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Series helps Augusta clean up messes

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Augusta has been busy tidying up its streets, vacant buildings, trash piles and other messes.

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At the corner of 10th and Broad streets, a lid covering underground wiring has been broken, leaving a hole about one foot deep.   TRAVIS HIGHFIELD/FILE
TRAVIS HIGHFIELD/FILE
At the corner of 10th and Broad streets, a lid covering underground wiring has been broken, leaving a hole about one foot deep.

A four-month series by The Augusta Chronicle called “Pardon Our Mess” has drawn attention to 16 public and private pieces of property in need of some tender loving care.

Since the first complaint aired on Sept. 2 – a weed-, litter- and vagrant-infested old Augusta library – nine of the issues have been completely fixed, four have been addressed and three remain as they were, without any action.

Half of the reader-generated complaints reported during the feature’s lifetime have ties to the Augusta Traffic Engineering and Georgia Transportation departments, two agencies where officials say maintenance problems are more visible to the naked eye.

“You are talking about 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles a day driving the city,” said Steve Cassell, assistant director of traffic engineering for the city of Augusta. “That’s a lot of people surveying our roadways and their neighboring right-of-ways.”

Cassell’s department has had to pardon six messes since the newspaper’s feature began.

That’s more than any other office or property owner.

Repairs made have included cutting back overgrown shrubs on Bransford Avenue; filling a 5-inch pothole on St. Sebastian Way; fixing a toppled “Do Not Enter” sign on Druid Park and Central avenues; repairing a crumbled sewer top on Hill Creek Drive; and removing large tree limbs piled outside Georgia Regents University’s Summerville entrance.

The only problem not completely addressed by traffic engineering is exposed underground wiring on Broad Street, which the department covered with cones until the party responsible, AT&T, repairs the lid securing the line.

Despite the high number of complaints, Cassell’s team responded to reader-reported messes the same week, or even day, they were notified.

“Most of the time, once we’re contacted, or even before we’re contacted, we have had a plan in place to address the issues presented to us,” Cassell said. “It says a lot about our field supervisors and their ability to manage their people with the little resources we do have. We would like to have more staff, but people would be surprised to see how hard we work on a day-to-day basis.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation corrected one of two messes on its roads featured in the Pardon Our Mess series, but the corrected issue already needs more maintenance.

A concrete island on Mike Padgett Highway at Apple Valley Drive had no reflectors and was frequently stuck by motorists. The department added six white poles with red reflector strips but only four were still standing last week. One pole lay in the road.

“The pole does need replacing,” said Cissy McNure, a GDOT spokeswoman. The department has no other plans to make the island more visible.

The second area in need of maintenance by GDOT is a series of large dips and bumps on Bobby Jones Expressway near exit 16. GDOT previously said that issue will be corrected during scheduled resurfacing in 2014.

Downtown business owner Bonnie Ruben took issue with the feature that spotlighted the former J.C. Penney building at 732 Broad St. Ruben said she was one of only two private property owners “singled out” while the remaining issues were city or government owned.

The other was the owner of a partially submerged houseboat that was abandoned on the banks of the Savannah River in North Augusta just north of the Fifth Street bridge. The owner contacted The Chronicle upset by the press, but has not called back to say the boat has been moved, as he said he would.

Ruben said no changes were made and no action had been taken since the boarded-up building with debris strewn in the doorways was featured on Oct. 21.

Ruben added that loose brick on the building, which Augusta Code Enforcement Manager Pam Costabile previously said was a code violation, was held in place by brackets that have been on the building for several years.

“Somebody targeted me and my building,” Ruben said about the newspaper feature. “I don’t appreciate it either.”

Cassell said Pardon Our Mess has been helpful in evaluating and prioritizing complaints.

“Anything is helpful,” he said. “It brings attention to what our department does on a daily basis, which is something that people at times, take for granted.”

Previous Pardon Our Messes

Date

Location

Problem

Who’s responsible

Result

Dec. 23

Bransford Avenue, just west of the Holden Street intersection

Overgrown trees and brush have swallowed the street curb and now cover five feet of roadway

Augusta Engineering Department

Overgrowth cut back

Dec. 16

Bobby Jones Expressway near Exit 16

A series of large dips and bumps in the road

Georgia Department of Transportation

Imperfections will be corrected during 2014 resurfacing

Dec. 9

Corner of 10th and Broad streets

A lid covering underground wiring has been broken, leaving a hole about one foot deep

AT&T

Covered with cones 

Nov. 25

Edge of New Savannah Road at Laney-Walker Boulevard

Trash strewn along the right-of-way

Augusta Environmental Services

Cleared

Nov. 18

Outside lane of northbound Mike Padgett Highway at Apple Valley Drive

A concrete channelizing island does not have yellow paint or reflectors

Georgia Department of Transportation

Fixed, but one reflector broken again

Nov. 11

Northbound side of St. Sebastian Way at the intersection of Walton Way

A 5-inch pothole, located slightly above the street’s right turn lane from Walton Way

Augusta Engineering Department

Filled

Nov. 4

The intersection of Druid Park and Central avenues

A “Do Not Enter” traffic sign was knocked down, and the sign’s wooden post was split into four pieces

Augusta Engineering Department

Sign repaired

Oct. 28

Near the playground at Oglethorpe Park, along Riverwalk Augusta at Sixth Street.

Two wooden sign posts that mark Oglethorpe Park have deteriorated

Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities Department

Sign removed

Oct. 21

732 Broad St.

Boarded-up hulk of a former J.C. Penney store

Owner Bonnie Ruben

Problem remains

Oct. 14

Savannah River bank, just upstream from the Fifth Street bridge in North Augusta

An abandoned, partially submerged houseboat

Boat owner

Problem remains

Oct. 7

1300 block of Reynolds Street

A deep hole, about 18 inches in diameter, in the middle of road

Augusta Utilities Department

Filled

Sept. 30

2955 Hill Creek Drive

About six years ago, a garbage truck ran over the concrete sewer top and broke it

Augusta Engineering Department

Repaired

Sept. 23

1707 Cartledge Lane

An abandoned single-story house that was built in 1916 is deteriorating after sustaining heavy fire damage in 2012

Augusta Land Bank Authority

Home demolished

Sept. 16

Richmond Hill Road

City garbage hauler got off the truck twice but made no effort to retrieve or empty a nearby overturned can or close open lids

Augusta Environmental Services

Director Mark Johnson addressed problems, saying that a contractor has been hired to evaluate citizen concerns

Sept. 9

On Walton Way, near the Georgia Regents University entrance

Large tree limbs were piled on the right-of-way and sidewalk next to a rusted and bent bus city stop sign

Augusta Engineering Department and city Public Transit service

Limbs removed, sign replaced

Sept. 2

Outside the former Augusta-Richmond County Public Library on the corner of Greene and Ninth streets

Litter, weeds and vagrants have overrun the building

City administration

Facility exterior cleaned

PROBLEM AREAS?

Contact us if you know of a place where the grass needs cutting, a pothole needs fixing or litter needs collecting.

CONTACT US

Visit www.augustachronicle.com/mess to share your ideas or connect with us on social media using #AUGmess.

WE’LL INVESTIGATE

We’ll contact the proper authorities and let you know what they plan to do to clean up the mess.

Comments (3) Add comment
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southern2
6008
Points
southern2 12/26/13 - 10:26 am
1
0
AT&T really? Cannot believe

AT&T really? Cannot believe things are so bad that you cannot take immediate action on a sidewalk hazard. Shameful situation. Hope no removes the cone.

raul
4554
Points
raul 12/26/13 - 11:03 am
1
0
Pardon Our Mess has been a

Pardon Our Mess has been a worthwhile project IMO. Lot's more to do, though.

Riverman1
82181
Points
Riverman1 12/26/13 - 12:14 pm
4
0
Let Me See If I Get This

Oh, so let me get this right. Someone sent an anonymous letter to the Chronicle complaining about Bonnie Ruben's building. I wonder why Ruben's name was used in the article and not the boat owner's? Realize Bonnie Ruben was a vocal critic of the TEE Center financing and deals with the Chronicle's bosses who own the Marriott.

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