Resolutions to cooperate set tone for board

Five Augusta commissioners were sworn in to three-year terms Wednesday, promising a new era of unity and progress.

District 2 Commissioner Corey Johnson and District 4 Commissioner Alvin Mason, both newcomers to the board, received the oath of office from State Court Judge David Watkins. District 6 Commissioner Joe Jackson, also a newcomer, was sworn in by State Court Judge Richard Slaby.

District 8 Commissioner Jimmy Smith and Super District 10 Commissioner Don Grantham were sworn in for second terms by Chief Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet.

In remarks afterward, each commissioner thanked God, their families and supporters before vowing to do everything possible to help move the city forward.

Mr. Johnson said he looked forward to "working with everybody and just seeing a shining city come about."

"Augusta's been known as a diamond in the rough," he said. "We're going to make it shine."

Mr. Mason said he was prepared to do whatever is necessary to move Augusta forward with "unity and teamwork."

Mr. Smith vowed to continue working "to help develop south Augusta as well as all of the city." Mr. Jackson asked for the public's prayers to help commissioners move the city forward. Mr. Grantham thanked God for the opportunity to serve Augusta once again.

"It's so important we all work together, and I have found that to be so true, particularly in the last couple of years that we have seen the progress made," he said. "I'm proud to be a part of this."

The new board's first order of business was the unanimous election of Mayor Pro Tem Betty Beard to a second one-year term.

Commissioners then appointed staff General Counsel Chiquita Johnson and Todd Boudreaux of Shepard Plunkett Hamilton & Boudreaux as legal counsel through January to work out a plan to transition legal work to the in-house legal department beginning in February. Commissioner Jerry Brigham voted against the motion, and Mr. Grantham asked for a point of personal privilege to praise attorney Stephen Shepard and members of his firm for the support they have given the commission when it was needed.

In their first controversial issue of the year, the board refused to deny business and liquor licenses for Club Dreams, at 3023 Washington Road, where two men were shot in the parking lot on Christmas. A security guard was also shot outside the club in February.

Commissioners put the club on probation in November because of noise complaints from residents in a neighboring subdivision. The sheriff's office recommended the licenses be denied, as did the license department and Mr. Brigham, in whose district the club is located.

"My opinion is this is going to be nothing but a nuisance no matter where it's located," Mr. Brigham said. "I think this commission is being lackadaisical. This is ridiculous. This is not the image we want for Augusta."

After three votes that split along racial lines, the final vote to deny failed, with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Mason voting no and Mrs. Beard and commissioners J.R. Hatney and Calvin Holland abstaining. That outcome would have allowed the owners to buy licenses and open as early as Tuesday night, but Attorney Leon Larke said club owner Marion Rosier does not plan to re-open at the Washington Road location, but plans to move to Damascus Road.

Nevertheless, after the meeting, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Mason, Mr. Brigham, Mr. Grantham, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Smith agreed to direct the Licensing Department not to issue a license for the Washington Road location until Jan. 15, when commissioners will again take up the matter.

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

CONTACT YOUR AUGUSTA CITY OFFICIALS

- Mayor Deke Copenhaver, (706) 821-1831

- District 1 Mayor Pro Tem Betty Beard, (706) 724-0916

- District 2 Commissioner Corey Johnson, (706) 736-4435

- District 3 Commissioner Joe Bowles, (706) 825-6894

- District 4 Commissioner Alvin Mason, (706) 793-1991

- District 5 Commissioner Calvin Holland Sr., (706) 798-5294

- District 6 Commissioner Joe Jackson, (706) 533-7839

- District 7 Commissioner Jerry Brigham, (706) 650-1700

- District 8 Commissioner Jimmy Smith, (706) 798-3890

- District 9 Commissioner J.R. Hatney, (706) 722-5035

- District 10 Commissioner Don Grantham, (706) 738-7786

- City Administrator Fred Russell, (706) 821-2400

- Clerk of Commission Lena J. Bonner, (706) 821-1823

- Attorney Stephen Shepard, (706) 724-6597