More make case for sales-tax funds

Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 7:39 PM
Last updated 8:45 PM
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The growth of a downtown theater district, development of a regional cancer center and badly-needed library repairs all stand to benefit the community greatly, the heads of four entities seeking funds from Augusta’s next special purpose local option sales tax told Augusta Commission members Friday.

Only one, Georgia Regents Univer­sity, is almost guaranteed the funds if voters approve renewing the 1 percent tax May 20. The commission voted Tuesday to take out an
$8 million loan ahead of the tax’s collections to meet a state deadline for construction to start on a new GRU cancer research facility.

Once its research and clinical phases are underway, the cancer center stands to create at least 500 jobs and have an economic impact of at least $300 million, based on a study of similar facilities, said Samir Khleif, the director of the cancer center.

Because of its location in Augusta, the center will improve outcomes for black patients who generally are underrepresented in clinical trials and fare worse from cancer, he said.

“This is a major advantage for us here, because there are very few cancer centers in the country that serve a population that’s almost 50 percent African-American,” Khleif said.

The commissioners who attended Friday’s session – Bill Fennoy, Wayne Guilfoyle, Mary Davis and Grady Smith – needed no convincing of the project’s merits. They were more skeptical about funding the requests that followed in their entirety.

Among them, Symphony Orches­tra Augusta wants $12.9 million to complete renovations at the Miller Theatre, a 1940 movie theater on Broad Street, and transform the adjacent former Cullum’s building into a youth music institute.

SOA project Chairman Levi Hill said the plans include deepening the Miller stage to create space large enough for the symphony, ballet, opera and other performances.

The 1,300-seat theater would be “a performing center for all of Augusta,” Hill said. “Our vision is to have a dynamite performing venue in Augusta.”

The project received funds from the previous round of the sales tax and has raised the required 25 percent match, but it needs the additional funds from the new tax to complete the project, SOA Executive Director Mieko Di Sano said.

Di Sano said she lives downtown and that restoring the Miller was what drew her to Augusta, “to be part of this rise.”

Across Broad Street in the next block, Augusta’s 96-year-old Imperial Theatre needs $6 million in tax funds, said Executive Director Charles Scavullo.

Since 1992, with help from prior sales-tax allocations, the 850-seat Imperial has served as a venue for dramatic, dance and musical performances, but it needs the additional funds to upgrade electrical, heating and air conditioning systems; improve restrooms; add an elevator to the basement and second floor; and make other improvements necessary because of the building’s age, Scavullo said.

Another group seeking tax funds for a fine arts center, Paine College, did not attend the session despite being scheduled. Fennoy, a Paine alumnus, said he did not think the college had given up on its wish for
$8 million for the facility.

A final request Friday came from the East Central Geor­gia Regional Library system’s exeuctive director, Dar­lene Price.

Despite the downtown headquarters library and Dia­mond Lakes library being in fine shape, “we have four other libraries that don’t look as good,” Price said. “In fact, they don’t look good at all.”

The system is seeking $5.745 million to make repairs at the aging Maxwell, Fried­man, Wallace and Apple­by branches, Price said.

Davis, Guilfoyle and Fen­noy said the groups were unlikely to receive all they sought from the new tax package.

“We just don’t have the resources,” Fennoy said. “We’re talking about less than 25 percent is what we’re going to actually approve that will be funded.”

After about $741 million in requests made by city departments, elected officials and outside agencies, the commission must cut the list to $185 million, Guilfoyle said.

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Little Lamb
46976
Points
Little Lamb 02/21/14 - 11:33 pm
11
0
SOA

Symphony Orchestra Augusta was awarded millions of dollars in the last SPLOST, contingent on their gathering matching funds contributions. Well, they could not get the matching funds. So now, they are trying to get the $12.9 million with no matching funds requirements. This is immoral, and it makes me sick.

Vote NO! on the SPLOST referendum in May.

pja5529
2307
Points
pja5529 02/21/14 - 11:50 pm
6
1
Little Lamb

It actually says they raised the required 25%...I'm still not sure about giving them more though.

story1
802
Points
story1 02/21/14 - 11:51 pm
8
0
Vote NO

I'm voting No. We have to keep beating the drum so voters in the community will vote No when they see "pork" like this on the ballot. Let the commissioners risk putting an end to Splost by keeping these "favored" projects in the mix. No transparency or accountability how Splost money is spent. Didn't one of these agencies have Splost money "supposedly" stolen with no investigation?

dichotomy
34468
Points
dichotomy 02/21/14 - 11:58 pm
12
0
I got a Fine Art for all of

I got a Fine Art for all of those PRIVATE, OUTSIDE agencies. I am working on the Fine Art of trying to hang on to as much of MY money as I can and prevent the government from stealing it and spreading it around to people who are not part of the government. How is that for a Fine Art?

dichotomy
34468
Points
dichotomy 02/22/14 - 12:00 am
7
0
Double. Too many thumbs

Double. Too many thumbs tonight and this SPLOST thing makes me upset and type too fast.

geecheeriverman
3089
Points
geecheeriverman 02/22/14 - 07:10 am
11
0
Augusta mini theatre

The Augusta mini theatre is at the trough again wanting money for God knows what. I drive by there at least twice a week and nothing is going on. They can't even keep the yards clean. If this were a white folks venue, it would be off the table lickity-split. I would like to know how much money the director has made off taxpayers for lord knows how many years. V-O-T-E- N-O on this and all future splosts.

nocnoc
45030
Points
nocnoc 02/22/14 - 07:20 am
10
0
Let us Rename the SPLOST - to what it has come to represent.

Local Option Special Tax Give Away. LOST-GA

jmo
16730
Points
jmo 02/22/14 - 07:32 am
8
0
How do I get.......

my share of your money for the "Opera Company" I plan to start? Too many non-essential hands out. JUST VOTE NO.

Graymare
3373
Points
Graymare 02/22/14 - 08:06 am
7
0
Vote No!

Aside from the cancer center, the citizens suggesting the other frills should have old fashioned fund raisers and keep their hands out of taxpayer's pockets. If the rich folks want the symphony they should pay for it, not the folks who cannot even afford to attend. It's time to quit saddling the taxpayers with all of this frivolity. Do we just hand out this money like candy or does the county require tracking and accountability? We have real issues which need to be addressed. Let's take care of the foundation of this county before we go spreading money around like the economy is booming and all of our problems have been solved.

Junket103
452
Points
Junket103 02/22/14 - 08:21 am
9
0
What Happens

So, what happens to all these private "art" venues when the groups go belly up? Do they become the property of the citizens that paid for the project in the first place? SPLOST should be used to assist government with infrastructure projects that benefit everyone. If the goal was to build a public performing arts center owned by us, fine let's debate the merits. If approved, all the arts groups would have an opportunity to utilize the facility. If designed properly, such a facility could be booked year round. I would prefer the private sector pay for such a venture and for the many proposals from the various groups. My preference is for SPLOST to be used to shore up law enforcement. Reduce the crime and people will look upon the city differently, both in terms of opportunity for quality living but also for increased potential to invest in business and entertainment.

story1
802
Points
story1 02/22/14 - 08:49 am
8
0
Good question Junket

Non profit arts groups are having a difficult time staying in business and symphonies around the country have shut down. "No" is the right vote.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 02/22/14 - 09:34 am
9
0
Vote NO

Everyone I speak with says that they want law enforcement and infrastructural issues dealt with FIRST. Vote NO on SPLOST!

dsterling9
982
Points
dsterling9 02/22/14 - 09:56 am
9
0
VOTE NO

If 'outside agencies' want money from ARC it should be in the form of a loan not a gift or grant. Any outside agencies receiving funds from ARC should be audited regularly to ensure the ARC funds are being used as identified and not for employee salaries and perks. I will be voting NO!

GnipGnop
12467
Points
GnipGnop 02/22/14 - 10:08 am
8
0
NO NO NO NO NO

In high school when we wanted money for trips in band e had fund raisers like car washes, raffles etc. It is not up to my tax dollars to support these organizations and it should be illegal for a private for profit business to get one dime of splost money. This has just gotten out of hand. Live on a budget just like every household has to!

countyman
20610
Points
countyman 02/22/14 - 11:18 am
1
8
Wish list

This is just the wish list and includes $7 million for the sheriff/marshall. The majority of the general fund already goes towards law enforcement.

The crime rate of Augusta is lower than almost every single peer city.. The infrastructure projects are desperately needed and the money requested from the sheriff. The city still must build new projects were they create sales tax, jobs, etc..

Why do the residents living off Jimmie Dyess need more funds towards law enforcement for example? The city building a new town center/public park is a much better oppurtunity to promote growth.

Butterman
3682
Points
Butterman 02/22/14 - 11:44 am
4
0
No! No! No!
Unpublished

Vote No!

nocnoc
45030
Points
nocnoc 02/22/14 - 01:08 pm
4
0
FINALIZED LIST REQUEST

WHEN ARE WE GOING TO SEE THE FINALIZED LIST.
A list the tells us WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW MUCH.

A Finalized List that MUST be adhered to under penalty of Perjury.

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