Originally created 11/22/06

Budget is shot down at meeting



Augusta commissioners voted down next year's proposed $742 million budget after a lengthy discussion Tuesday afternoon.

Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Joe Bowles, Andy Cheek, Don Grantham, Bernard Harper and Jimmy Smith voted against the plan while Betty Beard, Johnny Hatney and Calvin Holland voted for it. Commissioner Marion Williams abstained.

City Administrator Fred Russell said he was not surprised by the outcome.

"I have done the best I can do with what you've given me to make it work," he said to commissioners after the vote.

Commissioners were concerned with cuts to some programs, and not enough cuts for others.

"I'm not ready to pass the budget until the commission gets some answers," Mr. Grantham said after asking about personnel and overtime costs.

Still, those who voted for the budget seemed ready to move things along.

"There's no such thing as a perfect budget," Mrs. Beard said, "but as we've gone through everything ... I feel pretty good about where we're at."

In other business, commissioners approved an ordinance designating the Olde Town neighborhood a historic district.

Mr. Williams, who voted against the measure, expressed concern for low-income residents who might not be able to comply with restrictions, citing the decision a few years earlier to take away the Bethlehem neighborhood's designation. Mr. Harper voted against the motion as well; Mr. Holland was out of the room when the vote was taken.

Commissioners also directed Mr. Russell to work on plans to redevelop the Hyde Park area with the Augusta Brownfields Commission, including a health study and what to do for residents of the highly polluted neighborhood. Mr. Williams and Mr. Hatney said they wanted fast action to move residents out of the area, but nothing solid was approved at the meeting.

Also before the commission, Gary Swint, head of the East Central Georgia Regional Library, gave commissioners a presentation regarding the Augusta library's new headquarters.

Planners showed a 90,000 square-foot, three-story facility, full of bay windows and open spaces.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT:

Augusta Commissioners need to hold a special meeting to approve next year's budget by Dec. 5, city attorney Steve Shepard said.