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Downtown Business Improvement District lacking support for renewal

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A program intended to help keep downtown Augusta clean and safe is in jeopardy.

Jere Iacobucci (left), of the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative, helps to clear leaves from the 600 block of Broad Street.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Jere Iacobucci (left), of the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative, helps to clear leaves from the 600 block of Broad Street.

Renewing the Business Improvement District was 20 votes shy of the 110 needed, said Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, after an Augusta Commission committee meeting Monday. BID renewal requires support from 51 percent of property owners in the district or approval from those with control of at least 51 percent of the properties’ assessed value. The district, which was created by a 2007 commission vote, runs from the Savannah River to Greene Street and from Sixth to 13th streets.

Not all of the property owners of the 220 parcels in the BID had been contacted by Monday, Woodard said. The authority will continue going door to door for the remainder of the week to collect support.

If the 51 percent support is not obtained, renewal of the BID will be removed from the regular commission meeting agenda Dec. 18, Woodard said. The BID would not come before the commission again and would expire at year’s end.

Business owner Michael Walraven, of Schweitzer Art Glass at 980 Broad St., voiced his opposition to the BID, telling commissioners the BID’s Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative program has not delivered promises of keeping the streets clean and safe. Trash piles up, sidewalks are not pressure-washed and graffiti are not removed, he said.

“The services being provided are already being provided by the city,” Walraven said.

Several commissioners questioned the effectiveness of BID and the cleanup initiative, and also expressed concern about representation on the initiative’s board of directors, which includes two members from the Augusta Marriott Hotel at the Convention Center, which pays a lesser tax rate than other property owners.

Woodard said the Marriott requires fewer cleanup initiative services because the property has its own security, landscaping and maintenance workers.

“Maybe the intention of this original BID has changed over the years,” Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said. “We rely on DDA to protect, clean and it became a $350,000 cleaning service. Before BID came on board, prisoners kept it just as clean.”

In other business, commission committees approved the following items:

• Naming of the sheriff’s office administration building for retiring Sheriff Ronnie Strength, with approval from the full commission

• A $473,858 change order for architectural fees to Virgo Gambill Architects for design renovations at the municipal building

• A nearly $1 million pedestrian bridge connecting the Augusta Convention Center and its parking deck

• A $268,000 change order to add landscaping and an irrigation system at Augusta Regional Airport after parking lot construction.

• A motion to continue negotiating a lease contract with Virginia Beach Golf Management to operate the Augusta Municipal Golf Course.

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Little Lamb
45321
Points
Little Lamb 12/11/12 - 11:02 am
6
0
Am I missing something?

From the story:

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said, “We rely on DDA to protect, clean and it became a $350,000 cleaning service.”

I thought the business owners paid a special tax for this initiative. Therefore, I thought it had no impact on Augusta's general fund. Guilfoyle's comment leads me to believe that some general fund money may be trickling into the initiative.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 12/11/12 - 11:15 am
0
0
Leaves in stormdrain?
Unpublished

Yep. That is where they are headed. How many hours of pushing around leaves can be avoided by vacuuming and compacting the leaves. N.A. has a leaf vacuuming device they use for street cleaning. Oh, my bad, N.A. is in another world away from the CBD.

The CBD talks about "moving on" but is stuck with hand raking leaves and pushing them down the storm drain.

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 12/11/12 - 11:23 am
4
2
I was at this meeting...

Man oh man, what a committee meeting that was!

I must say that the prep work by the proponents of this additional tax on property owners was very sloppy. Mike Walraven knew more about the BID than the supporters did.

It ended up being embarrassing for them, and they should send Jerry Brigham (Chairman of the Finance Committee) a Christmas card for stopping the bloodbath that was taking place in the commission chambers. To say the commissioners were asking a few questions is an understatement, they were interrogating Margret Woodard, Executive Director of the DDA, and asking the right questions to get the truth out there about this.

Ms. Woodard, much to her credit, told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (and it was BAD).

Also, it was made public that the BID Board of directors was made up of 12 people chosen by some mysterious "nomination committee" that could not be and remains unnamed. Also, the richest landowners had a lower tax rate than the small property owners!

To add insult to injury, the board was slanted to allow the wealthiest land owners to have 7 votes on the BID board, with NO input from the common property owners. Rather Jim Crowish I think. Too bad that this wonderful tool became a "good old boys" club ("became?" Heck it was designed to be!).

So, in other words, the richest landowners get to use the commission to levy a disproportionate tax on the small landholders at a higher rate and then decide how the money is spent with NO input from the little man!

This was shown to be little more than a public funded, private controlled slush fund for the CABAL's cronies downtown.

I counted two votes for this BID and both will be leaving the commission in the new year.

So I will predict that this slush fund for certain connected folks downtown will go quietly into that goodnight, or at least it should if they supporters want to avoid another slaughter in the commission chambers because they don not have the votes and that was crystal clear yesterday.

Brad

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/11/12 - 11:40 am
3
1
Wayne, The South Side Commish brings up a good question.

"Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said. “We rely on DDA to protect, clean and it became a $350,000 cleaning service. Before BID came on board, prisoners kept it just as clean.”

I agree.
So why are we using TAX $$$, when we have free labor sitting in the jail wanting to get out and feel the sun on their faces and breath some fresh air? Maybe even a few convicted inmates will end up erasing their own TAGGINGS?

2nd Question
Is it a open bid private contractor award, or another "Hand" picked contractor for the services?

3rd Question
We have 5 Downtown focused Commissioners, with each one claiming to be in touch with their district. So Why didn't any 1 one of these ask this question, instead of the South Side Commish?

An a few people wonder
why the South Side is fed up with Downtown using South Side 2/3's of Taxpayer $$$ keep Downtown floating.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/11/12 - 12:08 pm
3
1
As a follow up

My above comment, has nothing to do with:
Starbucks or the Rockwood plants,
Five Guys, Hampton Inn hotel, The Georgia Power facility coming to the Corporate Park, Augusta Regional 200 acre Industrial park,General Perry Smith Pkwy, the Vocational high school, Diamond Lakes, or Basketball courts.

Just Downtown
and the waste of Taxpayer $$$ will a much less costly alternative "already" exists.

bubbajackson
26
Points
bubbajackson 12/11/12 - 12:10 pm
0
0
miss maggie has to keep that
Unpublished

miss maggie has to keep that bid money coming in so she can justify her job. dismantle dda now. they are useless.

Little Lamb
45321
Points
Little Lamb 12/11/12 - 01:54 pm
4
1
BID Board of Directors

I wonder whether the Board members receive some sort of compensation for attending board meetings?

Little Lamb
45321
Points
Little Lamb 12/11/12 - 01:59 pm
5
1
Maintenance

Meg Mirshak wrote:

Several commissioners . . . expressed concern about representation on the initiative’s board of directors, which includes two members from the Augusta Marriott Hotel at the Convention Center, which pays a lesser tax rate than other property owners. Woodard said the Marriott requires fewer cleanup initiative services because the property has its own security, landscaping and maintenance workers.

Well, I rake the leaves and trim the lawn at my house. Does that mean I should get a lesser tax rate than my neighbor with a messy yard?

Bulldog
1319
Points
Bulldog 12/11/12 - 02:31 pm
6
1
BID

This whole thing is a shameful disgrace! It needs to be flushed all the way to the sewage treatment plant. Another example of the rich insiders sucking swill from the public cofers. The whole DDA needs to be shut down!

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 12/11/12 - 02:49 pm
1
7
The downtown property owners

The downtown property owners paid for the extra services, and not local tax payers..

Why would any business in the CBD paid more to clean up South Augusta?

seenitB4
85705
Points
seenitB4 12/11/12 - 03:49 pm
4
1
open said...

As a follow up

My above comment, has nothing to do with:
Starbucks or the Rockwood plants,
Five Guys, Hampton Inn hotel, The Georgia Power facility coming to the Corporate Park, Augusta Regional 200 acre Industrial park,General Perry Smith Pkwy, the Vocational high school, Diamond Lakes, or Basketball courts.

Now that was funny.....but will he listen...LOL LOL

Conservative Man
5447
Points
Conservative Man 12/11/12 - 04:42 pm
3
0
It's about time...

...that this whole operation was called into question....especially since it was ostensibly sold to property owners as primarily a security tool and turned out to be nothing more than glorified trash pick-up...to the tune of $350,000 annually....BID's aren't always a bad thing but this one was purposely mismanaged from day one....either it should be allowed to wither on the vine or Margaret Woodard should be fired....

....After this debacle, the city should not have to stomach both...

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/11/12 - 04:46 pm
3
0
Great breakdown Brad. If

Great breakdown Brad. If they dissolve the BID, I got dibs on one of the segways.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 12/11/12 - 06:57 pm
4
1
instead of directing the CADI

instead of directing the CADI program, maybe Margaret can hunt for that Hyatt hotel that was supposed to materialize,

there is a "Hyatt Augusta"... but thats just a rental cottage in Western Australia.

dichotomy
32123
Points
dichotomy 12/11/12 - 10:20 pm
2
0
" levy a disproportionate tax

" levy a disproportionate tax on the small landholders at a higher rate and then decide how the money is spent with NO input from the little man!"

I could change a very few words in that sentence and describe how our Charter was set up to screw the South Richmond County property owners out of their tax dollars while preventing them from having any control over how and where the monies are spent.

Look, the BID, like everything else in Augusta, is well planned and thought out before it is ever proposed to the public. The powers that be have already planned how THEY will control everything and make somebody else pay the bills. That is how our "City" was formed, that is how we got the TEE and the parking deck, that is how all of these private organizations form and all of a sudden end up on the lists to get SPLOST money.......it is always planned and it is always the same and we keep approving this crap and then 3 or 4 years later we go......DUH!!!

The "powers that be" ARE POWERS because they are professionals at USING THE TAXPAYER'S MONEY FOR THEIR BENEFIT. Whenever ANYTHING gets proposed in Augusta you can bet two things....YOU are going to pay for it AND THEY are going to benefit from it. But apparently the voters in this county are just a little too mentally challenged to figure out things BEFORE they shoot themselves in the foot.

corgimom
31440
Points
corgimom 12/12/12 - 07:16 am
2
0
Why should downtown

Why should downtown businesses be doubly taxed to keep public sidewalks clean? That's the responsibility of the city. And I'm still trying to figure out how the DDA kept downtown "safe". According to Countyman, it already IS safe. Just ask him. Why would you need additional people in a "safe" area?

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