Originally created 05/07/02

Leaders say D.C. trip was success



There was no oversized check made out to the city, but area leaders who stormed the halls of Congress last week called the lobbying trip a success.

"I think things were very well-received with those that we met with," said Fred Humes, the director of the Economic Development Partnership, which represents Aiken and Edgefield counties. "I thought it was one of the more productive trips that we've had."

More than 40 local business and civic leaders traveled to Washington late last week for the annual CSRA Leadership Conference to tout regional projects and issues.

They met with members of the area's congressional delegation and staffers, and representatives from the Department of Defense, which funds operations at Fort Gordon, and the Department of Energy, which funds Savannah River Site.

"My main focus was Fort Gordon issues," said Thom Tuckey, who works for the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce as a military consultant. "I found our congressional delegation very supportive of our efforts to bring new missions to Fort Gordon."

He said two major construction projects at the fort - a $3.6 million training support center and a $4.2 million child development center - were discussed during the trip.

But local leaders were told the projects would not be eligible for funding until 2004, Mr. Tuckey said.

Another project, the creation of a National Disaster Management Training Center, was met with mixed response.

"The (center) was also supported by everyone, but until such time as the Homeland Defense Office determines how and where they want to conduct training, we won't know how that will play into their plans," Mr. Tuckey said.

There was much discussion about the future of plutonium shipments to SRS, said Susan Graham, the president of Aiken Technical College.

The group took with them a position statement that said any materials brought into the site for processing or treatment should have a clear schedule for waste and product shipments out of the state.

"No one could give us specific answers because there were too many unknowns," Dr. Graham said.

Augusta Commissioner Steve Shepard said he and Airport Director Ken Kraemer broke into individual lobbying meetings to discuss federal funding for Augusta Regional Airport.

Mr. Shepard said he touted an old idea about the possibility of rerouting area train lines so they no longer cross Sixth Street downtown.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.