News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The City of Augusta is saying goodbye to a program designed to keep downtown clean and safe.
Commissioners voted 5 to 4 on Tuesday night, nixing the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative and the extra tax on downtown businesses.
Johnny Finley, who owns two businesses downtown, says he's glad to see the program go.
"There's no need for it because we're already paying county taxes," he said.
But not all business owners are pleased with the commission's decision, including the owner of Merry's Trash and Treasures who says the decision is going to be detrimental to small businesses downtown.
"I was just so disappointed. We've had this in place for five years, and it's been so clean down here," said business owner Bill Merry.
Fifty-two percent of downtown property owners signed a petition to keep the program going, but some commissioners question that petition's validity.
"I know just a couple of days ago y'all didn't have the 51 percent. I don't know what you did to get it, and in fact, I don't want to know, but I'm supporting the 48 percent," said Commissioner Bill Lockett.
"They came by and asked us if we would vote for it, and I said no, but they didn't let me sign a form saying no," Finley said.
Commissioners also had an issue with the management of the program, citing a lack of transparency in bylaws and selecting board members -- errors the group promised to correct.
"Now you're at the midnight hour wanting to talk about all the changes you're going to make. You're costing this city $1,000 a day," Lockett said.
But the owners who voted yes say this is a far cry from fair.
"I thought the majority ruled, but undoubtedly, I'm wrong. Fifty-one to fifty-two percent voted to keep it, but now we can't have it, it's being taken away from us," Merry said.
Those in favor of the CADI program say they had a lot of support from businesses between 9th and 12th streets, so they hope to eventually put a proposal together to look at approving a smaller bid district.