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Clerk to move to law department space

Monday, June 9, 2014 9:28 PM
Last updated 11:01 PM
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Augusta’s clerk of commission will relocate to offices custom designed for the city law department, in a move approved by commissioners at a called Monday meeting.

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Renovations to the municipal building.   JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Renovations to the municipal building.

The 8-2 vote, with commissioners Donnie Smith and Wayne Guilfoyle opposed, came in response to growing dissatisfaction about the ongoing $40 million renovations at Augusta Municipal Building that placed the clerk in 1,289 square feet behind the new commission chamber and without sufficient space for records, some of which clerk Lena Bonner said are more than 200 years old.

The current layout also has the 10 commissioners filing through the current clerk’s office to get from the nearest conference room, where a closed-door legal meeting was held Monday, back to the dais by way of a single restroom in the clerk’s area for men and women.

By comparison, the new law offices – located at the other end of the redesigned second floor across from the mayor’s suite – are 4,100 square feet, as General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie requested extra-large offices with space to meet with clients and review and store records. Replacing the county attorney system in 2009, the law office currently has five staff attorneys and a handful of clerks and secretaries.

The commissioners chose Monday to move the clerk but leave other decisions for later, such as where to put the law department and what potentially to change about a ninth floor space intended for the administrator. In the meantime, the law office will continue to occupy a small city-owned office building in the same 500 block of Greene Street as the municipal building.

Asked for her opinion, Bonner said moving to the law office met the commission’s requirement last week that no additional funds be spent.

“It will allow us opportunity for future growth,” Bonner said. “Keep in mind again, and I can’t stress this any more, this government is only 18 years old. Where are we going to go, where are we going to put the records?”

While she’s clerk of the consolidated government’s commission, the office keeps city records dating back more than 200 years, to Augusta’s founding.

“If we had Ed Cashin here, he spent numerous hours in our office researching materials for the many books he did on the glorious history of Augusta,” while former mayor Bob Young also researched the records for a book, she said.

Forrest White, the program manager for Heery International, the city’s agent which “programmed” the space allocations within the renovated space, said the firm hadn’t done “anything without prior approval from the county.”

White said his predecessor Lucy Williams had been told by Russell not to include a records vault on the second floor and that records might be stored in the basement.

White said he questioned not including a vault, “but I was overruled.”

Commissioner Bill Lockett said the next time Heery was uncertain about the clerk’s office, the firm should come to the commission.

“She’s our person. Don’t go to the administrator, come to this governing body,” Lockett said.

Commissioner Marion Williams said he’d sought e-mails or another paper trail but found little to document decisions made about the building by former Administrator Fred Russell or by Heery, to whom the city has paid nearly $13 million over the last decade.

“What bothers me is that certain things we did program in,” such as the spacious mayor’s suite and large commission chamber, “but other things we were short on. Who was the brains behind this?”

After considering suggestions from Guilfoyle and Donnie Smith about moving the administrator’s office from its intended location on the ninth floor to the second, and move law to the ninth, the commission held off on making further decisions about the building.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said that was probably the best course of action because additional issues raised by the chief Superior Court judge about the building have not been addressed.

Judge Carlisle Overstreet reminded city officials last week that as a designated courthouse annex, the building must include holding cells for defendants and other details left out of the design.


After the called legal meeting, commission committees met and did the following:

- Took no action on hearing a report from Procurement Director Geri Sams and others about how The Mercer Group was selected to conduct a search for Augusta’s next administrator. Sams said a committee had interviewed five “persons” interested in performing the search but selected Mercer under a “professional services” procurement that allows the administrator to procure services valued up to $25,000 without commission approval.

- Took no action on a report from Allen about 13 city employees whom the city sent to Anaheim, Calif., for a weeklong training session at a Disneyland hotel. Allen said the 13 would relay critical information about the ISIS software system used by many departments for payroll, budgeting, inventory and other functions ahead of a major upgrade.

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shamrock 06/10/14 - 01:48 am

Just another chapter in the sad tale of a dysfunctional county commission. Nothing has changed for decades ... this Commission is nothing new. They will never be anything more than a bunch of immature juveniles who have no clue what running the county's largest business means!

Riverman1 06/10/14 - 05:27 am
Democrat and Republican Offices

Using Bill Lockett's terminology, this is about whether Democrats or Republicans get the best offices. The Republicans will end up in the basement. They should put up signs, "Democrat Only."

corgimom 06/10/14 - 06:43 am
Honest to God, the Augusta

Honest to God, the Augusta Commissioners couldn't oversee building a house made out of Legos or Lincoln Logs.

This is why Augusta is the laughingstock of Georgia.

flcracker 06/10/14 - 06:49 am
200 year old records

So are these 200 year old records protected in any way from the elements? Climate-controlled room, requirement to wear gloves when being handled, archival, acid-free storage containers??

IBeDogGone 06/10/14 - 07:31 am

The only way I see Augusta moving forward and removing the poor image so many people share is for our elected officials and county employees is to be PROACTIVE not RE-ACTIVE. Get solutions and a solid plan in place before starting a project!

tgentry 06/10/14 - 07:34 am

The records need to be either scanned into a computer system or microfilmed. That way you would not need to store them on sight.

foxsilong 06/10/14 - 09:16 am
share of voice

Ever wonder why we keep hearing what the commissioners have to say and not the architects or contractors? I'm sure the Chronicle staff had tried to contact both parties.
The architect in this case was very smart not to speak up. He doesn't seek attention.

The ones seeking attention are the ones causing the problems are the ones pointing the fingers. They make themselves look bad and dig their own graves.

dsterling9 06/10/14 - 10:21 am

The clerk has proof of reporting the discrepancies in the plans. Who is in charge? Were changes made after the plans were drawn and approved? If so, who requested and approved such changes. I do not think there is one person on 'The Commission' with the knowledge and/or work experience to know what building requirements/approvals are needed. Just another bunch of smelly stuff allowed to happen. Never thought it was a good idea in the first place. How many court/administrative buildings/offices does the county need anyway?

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 06/11/14 - 09:41 am
Law Offices

They need to put the city attorneys in a single portable classroom parked in the middle of the parking lot on Telfair Street. They don't need running water in the building. They can walk to the Marble Palace to go to the bathroom.

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