City Ink: Aitken, Myles to run for mayor

Two more people have filed intentions to run for mayor of Augusta.

Former Augusta Com­mis­sion member Matt Aitken and Lori Myles, a teacher at Josey High School, filed with the Rich­mond County Board of Elec­tions last week.

Aitken is expected to announce Tuesday, according to Augusta officials he’s contacted about his potential candidacy, all of whom say they have not encouraged him for various reasons, including his solid defeat by Bill Fennoy in the 2012 District 1 commission race. As one person stated, “No one but him and the Lord wants him to run.”

But, you know, the Lord moves in mysterious ways.

Aitken did not return phone calls Friday and Sat­urday, but he sent a text message late Saturday afternoon stating: “When and if we decide to run, the media will be the first to know.”

Aitken won a surprise – some said “miraculous” – victory over Fennoy in the majority-black District 1 in a 2009 runoff and served three years before losing to Fennoy in a runoff that restored the 5-5 racial balance on the commission.

Myles, who also did not respond to messages, has taught vocational education at Lucy C. Laney High. Com­mis­sioner Corey Johnson was one of her students. She has also served as president of 100 Black Women of Augusta and is married to the Rev. Kerwin Myles, an assistant pastor of Augusta Deliverance Evangelistic Church.

Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason; state Sen. Hardie Davis; entrepreneur and former mayoral candidate Helen Blocker Adams; and businessman Charles Cummings have already announced.

 

SO MANY POTS TO SWEETEN: Commissioners voted last week to issue an $8 million tax anticipation note as a funding mechanism for a Georgia Regents University cancer center request in the next round of the special purpose local option sales tax.

The vote followed a discussion in which commissioners questioned Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer about the loan, but only Mason seemed curious about what will happen if the tax doesn’t pass. (That’s assuming commissioners pull the package together by March 17.)

Schorer said the loan would be paid back with the $8 million, plus $20,000 or so in interest.

Mason wanted to know what failure would mean to the cancer center and whether the city could pull the $8 million from other funds.

“If it does not pass, it’s over with or what?” he asked. “What if on May 20, the SPLOST package fails?”

Could they borrow the $8 million from the city’s reserve funds and pay it back on some kind of payment plan or take it from pension or enterprise funds, such as water and sewer, he asked. Or perhaps from Housing and Neighborhood Development money?

To all, the answer was “no.”

“I’m just asking the question,” Mason said. “I’m trying to figure it all out. … All our eggs are in one basket. Is there any other basket to put our eggs in? We don’t know what will happen May 20. … I’m trying to figure out how we can help them if it fails.”

If he got an answer, I didn’t hear it.

Commissioner Marion Williams said he was in favor of the cancer center but wanted to know what GRU was bringing to the table and what its books looked like. He said he wanted to see its paperwork and numbers.

 

A HALF-MILLION HERE, A HALF-MILLION THERE: During the meeting, Mayor Deke Copenhaver said GRU required $12.5 million to access the $45 million in state bond funding from the state and that the Masters Tournament had announced a $6 million donation through the Community Foun­dation for the CSRA, with $1.5 million to go to Camp Lakeside (though Co­pen­haver called it Camp Rain­bow) and $4.5 million toward the cancer center, which, along with the city’s $8 million, totaled $12.5 million.

There was just one little problem. Of that donation, $4 million – not $4.5 million - was to go toward the new facility and $2 million for Camp Lakeside, a camp for children with disabilities and illnesses that will be created in Lincoln County.

Not to worry, GRU spokeswoman Christen Carter said.

“We do not see an issue in securing the bond funds at this point because, for us, $12.5 million isn’t the finish line,” she said.

Heck, what’s a half-million dollars anyway?

 

DON’T YELL FIRE IN WHAT PASSES FOR THEATER: You might think a fire alarm going off in the Marble Pa­lace during an Augusta Com­mission meeting would make commissioners stop talking and leave the building posthaste, but you’d be wrong.

Four hours, 13 minutes and 17 seconds into Tuesday’s meeting, an ear piercing fire alarm sounded, but they kept on talking.

“Time’s up,” said Com­mis­sioner Grady Smith, but nobody listened.

Engineering Director Abie Ladson was at the podium updating commissioners on the storm cleanup. The mayor asked when he thought he would have the final costs of the cleanup. Ladson said he’d been meeting with federal officials that day.

Commissioner Joe Jack­son asked whether the city could be cleaned up before the Masters, and all the while lights flashed and the alarm sounded. At four hours, 14 minutes and 30 seconds, Fire Chief Chris James entered and ordered them to leave the building; whereupon Commissioner Donnie Smith moved to adjourn the meeting.

At four hours, 15 minutes and 4 seconds, the mayor did that very thing.

“Everybody out of the building! Now!” he said.

Mason said, “Don’t get on the elevator.”

As it turned out, there was no fire. There wasn’t even a whiff of smoke. Vibrations from building renovations had apparently shaken an alarm handle loose, setting off the system.

 

ROLLING UPHILL: Some­thing happened in Tuesday’s commission meeting that’s never happened before.

Annie Blount was appealing to commissioners for help regarding her Wylds Road home, which was flooded with raw sewage in December when workers used high pressure to try to unclog a pipe. The sewage had destroyed all of their photos, furniture and antiques, including a piano her father had given her when she was 9.

She and her husband have been living in a motel, then suites, since Dec. 15.

The home has been cleaned, but eight of nine environmental tests indicate the presence of E. coli and coliform bacteria.

“All we want is for our contents to be replaced and our home put back,” Blount said.

She also said they’d been assured at the time that everything would be made right, but now city officials say the home and furnishings will be restored, minus 20 percent for depreciation. That’s city policy.

“How can we even talk about policy and procedure? When I heard the response about the testing – I don’t know … ” choked Williams, having lost his voice.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it finally happened,” Copenhaver said. “He’s speechless.”

 

YOU WANT TOE TAGS WITH THAT? Barbara Moss, a mail courier for the city, drives a car with the word “courier” on the side. Often people mistake the word for “coroner,” she said.

“I was at the library, and a man asked me, he said, ‘Do you like your job?’ ‘I said, ‘I love my job,’ and the man said, “You like hauling dead bodies around?’ I said, ‘I don’t haul dead bodies around. I haul mail. I’m a courier, not a coroner.’”

The same thing happened recently at the drive-in window of a fast-food place, she said. The girl at the window asked her the same thing the man at the library did. Moss corrected her, and the cashier, who was standing nearby said, “I told you that wasn’t what it was.”

“What did you say it was then?” the girl at the window asked.

“I don’t know, but it wasn’t that,” the cashier replied.

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