Originally created 08/18/99

City agrees to buy flood-damaged home



Augusta commissioners settled the claim of a Riverlook Drive couple Tuesday whose house was flooded for the third time when the city's faulty 42-inch water line broke June 19.

Commissioners agreed to buy the house and furnishings at 2441 Riverlook Drive from Charles and Elizabeth Mills for $135,000.

Mrs. Mills said she was relieved by the settlement.

"Now we can go on with our lives as soon as we can get out and find somewhere to live," she said.

"I think the city did the fair thing. The contents were valued at more than what was given to us, but all aside we're able to get out of the house and not be trapped in a house that we could never sell because of disclosure laws."

At 1:30 a.m. two months ago, the Mills' 15-year-old daughter, Tara, awoke to the sound of gurgling water and thought the family's pet Pomeranian was choking. When she got out of bed, she was standing in knee-high water.

The Mills' house was damaged last year when leaks in repaired sections of the pipe ruptured when the city reopened the line. It had been closed since 1996, but city officials, under pressure to provide more water amid last summer's equipment failures and water shortages, reopened it.

This year's break was the fifth time since 1989 that the reinforced concrete pipe linking the Augusta Canal to the Highland Avenue treatment plant has ruptured and flooded neighborhoods.

City Administrator Randy Oliver said the city was considering demolishing the house or possibly reselling it to someone who could rehabilitate it once a new 60-inch water line is up and running.

In an unrelated matter, commissioners also directed City Attorney Jim Wall to rewrite the ordinance concerning appointments to city boards and authorities. The new ordinance would limit the number of boards anyone could serve on to one. It also would give those who now serve on more than one board 30 days to decide which board they will remain on and resign from the other.

People appointed to city boards by the local legislative delegation would be exempt from the one-board rule.

The proposed ordinance also would address absenteeism from the boards and limit absences to three. Several boards and authorities are not able to meet regularly because too few members show up to conduct business.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners:

Took no action on setting the base salary of all state court judges at $94,400 and approving annual cost-of-living raises that would keep the judges' percentage increases consistent with other Richmond County constitutional officers and classified state employees.

Put four Augusta businesses on one-year probation for furnishing alcohol to a minor. The businesses were Red Lion Pub, 1936 Walton Way; Goodfellows Food & Spirits, 3328 Washington Road; Rio Bravo Cantina, 2821 Washington Road; and Smile Gas, 2999 Washington Road.

Denied, for a second time, Gary Richardson's request for a beer and wine license to be used at Lee & Sons Convenience Store at 3995 Old Waynesboro Road.

Denied a request to change the zoning at 340 Telfair St. from multiple family residential to neighborhood business.

Sylvia Cooper can be reached at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.