Inner-city development continued

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Knowing Augusta Commissioner Betty Beard's proposal to raise $7 million for the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods was doomed to fail Tuesday, Commissioner J.R. Hatney instead proposed finding a way to keep inner-city revitalization funds from running dry.

Hatney  File/Staff
File/Staff
Hatney

He moved that City Administrator Fred Russell consult with the city's Housing and Community Development Department to ensure that the projects don't come to a standstill as commissioners haggle over the trade, exhibit and event center. Mr. Hatney also called for Mr. Russell to come up with an estimate on how much money might be needed to keep the projects going.

The commission approved his motion 9-1, with Don Grantham opposed.

"Being realistic, we weren't going to get the votes for that," Mr. Hatney said of Ms. Beard's request to use bonds, bank loans or both to jump-start redevelopment in two of the city's poorest black neighborhoods.

Since the city began collecting a $1-a-night hotel fee in April 2008 -- devised to fund inner-city efforts and operations of the downtown trade, exhibit and event center -- the city has spent $613,712 on revitalization.

According to the Finance Department, the money has been spent on land acquisition, land appraisals and fees paid to New Hampshire-based urban revitalization consultant RKG Associates Inc.

A house has already been built, and a ribbon-cutting was held a few weeks ago, City Administrator Fred Russell said.

A plan Mr. Russell presented in late April called for $9 million in bonds for the first phase of Laney-Walker/Bethlehem redevelopment and $26 million in bonds for the TEE center, which voters approved for $20 million in a 2005 sales tax referendum but is now estimated to cost $55 million, including a parking deck.

The funding plan has divided the commission along racial lines, with black commissioners contending that the TEE center's cost has ballooned to outlandish proportions and white commissioners saying that without the TEE center the hotel fee can't be legally collected.

"They did not include the TEE center in any of the recommendations they made today," Mr. Grantham said, explaining his no vote Tuesday. "Until it's included, I'm gonna vote against everything they want for Laney-Walker and Bethlehem."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT?

City Administrator Fred Russell said he expects to have schematic designs for the TEE center, a timeline for funding inner-city projects and other tasks assigned to him ready for the July 7 meeting.

Comments (51) Add comment
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Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 06/17/09 - 03:24 am
0
0
Am I the only one who finds

Am I the only one who finds this statement laughable - "fees paid to New Hampshire-based urban revitalization consultant RKG Associates Inc." ? An expert on urban revitalization, in New Hampshire!!! Isn't that like hiring an expert on Southern Hospitality from Idaho?????

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 06/17/09 - 03:25 am
0
0
14 months and $613,712 later

14 months and $613,712 later - One house has been built. Nice work there.

wildman
1195
Points
wildman 06/17/09 - 04:37 am
0
0
Betty should spend her money

Betty should spend her money to repair the dump she owns and stop taking handouts. Why should the tax payer pay for the mess she made.

RebelTA
1
Points
RebelTA 06/17/09 - 06:42 am
0
0
Why are the tax payers being

Why are the tax payers being held accountable for fixing up this area? Make the citizens take pride in their surroundings and put forth some type of effort in cleaning and beautifying their areas. They aren't going to appreciate and tend to it if they dont take part in creating it!

bone
23
Points
bone 06/17/09 - 06:49 am
0
0
that's one heck of a house,

that's one heck of a house, martinez - and i'm sure the denizens will be very responsible for its upkeep.

Frank I
1203
Points
Frank I 06/17/09 - 06:58 am
0
0
they better, for a $600,000

they better, for a $600,000 house..

Brad Owens
4859
Points
Brad Owens 06/17/09 - 07:19 am
0
0
We must spend money to help

We must spend money to help these areas out or the city will continue decline. Look at the way Aiken was turned around when the city spent money, bought property, restored or demolished it, and then returned the areas to private control. So don't you all start talking about how THAT is a waste, the damn TEE Center is a much larger waste of tax payers dollars with much less long term return than innercity revitalization. Grow up and focus you idiots.

Frank I
1203
Points
Frank I 06/17/09 - 08:50 am
0
0
Brad, I understand that you

Brad, I understand that you have to spend money to improve, or better said you've got to spend money to make money, but $600,000 and you've only got 1 house to show for it?

RebelTA
1
Points
RebelTA 06/17/09 - 08:54 am
0
0
it is a waste of taxpayer

it is a waste of taxpayer money if the residents are not held accountable for the mess they made. It is unreasonable to expect a different outcome if they are not. You can pour money into the area and it will become destroyed because if a person does not have a sense of accomplishment or accountable they are not going to change. It will continue to be a bottomless money pit until then.

Tots
26202
Points
Tots 06/17/09 - 09:07 am
0
0
Yep its a bottmless pit

Yep its a bottmless pit rebalTA and the waste is just beginning.

snowman45
0
Points
snowman45 06/17/09 - 09:14 am
0
0
when will people realize you

when will people realize you can put lispstick on a pig it's still a pig. no matter what they do down there it's going to look like crud again in a very short period of time. until you get all the criminal element out from down there no self respecting people are going to move there. i feel sorry for all the old people that are stuck living amongst that trash down there.

Jim-bob
1
Points
Jim-bob 06/17/09 - 09:15 am
0
0
S600,000 for 1 house. Section

S600,000 for 1 house. Section 8?

Little Lamb
47862
Points
Little Lamb 06/17/09 - 09:25 am
0
0
Shouldn't the city attorney

Shouldn't the city attorney advise all commissioners that they should recuse themselves from voting on any motion which will provide tax money to fix up or purchase property which they own? Is no one concerned about conflict of interest here?

mad_max
0
Points
mad_max 06/17/09 - 09:34 am
0
0
You want to revitalize those

You want to revitalize those areas. Stop subsidizing Section 8 housing and take that money and pay cash bonuses to some working white folks to move in to those neighborhoods. When you perpetuate welfare programs that encourage this kind of crap don't be surprised when you get it. Another example of the definition of STUPID. You can't keep doing the same old thing and expect a different result. I don't care if you built all of them a Taj Mahal...in 6 months it would look like Gilbert Manor. And I cannot believe we "celebrated" builidng an $80K house and paid $600K to get it built. Another example of the idiots we have running this city. This is the same efficiency we will be seeing with our Obama welfare programs and medical care too. If the government does it, it always cost 5 times what it should and still doesn't work. Always has, always will.

Frank I
1203
Points
Frank I 06/17/09 - 09:37 am
0
0
what cause black folks don't

what cause black folks don't work "mad max"? that's about a bold racist statement isn't it...

snowman45
0
Points
snowman45 06/17/09 - 09:43 am
0
0
max that is a stupid comment

max that is a stupid comment and i'm lilly white. there are plenty of low life idiots that are white too. also the problem is not the area is black the problem is the area is filled up with idiots and believe me there are plenty of white idiots down there.

snowman45
0
Points
snowman45 06/17/09 - 09:44 am
0
0
it's not the color its the

it's not the color its the mindset of those idiots

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 06/17/09 - 09:49 am
0
0
Since there are so many
Unpublished

Since there are so many section-8, or rental properties in the area.... make the home owners fix the properties up- and if they don't use emminent domain to knock it down. Once they're all knocked down we can build quality housing down there!!

snowman45
0
Points
snowman45 06/17/09 - 09:51 am
0
0
it's not the houses people

it's not the houses people it's the people get them gone first then clean it up. you could offer me a 200000 dollar house down there for 10000 and i wouldnt live in it because of the people around there who with any self respect wants there children being raised in a area like that.

Frank I
1203
Points
Frank I 06/17/09 - 09:51 am
0
0
yep, knock it down.. push 'em

yep, knock it down.. push 'em somewhere else..

Brad Owens
4859
Points
Brad Owens 06/17/09 - 10:30 am
0
0
Frank, the reason for doing

Frank, the reason for doing this is not to really 'make' moeny it is to take away the blight and make the areas into new 'blank canvas' for others, private investment, to come in and hel create jobs and quality of life. The main problem down in these 'inner city' areas is sub standard buildings. The $600,000 price tag was not for one house, the house is just the FIRST result of this spending so far. No where in the article does it say that all that went for one small house. As far as th 'lipstick on a pig' comment, I am talking about slaughtering the pig and making bacon, hamhocks, BBQ, and sausage. The fact is, if we do NOTHING the only thing that will happen is decline. This someting is better than more nothing. I would rather the TEE Money be spent on cleaning up the blighted areas and promoting tourism than some center that is ten years too late.

Ode
5
Points
Ode 06/17/09 - 10:34 am
0
0
There are some weeds in the

There are some weeds in the flower bed at the front of my gated community. Can we get some SPLOST funding to help revitalize it and increase our property values? Unbelievable. Betty Beard is a self serving crook.

Ode
5
Points
Ode 06/17/09 - 10:39 am
0
0
Geez Brad so I guess the

Geez Brad so I guess the property owners who have owned these properties for years shouldn't have to take any responsibility for the condition of their property? If their was real money to be made then the owners would tear down their buildings and build something new or sell the property. This is only a government handout. Nothing more and nothing less. It hasn't worked in the past and it won't work in the future. If it did then the housing projects wouldn't be in the condition that they are in either. Reckon I can get the government to enclose the deck on the back of my house?

KSL
139653
Points
KSL 06/17/09 - 10:40 am
0
0
Brad, just because Aiken with

Brad, just because Aiken with its city government has been successful, it doesn't mean Augusta with its current elected and employed officials can have the same success.

andywarhol
0
Points
andywarhol 06/17/09 - 10:54 am
0
0
I don't understand why we are

I don't understand why we are wasting money on "the poorest black communities." What is a black community and why are they poor? If we spend money on making the community nice what are the residents going to do to maintain it? Is it going to solve their problems with being "poor and black?" This is a comical disaster. Find the root of the problem: THE RESIDENTS OF THESE AREAS! I'm so glad I'm only a temporary resident of Disgusta. Down town is an embarassment. Old town Augusta is also embarassing. The people in the projects have nicer cars than I do. Can anyone see that this city is plagued with sorry individuals? They are the majority, and they don't care about their own wellbeing. They have very low standards of living and that's all they want. They don't care if their roof is falling in as long as they got a nice caddy and 20s. This city is in big big trouble and I haven't a clue on how they will ever turn it around.

andywarhol
0
Points
andywarhol 06/17/09 - 11:04 am
0
0
"gotten this country in the

"gotten this country in the state is is in today."

Ode
5
Points
Ode 06/17/09 - 11:07 am
0
0
What exactly has Aiken done

What exactly has Aiken done in community reinvestment that has been successful? They have overpaid and bought several houses in Crosland Park they plan to remodel and sell. I don't know who they plan to sell these houses to unless they sell them well below their purchase price. It is a waste of taxpayer money that will not significantly or permanently improve neighborhoods.

KSL
139653
Points
KSL 06/17/09 - 11:29 am
0
0
They've done a lot downtown.

They've done a lot downtown. Toole Hill, for instance. The city's revitalization has led private investors have in and renovating homes in the downtown area.

Brad Owens
4859
Points
Brad Owens 06/17/09 - 12:52 pm
0
0
I guess it's OK that the

I guess it's OK that the government is trying to waste $72,000,000 on a TEE Center we DON'T NEED when money like that could clean up entire SECTIONS of the city. And YES, it is the job of the government to ENFORCE code and zoning laws.If the owners will not do it, take the property, pay them a fair market price and tear them down. I am sure there is plenty of money to create green space from the Feds (it's our tax money anyway right?) and there is NOTHING wrong with spending money to correct problems that have become health or safety hazards. And by the way, Aiken did plenty in their downtown.

Ode
5
Points
Ode 06/17/09 - 01:05 pm
0
0
Yes government should enforce

Yes government should enforce zoning laws and building codes and seize property that isn't kept up to those ordinances. Government doesn't even need to pay any price for those structures. That is TOTALLY different than what is being done or being proposed.

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