect until 2016 when the previous phase is completed, said Deputy Augusta Finance Director Tim Schroer.

But before asking taxpayers to foot a multimillion-dollar bill, some commissioners want assurance the funds will be spread evenly among the districts so all residents will reap the benefits. Throughout a one-cent sales tax initiative that began in 1988 and was intended to fund capital projects, some commissioners believe certain areas have been left behind.

Commissioner Bill Lockett said his District 5 still suffers from blight, overgrown lots and dilapidated streets despite hundreds of millions of dollars allocated over six phases of SPLOST.

“It appears that in my district and some other districts, we are being treated like step kids,” Lockett said. “We are constantly being approached to make a donation. ... ‘SPLOST VII it’s only a penny,’ but we’re not getting anything in return for our penny.”

Lockett said he cannot envision voting for another SPLOST unless the funds are distributed equally among the districts. He also wants more work sessions to analyze how departments want to spend the money.

Commissioner William Fennoy said Marion Homes and Eastview in District 1 has had flooding issues since he moved to the city in 1966, and after 25 years of SPLOST, still does.

“When those water lines break the residents there cannot take a shower, cannot cook, cannot use the toilet, and this has been going on since I have been here,” Fennoy said. “We have gone through six SPLOSTs, and we still have the same issues. It’s going to be very difficult for me to go to the various neighborhood meetings in Marion Homes, Eastview, Old Towne, and say we need to support this and they say ‘Well, when are we going to be taken care of? When are we going to be looked at?’ ”

District 7 Commissioner Donnie Smith said it would be difficult to divide the SPLOST money evenly because there are projects that benefit the county as a whole – such as the recently completed judicial building, convention center, library and law enforcement center.

There are also some countywide initiatives the commission is already obligated to include: about $40 million to pay back a debt service that funded the renovation of the Municipal Building; and $8 million toward a cancer research center for Georgia Regents University.

State officials have said the cancer center project needs at least two-thirds of matching funds besides the bond money already available in order for the project to proceed.

However District 4 Commissioner Alvin Mason said he would not support allocating the money to GRU if it doesn’t keep its promise to add the word ‘Augusta’ left out of signage installed late last year. After public backlash, GRU officials have said they will add the city’s name to campus entrance signs.

“I’m finding it a little disheartening that, although GRU and its cancer center is extremely important, that the name Augusta does not seem to be as important to GRU,” Mason said. “I would hope that GRU, Dr. (Ricardo) Azziz, the Board of Regents, or whomever, will hear us very clearly that if you want the taxpayer dollar then keep your word and do what you said you were going to do.”

Over the next month the commission will hold meetings with city departments to get information on their various priorities and needs.

Before voting on the final list, Lockett added he wants Schroer to break down how much money is left over from the previous six SPLOST phases, why it wasn’t spent and how it can be used in the future.

Since 2011, SPLOST VI has collected $110.8 million of the total $184 million allocated to projects and has until 2016 to make up the difference.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver reminded the commission that SPLOST has traditionally passed with overwhelming support by voters and that the initiative has a lot to show already.

With the Army Cyber Command and outlet mall coming to the city over the next few years, he said he doubts there will be trouble raising the sales tax to complete the proposed projects.

“As we get out to sell it, we’ve shown that we’re spending taxpayer dollars wisely,” Copenhaver said.

Comments (17) Add comment
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janderson1945
1968
Points
janderson1945 02/06/14 - 09:09 pm
6
4
Children

You didn't give us the right name so we will not give you money even though it will benefit the entire community and cancer patients nationwide.

Mr. Mason, we don't need more children as our elected officials, we need people who care about real issues and solving real problems.

Education, Public Safety, Infrastructure and Development should be our priorities - everything else is a waste of time and energy.

Esctab
1222
Points
Esctab 02/06/14 - 09:47 pm
7
3
Janderson1945, If the GRU

Janderson1945,
If the GRU cancer center has the purpose of treating cancer patients nationwide as you say, then why should the residents of Augusta-Richmond County being singled out to pay for it? Furthermore, what real justification is there for another building when GRU already has a cancer center which already includes new buildings?

In case you missed it, please visit the GRU website that brags about the existing cancer facilities (there is no mention by GRU that new buildings are needed):

http://www.gru.edu/cancer/about/facilities.php

dichotomy
37509
Points
dichotomy 02/06/14 - 10:09 pm
8
2
"Yeh, we need this extra $200

"Yeh, we need this extra $200 million....but you know...we can't really do anything to help out these districts with problems.....because basically we've already spent or obligated most of the money BEFORE IT WAS APPROVED."

And mayor Deke says "we’ve shown that we’re spending taxpayer dollars wisely". Hmmm not to me you haven't. The TEE and resulting operation and maintenance contracts weren't "wisely". That whole thing is a freaking disaster. Giving our money to every Tom, Dick, and Harry private group and non-profit in town wasn't "wisely". And throwing another $10 million at Diamond Lakes don't put a tingle down my Southside leg either. Is that the best idea you can come up with for the Southside????? You idiots don't have a clue. How about another "trail"......like a "trail" from the Southside to North Augusta where I can actually get something to eat and shop with lower prices, lower TAXES, and a lower price for gasoline.

story1
807
Points
story1 02/06/14 - 10:11 pm
6
2
Last Splost $160M

This Splost $200M. "Just Vote NO".

prov227
3468
Points
prov227 02/07/14 - 12:08 am
5
2
Count those chickens before they hatch ...

"With the Army Cyber Command and outlet mall coming to the city over the next few years, he said he doubts there will be trouble raising the sales tax to complete the proposed projects." ... Will Deke be held accountable if they don't?

itsanotherday1
48338
Points
itsanotherday1 02/07/14 - 12:20 am
5
0
Well Mr. Lockett,

Let's make it real fair. Distribute splost money to the districts from where it was collected. Fair enough?
After all, people like me who don't live there patronize the areas we like and like to support. For me that is downtown.

seenitB4
97701
Points
seenitB4 02/07/14 - 03:07 am
3
2
If only they did that at least ONCE.

unless the funds are distributed equally among the districts.

seenitB4
97701
Points
seenitB4 02/07/14 - 03:33 am
7
3
esctab=very good question..

"If the GRU cancer center has the purpose of treating cancer patients nationwide as you say, then why should the residents of Augusta-Richmond County being singled out to pay for it?"

Riverman1
93812
Points
Riverman1 02/07/14 - 04:44 am
8
3
Following Up on Deke's Comment

"With the Army Cyber Command and outlet mall coming to the city over the next few years, he said he doubts there will be trouble raising the sales tax to complete the proposed projects."

Let me see if I have this right? We all know Costco was given $10 million that was going to be repaid out of a waived ten year local sales tax break they were given. How is that payback going? I've heard it's not even paying the interest on the loan. Is there a similar arrangement for the outlet mall?

corgimom
38482
Points
corgimom 02/07/14 - 07:35 am
7
2
I've never heard of local

I've never heard of local residents being asked to pay for a state building.

I say vote NO, the state will come up with the extra funding.

nocnoc
49203
Points
nocnoc 02/07/14 - 07:45 am
7
1
Understanding that measly penny tax means to your pocket.

Lets say you spend $4,000 a year
That measly penny tax equals
$480 a year
$960 every 2 years
and $2,400 every 5 years.

All coming out of a Working persons pocket.

TAX piled on TAX harms the community it does not help it after a certain point. We crossed that point generations ago when we started SPLOST after SPLOST.

If you are sick & tired of SPLOST after SPLOST just so the latest group of Politicians can Spend $$$ on new boondoggles which for some reason usually seem to result in 20% to 30+% cost project overruns.

Checkout
http://www.gasplost.org/

It seems you are not alone Other Georgian's are fed up also.

About 160 years ago it was best explained by Frederic Bastiat, around 1850. The article after 160 years still resonates the truth about taxes. "That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen"

nocnoc
49203
Points
nocnoc 02/07/14 - 08:18 am
7
1
BTW: ARC verison of OBAMACARE

We need to pass the SPLOST so we'll know what is in it.

Face it Richmond Co.
This SPLOST has quickly become nothing more than a collection of TOSSED together PORK BARREL projects to make KEY PEOPLE happy. To spread a little here and a little there. But thus forcing every Taxpayer to support special interest groups bite of the PIE.

TAXPAYERS WHY NOT MAKE SOME CHANGES?
This Pork Barrel SPLOST already appears to cater to certain special interests. Some of this Interests that slapped ARC in the face several times over the last few years.

It is currently looking like the TAXPAYERS will have to vote for half dozen projects that they oppose in order to pass the 1 or 2 that they might support.

THE GAME
Holding any SPLOST referendums during local elections with low expected voter turnout and the special interests promoting the SPLOST naturally will have a greater effect in passing the referendum.

A FEW SUGGESTIONS:

* voters should reject the multiplicative practice of being forced to vote on any SPLOST referendum that combine many projects into one referendum or that are held concurrent with special or low turnout elections.

* SPLOST projects should be voted on individually voted upon and approved or rejected by the voters in the general election. If voter turn out is below 40% of the registered Voter The purposed SPLOST should be automatically declined.

* Any purposed SPLOST project should be specific enough that the voter can know what they are approving or rejecting. Just saying $34M for X is not being specific. A PDF file with in depth details should be available on the front page of the County Website and deep public
review.

* any SPLOST projects that change by 10% whether in cost or scope should be brought back before the voters for re-approval.

* Limiting SPLOST programs in duration to no more than 5 years. This way the people that approved the SPLOST are more likely to be around to pay for it as taxpayers.

pitcher
47
Points
pitcher 02/07/14 - 09:23 am
6
2
200 million is a start

They need to whittle this down even more and wait to vote on it in a state election. If the city of Augusta gives 8 million to GRU, does Augusta own part of it. If the city of Augusta gives to the orchestra more than 5 million for the Miller, and then another 12 million, basically paying for the renovation, the city should own it.
If we concentrate on infrastructure, then we create a city in which businesses can prosper.

pitcher
47
Points
pitcher 02/07/14 - 09:23 am
3
0
200 million is a start

They need to whittle this down even more and wait to vote on it in a state election. If the city of Augusta gives 8 million to GRU, does Augusta own part of it. If the city of Augusta gives to the orchestra more than 5 million for the Miller, and then another 12 million, basically paying for the renovation, the city should own it.
If we concentrate on infrastructure, then we create a city in which businesses can prosper.

dsterling9
1255
Points
dsterling9 02/07/14 - 09:47 am
3
1
SPLOST

I wonder if anyone in the Richmond County government ever reads these posts. Best to contact your commissioner directly (http://www.augustaga.gov/652/Augusta-Commission). Not sure if contacting the mayor will help. He has failed to respond to emails sent to him.

griff6035
4286
Points
griff6035 02/07/14 - 07:58 pm
2
0
@nocnoc

1% of $4,000. is only $40 if my calculator is correct. no disrespect.

bubbasauce
24260
Points
bubbasauce 02/08/14 - 06:10 am
0
0
No more Splost period!

No more Splost period! Augusta quit voting yourselves at tax increase please. It is time, like someone else said to cut out all the PORK peeve projects!

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