Area residents may remember that last October, the Augusta Commission voted to spend $2.3 million to acquire property in the Hyde Park residential neighborhood, and to begin designing a massive detention pond to occupy the site.
Citizens and Hyde Park residents are owed the following:
• an actual copy of the environmental impact study. My research has shown that pollution of stormwater ponds has potential for toxic effects on amphibian embryos and larvae. Amphibians use stormwater basins for breeding and subsequent larval growth. If pond-breeding amphibians are attracted to retention/detention ponds – only to have eggs and larvae die from pollutants from runoff during and following rain events – these habitats may act as ecological traps for pond-breeding amphibians.
• a copy of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division or federal Environmental Protection Agency application, approval and the permit.
• a copy of any feasibility studies. Our local government is notorious for commissioning studies that are skewed in one direction or another, and they have a reputation of not following the guidelines of feasibility studies. Remember the drag strip study? It was loaded with phony projections and inaccurate information. The list goes on.
• a copy of Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson’s petition to see this project move forward, so it can be cross-referenced with property owners;
• a record of property sales within the past seven to eight years.
THERE ALSO ARE several unanswered questions:
• A detention pond is designed to slow water flow, and should be placed further upstream of the water flow. What other sites were investigated? Let’s see the documentation of why they were eliminated.
• Where is the money coming from to fund the initial phase of this project?
• Where is the money coming from to finalize the project? If our government is planning on using future special-purpose local option sales tax dollars to fund this project, what if SPLOST doesn’t pass?
• Where is the financial forecast and proposed total cost? The number I have heard is $18 million.
• Why has this project been put on the fast track when we have so many other SPLOST projects that are incomplete?
• What are the rules of relocating? Do you get the appraised value of your property or just a lump-sum settlement? Moving expenses? Are you subject to higher property tax rates?
• How do we identify and handle conflicts of interest where people could have used their influence to push this project through?
• If these houses are vacant and available in the Bethlehem and Laney-Walker areas, why should Hyde Park residents relocate where no one else wants to live either? Who benefits from the sales of these homes when the city buys them? Not taxpayers.
I OFFER SOME commonsense solutions:
• The city of Augusta paved many ditches in Hyde Park. However, many of the residents will rake their leaves into these ditches, causing them to clog, thus holding water. Many ditches have become just plain old trash dumps, again causing the stoppage of water flow.
Replace ditches with concrete pipe. Build culverts with grates. This is a lot less expensive than $18 million.
• To assist in drainage of Hyde Park, the city installed drainage pipes underneath the railroad tracks. This helped tremendously, but residents complained that they needed more and possibly bigger pipes. Add more and possibly bigger pipes under the railroad.
• According to officials from Phinizy Swamp, they have no issues with the stormwater runoff going directly into the swamp. Why not direct runoff into the swamp?
These solutions should be explored before we destroy Hyde Park. The residents who have come to me are proud of their homes and do not want to relocate. Several of these homes were built with money provided by the G.I. Bill after World War II. Some were built by hand one brick at a time. Many men worked at the local Merry Brothers Brick & Tile Co., and were given bricks and concrete blocks, mostly seconds, to build their homes.
Residents have fond memories as children helping clear the land and help their parents with construction. There is not another community in our area that has the distinction of this type of dedication to family.
If you agree with this, pass it on and have a call for action. Contact your representative!
(The writer is a businessman and community activist.)