Originally created 09/21/03

Commissioners eat on taxpayers' bill



Not only do Augusta commissioners get to have their cake and eat it, too, but taxpayers are picking up the tab.

No, we're not counting calories.

We're counting dollars - tax dollars, to be exact. Nearly $3,000 to pay for the food and drinks that keep commissioners comfortable and chatty during their marathon meetings.

Pies. Sandwiches. Tiny glass bottles of Coke and plastic containers of ruby red grapefruit juice.

Danishes. Cheez-Its. Peanuts. Cookies.

Between the catered lunches for special sessions and the stockpiles of snack food on hand for regular meetings, the 12-member commission has averaged a food expense of $371 a month.

Soda, juice and bottled water alone have cost taxpayers $1,807 so far this year.

That's to say nothing of the $80,000 salary paid to Deputy Administrator Fred Russell, who spends much of his time serving sodas to city officials during the twice-monthly commission meetings.

With a soda and snack machine just a few floors down from the commission chamber, we find those numbers tough to swallow.

CANDIDATE HUNT: Former Mayor Larry Sconyers' last-minute decision not to run for the District 6 Augusta Commission seat left south Augusta political power brokers scrambling to find a challenger to incumbent Andy Cheek.

When the effort failed, there was some anger with Mr. Sconyers. That quickly passed, though, and now southsiders say they're looking for a write-in candidate.

Prime qualification: "Anybody who can fog up a mirror," one advocate said.

ODD PAYMENT METHOD: Take the money and gun. For the second time this summer, Richmond County marshals have stopped someone trying to get into the Municipal Building with a gun.

Both times it was a woman. In both cases, the gun was loaded.

And marshals say both women were headed to waterworks to pay a bill.

And pay they did. Before marshals made their arrests, the women were escorted to the Utilities Department so they could tender their payments before being taken to jail.

Talk about being fiscally prudent.

BACK RENT: And then there's prudence run amok. When the city served an eviction notice to Paul Wolfe, the owner of Riverwalk Antique Depot, three months ago for not paying rent on the city facility for more than two years, Mayor Bob Young said he was going to "collect money people owe us."

Well, Mr. Wolfe held a big auction three weeks ago and left town. He also left a mess of useless junk and trash taxpayers will pay to have cleaned up, City Administrator George Kolb said.

One thing he didn't leave, however, was about $25,000 in back rent. Another was the key. The city had to hire a locksmith to get into the place, and a lawsuit has been filed to recoup the unpaid rent.