Originally created 09/13/03

Augusta officials work on monuments' upkeep



Chris Shively, 17, admits he likes to ride his skateboard along the bottom of the Richmond County Monument on Broad Street. That doesn't mean Chris or any other skateboarder caused the granite step's separation at the monument's foundation.

"A skateboard wouldn't do that," he said.

Rick Acree, the assistant director of Augusta Facilities Management, said he wouldn't place all the blame on skateboarders or in-line skaters for the structure's damage. Like many of the statues and monuments in downtown Augusta, the Confederate landmark is suffering from old age, he said.

Some of the monuments along Greene, Telfair and Broad streets have been around for more than 100 years. Weather has had little effect on the structures that are made of marble, granite or limestone.

But they are showing the wear and tear of their vintage - cracks and dirty appearances.

The facilities management, a division of Augusta Public Works, took responsibility for cleaning the landmarks last fall after receiving a call from a concerned resident.

To combat the aging process, work crews inspect landmarks every quarter and clean them if necessary. They use a light-pressure water wash that removes dirt from the surface without harming the underlying stone.

The monument cleanings cost the city about $100 a year - the expense of using a gasoline-operated pressure washer, Mr. Acree said. An additional $400 would be needed for a portable tank so crews could reach landmarks that are not near a water source, he said.

To protect the monuments from damage by skateboarders, a protruding metal dot could be installed on the steps and monument bases, authorities said. But the dots also could be a danger to anyone walking on the staircase, officials said.

"Walking is not an activity where you assume an amount of risk," Mr. Acree said. "I would hate for an elderly person to break their hip."

Without the metal protrusions in use, officials said people should still have more respect for Augusta's landmarks.

"We have a lot of activity downtown, but some of these people don't have any self-control and tend to think it's their right to desecrate anything they want to," said Erick Montgomery, of Historic Augusta.

Mr. Acree said his department will continue to keep a close eye on the city's historic monuments to make sure they're clean.

"The historic character of any city is what draws people into it," Mr. Acree said. "If you don't maintain and keep it up, it won't stay there forever."