First Friday changes to help sheriff's department 'tremendously'

By: Justin Fabiano Email
By: Justin Fabiano Email
First Friday shooting

The future of First Friday is hanging in the balance after a shooting in July left six people injured. (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, July 25, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Business leaders, government leaders and law enforcement leaders have just over a week to figure out exactly how First Friday will change.

"It's not rocket science," said City Administrator Fred Russell. "It's an event designed for families that later on is an event that hopefully people come in and use the restaurants and other stuff, too."

That's exactly how leaders are treating it: as two separate events. The first part of First Friday will be family friendly, involving the art and food vendors, music and family-friendly things. That part will go from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. After 9:30, First Friday will become a more adult only event.

Leaders also more clearly defined roles for the event's management, so to speak, from the Greater Augusta Arts Council to the businessmen.

"We are not a police department. We're an arts council, so we manage the event from 5 to 9:30," said Brenda Durant, executive director for the arts council. "The responsibility for what goes on in front of an open business is in the hands of that business."

So, businesses decide what, if any, vendors are allowed outside their store. The Greater Augusta Arts Council, who manages First Friday during the early evening, will then hand out vendor passes. Vendors must display those passes in order to set up shop downtown.

The question from deputies, however, was who makes sure vendors are set up properly and leave on time. Cpt. Scott Gay with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office says there has been a lack of communication on whether vendors could stay late, leaving deputies to patrol patrons as well as vendors.

The license and inspection department is helping out. They'll be downtown making sure vendors follow all the rules and helping to get them off the street on time.

"It puts everybody on the same playing field, and I think that's what we wanted all along is to know what the rules were," Gay said. "[It helps us] tremendously. It allows us to focus on the criminal element, which is what we wanted from the inception."

"The information that's going to be shared between what the arts council does with the department of license and inspection and the Sheriff's Office will help a lot in cleaning up who's on first," Durant said.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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