City committee authorizes first phase of $3 million countywide demolition program

Effort aims to rid Augusta of blighted properties

Monday, March 24, 2014 9:13 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 25, 2014 3:03 AM
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Thirty-six homes and other buildings funded for demolition by an Augusta Commission committee are just a start.

The city’s Public Services committee on Monday authorized Phase 1 of a $3 million countywide push to rid Augusta-Richmond of blighted properties, some 290 properties spread across six commission districts whose demolition Development Manager Rob Sherman said “will make an impact on a neighborhood.”

The 36 houses and other structures are the first to go out of some 290 already identified by the Planning and Development department as in need of tearing down. Most are privately owned with unpaid taxes and are deteriorated beyond repair or burned, but frequented by prostitutes, drug users or the homeless, Sherman said.

Behind them, another 250 structures have been identified as in need of demolition, he said.

Commissioner Alvin Mason said many homes around the county “look like they ought to be in this category, but people are still living in them.”

Sherman said tenants can contact his office if a landlord has refused to make repairs.

The $200,000 in funds approved Monday, most coming from capital outlay, can’t be reimbursed using sales-tax dollars unless the city owns them, Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said.

The city’s SPLOST 7 package, up for voter approval May 20, includes $4 million for a demolition program.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy, whose District 1 includes 111 properties on the list of 290, asked if Augusta wasn’t inadvertently tearing down its history.

“So 50 years from now, we won’t be talking about various communities that at one time were the most prominent communities in the area,” he said.

Planning and Development Director Melanie Wilson said stricter enforcement of codes will ensure existing homes are kept in good repair.

Commissioner Donnie Smith said while his District 7 had no properties on the list, several bank-owned properties weren’t being kept in proper repaid.

“We would treat them like we would treat a private homeowner,” Wilson said.


Other business approved by Augusta Commission committees Monday included:

  • Referred Mia Johnson, the former human resources manager for city bus manager McDonald Transit, to federal authorities. Johnson said she’d resigned after being harassed by a supervisor and reprimanded for calculating retroactive pay based on an agreement with the transit union. “I was instructed to do it one way and I knew it was incorrect,” she said. “I walked out.”
  • Approved funding a $78,000 shortfall in Augusta Land Bank Authority’s 2014 budget. Director Norm Michael said his department isn’t reimbursed for work it does for Augusta Housing and Community Development.
  • Forwarded to the full commission a recommendation from Human Resources Director Tanika Bryant that the city reclassify Augusta’s Equal Employment Opportunity director Jacqueline Humphrey and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise coordinator Yvonne Gentry as coordinators and place the two positions under human resources and procurement, respectively.
  • Agreed to seek funding at the department level to increase the salaries of four or five unnamed Senior Executive Staff members whose salaries Bryant said were either below that of their peers, below market levels, or both. Correcting the combined disparities will cost about $90,000, Bryant said.
  • Heard from Augusta Interfaith Coalition Director Chris Johnson and consultant Tim Hollobaugh about Augusta’s compliance issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hollobaugh said working with Augusta-Richmond to address the issues was preferable to litigating, while the city is missing out on segments of the community that have $175 million nationwide in discretionary spending.
  • Heard from Terri Turner, assistant zoning and development administrator, about 20 percent of the city she said had been “arbitrarily drawn” into 1978 federal floodplain maps. Homeowners in the areas are substantially penalized on their insurance for being on the floodplain, but federal funds earmarked in 2011 to redo the maps were diverted to another part of the state, she said.
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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/24/14 - 10:12 pm

Okay, if federal funds you hoped were yours were instead diverted to another part of the state, then it's time to go back to the drawing board and ask for some more federal funds in the next fiscal year. Tough break.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/24/14 - 10:17 pm

This end run to "seek funding at the department level" for employees that a co-ordinator thinks are "underpaid" is setting a dangerous precedent. We taxpayers are on the verge of seeing an explosion of city employee salaries, all the while we see our private salaries, state governmental salaries, and pension payments stagnate at zero.

Times are tough. We must avoid granting salary increases at this time.

dsterling9 03/25/14 - 08:18 am

Sure this has been covered before; however, would like to know if any of the properties belong to, managed by, or connected in any way to any member of the ARC government or local realty/management companies. Taxpayers should not be funding the demolition of anything unless the property has been legally/formally (in writing) abandoned by the property owner.

Bulldog 03/26/14 - 09:30 am
Tearing down history?

I strongly suspect that Bill Fennoy is not worried in the least about tearing down history. His primary concern is tearing down the shacks which provide "homes" for so many in his district. Good grief, if we clean up Augusta's urban area, where will these poor people go and how will Bill get reelected? The dreaded dragon of gentrification rears its ugly head again.

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