Originally created 04/24/98

Officials consider future of city, residents



NORTH AUGUSTA -- City officials and city council members embarked on their annual foray into North Augusta's future Thursday by taking a look at how the community sees itself and what they want to see in the future.

Holding the meeting at Public Safety Station II on Five Notch Road, the North Augusta City Council began with an overview from City Administrator Charles Martin and were set to go home after an evening session.

They spent most of the morning and part of the afternoon on the city itself and its people.

According to a survey by the University of South Carolina conducted this year through a sampling of city residents, North Augustans are satisfied with life in their community.

"In many ways, North Augustans like their town the way it is -- small, friendly, safe, family oriented," said Mike Duke, partner in Duke & Duke Inc., a Columbia firm engaged to develop a city marketing plan.

"While some degree of future growth is desired, residents seem to agree that the degree and type of growth should be carefully monitored and controlled to ensure that the current character and quality of lifestyle are not jeopardized," Mr. Duke said.

According to the survey, 74.1 percent of residents said they would still choose North Augusta as home if they had to make the choice today. Others, 7.4 percent, would choose Edgefield County and 5.2 percent cited Aiken. Only 4.1 percent would move to Augusta but 9.3 percent, mostly younger respondents, said they would choose Columbia County.

"Columbia County is the biggest problem we have to overcome," said Councilman Don Smith.

North Augusta has experienced an outflow of residents to the Merriwether District of Edgefield County and to Columbia County, but Mayor Lark Jones believes a sizable number, especially those in Edgefield County, are returning.

"We're seeing some of them moving back in," Mr. Jones said. "Frankly, I don't see a lot of negatives in North Augusta that would make people move away."

More than half of the 454 North Augustans surveyed said Augusta supplied better shopping opportunities than Aiken County, and nine out of 10 said they shopped in Augusta. A survey of residents of Aiken County revealed that seven out of 10 stated they shopped in Augusta.

"We must show evidence that North Augusta is open to new ideas and that we are providing services that meet the people's needs," Councilwoman Carolyn Baggott said.

The survey showed North Augusta residents wanted a greater variety of restaurants in the city, better retail outlets ranging from book stores to electronics to home improvement, and additional entertainment opportunities, especially a move theater complex, Mr. Duke said.

The two-day retreat continued Thursday night with capital-projects priority setting and public safety issues. Beginning today at 8 a.m., the council and its staff are set to address topics under the umbrella of "Paying for the Future."