Price tag for portions of Ellis Street Option

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News 12 First at Five, October 5, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The Ellis Street Option is floating its way back onto the Commission agenda. We now have some early estimates on how much it would cost to get things up and running.

Don Berry grabs lunch at the Sandwich Cafe along Ellis Street at least two times a week. "Can you imagine having lunch and overlooking a beautiful waterway?" he says.

Don says not even flooding that stretch with water will keep him from stopping in. "Well quite frankly I think it might be a beautiful venue for the city."

A laundry list of engineers, companies, and public interest groups gathered Friday looking for ways to turn what some call a pipe dream into a big economic splash.

Tawayne Ray works along Ellis Street. She says, "It might attract more people because that's something different. It's not nothing usual that you come to a restaurant in a boat."

It would take $31 million to dig up the road and re-route sewage lines. City leaders say it's worth it. "Most of it's in excess of 50 years old, so re-doing this, if we're going to see our central business district grow, is a good thing whether we build the Ellis Street Option or not," says Commissioner Andy Cheek, who's spearheading the project.

But not everyone's in favor of just flowing with the tide. Kevin Steele says, "Well I don't know. Someone's gotta pay for that, and that's the taxpayer right? So I don't know if the benefit outweighs the cost."

Max Hicks with the Augusta utilities department says, "That's just really a rough estimate based on very preliminary sketches."

Besides the cost, city engineers say they've got homework to do. They are requesting at least one or two years to conduct studies.

Director of Engineering Abie Ladson says, "It's something that we've never done before, but we're pretty excited about it."

Indeed it is exciting, but Don fears it's not all smooth sailing just yet. He says, "Visions are great as long as visions become dreams unattainable rather than nightmares."

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