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Urban Redevelopment Agency to meet with commissioners to discuss bond controversy

Monday, March 17, 2014 8:17 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 18, 2014 2:13 AM
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A bond issue that one commissioner is calling a bad deal returns for a third day of discussion Tuesday, this time with Augusta commissioners present.

Members of the city’s Urban Redevelopment Agency called for the joint meeting to be sure commissioners are aware that property taxpayers will be on the hook for debt service on the bonds if voters don’t pass a sales tax referendum May 20.

Commissioner Joe Jackson said seven commissioners had been “hoodwinked” when they voted March 11, 2013, to begin a $40 million renovation of the Augusta Municipal Building campus at 530 Greene St. without a full funding source in place.

“Did it need updating? Yes, but that’s why you put it in a SPLOST,” Jackson said.

The city’s current special purpose, local option sales tax afforded approximately $14.5 million to make renovations to the 1957 building, but not enough for the $40 million in work commissioners approved a year ago.

That money would come from the next tax, former city Administrator Fred Russell and financial consultant Dianne McNabb explained.

“It was just another way to … make a deal happen, of hurrying up and getting this thing built before we had a funding stream,” Jackson said. “That was part of the reason I wanted to fire Fred.”

A year later, Russell has been fired and opposition to the tax package assembled by the mayor in a matter of weeks to get on the May 20 ballot appears to be growing.

“Several mayoral candidates are campaigning strongly against it,” Jackson said.

Jackson and Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle were absent the day the commission approved the $40 million renovations, which are under way and running out of funds, according to Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer.

Only Commissioner Bill Fennoy opposed the project.

“It all boils down to the vote on the municipal building. We’re spending money we don’t have,” said Guilfoyle, who supports the new tax package.

The URA panel, which includes downtown activist Brad Owens, former Mayor Bob Young, Universal Plumbing owner Larry Jones, Augusta Technical College President Terry Elam and International Formal Wear president Henry Ingram, has twice met to discuss the bond issue, but so far declined to approve it because of concerns about servicing the bonds if the tax package fails.

“I don’t have the clarity that (commissioners) understand” that $2.9 million in annual debt service will have to come from existing city revenues if the plan doesn’t pass, Young said Friday.

On the agenda for the 1 p.m. called meeting Tuesday of the URA and the commission are discussions of a funding source if the new special purpose local option sales tax doesn’t pass, and the estimated interest rate on the bonds, which bond documents state can be as high as 7 percent.

Commissioners then have a 1:30 p.m. called meeting to receive an update on debris removal from Winter Storm Pax, while the URA panel has a 1:30 p.m. called meeting to approve the bond issue.

IN OTHER ACTION

Other business going before the Augusta Commission at its regular 2 p.m. Tuesday meeting includes:

• Approval of a zoning change for Dismas Charities at 602 Taylor St. to allow a halfway house

• Approval of exempting the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office from mandatory 2.4 percent budget cuts

• Discussion of giving the commission the authority to set compensation for the director of Augusta Regional Airport

• Discussion of the city’s procedures for security of electronic and other records, after many of former City Administrator Fred Russell’s records disappeared during his final few weeks at work

• Consideration of Dennis Welch to replace Steven Kendrick on the Downtown Development Authority

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Riverman1
93233
Points
Riverman1 03/18/14 - 05:41 am
3
0
Stop the Renovation

It's time to STOP the renovation of the marble palace. Unless there's some kind of municipal EBT card to pay for this, you can't spend what you don't have.

Little Lamb
48859
Points
Little Lamb 03/18/14 - 06:55 am
2
0
Diligence

There is no reason not to slow down or even halt the remodeling until the questions raised by Bob Young and Brad Owens have been researched and understood. It may inconvenience city workers for a while, but that's to be tolerated. Fred (What, me worry?) Russell's legacy of dirty, back room deals continues to taint this city.

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 03/18/14 - 09:01 am
0
0
Vote NO SPLOST!
Unpublished

Just found this group yesterday. I say we need to give them our support to stop this SPLOST from being rammed through. If there is a place to send a donation, I would like to know where, because I will have my checkbook ready. http://www.facebook.com/notosplost

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 03/18/14 - 09:04 am
0
0
Hoodwinked
Unpublished

"Commissioner Joe Jackson said seven commissioners had been “hoodwinked” when they voted March 11, 2013, to begin a $40 million renovation of the Augusta Municipal Building campus at 530 Greene St. without a full funding source in place."....
And just who hoodwinked you Mr. Jackson? I do believe that was Fred Russell. They guy you voted to fire and then immediately turned around and supported for mayor.

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 03/18/14 - 05:23 pm
0
0
Little Lamb
Unpublished

Brad Owens is just riding on Bob's coattails. remember just last week that Owens was quoted in this paper that he was prepared to approve the bonds last Friday. Maybe that is why the meeting was called because he was the third vote.I would not trust any info coming from Tim Schroer and the city finance department. Make no mistake, Bob is the brains on that board. Brad will change his position at the drop of a hat. Let's see what happens later today.

jimbob
105
Points
jimbob 03/18/14 - 11:16 am
0
0
The citizens who voted in these commissioners deserve

a financial bankrupt city to go along with the bankrupt brains they seem to have in office. Just raise taxes on the people who selected these liberals to spend all the citizens into huge debts.

dichotomy
37344
Points
dichotomy 03/18/14 - 01:29 pm
0
0
Misled my rear end. I just

Misled my rear end. I just cannot believe the total and complete ignorance of the group of commissioners who voted to spend SPLOST money in advance of SPLOST being approved.

Any group of people who can be "hoodwinked" into spending $25 million dollars they don't have and which has not been approved NEED TO HAVE A GUARDIAN APPOINTED FOR THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE INCAPABLE CONDUCTING THEIR PERSONAL AFFAIRS. I think the term is Mentally Incompetent. That includes any who THINK they are qualified to be mayor......right Skybox. I guess this is the same place he was going to get the money to tear down the levee.

Can we please amend the process for qualification to run for office to include a BASIC MATH test. To bad we can't test for COMMON SENSE.

corgimom
38230
Points
corgimom 03/18/14 - 04:13 pm
0
0
It's called "blame the one

It's called "blame the one that's gone."

It's not like they didn't know, Parking Deck anyone?

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. The commissioners would've been wise to remember that.

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 03/18/14 - 05:29 pm
0
0
Bonds Approved
Unpublished

According to another news source, the bonds were just approved this afternoon. Some consultant named McBlabb said that if SPLOST fails in May there are other revenue streams besides property taxes to service the bonds. But I am skeptical.

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