Soup kitchen worries arena board

Golden Harvest Food Bank's plans to open a soup kitchen near the civic center have some members of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority hoping to keep them out of the neighborhood.

Donnie Thompson, the chairman of the authority's building and grounds committee, said Friday he's concerned that a soup kitchen on Fenwick Street next door to the entertainment complex will bring panhandling to the area.

"I don't think any of us are opposed to feeding the hungry, but maybe it's not the right location," Mr. Thompson said. "Maybe we could even help and assist them in getting some property."

Member Richard Isdell said the first thing the Coliseum Authority would do if a soup kitchen is opened is put up a fence separating the properties.

"People are already scared about coming downtown," he said. "That's not going to help with it being next door to our parking lot."

Mr. Thompson said Golden Harvest officials are scheduled to go before the county's Board of Zoning Appeals on Oct. 20 to request a setback variance for the soup kitchen they propose building at 704 Fenwick St. Mr. Thompson also said Mike Firmin, the food bank's executive director, wants to meet with the full authority before then.

Member William Fennoy said authority members should take a survey of property surrounding the civic center to see what's available and buy it for future expansion.

Last year, Golden Harvest backed off plans to move its soup kitchen across the street from John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School after it was unable to reach an agreement with Richmond County school officials.

Golden Harvest officials have said the current location is not large enough and in poor condition, and they had planned to move the Master's Table Soup Kitchen to the former Kinsey's Auto Grill on 13th Street.

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