Five commissioners tour Betty Beard's District 1

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Each Augusta commissioner agreed it was a good idea: taking a tour of every district to learn more about the issues there.

But during the last tour, only three commissioners showed up.

Thursday's tour of District 1 was better; five commissioners were on board this time.

Some commissioners say District 1 runs a close second with District 2 as being one of the neediest areas in Augusta.

It's a part of town they're in all the time...

After all, the municipal building lies in District 1.

But for Augusta commissioners, it's their first time together on a tour of this part of the Garden City.

"I think even I will be learning from this trip," said District 1 Commissioner Betty Beard as she guided a bus full of tourists, including the mayor and four commissioners.

"I want to look at my district as a glass that is half full, rather than half empty," Commissioner Beard says.

Her district includes most of downtown, as well as the Laney Walker, Phinizy Swamp, and Sand Hills area.

"Listen," Beard says, "in every area, in every neighborhood in District 1, we have needs and we have problems that need to be corrected.

Getting close attention from city leaders is an area off East Boundary where overgrown grass and dilapidated homes create what some call an eyesore.

"It's another one of those areas where we need to strictly enforce code laws and regulations and go in and take over homes and tear them down and use some of our HUD money to rebuild these homes," says Commissioner Joe Bowles.

"My concern is there has been major flooding down there forever," says Commissioner J.R. Hatney.

And while an hour may not be enough time to see the district in its entirety, Betty Beard says it's a start.

"I think it has many needs, but I think it has many exciting things going and I want to show both sides," she says.

Beard says she is hoping the city's new panhandling ordinance will make the downtown area more inviting. She says begging has been a major concern in that part of the district.

Most of the commissioners who did not take Thursday's bus tour were at work.

The commissioners are expected to take another bus tour in a couple weeks.

So far, they've toured District 2, which is Marion Williams' district, District 3, which is Joe Bowles district, and now Betty Beard's District 1.

The plan is to tour eight commission districts. They're not going on tours of the super-district areas because they overlap the smaller districts.