UPDATE 10-8-2013 - During a work session by four commissioners and the Mayor of Augusta, the group learned that calling slum almost 600 acres of downtown area will be beneficial for development. Slum it doesn't mean the zone is bad but that is in risk to become worst and that open a world of opportunities to get funds for many projects in downtown was the explanation. Constructions already are on the way but money still is not being allocated. Watch the building.
In order to obtain funds to pay for the new constructions at the municipal building, $26 millions, the grant in question requests a certain area to be declared slum. Months ago the Richmond County Commission had approved the renovations for the building but the Administrator Fred Russell supposed to come with the funding. He did it but the Commission was surprised with the term slum and because the Commission was informed about the details before the vote, just weeks ago.
If the Commission approves the Administrator proposal taxpayers will have to pay back the initial $26 millions for the constructions. It is "initial" since the TEE Center construction was approved in a referendum in 2005 for $20 millions and in 2012 the cost jumped to more than $80 millions.
This time there was not a referendum and civic engagement was ostracized even from the elected officials about the need of the constructions at this particular moment and the fundings opportunities.
Meanwhile, the concerned citizens group pushing for a comprehensive public transportation still is waiting the appointments of the Transportation Citizens Advisory Committee.
Commissioner Donnie Smith challenged members of the group for requesting the necessary move by the Commission in order for the Advisory Committee to start working on the Augusta Public Transit Initiative to improve the service in Richmond County. Commissioner Mary Davis reminded her colleague that the Commission already had approved the redacted and proposal of the By-Laws presented to the Commission by the group led by Denice Traina.
Not only the Commission is dragging its feet on many services needed by the taxpayers, such as transportation, but the priorities of the Commission and the Mayor are still mainly in the construction or renovation of certain areas and buildings.
When many of the commissioners and the Mayor are asked, they and the Administrator mention that there is no need for public transportation and that there is no money to cover the expansion of the Augusta Public Transportation. In the "slum gate" debacle, the renovations and new constructions at the Marble Palace are being funded with money that are still "air" since there is no official approval yet how to fund. It is sound like the "air rights" the city have over the parking deck in front of the TEE Center or Marriott Convention.