Originally created 10/06/06

Candidates talk economy, taxes



Economic development and delinquent taxes were among topics of discussion at Thursday's mayoral forum at Warren Road Recreation Center.

Asked whether he'd ever been involved in economic development in the Augusta area, incumbent Mayor Deke Copenhaver said he'd taken a lead role since becoming mayor.

"The Xethanol deal originated in my office," he said. "I worked that deal from start to finish. ... So yes, I've been intimately involved in economic development and will continue to do so," he said. "I guarantee you we're going to see a lot more investment in Augusta in the future."

Candidate Steven Kenrick said he'd been involved in economic development both directly and indirectly, graduating last year from the Georgia Department of Economic Development Academy. He was also involved in the Red Carpet Tour during the Masters Golf Tournament.

"There are very few candidates who have directly worked with economic development," he said. "I'm one of those who have."

Candidate Ronnie Few said he might not have been involved in economic development in Augusta because his job here was in public safety, but he has been involved in another government's efforts to market its city.

"So yes, I do understand economic development, and as mayor I will market this city to the world," he said.

Candidate Gil Gilyard said he'd been involved with economic development for most of his life, beginning with his career in the military and throughout his life has encouraged and helped many people get into business who retired as multi-millionnaires.

"If you don't call that economic development, I don't know what else you're going to call it," he said.

Responding to a question about whether they favor turning over delinquent tax accounts to a private company for collection, Mr. Gilyard said he is very much in favor of collecting delinquent taxes by any means necessary.

Mr. Copenhaver said he agrees completely with the idea of selling the city's tax liens and has brought in a company that has agreed to purchase some of them.

"About $1.2 million would come to the city," he said. "That's 27 deputies. That's the hole we have in transit. We absolutely have to move forward with this. When we're considering cuts, that puts it in perspective to me. Do we cut deputies? Do we cut transit? Or do we go out and sell these tax liens?"

Mr. Kendrick said he had earlier proposed a tax amnesty program that would allow people to pay delinquent taxes without penalty and interest during a specified time.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.