Originally created 01/27/99

Federal funds aid Augusta community development



Augusta will receive $4.24 million in entitlements from the federal government this year for community development block grants, housing, emergency shelter grants and operation of the city's housing and neighborhood development department.

The city will receive $2.8 million through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department for Community Development Block Grants.

Here's where some of that money will go:

Housing and facade rehabilitation, $1.26 million and $97,000, respectively.

CSRA Business League, $50,000.

Repayment of Section 108 loan principal for Olde Town Properties, $200,000.

Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission, $35,000.

General administration of the housing and neighborhood office, $560,800.

Grants for 17 public facilities and projects, such as the Boys & Girls Club, Golden Harvest Food Bank and Hope House for Women. The agencies will share $370,000.

Another nine agencies, such as the Central Savannah River Area Economic Opportunity Authority and the Salvation Army, will share $101,000 in emergency shelter grants.

The city will get $1.3 million to continue its home rehabilitation program, according to the housing department's final budget. The budget was approved Tuesday by an Augusta Commission committee.

In an unrelated issue, the city's finance committee voted to spend $15,000 to participate in a newspaper supplement to promote the 1999 Georgia Games, scheduled to be held in Augusta in July. The pro-Augusta public relations effort to promote the games across the state is being spearheaded by The Augusta Chronicle, which will produce the supplement and deliver it to other newspapers.

The supplement will go into 1.3 million Sunday newspapers in Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, Columbus, Athens, Albany and Augusta the first Sunday in May.

The cost of the supplement will be shared by the Metro Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce and Fort Discovery.

No commercial advertising will be included in the section.

Also Tuesday, the Augusta Commission's administrative services committee voted for changes in the city's drug-testing policy and the laboratory which does the testing.

The drug-screening program was expanded to include random testing of employees in the recreation department who oversee the activities of children.

The committee also voted to send test samples to SmithKline Beecham Laboratory instead of Mullins Laboratory in Augusta because of procedural problems with the testing at Mullins, city officials said.

The city changed to Mullins from an out-of-state lab about a year ago because of complaints by some of the people who tested positive, who challenged sending the samples away.

But the collection site at Mullins Lab is not large enough, and that has led to complaints that the required procedures for collecting urine samples have been breached. Consequently, the city was forced to put a firefighter who tested positive for cocaine back to work when officials discovered his complaints about the collection process were true.

Sylvia Cooper covers Richmond County government for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.