Storm cleanup costs rising

Augusta’s cleanup costs in the wake of the winter storm continue to mount.

Engineering Director Abie Ladson, whose city crews and several on-call contractors took to the streets during the storm to clear logs and limbs from roads and rights-of-way said the bill is rising while work remains to be done.

“What we are incurring is a lot of funds will be needed,” Ladson said. “At this point we are probably in between $500,000 and $1 million in actual work that has been done by our on-call contractors.”

That’s in addition to the amount paid to city staff. The Augusta Commission authorized Tuesday paying emergency overtime to personnel who worked the storm from Feb. 11 through Sunday.

City officials established three staging areas – at Lake Olmstead, Carrie J. Mays Park and Eisenhower Park – where residents can haul debris to save a trip to the landfill. Environmental services has relaxed restrictions on the size of limbs residents can leave at the curb to 10 feet and has asked that debris be at the curb by Feb. 24.
Commissioner Joe Jackson questioned whether all the debris will be removed in time for the Masters Tourna­ment.

“We’ve basically got 47 days till Masters Week and a lot of debris to be removed,” Jackson said. “Are we going to get this pulled off?”

A potential funding source – reimbursement by the Federal Emergency Man­agement Agency, if the state and Augusta-Richmond County garner a federal disaster declaration – remains in the hands of federal inspectors and state officials who will make a determination about the impact.

Regardless, the work must be completed, Commissioner Donnie Smith said.

“We’re going to pay for it – it’s not like we have a choice,” Smith said. “The work has got to be done. It can’t stop.”

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IN OTHER BUSINESS TUESDAY

Approved by the Augusta Commission:

• A zoning change and special exception to permit Augusta’s first federal prison residential re-entry center, to house 58 residents at 802 Seventh St. Employers who hire the drug-tested, closely monitored felons can get a $2,500 tax credit, Western Alternative Corrections Vice President Michelle Hultine said.

• Two special purpose local option sales tax payments of $75,000 to Sandridge Neighborhood Association to make repairs and improvements to the Jamestown Community Center.

• Five appointees to the new Urban Redevelopment Agency who will oversee a bond issue used to renovate Augusta Municipal Building, for a redevelopment effort in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem communities and for other downtown development projects. They are former mayor Bob Young, activist Brad Owens, Augusta Technical College President Terry Elam, Augusta Economic Development Authority Chairman Henry Ingram and Universal Plumbing President Larry Jones.

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