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Augusta Commission passes sales tax plan to pitch to voters May 20

Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 4:03 PM
Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 2:24 AM
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In a process criticized for its breakneck speed, six Augusta Commission members on Friday approved a $194.3 million sales tax package to present to voters May 20.

Commissioners spent a couple of hours tweaking a draft project list assembled by Mayor Deke Copenhaver before approving it, restoring $5 million of the $8 million sought by Paine College for a new cultural center and $10 million for unspecified infrastructure projects, bringing the city Engineering Department’s allocation to $50 million; eliminating two proposed fire stations and restoring $500,000 each for Augusta Museum of History and Fleming Tennis Center.

Commissioner Donnie Smith said he was tired of haggling over projects during the meeting and called for a five-minute break in which to broker a compromise. After the break, the Paine funds sought by Commissioner Bill Fennoy, a Paine alumnus, were increased to $6 million, Smith motioned to approve the package and all six commissioners – Smith, Fennoy, Mary Davis, Joe Jackson, Grady Smith and Wayne Guilfoyle – voted “yes.”

Donnie Smith said aside from a small amount of fluff, “the rest of it is pretty good for the community” and helps “prepare the city, infrastructure-wise,” for the arrival of the Army Cyber Command, expected to bring thousands of new jobs to the region over the next few years.

With collections of the current special purpose local option sales tax around $2.95 million a month, it will take nearly six years to collect all the funds if voters approve the package. But commissioners also approved putting a $21.7 million bond issue on the ballot with the sales tax package. If approved, it would pay for a handful of projects much sooner.

Those projects include an $8 million match sought by Georgia Regents University for a new cancer center, $4.45 million for a Hephzibah multi-use recreation facility, $4 million for computer upgrades for the tax commissioner and tax assessor offices, and $5.25 million for Copenhaver’s Augusta Regional Collaborative to advance its Mills Campus proposal.

The mills proposal involves renovating two dormant textile mills into usable space, presumably for GRU, but university officials have shown no interest in the project so far. Augusta Regional Collaborative Director Matt Kwatinetz said at a recent meeting that the plan simply needed an “anchor tenant,” whoever it might be.

Cut from Copenhaver’s draft at the request of Guilfoyle was $11 million for new facilities for the Augusta Public Defender and Richmond County Juvenile Court, which occupy rented space; $5 million for two new fire stations, sparing a third for southwest Augusta; and reductions in the amounts sought by the Imperial Theatre and Symphony Orchestra Augusta.

“Overall, I believe it’s a good package. We focused on the infrastructure; it does have some outside agencies,” Guilfoyle said.

Former Commissioner Jimmy Smith spoke at the session and sought the $10 million bump for engineering. Guilfoyle said that increase will facilitate much-needed road improvements in his south Richmond County commission district and elsewhere.

Fennoy raised issues earlier in the meeting shared by his absent colleague Commissioner Bill Lockett about the rushed process that has sought no input from the public.

“I believe that we need to take the time to hear from the voters of Richmond County, their concerns and what they want,” Fennoy said, adding that neighborhood associations and other community groups should have a chance to weigh in on the package before it is finalized.

The entire process was accomplished in about a month, after Copenhaver informed commissioners in January that GRU had to have the $8 million match by July. While funds won’t be collected until the present sales tax package expires, probably early 2016, the match demand coupled with changes in state election dates and laws mandated the election be held May 20, Copenhaver and other city officials have said.

“After getting a package approved, we have public meetings,” Copenhaver said.

If the sales tax package fails, the city must wait a year to present it again to voters. Counties can no longer call special elections just for a special purpose local option sales tax, so the next opportunity will be November 2015, Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said.

Copenhaver added that if the package isn’t passed May 20, a new mayor and several new commissioners up for election will want to “put their stamp” on the package.

The requests by outside agencies require the agencies to raise a 25 percent match within two years, and demonstrate they are able to complete the projects, Schroer said.

The revised package included $19 million for Recreation, Parks and Facilities based on a streamlined set of projects requested by Recreation Director Bob Levine at a Thursday work session.

It also included $2 million for library improvements, $2 million for demolitions, $2.775 million for Greater Augusta Arts Council and $1.5 million for a Downtown Development Authority surface parking lot.

Key Department Project Appproved
B Administration   $43,000,000.00
C Engineering   $50,000,000.00
D Fire   $7,500,000.00
E Fleet   $8,450,000.00
F IT   $18,550,000.00
H Planning & Development   $6,500,000.00
I Recreation   $19,000,000.00
J Sheriff   $1,439,000.00
K City of Hephzibah   $8,375,000.00
L City of Blythe   $1,975,000.00
M Augusta Authorities   $5,750,000.00
N Library   $2,000,000.00
P Outside Agencies   $21,775,000.00
    Total $194,314,000.00
    Interest - bonds 3 - 4,000,000
       
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
B1 Administrator/Mayor Project Administration $5,000,000.00
B2 Administrator/Mayor Municipal Building Renovations $30,000,000.00
B5 Administrator/Mayor Debt Repayment (GRU Cancer Center) $8,000,000.00
    Total $43,000,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
  Engineering List to be determined  
    Total $50,000,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
D1 Fire Emergency Vehicle Fleet Replacement $5,000,000.00
D3 Fire Fire Stations - 1 locations $2,500,000.00
    Total $7,500,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
E1 Fleet Roof Replacement $450,000.00
E3 Fleet Public Safety Vehicles $8,000,000.00
    Total $8,450,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
F1 IT Radio System $13,000,000.00
F2 IT TAO/TCO Software Application $4,000,000.00
F3 IT MDT Replacement $900,000.00
F4 IT Communication Infrastructure $250,000.00
F5 IT Orthophotography $400,000.00
    TOTAL $18,550,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
H1 Planning and Development Flood Reduction Program $2,500,000.00
H2 Planning and Development Demolition Program $4,000,000.00
    Total $6,500,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
I7 Recreation Dyess Park $500,000.00
I9 Recreation Lake Olmstead $250,000.00
I11 Recreation May Park $250,000.00
I14 Recreation Riverwalk $400,000.00
I23 Recreation Augusta Aquatic Ctr $1,500,000.00
I30 Recreation Fleming Tennis Center $500,000.00
I33 Recreation Minnick Park $200,000.00
I34 Recreation Pendleton King Park $250,000.00
I35 Recreation Valley Park $250,000.00
I40 Recreation Newman Tennis Center $2,000,000.00
I42 Recreation Diamond Lakes Regional $2,750,000.00
I44 Recreation McDuffie Woods Park $300,000.00
I46 Recreation Brigham Com. Center $300,000.00
I51 Recreation Butler Creek $250,000.00
I55 Recreation Eisenhower Park $250,000.00
I58 Recreation Blythe Community Pk $250,000.00
I60 Recreation McBean Community Pk $250,000.00
I61 Recreation Program Administration $1,000,000.00
I64 Recreation Boathouse Rowing Center $400,000.00
  Recreation Splash Pad Water Playground Initiative $1,850,000.00
  Recreation Playgound Unit Replacement Initiative $2,000,000.00
  Recreation HVAC Upgrades $500,000.00
  Recreation City-Wide Cemetery Improvements $500,000.00
  Recreation City-Wide Park Facility Improvements $500,000.00
  Recreation City-Wide Park Signage Improvements $300,000.00
  Recreation City-Wide Site Improvements $500,000.00
  Recreation Multi-Purpose Court Upgrades $500,000.00
  Recreation City-Wide Swimming Pool Renovations $500,000.00
    TOTAL $19,000,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
J1 Sheriff Digital In-car Video System $407,000.00
J2 Sheriff HD Body Cameras $332,000.00
J4 Sheriff Downtown Video Security Enhancement $700,000.00
    Total $1,439,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
K1 Hephzibah Facilities for Agricultural Center & Arena $1,800,000.00
K2 Hephzibah Equipment to Automate Water Meter Reading $220,000.00
K3 Hephzibah Bike Lanes $200,000.00
K4 Hephzibah Windsor Spring and Roadway Beautification $100,000.00
K5 Hephzibah Water Dept. Vehicles & Equipment $145,000.00
K6 Hephzibah Vehicles & Equip. for Public Safety $125,000.00
K8 Hephzibah Vehicles & Equipment for Fire & EMS $385,000.00
K9 Hephzibah Fire Dept. New Facilities $950,000.00
K10 Hephzibah Recreational Multi-use Facility $4,450,000.00
    TOTAL $8,375,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
L1 City of Blythe Water system upgrades $350,000.00
L2 City of Blythe Road Improvements $300,000.00
L3 City of Blythe Police Vehicles & Equipment/Computers $125,000.00
L4 City of Blythe Community Building/Library/Park $900,000.00
L5 City of Blythe WIFI access $50,000.00
L6 City of Blythe IT upgrades $50,000.00
L7 City of Blythe Paving roads $100,000.00
L8 City of Blythe Non Public Safety Vehicles and equipment $100,000.00
    Total $1,975,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
M1 Canal Authority Canal Improvement $2,500,000.00
M2 Development Authority Augusta Corporate Park Access Road $1,250,000.00
M3 Development Authority Economic Development Industrial Infrastructure $500,000.00
  Downtown Development Authority Surface Parking Lot $1,500,000.00
    Total $5,750,000.00
       
       
Key Department Project Appproved
N2 Library Friedman Branch Library -
N3 Library Wallace Branch Library -
N4 Library Appleby Branch Library -
    Total $2,000,000.00
       
       
Key Agency Project Appproved
P1 Augusta Regional Collaborative Corp The Mills District $5,250,000.00
P2 Greater Augusta Arts Council ART Space $750,000.00
P3 Greater Augusta Arts Council Public Arts Master Plan $25,000.00
P4 Greater Augusta Arts Council Augusta Public Art Implementation $2,000,000.00
P5 Imperial Theatre Theatre Renovation $2,500,000.00
P6 Augusta Symphony Miller Theater $4,250,000.00
P7 Paine College The James Brown Community & Fine Arts Cultural Center $6,000,000.00
P9 Augusta Museum of History Building Expansion $500,000.00
P11 Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy Phinizy Swamp Nature Park $500,000.00
    Total $21,775,000.00
Comments (46) Add comment
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corgimom
38463
Points
corgimom 02/28/14 - 09:48 pm
11
3
How in the HELL is it legal

How in the HELL is it legal to collect a tax from taxpayers to be used to fund a cultural center at a PRIVATE UNIVERSITY that is not owned by taxpayers?

nocnoc
49169
Points
nocnoc 02/28/14 - 09:54 pm
4
0
I see the update @ 8:34 PM

added the semi-detailed list.

It must happened while I was typing my comment?

nocnoc
49169
Points
nocnoc 02/28/14 - 09:57 pm
3
0
ANOTHER UPDATE updated 9:53 PM

The semi-detailed list is GONE.

nocnoc
49169
Points
nocnoc 02/28/14 - 10:05 pm
4
0
Before the list disappeared

I saw $700K for RCSO Big Brother Downtown Security cameras.
$330K HD Shoulder Cams for deputies
$2.5M?Canal money
and in Admin Money of $5M for the Mayor.

The rest were as interesting also.
Most NOT like we have been told, a Majority were
VALID Infrastructure spendings.

Likely the List just had a Typo and just needed correcting.

Will it re-appear before the morning edition?

showboat
369
Points
showboat 02/28/14 - 10:26 pm
0
0
I WILL BE VOTEING NO!NO!
Unpublished

I WILL BE VOTEING NO!NO!

dichotomy
37489
Points
dichotomy 02/28/14 - 10:51 pm
10
0
Commissioner Guilfoyle.

Commissioner Guilfoyle. Knowing you, I have to assume you did what you thought was best. I know you work hard at being a good commissioner and you really do try to help the people in your district. We will just have to agree to disagree on this SPLOST list vote. From my point of view you were in a perfect position to put a stop to this bum's rush Friday Deke Copenhaver power grab and I think you should have done so. Let's face it, the Commission does not need to be put under pressure to make another bad decision. They do that very well without being rushed. There was no problem working this list for a while. Hell, ya'll have already illegally obligated a bunch of the money so what the hell was the rush. Plus, the 6 of you have allowed the other 4 commissioners complete plausible deniability for any blame in this process. I see they were about as visible as Democrats at an Obamacare referendum.

I don't think any of you should have gotten down in the dirt and wallowed with Fennoy and his Paine/James Brown Cultural Center blackmail vote. And I'm sure you know I disagree with ANY PRIVATE organization slinking down the back alley with taxpayer money in their pocket. Especially an organization that has mismanaged and misappropriated money for years and by all rights should be bankrupt and closed if it wasn't for the bogus federal "research" grants that were illegally used to infuse cash into this either incompetent or corrupt, or both, institution. Is that the "culture" they are going to encourage down there. But almost $22 million dollars for private, outside organizations?????????? Bridge taggers, graffiti wall painters, and theaters for horn blowers and violin and piano players. Are you kidding me??????? Is that what tax dollars are for nowadays??????

Yes Commissioner Guilfoyle, in this case, and with all due respect, I disagree with your vote, I disagree with this list, and I disagree with the concept of giving tax money to private organizations in complete disregard of the intent of the SPLOST laws. Our SPLOSTs have turned into "okay, we are going to do a few good things but in order to get them we are going to shove $22 million dollars worth of private, unnecessary, bull crap down your throat with it. Anyone got a bridge you want our government sponsored graffiti artists to tag up?". At least on this one they didn't give it all to one small group of rich people like they did last time. This time we are just paying for their entertainment and special interests.

SB3
3934
Points
SB3 03/01/14 - 02:36 am
12
1
Vote NO!

Where do I get a "Vote NO!" sign for my yard? I'll make my own if necessary. I agree with everything dichotomy and the others opposed to this illegal (in my opinion) pork have said.

Privy
106
Points
Privy 03/01/14 - 07:17 am
10
0
No, no, no...

No, no, no...

Riverman1
93728
Points
Riverman1 03/01/14 - 07:22 am
9
0
To Those Asking About the Paine Funding

The last time it was a $10 million gym. Now it's a cultural center. The county had just as well take it over and make it a municipal college. But to answer the question, remember what the black commissioners reminded the white commissioners of when the tens of millions being sent to Laney Walker for the next 50 years was questioned? In a classic moment that was recorded, they answered, "Well, that's the pay-back y'all gave us for approving the TEE Center."

Junket103
471
Points
Junket103 03/01/14 - 07:34 am
4
0
The Commission Votes, But Voters Decide

It really doesn't matter what the Commission recommends, ultimately the voters will decide. The structure of the government and the political leanings of the various districts always results in a grab bag that everyone can dislike. My problem with the process is the all or nothing approach. Voters are only given one package to either vote up or down. This leads to an Obamacare mentality. Where a good concept, improved healthcare for all, is corrupted by the political process and what we are left with is a mess. Georgia needs to reform the SPLOST, simplify it and keep the private organizations away from the till. I would like to see the voters presented with multiple SPLOSTs packages. Break them out by category and see which ones the voters agree to fund. I believe the voters will approve the projects with merit and veto those that don't.

nocnoc
49169
Points
nocnoc 03/01/14 - 07:47 am
7
0
Given the provided list I see a Majority of it IS Good

A Majority is for improvements.

However I see it has line items wide open for Special People rewards.

A majority of my and many peoples concerns
lay in the P section that provides little if any explanation or justification for spending.

P1 Augusta Regional Collaborative Corp The Mills District $5,250,000.00
P5 Imperial Theater Theater Renovation $2,500,000.00
P6 Augusta Symphony Miller Theater $4,250,000.00

Then I see areas like the PM Fee's
B1 Administrator/Mayor Project Administration $5,000,000.00

While list is NOT as Bad as we 1st feared, it still needs some more trimming to get the Pork Fat craved off.
Which raises the question: Will there be another round of PUBLIC Meetings, followed by 1 last PORK Trimming?

I also plan to request additional information before sign on as to what and how the funds will be use and by WHOM.

The original SPLOST list posting was different, so I am guessing it contain a few typos' and the link is dead now. http://beta.mirror.augusta.com/latest-news/2014-02-28/augusta-commision-...

Here is the currently available list post "15" hours ago http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/SPLOST%20VII%20approved%20project...

Every Taxpayer should Download a copy and save a copy for monitoring the SPLOST spending.

BTW:
It is the Imperial Theater is not Imperial "Theatre"

nocnoc
49169
Points
nocnoc 03/01/14 - 07:40 am
4
0
When will the Dept Detail lists be available?

When can the voters get a PDF copy of how of how the $$$$ is planned to be spread around inside each dept. and what equipment and which vendors will be selected?

Also given Major item purchases will require an open bid.

Has an agreement been reached between Commissioners yet, on how to protect LOCAL ARC minority vendors/contractor using a local preferred vendor scoring system?

dsterling9
1255
Points
dsterling9 03/01/14 - 07:43 am
5
0
NO RESPONSE

It is interested that only one commissioner took the time to respond. I am not surprised that our mayor did not respond. I have found him non-responsive to all attempts to communicate with him. At this point I plan to vote NO.

By the way...all those in support of a water park or other recreational facility...these should all be self-supporting and not supported by taxes. Once you start supporting things like this with tax dollars the abuse starts, i.e., bonuses just for showing up to work.

seenitB4
97596
Points
seenitB4 03/01/14 - 07:44 am
2
2
Many many ways to skin a cat-:)

Theater vs. theatre

In most contexts, there is no difference in meaning between theater and theatre. Neither has any special definitions in general usage. The main thing that most English speakers and learners need to know is that theater is the preferred spelling in American English, and theatre is preferred virtually everywhere else.

Some Americans do make distinctions—for instance, that a theater is a venue while theatre is an art form, or that a theater is a movie theater while a theatre is a drama venue. There is nothing wrong with making these distinctions, but they are not consistently borne out in general usage. Even in 21st-century writing on the art of theater, the more American spelling now appears for all senses of the word.

justthefacts
25062
Points
justthefacts 03/01/14 - 07:54 am
3
0
Movie House

Let's go with "theater" while we still can.

seenitB4
97596
Points
seenitB4 03/01/14 - 07:57 am
2
1
I kinda like picture house myself

movie theatre (also called a cinema, movie house, film house, film theater or picture house

nocnoc
49169
Points
nocnoc 03/01/14 - 08:07 am
4
0
SBI4 - having learn English

from US and British Military schools while in Germany learning those plus German, I have to agree on reflection.

I am so confused....

I stand corrected & it has been

The Imperial Theatre for 96 years and 10 days
and tickets aren't 50 cents any more either

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Theatre_%28Augusta,_Georgia%29

HOWEVER, in some minor attempted face saving defense

The Reese Library show it as Imperial Theater
http://www.aug.edu/~liblsc/Digital_Archives/ItemPages/RL00048.html

seenitB4
97596
Points
seenitB4 03/01/14 - 08:10 am
2
1
We are all confused--U are not alone

We really are not off topic either...when I read about the Augusta Commish, I think I'm at a picture show.:)

Riverman1
93728
Points
Riverman1 03/01/14 - 08:40 am
3
0
Go to the theatre at the town

Go to the theatre at the town centre.

itsanotherday1
48335
Points
itsanotherday1 03/01/14 - 08:44 am
3
2
Politics is the art of

Politics is the art of compromise. Otherwise nothing gets done.

seenitB4
97596
Points
seenitB4 03/01/14 - 08:49 am
3
2
btw

We voted for the tax & I am glad it passed....we have some good folks in Gwinnett..most of our tax will go to transportation issues.....but just like IAD said...compromise is the art of the game...like it or not. I think Wayne is doing the best he can with the folks he has to work with.

Riverman1
93728
Points
Riverman1 03/01/14 - 09:01 am
3
0
Wayne G's Strategy

Wayne G. ensured his district gets some of the pie if it passes even though he doesn't support the SPLOST. Heck, he could work to get voters to vote against it, but if it should win, his district is taken care of. I get it.

soitgoes
900
Points
soitgoes 03/01/14 - 09:22 am
4
0
Vote No to this SPLOST package

way too much special interest $ (nearly $22Million), and lots of fluff everywhere. $3Million for the Arts Council???!!! $7Million for private theaters???!!! Eliminate all that pork. About the only thing I agree with is FIRE and the CITY OF BLYTHE. I don't live there, but Blythe is looking better to me. VOTE NO ON THIS PACKAGE.

story1
807
Points
story1 03/01/14 - 10:04 am
3
0
The Pitch

The pitch from city leaders, mayor and outside agencies will be "don't worry, this is a continuation of the current 1 cent sales tax". Maybe the leaders are thinking if voters turn this down in May, they can condense and put back on the ballot in November.

nocnoc
49169
Points
nocnoc 03/01/14 - 10:19 am
4
0
Now there is a thought

Vote it down in May.
Forcing Downtown to cut out the objectionable items
and a revote in Nov.

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