The Augusta Commission District 2 election pits a longtime local businessman and pastor against a former branch president of the Augusta NAACP.
Tax records show Cleveland Garrison’s Kingdom Full Gospel Church owes more than $5,000 in property taxes on the church-owned Norfolk Street property, valued at $400,000 on city tax rolls.
Garrison said that’s from a mistake his attorney, Randy Frails, made that should be cleared up soon.
Kingdom acquired the former Southside Baptist Church in 1999, then sold it in 2009 to Kaleo Ministry, which made off with church fixtures when foreclosure proceedings began.
Kingdom got the church back and is holding services, but “the lawyer misfiled the paperwork,” Garrison said. A copy of the church’s 501(c)3 form should have the matter resolved soon, he said.
It’s not the first financial issue Garrison and his church have run into. Court judgments and garnishments pepper the record, but most appear to have been paid and canceled.
“Being in business, you’re going to have that,” said Garrison, who’s also worked for years in welding and ornamental iron. He’s installed security bars on windows across the city, and the ironwork around the federal courthouse.
Garrison said it’s important that contracting work stays local, a sentiment shared by several contractors on the commission.
“That’s a must because when the work stays local, the dollars stay local and the revenue doesn’t go out of Augusta,” he said.
Residents of District 2, which includes Hyde Park, Southgate and Daniel Field, continue to “feel like they’ve been neglected,” despite its current commissioner, Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, doing the best he could, Garrison said.
“Most of the time when people are having problems, they come to me,” Garrison said. Unlike some on the commission, he said, he refuses to argue.
“You’ve got to respect people’s feelings at all times,” Garrison said.
His rival for the seat, Dennis Williams, is a retired linen services manager for the Veterans Administration who led the Augusta NAACP from 1988 to 1994.
His VA career took him to Queens, N.Y., and while he continued to visit several times a year, Williams didn’t return permanently to Augusta and District 2 until 2011.
Williams speaks of the whole city “getting along and working for the common good” if he’s elected
Like Garrison, Williams said the district suffers from neglected infrastructure that is unlikely to inspire public confidence in any
increase in taxes or fees, such as the proposed stormwater fee.
“The people don’t want to pay more money or taxes when they’re not getting what they’re paying for now,” Williams said.
He said his record doesn’t include any serious financial missteps, but he didn’t condemn his opponent for potentially having them.
“Things happen,” he said. “It takes you years to build up a good credit rating, but it could be ruined just by making a bad investment.”
Besides maintenance, other issues he hopes to help the commission address include bringing more jobs to south Augusta and revamping the proposed special purpose local option sales tax package, which neither he nor Garrison support. He feels priority infrastructure projects ought to be fully funded by the penny tax and completed, rather than partially funded without sufficient funds to finish them.
Williams has the backing of Super District 9 Commissioner Marion Williams – no relation – who previously represented the area and is campaigning vigorously for him.
Marion Williams said Dennis Williams won his favor by attending commission meetings and other events. The district, like District 1, suffers most from blight and neglect by property owners, he said.
“We let people get away with things we don’t in other districts,” Marion Williams said.