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Mayor pushes for SPLOST OK today

Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 9:16 PM
Last updated Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 5:06 AM
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The rush to get the Augusta Commission to approve a list of special-purpose, local option sales tax projects to submit to voters May 20 just got a little more hectic.

While commissioner attendance at a series of recent work sessions on SPLOST 7 has been in the single digits, Mayor Deke Copenhaver on Thursday circulated a new package of $187.4 million in projects, asking commissioners to approve it today.

“As we need to provide Hephzibah and (Blythe) ample time to approve their allotments, I will be calling a special called meeting to discuss/approve the draft package tomorrow,” Copenhaver said in a Thursday e-mail provided to The Chronicle.

SPLOST 7 doesn’t go into effect until 2016, but the deadline for getting it passed by the commission has crept steadily back – from March 20 to March 13 to Feb. 28, for a variety of reasons – all for the stated purpose of including it and an accompanying bond issue on the May 20 ballot.

“We are rushing this thing way too fast and it’s picking up speed as it goes along,” said Commissioner Bill Lockett, who said he won’t attend the Friday session because it’s his wedding anniversary.

Blythe Mayor Brent Weir said the soonest he expects the town council to approve the municipality’s $1.9 million allocation would be Thursday and it might need to have some discussion about why its request for police vehicles and equipment was cut from $300,000 to $50,000.

The new draft package, culled by Copenhaver and a “city team” from some $741 million in project requests, includes $8 million in matching funds for Georgia Regents University’s new cancer center, and $30 million for renovations at Augusta Municipal Building, two projects already approved by the commission.

Beyond that, the package includes $11 million for new buildings for the Augusta Public Defender and Juvenile Court, $4.45 million for a Hephzibah recreation building, $7.5 million for three fire stations and $1 million for a James Brown Community and Fine Arts Cultural Center for Paine College.

Paine, which sought $8 million in SPLOST 7 dollars for the center, expects its actual cost to be $17.9 million, Paine Assistant Vice President Helene Carter told four commissioners who attended a Thursday SPLOST work session.

The facility will be accessible to all ages and groups, just as Brown was a “champion of the common man,” Carter said, adding that “an aggressive team” of fundraisers will help raise the rest of the funds.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who also attended the session, said afterward he “had some concerns” about what remained in the SPLOST package. “We’ve got to focus on infrastructure.”

Copenhaver, who blamed state politicians for the expedited timeline, left in the package $5.25 million for the Mills District, a project to convert two vacant textile mills into usable space. The project was developed by the Augusta Regional Collaboration Center, which Copenhaver founded.

The revised package also included $750,000 for the ART Space program, $2 million for public art implementation, $4 million for Imperial Theatre renovations and $9 million for Symphony Orchestra Augusta to continue its effort to renovate the Miller Theatre downtown. The package cut proposals for extending Augusta Common and building a downtown business incubator sought by the Downtown Development Authority.

Copenhaver said the new SPLOST must provide “a growing population with arts and entertainment venues” to increase the quality of life for existing residents and newcomers with the new Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon.

The revised package left out Augusta 911, the Richmond County Marshal and Mosquito Control and Augusta Regional Airport, all of which had project requests, and cut $15 million for a new public safety radio system.

The city recreation department, which sought some $106 million in projects, was allocated $1 million for River Walk Augusta, $2 million for Augusta Aquatic Center, $1.5 million for Newman Tennis Center and $500,000 toward a $12.5 million requested water park.

Recreation Director Bob Levine said he hadn’t seen the revised package when he presented the department’s prioritized request Thursday, including a series of photographs of aging, eroded and damaged community centers, courts, fields and playgrounds.

“It’s really not so much neglect; it’s deferred maintenance,” Levine said.

The department wants $2 million to refurbish playgrounds and $2 million for a splash pad initiative of 10 pads over five years; Copenhaver’s draft included $1.5 million for each.

Also seeking funds but not included on any prior SPLOST 7 drafts was MACH Academy, which runs a tennis and afterschool program at Fleming Tennis Center.

Director Betty Jones said the program, in existence since 1992, sought $1.5 million for new classrooms, a kitchen, a conference room and three covered tennis courts, a first for Augusta.

Comments (29) Add comment
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story1
802
Points
story1 02/27/14 - 11:32 pm
13
2
Half Brain

Anyone with half a brain can see what the Mayor is doing. He has cut infrastructure needs to give Arts groups and Mills District millions. Hope the commissioners stand tall and united and send a loud NO to the Mayor. Augusta citizens must keep spreading the word to RC voters to vote this mess down when it hits the ballot unless all the fluff is removed from Splost.

Old Vetern
73
Points
Old Vetern 02/27/14 - 11:38 pm
13
1
SPLOT 7

Cut all of the arts and there is plenty of money for the radios, also need to support the marshal office, air port and other things that enhance the county and not the money sponges of the arts.

dichotomy
32062
Points
dichotomy 02/28/14 - 12:48 am
18
1
So Deke leaves all of the

So Deke leaves all of the "arts" CRAP in and leaves out Mosquito Control and 911.

Vote NO on this SPLOST. I'll take Mosquito Control over the James Brown Community and Fine Arts Cultural Center for Paine College ANYTIME. Art Space, theater, public arts.....AND NO MOSQUITO CONTROL......screw 911 and the Marshal's.....but we get Arts Space. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??????????????

Copenhaver has lost his friggin' mind.

Vote NO on this elitist liberal loaded piece of crap and continue voting NO until the list includes NOTHING but government projects and infrastructure. If Copenhaver wants artsy fartsy stuff let the people who use the artsy fartsy stuff raise their own money to support it. I would much rather have Mosquito Control, 911, and radios.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME COPENHAVER??? Folks VOTE NO ON THIS THING. Commissioners.....VOTE NO ON COPENHAVER'S list. DRIVE A STAKE THROUGH IT'S HEART. This has turned into a "hey, tax yourself for a bunch of crap you don't need while I, "Mighty Mayor", have scratched all of the stuff YOU DO NEED off of the list". "I want my arts and to hell with you getting killed by infected mosquitos."

Kill this now. Kill this again in May. And if they don't take all of this PRIVATE crap off of the list, KILL IT AGAIN IN NOVEMBER.

Quit being stupid people. This is rich people funding THEIR interests with YOUR tax money. Kill this thing dead in it's tracks.

bubbasauce
20573
Points
bubbasauce 02/28/14 - 03:11 am
15
0
You are so right Dichotomy.

You are so right Dichotomy. You have said all that needs to be said. Residents of Richmond Co, please quit raising your own taxes to fund all this B____ S_____! You all fill in the blanks.

Riverman1
82249
Points
Riverman1 02/28/14 - 05:49 am
14
2
Great Gig for Kwatinetz

“Copenhaver, who blamed state politicians for the expedited timeline, left in the package $5.25 million for the Mills District, a project to convert two vacant textile mills into usable space. The project was developed by the Augusta Regional Collaboration Center, which Copenhaver founded.”

I thought the money was going to prepare the mills for GRU? Now he simply says to convert it to usable space. They keep throwing out vague ideas of what they are doing with millions of dollars when the truth is they have no idea and there is no oversight. Great gig for Kwatinetz.

angedelune
223
Points
angedelune 02/28/14 - 06:11 am
2
15
Vote Yes

If you people had been reading ANYTHING else and connecting the dots you would notice that we have thousands of new people and businesses coming to the area very soon. If you approve things like art spaces, improve the cultural aspect of the region, renew decaying buildings so they may be put to good use then that will attract more visitors; more visitors equals more money, more money means better infrastructure. Besides, when all of these new people move to the area you want them to say "I like it here, there are a multitude of cultural events, outdoor activities, and retail options available" so that way more people may look at the area and consider moving. However, none of you can look past the short term and that's the reason this area has been so stagnant.

nocnoc
41185
Points
nocnoc 02/28/14 - 06:52 am
12
0
WHAT SPLOST WAS DESIGNED FOR VS BEING USED

There are those with Pork Barrel Spending Dreams vs the few sensible commissioners trying to use it the way it was Legally intended by law.

As it stands with all the the Special Interest Groups lined up with their hands out wanting $$$$$ for their "Special Projects" vs where the $$$$ is needed I will have still vote NO.

Over the years the SPLOST process has become nothing more than another $$$$ printing machine for the Give Me's instead of its Legally intended use.

According to GA Law SPLOST can be used on these types of Projects. Because by GA Law ONLY certain types of projects are eligible for SPLOST funding. As of 2013 those types of projects that could be funded through a SPLOST were:

1. Roads, streets, and bridges, which may include sidewalks and bi
cycle paths;

2. A capital outlay project in the special district consisting of
a courthouse or administrative buildings; a civic center; a local
or regional jail, correctional institution, or other detention
facility; a library; a coliseum; local or regional solid waste
handling facilities; local or regional recovered materials
processing facilities; or any combination of such projects;

3.A capital outlay project to be operated by a joint authority or
authorities of the county and one or more qualified
municipalities within the special district;

4. A capital outlay project to be owned or operated or both by
the county, one or more qualified municipalities in the special
district, one or more local authorities in the special district,
or any combination thereof;

5. A capital outlay project consisting of a cultural,
recreational, or historic facility or a facility for some
combination of these purposes;

6. A water or sewer capital outlay project, or combination
thereof, to be owned or operated by a county water and sewer
district and one or more qualified municipalities in the special
district;

7. The retirement of existing general obligation debt of the county, one or more qualified municipalities, or any combination thereof;

8. A capital outlay project within the special district consisting of public safety or airport facilities, or both, or related capital equipment us
ed to operate such facilities, or any combination of such purposes;

9. A capital outlay project within the special district consisting of capital equipment for use in voting in official elections or referenda;

10. A capital outlay project within the special district consisting of any transportation facility designed for the transportation of people or
goods, including but not limited to railroads, port and harbor facilities, mass transportation facilities, or any combination thereof;

11. A capital outlay project within the special district consisting of a hospital or hospital facility owned by the county, a qualified municipality or a hospital authority and operated by such county, municipality, or hospital authority, or by a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization through a lease or contract with the county,
municipality or hospital authority; or

12. Any combination of two or more of the above projects.

Serious Changes are needed to the SPLOST LAW to eliminate the Political Pork Barrel usage that seems to have creep into the process.

nocnoc
41185
Points
nocnoc 02/28/14 - 06:58 am
7
0
Another Point

Think of the list of NEW ARC Proposed Taxes for Special Projects like the RAIN TAX, and other Taxes disguised as fee's and services. Or like the extra Water Bill Sneak Tax. Last time I checked my Calendar has 12 month not 13.

Each of these could have been covered under a SPLOST but were or will be added to our Property Tax bills in the future.

So why is DOWNTOWN burning the TAX Candle at both ends and asking the ARC Taxpayers to get burnt holding it?

nocnoc
41185
Points
nocnoc 02/28/14 - 07:05 am
9
0
Who will be the 1st to say

For the Children?
For the proposed incoming DOD personnel?
For the Homeless?
For the Environment?
SPLOST is needed for Women Services?
To improve the standard of living in the ____ area?

Every Heart string that can be tugged will be tugged.

Because DOWNTOWN is on a Spending Spree.

nocnoc
41185
Points
nocnoc 02/28/14 - 07:09 am
5
0
WAITING FOR THAT OFFICIAL SPLOST SPENDING LIST.

We are about what 6+ weeks into this where to spend it mess?

When will the Taxpayers get to see the:
WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE AND HOW MUCH & WHY list?

Junket103
442
Points
Junket103 02/28/14 - 07:25 am
7
0
Vote NO

The whole process needs to be reformed. Too many private concerns trying to get a piece of the government pie. ARC is not capable of providing appropriate oversite. Millions will be wasted and the infrastructure will not be maintained or upgraded. Give the government programs what they need to maintain or build their infrastructure, but kick out the private interests.

KSL
126361
Points
KSL 02/28/14 - 07:34 am
6
2
angel

Big bucks were spent on Riverwalk decades ago. And it did attract visitors. We came from Aiken. But somehow the area went to heck in a handbasket, restaurants closed, and it has the reputation of "at your own risk."

That era was short term after a huge investment. Your suggestions, while good on the surface, carry no guarantees that this will not be a repeat attempt, with the same dismal result.

If want you want the money spent on is really viable, the private sector of investors are way more knowledgeable.

dsterling9
767
Points
dsterling9 02/28/14 - 08:12 am
8
1
PAINE COLLEGE?

Isn't Paine College a private institute? Any funds provided by ARC must be in the form of a loan or government backed grant. If more money is given to any outside agencies there must be a strict accounting including a requirement that such funds not be used for salaries, bonuses, awards, etc., and strictly used for the purposes stated in the request.

redfish
584
Points
redfish 02/28/14 - 08:22 am
7
0
looks typical...

This looks like a typical special interest money grab. Paine college is a private school, why should taxpayers pay for anything there? All the crap funding for "arts" is another example of the arts crowd not being able to convince enough people to pay to see their shows so they force taxpayers to subsidize their hobbies.

Vote NO on this money grab.

dsmith46
35
Points
dsmith46 02/28/14 - 08:30 am
5
0
What a waste !!

$11 Million for the minor Judges that didn't get a spot in the new Building while the streets are in the worst condition I've seen in 50 years.

seenitB4
85384
Points
seenitB4 02/28/14 - 08:54 am
6
0
HOLY MOLEY!!

Listen to dichotomy..

jimmymac
36955
Points
jimmymac 02/28/14 - 09:15 am
0
0
MONEY
Unpublished

How about using the SPLOST funds to pave Broad St. My lord the main drag of the town is like a wash board and nothing is being done with it but they can use public funds for a coffee bar!

story1
802
Points
story1 02/28/14 - 10:23 am
3
0
Negative Posts

There are plenty of negative posts on this topic to get a pulse for community opinion. Now, we need to be telling friends that vote in RC to turn this Splost down. That's the only message that the Mayor and Commissioners will understand. Just Vote NO.

Riverman1
82249
Points
Riverman1 02/28/14 - 10:34 am
2
1
The last vote...

The last vote we were all commenting like we are now and what happened? I'm afraid it will happen again. It's a spiral downward into the abyss.

dreTT
211
Points
dreTT 02/28/14 - 11:05 am
2
1
If SPLOST includes $5.25

If SPLOST includes $5.25 million for the Mills District or any money at all for it, I plan to vote it down.

countyman
19719
Points
countyman 02/28/14 - 11:56 am
1
4
Splost

Story 1.. The comments on the AC don't reflect the reality on the ground. Anybody can post on the AC website, but only RC voters will go to the polls...

How can you vote without seeing the final list?

1.5 million visitors flock to Richmond County ever year and the majority of the people staying more than one night visit the Riverwalk.. The weekly Market on the River and Candlelight Jazz series are held on Saturdays and Sundays.. The ESI Ironman, Southern Nationals, etc are held on the Riverwalk. A private developer recently purchased the Fort Discovery building and will eventually bring hundreds of jobs to the Riverwalk.

NrthAugustaSam
473
Points
NrthAugustaSam 02/28/14 - 12:04 pm
3
2
Bow Ties

It is obvious that Deke intends to be downtown quite a bit after he is out of office. He's getting his wardrobe of tuxedos pressed and buying some new bow ties for his new career as a man about town - He will look really nice at all of these venues that he and his friends will be using ALL ON THE TAXPAYERS DIME!!!!

countyman
19719
Points
countyman 02/28/14 - 12:45 pm
2
6
Splost

The mayor of North Augusta obviously doesn't plan to leave downtown North Augusta once he finishes office..

He is spending $150 MILLION OF TAXPAYER MONEY on Project Jackson for the 'promise' of new restaurants, hotel, and the apartment complex..

The mayor is allowing for the RC citizens to vote yes or no and people from outside RC are helping pay for the splost..

KSL
126361
Points
KSL 02/28/14 - 12:55 pm
2
1
Countyman, do you work for

Countyman, do you work for the planning commission?

countyman
19719
Points
countyman 02/28/14 - 01:19 pm
1
4
Splost

The citizens of Richmond County don't need to be fooled again.. The splost packages in the surrounding counties get approved, and nobody says anything..

1. The baseball stadium is a bad idea for Augusta, but great for North Augusta.
2. The TEE Center won't do anything positive, but the exhibition hall in Grovetown or future convention center in North Augusta will..
3. The T-Splost is a waste of money, but the media/CC chamber of commerce made a huge deal over the Riverwatch expansion breaking ground.

Why do the surrounding counties in the area continue to pass splost?

dwb619
91161
Points
dwb619 02/28/14 - 02:47 pm
3
0
countyman

I would like to know how you see fit to involve North Augusta in your little diatribe?
I DON'T comment on the business or politics of Augusta-Richmond County, and I wish you would keep your nose out of the business across the river!
Okay?
Also, UNLIKE YOU, the mayor of North Augusta was born and raised in North Augusta.

countyman
19719
Points
countyman 02/28/14 - 04:47 pm
0
3
A North Augusta resident

A North Augusta resident wanted to mentioned the mayor of Augusta and I simply responded back..

dwb619
91161
Points
dwb619 02/28/14 - 06:07 pm
0
0
screen name

So, a screen name is proof positive of your residence?

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 02/28/14 - 06:28 pm
3
0
dwb619... Countyman thinks
Unpublished

dwb619... Countyman thinks everyone who disagrees with him about Augusta must live in either Columbia or Aiken counties.

dwb619
91161
Points
dwb619 02/28/14 - 07:10 pm
0
0
Butterman

For the record, I am strongly opposed to the Riverfront Stadium.It is my belief that this project,since it's cost will be borne by all the residents of Aiken County, should have gone to a county wide vote.
Also, I live in Belvedere, and my sole tie to the city of North Augusta is our water bill.
Still, this issue is solely the business of the citizens of North Augusta and Aiken County.

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