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Clerk: New space inadequate for commission business

Change could add to cost of Municipal Building work

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 9:32 PM
Last updated Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:17 AM
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A significant oversight might add to the cost of Augusta’s $40 million renovation of the Municipal Building.

Under design since 2008, final plans for renovating the building’s second floor from offices and courtrooms to space for the mayor, lawyers, procurement staff and commission apparently left out adequate space for recordkeeping and other responsibilities performed by the clerk of commission, according to Clerk Lena Bonner.

“We have found the space allocated to us to be totally inefficient and inadequate to serve the public,” Bonner said Tuesday during a meeting of Augusta’s engineering services committee.

Forrest White, the project man­ager for Heery International, Au­gusta’s agent on large construction projects for a decade, denied having knowledge of Bonner’s concerns.

“Your concerns were about the size of the clerk of commission’s office,” White said. “That’s the only concern I’ve heard anything specific about.”

Formerly on the eighth floor, the new clerk’s office and work space is on the other side of a windowless door at the northeast corner of the building, behind the spacious new commission chamber. In the new layout, two offices accessed from the mayor’s reception area will serve as part-time shared office space for commissioners.

Bonner said her concern was not the size of her new office, which is currently 11 feet by 14 feet, but the “totality of the office space” and its ability to house her department’s functions. The new space is lined with stacks of crates of documents relocated from the former clerk’s office, but only a handful of file cabinets.

“My issue was they did not program space adequately for the preservation and custodian of city records,” Bonner said. “The office itself (is) inadequate for the records we have. This government is in its infancy – it’s only 16 years old. When the city of Augusta gave up its charter, it was over 200 years old. Those records are valuable; they’re historical and by state law, we have to keep them.”

With many duties spelled out in Georgia law, county clerks record and maintain meeting minutes, prepare and distribute meeting agendas and information packets, obtain signatures on documents, arrange commissioner training and travel and serve as custodian of county contracts, leases, resolutions and ordinances.

“I’m more than willing to sit down and discuss how we can make it more functional for the public,” said Bonner, who returned from authorized sick leave to the new space. “That’s my main concern. It’s not my office. That office belongs to the citizens of Augusta, and they deserve a little more space than what we’re seeing now.”

Interim Administrator Tameka Allen said removing a wall in the clerk’s area would cost $50,000, while the nine-story building had other “areas that have not yet been finalized” where the clerk’s work might be shifted.

White said former Administrator Fred Russell signed off on the layout after a series of “round robins” with department heads; Bonner said Russell had assured her in 2008 the office’s space needs would be met.

“He understood my issue; he told me he would take care of it and I assumed he would,” Bonner said.

Russell was fired by the commission in December and subsequently deleted numerous files from his computer, although most commissioners have made light of the missing documents.

Bonner said she was happy to meet with staff and consultants to resolve the issues and would not name the party responsible for the oversight.

Commissioner Marion Williams, who did not attend the meeting, questioned why the clerk’s space was so much smaller than that of the mayor, city attorneys and procurement department all housed on the second floor.

“Whoever signed off on that, they were wrong,” Williams said. “The mayor’s got an elaborate office. The attorney’s got room for records he’s not required to keep … We’re putting six to eight people back on that floor, and we’ve run out of space?”

IN OTHER BUSINESS

• Commissioners took no action after a called legal meeting to replace three Urban Redevelopment Agency members recently deemed ineligible to serve because of appointments to other boards. The URA’s March vote to issue bonds for the ongoing municipal building renovation was deemed void as a result. Commissioners suggested Isaac McKinney, T.L. Clark, Bonnie Ruben and Amanda Bryant for the openings, but later voted to wait on the appointments until the candidates could complete a “talent bank” application and other commission members were in attendance.

• Engineering Services committee members took no action on agenda items from Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson, with Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson commenting “there’s only three of us up here” and that Mark Johnson would only have to repeat himself at a full commission meeting. His proposals included reintroducing curbside scrap tire pickup on a monthly basis; shifting to a county-wide all-fee billing system for garbage pickup, replacing the system used in the former city limits of a millage assessment plus a supplement; and implementing an exemption for owners of vacant lots from a new waste collection charge approved last year.

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TCB22
598
Points
TCB22 05/27/14 - 10:08 pm
13
1
Get a grip.

The Commision Clerk's records can be put into record retention. The city has a very good record retention operation. The idea that all those documents need to be physically in her office is ridiculous. Or maybe Lena can digitize them. There are options other than a massive new office.

just an opinion
2351
Points
just an opinion 05/27/14 - 10:09 pm
11
2
dichotomy
30405
Points
dichotomy 05/27/14 - 11:42 pm
10
3
This sounds more like it's

This sounds more like it's about ego storage than it is record storage.

And when Marion throws his 2 cents in it makes me think it might be about something else. Geez Marion.....they are mostly old records that are probably never looked at. They can be stored anywhere. She doesn't need a "mayor" sized office.

And YES....why in the world did she wait until now.

triscuit
2831
Points
triscuit 05/27/14 - 11:46 pm
9
1
Does ANYONE know what they

Does ANYONE know what they are doing down there?

nocnoc
38240
Points
nocnoc 05/28/14 - 05:43 am
10
1
Willing to bet

This Clerk isn't the sole source of this newest Marble palace issue.

$50,000 to remove a wall?????
Why not just open up doorways to the adjoining space?
Keeps the office noise down and has other pluses for doing so.

geecheeriverman
1600
Points
geecheeriverman 05/28/14 - 05:50 am
8
2
Just wait

Just wait until January and the new administration is in office. You aint seen nothing yet baby. A/RC I see trouble on the horizon.

Riverman1
79153
Points
Riverman1 05/28/14 - 06:00 am
10
1
So It Begins

Ahhhh, so the cost of the renovation continues to climb. I think somebody tried to tell Augusta it would, but Donnie Smith called him a liar. Notice this statement: “areas that have not yet been finalized." Steadily moving up to $65 million.

redfish
526
Points
redfish 05/28/14 - 06:31 am
10
2
Please...

Why not tear down the hideous marble outhouse and start over? For $40 million a very nice building can be built. The building was ugly when it was built, has no historical value and is very poorly designed. Remodeling this thing is an expensive exercise in pouring perfume on a pig.

Conservative Man
5295
Points
Conservative Man 05/28/14 - 07:47 am
8
1
Wonder how long it will take

Wonder how long it will take for Commissioner Donnie Smith to apologize to Al Gray for his boorish behavour when Al was most likely correct in his assessment of the ultimate cost of renovations?...My guess is (knowing Smith as I do), never..

Also, I wonder how long it will be before pro SPLOST folks start using this as a reason we MUST pass the next one....

dsterling9
626
Points
dsterling9 05/28/14 - 08:26 am
9
1
TOO MUCH

I have always wondered why the Commission and courts needs such elaborate settings. There were times not that long ago when town/city/country meetings were held in churches, bars, and/or barns. Too much money spent on 'feel good' projects.

AFjoe
1375
Points
AFjoe 05/28/14 - 08:45 am
6
2
EGO's

Deflate some egos and you got plenty of room.
I say wrecking ball & dump trucks can solve the problem.
Agree with dsterling9

rebellious
20127
Points
rebellious 05/28/14 - 09:08 am
10
1
Pull up a chair at the trough

I chuckled at some of the quotes. The office space is inefficient? Inadequate, maybe, but square footage cannot be inefficient.

And this one "It's not my office. That office belongs to the citizens of Augusta, and they deserve a little more space than what we're seeing now." Aw, ain't that sweet? She is more concerned for us citizens than for herself.

And although most accusations are meritous, Fred Russell has become to Augusta what George Bush is to the Obama administration. He is responsible for every mistake or error since the crucifixion (inclusive) of Christ.

And finding space in that huge building, especially after all of the Court functions were whisked away to Walton Way, should be as easy as eggs at a toddlers Easter Egg hunt.

But the money...the money is staggering. And it keeps growing, and growing, and growing. 40 million!

Stop the madness please!!!!!

Pops
6745
Points
Pops 05/28/14 - 09:16 am
9
1
From Marion Williams

"The attorney’s got room for records he’s not required to keep … "

I knew Marion had a law degree....could tell by his mastery of English....

itsanotherday1
40055
Points
itsanotherday1 05/28/14 - 09:27 am
10
1
Flimsy!!

Flimsiest complaint I've ever heard- "no room for records storage... "

This is 2014; digitize the darned things by scanning them into a computer, and store the originals in a basement somewhere.

allhans
23214
Points
allhans 05/28/14 - 09:32 am
4
0
Chuckle

Chuckle

justthefacts
20255
Points
justthefacts 05/28/14 - 10:16 am
4
1
Digitize them

Right idea, but I am sure they did not think to budget for it.

corgimom
27461
Points
corgimom 05/28/14 - 10:18 am
0
8
Itsa, those records can't be

Itsa, those records can't be stored in a basement, they must be stored under proper conditions to preserve them.

itsanotherday1
40055
Points
itsanotherday1 05/28/14 - 10:53 am
10
2
Are you contrarian by nature

Are you contrarian by nature or just intentionally? No one suggested the records be stored anywhere that wasn't secure. No reason a basement can't be dry and safe.

itsanotherday1
40055
Points
itsanotherday1 05/28/14 - 11:05 am
9
1
JTF

Not much budgeting needed; a computer and scanner would get the job done. But of course, since it is ARC government, they would have to commission a study for $50,000, then let an overpriced contract to a set-aside that will function about as well as the Obamacare website. $1,000,000 later, they will call it quits and start all over again.

dichotomy
30405
Points
dichotomy 05/28/14 - 01:04 pm
4
1
"Not much budgeting

"Not much budgeting needed"

Budget? Budget? They don't need no stinking budget.

"Let's get some mo' revenue." says Mr. Marion who wants to know why the clerk's office isn't as big as the mayor's......as he passes out $20,000 pay raises to "certain" county employees.

Isn't it comforting to know this same group of clowns, who have spent TWICE OR MORE of what was projected on EVERY mismanaged project they touch, and who have allowed your garbage fees to double, will still be in control of your tax money?

Elections don't change much around here when it comes to (mis)managing OUR money. I don't look for much to change considering the caliber of some of the ones that remain on the commission.

JustSpeakingMyMind
182
Points
JustSpeakingMyMind 05/28/14 - 01:28 pm
6
1
Didn't this project start at

Didn't this project start at $18 million and now they are saying $40 million. Everybody involved in this project should be in prison. Richmond County is full of crooks and they are all employed by the county government.

Spywriter
22
Points
Spywriter 05/28/14 - 01:50 pm
2
1
itsanotherday1 05/28/14 -

itsanotherday1 05/28/14 - 11:05 am said "Not much budgeting needed; a computer and scanner would get the job done."

A computer and scanner would scan the documents but where do they go once scanned? On the computer? Most computer hard drives are only a couple hundred gigabytes at most. Maybe you find one that has one or two TB. 200 YEARS worth of scanned documents aren't going to find on a couple of TB worth of storage. Not if you want to be able to read them again.

So included in that "Budget" they don't need...you'd need to account for server and server storage for the documents scanned depending on the size of the final file. Or maybe you go with virtual storage (like a corporate dropbox) which still costs for the size of data stored as well as how long its being managed by the 3rd party virtual storage vendor.

Now that the documents are digitized, how do you go about retrieving them? Open each document individually? Somehow you need to be able to index those files so they can be retrieved if needed. Sitting in a storage room files from 1990 can be found by looking in a bin on the right side of room but digitized those same files become zeros and ones somewhere the virtual storage. So you need to add to that "Budget" they don't need, the cost for developing or buying an indexing solution so the files can be retrieved again. Either way, you'll need to add operating costs for annual maintenance for the vendor to keep the software up-to-date with technology changes or the city to maintain the software/hardware. (Example, current files stored on XP platforms are no longer supported by Microsoft so they are now vulnerable to cyberattacks, etc. Do you still have the same bank account information from 2001? If so, and these files were put on an XP platform in 2001 and included your bank account or private information from your tax bill, etc., and the city's bank account information, it's now available to any hacker who wants it unless the city pays to keep the platform up-to-date, converting files to new platforms as old ones become obsolete. If you think this city can 'mismanage' money wait until some crook gets it and drains the account from some middle eastern country that you've never heard of.)

These are just two examples of additional costs associated with digitizing these documents besides a computer and scanner. You also have the cost of the employee scanning each document unless maybe this is another thing the prisoners need to be pulled to do as well?

Sweet son
9661
Points
Sweet son 05/28/14 - 02:57 pm
5
0
Like others have said with the courts gone there should be

space for storage of these records that would be climate controlled.

justthefacts
20255
Points
justthefacts 05/28/14 - 03:39 pm
4
0
Spy writer

Has it correct. Digitizing that much info would be vet involved and expensive. A day forward approach is more feasible.

Little Lamb
43813
Points
Little Lamb 05/28/14 - 04:31 pm
3
0
Why Wait?

just an opinion asked about Lena Bonner:

She had two years to speak up. Why wait till now?

Quite a while ago then-Commissioner Jerry Brigham clued us commenters in on the fact that Clerk of Commission was working from home and not coming into the Marble Palace. He hinted that the job was not getting done adequately. Do any posters have any information?

Little Lamb
43813
Points
Little Lamb 05/28/14 - 04:42 pm
4
0
Assume

From the story:

Clerk of Commission Lena Bonner said former city administrator Fred (What, me worry?) Russell had assured her in 2008 the office’s space needs would be met. “He understood my issue; he told me he would take care of it and I assumed he would,” Bonner said.

Let's face it, Lena; 2008 was a long, long time ago. You cannot trust Fred (What, me worry?) Russell to remember promises made day to day, much less four or five years ago.

Gage Creed
15631
Points
Gage Creed 05/28/14 - 07:26 pm
3
0
Bankers Boxes?

So the way to go is keeping this data in bankers boxes and rows of racks?

Really?

Bizkit
29123
Points
Bizkit 05/28/14 - 07:42 pm
2
0
I suggest pickling the

I suggest pickling the documents. That's what I'm fixin' to do. I suggest a hi-tech vault filled with an inert gas.

just an opinion
2351
Points
just an opinion 05/28/14 - 08:10 pm
2
0
Lamb, I know.

While she was out of work was she on short-term disability or did we just keep paying her? How do some get such good deals and others don't?

gargoyle
13327
Points
gargoyle 05/29/14 - 10:42 pm
0
0
A word to the wise. Keep

A word to the wise. Keep copies of all court related records forever yourself, anything that makes it to the historic boxes may never be seen again . For whatever reason such records are hit or miss has far as retrieval and sometimes incomplete. A employment background check on my son came back with a fishing without a license offence still open and not discharged . Luckily I still had the paper work with the clerk of courts signature showing the fine paid over ten years earlier. Without that evidence he would have had to see the judge again to clear it . When it comes to incomplete court records your guilty until proven innocent .

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