Engineering Department asks for more money, more employees

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News 12 at 11 o'clock/ Thursday, Sept. 19th, 2013


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- As the rain fell all summer long, we all got a good look at one of Augusta's biggest problems.

"We have an aging system and it's constantly getting worse," said Director of Engineering Abie Ladson.

Flooding and sinkholes opened up around the county and put the spotlight on the Engineering Department.

"We're lagging behind, we're being reactive," said Ladson.

That's something he wants to change, but says money is the key.

"The only way that we can move from a reactive organization to a proactive is to get the necessary funding, to get the necessary personnel," said Ladson.

It costs around 700 million dollars to keep the city of Augusta running. Each year commissioners have to decide where that money will go and each year each department has to fight for their share.Thursday, Ladson presented the budget for the engineering department saying things won't get better until the funding is there.

"Everybody wants their storm drain clean because of course they don't want to be flooded," he said. "Everybody wants their grass cut because they want their areas looking nice."

With just 30 employees Ladson says right now they can't do it all.

"We do have some on calls, about 6 on calls, but it's not enough," he explained.

Two years ago the Engineering Department took over all the maintenance for the city but it didn't come with any extra money just some SPLOST funds.

"Those fund are drying up. There won't hardly be any funds left," he said.

He's asking for an extra 4.1 million dollars which would include 50 additional employees.

"We're covering 307 square miles of area," he explained.

But Ladson has his own solution. He says the stormwater utility fee would fix it all.

"If the stormwater utility fee is passed 90 percent of our issues will go away," he said.

So now it's up the commission to make their decision, but Ladson says it would be better to get the money sooner than later.

"Probably for the next 3 or 4 years we may be getting rains like we've gotten this past year so of course the problem is going to get worse," said Ladson.

A stormwater fee would be about six dollars a month for every property owner. They say that would generate around 10 million dollars a year. It will be back before the commission in January.

As for the budget, there is one more work session next week. Then commissioners decide who gets what and just because you ask for it doesn't mean you'll get it.

Last year Engineering asked for $2.5 million, but they didn't even get 300,000.

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