Commissioners tour Hyde Park

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March 7, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---People in Augusta's Hyde Park community got some special attention today.

City leaders took a bus tour of the areas where many of the neighbors say it's unsafe to live. News 12 rode along.

After bunches of meetings and several studies, some of the people in Hyde Park took today as an opportunity to show leaders up close the conditions they're living in and why they've been complaining about it for years.

Folks in Hyde Park say it's taken over a decade for the Commission to focus its attention on this problem.

"It's about time for us to be moved up to the front aisle, get full heat, get full attention," said resident Charles Utley.

"It's contaminated out here," said resident Arthur Smith.

Leaders were shown the spots they've been seeing on maps in person--the dirty ditches, drains, and soil that reports find are filled with hazardous heavy metals.

"When you look at this area, these people are suffering," Commissioner Marion Williams said. "Some of them gave up hope."

The bus tour was part of the city's renewed effort to either clean up Hyde Park or relocate those who live here.

The sound of backhoes surprised many residents today. City crews came out for the first time in years to give Hyde Park a surface cleaning, on the orders of Commissioner Don Grantham.

Eunice Jordan says good, but not good enough.

"It's a little, but it's not what we're looking for," she said.

"It's like a baby who's crying, you give them a pacifier to hold them for a little while, but it's not going to work," Charles Utley said.

When city leaders got off the bus, they were met by residents holding signs making it clear that they want to be relocated.

While there are some who want to stay put, commissioners say it's time to do something.

"We know it's contaminated, we know it's been like this for some time, so it's time for us to step up to the plate and do something about it," Commissioner Calvin Holland said.

Some of the folks on the bus said they are upset with the Commission because they feel there was quick action to clean up the contamination on the riverfront property for new condos, but they say it's been an act of Congress to get their area cleaned up.

Commissioners say they're close to deciding, but they're waiting for findings from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. An expert was here last week to hear from people and determine how big the threat really is.

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