Originally created 05/27/98

Funding vote goes to board

Augusta commissioners will get a chance next week to vote on whether to split more than $44,000 among themselves.

Commissioner Ulmer Bridges said he put the measure on next Tuesday's agenda so the public will see which commissioners are serious about saving taxpayer money.

"The situation we've got today ... is the worst thing we've got going," Mr. Bridges said. "Under the present arrangement all that money will be gone by year's end. The same thing is true for the travel account."

Mr. Bridges asked that the measure be put on next week's Augusta Commission agenda shortly after the board's finance committee, of which Mr. Bridges is a member, failed to vote Tuesday on whether to split the money.

Commissioners will consider giving one another $11,000 of taxpayer money to spend as they please. The money -- $110,000 a year in all -- would be pulled from the city's pooled travel and "commission other" accounts.

So far this year, $21,000 in travel money has been spent.

Mr. Bridges said he's been to Atlanta twice, staying in a hotel each time. He said he has spent $400 or $500 this year.

"If that much money is gone, my fair share would have been somewhere around $2,000," Mr. Bridges said. "I haven't spent anywhere near that much money. That means someone's spending a whole lot more than their fair share."

The "commission other" account is supposed to be used in emergencies, Commissioner Jerry Brigham contended at Tuesday's finance committee meeting.

This year, money has been taken from the account and used for several non-emergency causes, commissioners said.

At least $3,000 was given to the Richmond County Fire Department to help it hold its first annual badge pinning ceremony. Another $2,500 paid for a table at T.W. Josey High School's girls basketball banquet, while $400 was used to pay for former Probate Judge Iree Pope's retirement party.

Commissioners Brigham and Moses Todd said they voted against all the giveaways this year. Mr. Bridges said he voted to give money toward Judge Pope's retirement but voted against the other two items.

"I viewed the last one as a nexus to the government," he said. "The thing at Josey I felt was the responsibility of the school board. And as for the fire chief, he has a $12 million budget. He should have been able to find $3,000."

Mr. Todd said he eagerly awaits for the issue to come to a vote.

"You'll get to see who stands where and for what," Mr. Todd said. "I'm all for them hashing it out in the open where people can see it."


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