From gas-happy city workers to arrested official, there's plenty to discuss

  • Follow City Ink

No wonder we're running out of gas in Augusta. What city commissioners don't use, city employees are stealing.

That was just one of the stories in the Garden City last week. Another was that state lawmakers have frozen more money that was supposed to go to local governments. Harrisburg residents got together to talk about crime, drugs and prostitution in the neighborhood, and one of them came up with a sure-fire way of cleaning up the neighborhood.

Some Coliseum Authority members let it be known they don't want a soup kitchen next door to their parking lot. And member William Fennoy even went so far as to suggest they ride around the civic center complex "to see what's available and buy it for future expansion," which seems kind of funny, seeing as how they hardly ever fill up the space they have.

And to top it all off, Keith "Which Way Is Home?" Brown finally figured it out, but his wife wouldn't let him in.

ANIMAL SERVICES SERVES SELVES: The sheriff's office is investigating about $10,000 in suspicious fuel charges from the county's Animal Services Department between Aug. 18 and Sept. 14. Investigators know for sure that some of the gas cards issued to animal control employees were used to put gas in personal vehicles. They've got videos.

Employees are given Fuelman gasoline cards and their own personal identification numbers for county-owned vehicles. However, it appears the same PIN was used a number of times on separate cards.

FROZEN GRANTS: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson said last week they were suspending payment of local assistance grants until January, and the state budget crisis might eliminate the lawmakers' pet projects for good.

The 2009 budget has 470 local grants totaling almost $6 million. Compared with places such as Gainesville and Hall County, which were expecting more than $500,000, Augusta's grant loss is small, but to the agencies expecting them, it's probably huge.

Kids Restart was set to receive $4,000 to help buy a new van. MACH Academy expected $5,000 for after-school education and recreation programs. The Red Cross was supposed to receive $5,000 to provide disaster relief. The 2009 Science Olympiad at Augusta State University expected $10,000 to support the event. The Lamar Medical Center was to get $10,000 to provide indigent care. And the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History was supposed to get $5,000 for assistance in operations.

State lawmakers say the economic crisis is so severe, the grant money won't be forthcoming, and more cuts are coming.

ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS: The Rev. Kelly McKnight , the pastor of Bible Deliverance Temple on Fenwick Street, called a meeting at the church last week to try to bring the divided, crime-ridden community together and map out a plan for improvement.

He began by asking residents to stand and voice what they want to see for Harrisburg. One young man said he wanted to go to sleep at night and not have to wake up and hear "all the nonsense" that went on the day before by drug dealers that don't even live in Harrisburg.

Many who do live in Harrisburg are elderly and can't afford to leave. Then there are the Section 8 tenants, some of whom abuse the system by bringing in several other families. Dr. McKnight said one Section 8 house has 13 people living in it. Then there are the drug dealers and prostitutes.

One thing that has divided the community is Mercy Ministries, an organization that helps homeless men in a 13-room boarding house. Some residents, such as Butch Palmer , a member of HONGKONG (Harrisburg Organization Networking for Gentrification to Keep Our Neighborhood from becoming a Ghetto) say Mercy Ministries has brought more bad elements into the neighborhood, and he fears more are coming with the assistance of Dr. McKnight.

Mr. Palmer asked pointed questions about whether Dr. McKnight's nonprofit -- Another Chance Ministries -- had received federal money, but the Rev. Baxter Stanley , the pastor of First Assembly of God on Fenwick Street, took him to task. Mr. Palmer said he was just taking up for Dr. McKnight because they were in the same "trade," a term that offended the Rev. Stanley.

"It's not a trade," he said.

Dr. McKnight denied having received federal grants and said if anybody said he had, he'd hire attorney Jerry Dye , who was in the audience, and sue them for libel.

"I've heard the stories about how I'm getting rich," he said. "I've heard they're calling us Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker . Well, Tammy Faye is dead, and I'm better looking than Jim."

After they'd talked more about how bad the drugs and prostitutes are and how millions of dollars flow through Harrisburg from the illicit trade, Michael Weintraub suggested taking pictures of people going into the drug houses and of their car tags.

"There's no libel involved because it's the truth," he said. "And we're not saying that anybody did anything. We take a picture of the truck with the license plate on it talking to the girl, and we post it on a big billboard we've called the Harrisburg ... whatever, and everybody knows if you go to Harrisburg to buy drugs or get a prostitute, you might have your picture on this wall."

"Put it in Columbia County," one resident said. "That's where they're coming from."

"Call it the Wall of Perverts," Dr. McKnight said.

NIMBY: Golden Harvest Food Bank's plan to put a soup kitchen near the James Brown Arena parking lot has caused some Coliseum Authority members to say, "Not in my backyard."

Building and grounds committee Chairman Donnie Thompson and Richard Isdell said they're not against feeding the homeless. They just think it would be better to put a soup kitchen somewhere else.

Mr. Isdell said people are already afraid to come downtown, and panhandlers in the parking lot would make matters worse.

"Put them over there where they're building the baseball stadium," he said. "They'll have a nice view while they're eating."

The school system didn't want the soup kitchen across from John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, either.

WHICH WAY? OUT! Meanwhile, as you've probably heard by now, arena board member Keith Brown was arrested last week, accused of not heeding a deputy's order to stop stalking his estranged wife, Sabrina Brown .

According to a police report, he just kept going back to her house, which he says is his.

Mrs. Brown said Mr. Brown moved out in January. Jail records show he lives in Clearwater. Mrs. Brown, you will recall, stood up in an authority meeting awhile back and accused her husband of having an affair with another board member.

That board member said she was going to sue her for slander, but that's highly unlikely.

Anyway, when Mrs. Brown went to the jail Wednesday morning to take out a warrant against her husband, who should she see but Mr. Brown sitting in former Commissioner Marion Williams' car.

Mr. Brown came by his nickname in 2006, after the Richmond County Board of Elections ruled he wasn't qualified to run for the District 4 Augusta Commission seat because he didn't meet the residency requirements.

He'd been appointed by Augusta commissioners to fill the vacant seat until a special election could be held. He had qualified to run, but his residency was challenged by District 4 resident Alvin Mason , and although he swore, as did Mrs. Brown, that he'd been living in Augusta, records showed he'd been living in South Carolina.

TRIPLE X IN AUGUSTA: So we have ex-commissioner Mr. Williams coming to rescue ex-commissioner Mr. Brown who is accused of harassing what is likely to be his ex-wife.

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

Comments (13) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 10/05/08 - 07:26 am
0
0
Non denominational non profit

Non denominational non profit "churches" are milking money from the federal government through the faith based initatives.Rev McKnights is litigious over questions regarding federal funding. This is most unbecoming to a man of the cloth. Perhaps greater scrutiny should be given to this Jim Baker want to be.

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 10/05/08 - 10:39 am
0
0
Sylvia: I do not see any

Sylvia: I do not see any mention that the Commissioner for this district, Betty Beard, attended the Harrisburg meeting. I guess being there would be "insulting and demeaning" like having the A-RC Commissioners accounting for their gas use.

current bdt member
0
Points
current bdt member 10/05/08 - 03:42 pm
0
0
Betty beard was at the

Betty beard was at the meeting and sargent midtown please keep talkig you are helping us even more with gods out pouring of his blessings

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 10/05/08 - 08:42 pm
0
0
No, Davidson doesn't not want

No, Davidson doesn't not want homeless people near their campus. I watched a pickup leave Davidson after dropping off a student one morning, saw a man approach the attractive young female driver, while she was waiting for the light to change, she shooed him away and I saw his face as clear as a bell. Then I saw that face again on the news in the same clothes shortly thereafter. He was the guy that they arrested for murdering that child in Florida. Let's not make it easy for people with question mark backgrounds near our public schools, especially the best one in the state! It's bad enough having to run the aggressive panhandlers off the local church properties and the post office!

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 10/07/08 - 07:47 am
0
0
Well I guess we know who

Well I guess we know who SargentMidTown is now = Butch Palmer hmmmmmmmm. I saw Keith at the game friday and saturday, he's walking around like nothing happened? Strange. I also so Evital Paschal at the Post office downtown talking OUT LOUD about Keith Bad, I guess she doesn't know people know her face *UGH*. I still don't know why the city should pay her that much, she's not a good lawyer.

escow
0
Points
escow 10/07/08 - 08:42 am
0
0
Whatever happened to

Whatever happened to centralizing a soup kitchen in the area of greatest need? The folks are downtown because the kitchen is downtown. Locate the kitchen in one of the depressed areas surrounding downtown. The Kroc center is a great example of location location location. It will be in an area of greatest need for social services. The homeless don't need to be encouraged to be downtown to prey on citizens working, buying, eating and shopping downtown. Move the food, enforce panhandling ordinances and clean up downtown; thus, creating more sales tax to help revitalize surrounding neighborhoods and support good better social services to move some of the folks to sustainable individuals.

Tujeez
0
Points
Tujeez 10/08/08 - 04:46 am
0
0
Haven't you read the news,

Haven't you read the news, they're going to give school boards the authority to raise SCHOOL taxes for URBAN Renewal Projects. Just hold on, downtown folks, those good rich property owners in Richmond County are going to fix everything with their tax dollars, REAL SOON. Look for Ammendment #2 on the ballot NOV 4th and vote YES. I'm sure all of those RICH property owners will love you for it.

dale88fan
0
Points
dale88fan 10/08/08 - 12:54 pm
0
0
you people are morons -- we

you people are morons -- we have much better drugs and definitely better looking prostitutes in Columbia County .... after all -- it is GODS COUNTY!!!

SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 10/10/08 - 01:14 pm
0
0
Is that Another Chance

Is that Another Chance Ministry registered in FL or GA because there is not an Another Chance Ministry registered with the sectary of the state of Georgia. Doesn't a 501c non profit have to be registered with the state in order to legally use the tax exempt status ? Our country needs all the taxes that we can scrap up during these troubled times. I say that we all should contribute a little extra when we file our taxes to support our Great Nation Under God with liberty and justice for all. When we all do the right thing the lord blesses us as a nation. Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Matthew 22:21

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 10/10/08 - 02:48 pm
0
0
dale88fan LOL

dale88fan LOL

doubt_it
3
Points
doubt_it 10/10/08 - 07:31 pm
0
0
Demo, it's depressing to read

Demo, it's depressing to read someone with your ignorance on the issues. School boards will not raise taxes for urban development, they will participate in the Tax Increment Financing structure already in place. Stop trying to scare people.

current bdt member
0
Points
current bdt member 10/12/08 - 08:06 pm
0
0
Wrong Butch Palmer or should

Wrong Butch Palmer or should I say (sargent midtown). Another Chance is registered in Ga. So you need to leave it alone because you are making yourself look even more silly and ignorant........

Give credit where due
2
Points
Give credit where due 11/14/08 - 06:55 pm
0
0
Mr Palmer, Instead of

Mr Palmer,
Instead of taking so many xanax yourself why not take a course on public speaking. Your ideas on trying to preserve Harrisburg is great in itself. but the way you present yourself is what is holding you back. You talk as if you are above everyone, and your ideas are the only ones that count .. You are wrong.Just as wrong as you are about calling people liars, trash.etc. You have used peoples names to push your issues, and some of these people have been dead for years, while others no longer live in Harrisburg and couldn't care less about what goes on there. Everyone has self worth , many are not as fortunate as you to have things handed to them on a silver platter and not have to work for them. Oh unless you are including the people who now reside in West View Cemetary?
Step Back Palmer, you are getting worse in your old age. Not everyone who ask for help is in section 8 , a drug addict, or a prostitute. Some are honest ,hardworking , folks who are down for the moment. Seems to me , you should reflect on things before throwing your angry attitude at people. Maybe a few sessions with an anger mangement coucelor would help, it sure coul NOT hurt.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Historic Augusta accused of fraud

The owner of the Goodale House delivered a criminal complaint to the Secretary of State's office accusing Historic Augusta of using his name to win a grant.
Search Augusta jobs