Commissioners argue over DOT grant money

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Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Betty Beard and Commissioner Andy Cheek sparred Tuesday over a state grant that doesn't even belong to the city, and Mr. Cheek prevailed when the board voted to honor his request for $50,000 of the grant for a white-water rafting course study.

The $450,000 Department of Transportation grant to the Downtown Development Authority was designated to repair the old Depot at Sixth and Reynolds streets, but that project is on hold because the property is under contract to Bluffton, S.C., developer Harry E. Kitchen Jr.

Mr. Kitchen said he will preserve as much of the century-old building as possible as part of his Watermark development. So Mrs. Beard and the Third Level Canal Task Force want the grant money to buy and develop the historic Southern Milling Co. to anchor that end of the canal. But Mr. Cheek wants $50,000 for the white-water rafting study for a course on the Augusta Canal so it will be ready when the next special-purpose sales tax vote takes place.

"This will take nearly a mile and a quarter of waterfront that is now a neglected junkyard and turn it into some of the most beautiful waterfront that we have in the heart of the city," Mr. Cheek said.

Mrs. Beard objected, and made a motion to deny the request.

"I want you to know I support white-water rafting," she said. "I think it would be great for the city."

However, she added, the task force's priority is to try to save the milling company building.

Canal Authority Executive Director Dayton Sherrouse told commissioners the Transportation Department has to reallocate the grant money.

"You can't do it," he said. "You can request that they reallocate them for projects, but the grant is not to the city of Augusta. The grant is for the DDA, and as far as I know, the DDA does not plan on notifying the state they're not going to use it until that property is sold. While it's under contract, it's not sold yet. And I think their intention is to hold that grant until they know for sure that property is sold, and you won't know that until the check changes hands."

Mrs. Beard's motion died for lack of a second, but Mr. Cheek's passed.

"I think this is terrible," Mrs. Beard said.

But Mr. Cheek said if it hadn't been for him working with the DDA and Regional Development Authority, there wouldn't have been a grant in the first place.

"She didn't work for it to begin with, and she wants it all for a project that is in fact a johnny come lately," he said. "For anybody to want the whole thing for themselves is just greedy. I'm in favor of working with her projects and finding more grants for it, but we need a little seed money to get this feasibility study done."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 03/29/07 - 06:28 am
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Look at the commissioners

Look at the commissioners fight over two pro-Augusta ideas. Good job. I hope the grant is eventually realocated so both Mr. Cheeks and Mrs. Beards ideas get some funding. This is the way we like to see our commission act.

kudzo-n-roses
2
Points
kudzo-n-roses 03/29/07 - 06:51 am
0
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WHY does this city continue

WHY does this city continue to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on "studies"??? If everyone thinks it's a good idea then it most likely is..why pay someone to tell you what you already know??? It's like paying to hear someone talk about making money whose only job is to talk about making money.

Reality
3
Points
Reality 03/29/07 - 07:01 am
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Is the city going to pay for

Is the city going to pay for the white water rafting idea or are they just doing a study for a company to come in and do the project? The city will do the study (at tax payers expense)and then let a company come in and start a white water rafting business. That sounds great if you are in the white water rafting business, the company won't have to spend any of their own money for a study.

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 03/29/07 - 10:47 am
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A feasibility study means

A feasibility study means that a lot of things are taken into consideration before a decision is made to pursue a project. Things like ecology, accessibility, profitability, total cost of ownership, even public opinion come to mind when a business or government wants to build something. Just because everyone agrees that an idea is good doesn't mean that it is feasible. The commissioners may not agree on much, but they do know that they should not proceed with a good idea if they haven't counted up the costs associated with bringing it to fruition. For example, the idea to tear down the Lamar building and replace it with a duplicate of the Empire State Building may sound good to some people, but a feasibility study will show that something like that would be impossible for the city and developers to pay for, and the building would probably never be fully rented, even if all business owners moved their offices there because the population Augusta couldn't support a building that massive. The professionals performing the study will present enough facts to say if White-water rafting is feasible. The cost of the study would be cheaper than not haing done one at all.

simplelesson
0
Points
simplelesson 03/29/07 - 12:57 pm
0
0
I bet the study will come

I bet the study will come back saying the rafting course is a great opportunity and will yield big benefits. Why would they say not to do it, a thumbs up will get them the next research project to give a thumbs up on with no accountability. I recommend the city use the same folks that checked out the drag strip.

iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 03/29/07 - 02:19 pm
0
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Of course Mrs.Beard wants the

Of course Mrs.Beard wants the mill sold and developed. She's a realtor!(Get it?)

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 03/29/07 - 02:44 pm
0
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The firm that does the

The firm that does the feasibility study will more than likely not be the developer and probably won't make money off of anything other than the study. Should that firm present a false positive study in hopes of gaining more of the city's business for future studies, and then is found out at a later time, then it will lose credibility with all of it's other clients, and possibly go out of business. The firm wouldn't allow itself to be placed in such a predicament. You would have to trust them to be accurate and truthful with their findings. The thing that I'm having a problem with is that the commissioners are arguing over money that isn't really their's yet. Can the be a little more productive and at least argue over something that is happening now?

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