July 31, 2006
The city of Augusta may be taking legal action against two public agencies.
City leaders say DFACS and the Housing Authority owe the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This all started as city leaders began closely looking at ways to bring in revenue after learning of a $5 million budget deficit.
They found what they say are hundreds of thousands of dollars uncollected from two state organizations.
It's a story you'll see only on 12.
"If the city is in fact owed money, we are in a position where we need those funds as soon as they can get in," says Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver.
City officials say the Department of Family and Children Services, DFACS, owes Augusta over $800,000 in uncollected rent for use of these buildings on Fenwick Street.
"I've been talking to those at the highest levels of the department in Atlanta," says city attorney Steve Shepard.
Shepard has sent letters demanding payment and visited DFACS offices in person, but he says he came back with no payment. DFACS instead gave him a list of counter-demands that he would not discuss.
"I have some questions which I'll address with their attorneys, but I don't want to do it in a public negotiation at this point," he says.
We called DFACS. They only would say: "We don't discuss potential litigation. If it comes to a point where Augusta decides to pursue legal action, we will respond to that."
The city is also asking the Housing Authority for thousands.
For over 50 years, government homes have gotten free trash service. City leaders say they should be paying like everyone else.
The free service has cost an estimated $19,000 a month, or $200,000 a year.
"The contractual agreement is a legal document," says Richard Arfman of the Augusta Housing Authority. "It's very clear, spells out what we are supposed to pay for what services."
Afrman points to an agreement signed back in 1949 in which the city agreed to provide the service free of charge.
Shepard has questions about the legality of that contract.
Both disputes may be headed to court.
News 12 asked the mayor why the city has waited so long to demand payment.
"There are a lot of things within this government that I ask myself that same question, 'Why have they been allowed to go on so long?'" Mayor Copenhaver responded.
The commission will be voting tomorrow on whether they will ask the city attorney to send another letter of demand or began litigation with these agencies.
Shepard says he hopes things can be worked out before that happens.
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