News 12 at 6 o'clock, December 31, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---From budget talks to plans of flooding a city street, it has been an interesting year for the Augusta commission. City leaders say 2007 was a year of planting seeds. The buzzword in 2008: growth. But first, News 12 takes a look back.
Plans of bringing a drag strip to Augusta lost traction in 2007. The Ellis Street option, that would turn a downtown stretch into a waterway, possibly dried out, and the man supporting it all, Commissioner Andy Cheek, made his exit along with commissioners Bernard Harper and Marion Williams--all men who all weathered their share of controversy.
"I had to dedicate a lot of my time to what I would say is crisis management," Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver said. "The more time I spent on that was the less time I could spend on bringing in new business on making plans for the future of the city."
The former commission is not all bad. The group passed a new hotel tax in 2008 that means $37.5 million over the next 50 years for Augusta's historic neighborhoods.
"For far too long, the neighborhood's needs have gone unmet, but now we have a financing source to go in and start making a difference next year and that's extremely exciting to me," Copenhaver said.
Development along the riverfront is the plan for 2008. There's a plan for new shops, the Trade, Exhibit and Events Center, the baseball complex, and a public park all along the river.
"I like all of it except the ballpark," said Augustan B.J. Hathaway. "It would just be too much noise right there at the corner." B.J. lives right across the street from the intended sight of the new ballpark. He says if it comes, "I'm gone."
B.J. has seen more traffic along the stretch, and it could get worse. The gates have been closed for six months, but the Botanical Gardens, now under city management, will open free to the public in the new year.
"Every great city has public gardens, and this to me is really Augusta's Central Park, and the fact that it will now be open to the public to everybody for their enjoyment is key to the future development of our city," said Mayor Copenhaver.
As 2007 comes to an end and a new year begins, one thing seems certain, according to Mayor Copenhaver: "Growth is coming to Augusta, and if you don't plan for it, you get run over by it."
The Augusta Botanical Gardens will open to the public Saturday, January 5, 2007 at 10 A.M. It will be open three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. City leaders say it's just the first step toward attracting more people downtown.