March 4, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Talk of raising the sales tax for public safety and the buses fizzled out at the Augusta commission meeting Tuesday. The idea failed in a 6 to 4 vote with only commissioners Don Grantham, Joe Jackson, Jerry Brigham, and Jimmy Smith voting in favor of it.
Supporters hoped a new one cent sales tax would help improve public transit, allow for a roll back in property taxes, and give public safety workers a raise. This was to secure current deputies and attract new ones.
"Something has got to be done. I am budgeted for 52 more people than I have now, and it's not that the money's not there...it's that the qualified people are not there," said Sheriff Ronnie Strength. The measure would have created an additional $30 million a year. Commissioners said there has to be another way to raise the money.
Taxes was just the beginning. The Commission called for change on the Richmond County Coliseum Authority. A new facilities manager could be in place as early as Wednesday to help general manager Flash Gordon. But it was possibly too little, too late. The Commission voted to send a formal resolution to the Legislative Delegation calling for restructuring of the 12 member board. The issue passed in a 6 to 4 vote.
Commissioner Calvin Holland called for an end to what he calls an ongoing attack on the Authority: "Let us not continue to bash them, but give them an opportunity to work together to do what they are supposed to do as an authority."
Former District 2 commissioner Marion Williams was on also the agenda. He wanted to try his hand at something a little different. This time he was up for a seat on the Planning Commission. But it was nothing doing...in a 7 to 3 vote, commissioners decided to approve everyone but him.
On a lighter note, it looks as if the Botanical Gardens may go to the dogs after all. The issue sailed through on the consent agenda. City Parks and Recreation wants to make Sundays from noon to 4 P.M. playtime for the dogs. But it's not all fun and games just yet. This was just the first hearing. The off-leash dog park idea must go before the Commission at least one more time.