News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Dec. 10, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's a program that's supposed to keep downtown Augusta clean in more ways than one. Some call it priceless, but others say it's way too expensive.
Former Commissioner Andy Cheek says, "When we passed the Business Improvement District tax, it was to provide security."
And now, the former commissioner and several business owners downtown say the CADI program, the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative, needs to go.
"It's evolved into a street sweeping cleanup service," said Mike Walraven, who owns a business downtown.
The original bid for the program had a high emphasis on security, but after events like First Friday's shooting and the recent stabbings, some business owners say they provide a false sense of security.
"They aren't police officers, how would you consider them security?" said Johnny Finley, a downtown business owner.
Margaret Woodard, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, argues they have increased security on the weekends after events like First Friday.
"You have to look at each event, that was really after First Friday we weren't even on the premises," Woodard said.
The DDA needs 51 percent of property owners downtown to sign a petition to even have commissioners consider renewing the tax.
The argument is whether to cut CADI altogether.
"It's a waste of money, especially when we're looking at cutting police and fire and other much-needed services," Cheek said.
"Basically I'm against it, period. If the city does their job, the streets are clean," Walraven said.
But Woodard warns that canceling the program could be detrimental to downtown.
"It will not take long for downtown to get really dirty again, and where there's dirt, bad things tend to happen," she said.
Commissioners heard presentations from several people on Monday against the program -- nearly two hours worth of debate over the issue -- but no final decision has been made. The committee couldn't come up with a recommendation to pass along to the Augusta Commission, so commissioners will haggle over the issue again at next Tuesday's meeting.