I-TEAM: Richmond County says they've fixed 90% of issues reported at Augusta Parks

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Thursday, March 7, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- An I-TEAM investigation found hundreds of safety and maintenance concerns flagged by inspectors in Richmond County parks over several years and found some of the flagged issues were not addressed within the year.

News 12 obtained monthly facility inspection reports, fire inspection reports, and annual risk management reports for eight Augusta parks. The parks were a part of Augusta-Richmond County's assessment of wiring following the death of Melquan Robinson.

In 2016, an inspector with the City's Risk Management department noted cracked walls throughout the facility, fire extinguishers that were not being inspected monthly, including one upstairs that hadn't gotten annual maintenance in seven years.

They also found a dangling smoke detector, the emergency exit sign failed a test, and an "illegible" evacuation map.

In total, there were 22 issues the inspector noted needed improvement.

Reports show in 2017, the same inspector noted again evacuation maps were "illegible" and fire extinguishers were still not being inspected.

Reports show in 2018, an inspector found 18 issues. He found the same fire extinguisher he reported in 2016 for not being serviced since 2009, had still not been serviced in 2018. The inspector commented on the report it had been nine years since the fire extinguisher was serviced.

The inspector also noted fire extinguishers were still not being inspected by staff.

In his 2018 inspection, the inspector took pictures of more water damage to the walls and noted an obvious leak in the roof.

The report states zero out of 18 issues were addressed when he went to follow-up on the building. The city closed the builder Summer 2018

Reports show at the Henry Brigham Community Center on Golden Camp Road, the inspector noted water leaks and damaged ceiling tiles in 2017 and 2018.

In 2018, an inspector pointed out the fire alarm was "not connected to 911" and the smoke alarm "failed a test."

We talked to Charles Walker who has lived in the neighborhood since 1954. He knew Henry Brigham before the park was named after him.

"It does surprise me to see some of these things that are not being done,” Walker said. “Because that's what we pay our taxes for -- for these things to be done. If they come out and inspect it and go back and report it, then somebody just isn't keeping up with the job," said Walker.

We checked the eight parks the city assessed after Melquan Robinson was electrocuted at Fleming Park. We counted more than 200 issues the risk management inspector noted since 2016.

The Parks and Recreation Department is required to do monthly facility inspections, along with risk management annual reports on each facility. In 2017 alone, we counted more than 400 issues on the monthly facility inspection reports and more than 200 in 2018.

We showed Richmond County Commissioner Dennis Williams the reports. He tells us he believes there's a miscommunication issue between the inspectors and the people who can fix the problem.

"We already know, through the media, that we have some issues with our reporting process and things getting done. So, we need to look at the program before we do a lot of unnecessary talking about it,” Williams said.

Walker, meanwhile, is hoping fixes happen before another year rolls by.

"I am glad you are coming out and making this report so that we can talk about the things and let the commissioners and whoever is in charge to let them know we would appreciate if this thing is done,” Walker said.

A spokesman for Augusta-Richmond County says they have repaired the majority of the issues cited in the Risk Management's inspection reports.

"You cite the number of 271 items that need improvement. You should know that so far, we have addressed and closed the work orders on 242 of them – approximately 90 percent," said Spokesperson Jim Beasley in an email sent March 7, 2019.

"We have chosen not to do an interview, as we have been very unhappy with the results of our efforts. We have made efforts to be as forthright and transparent as possible. We have taken time to answer your calls and emails and, when possible, schedule face-to-face, on-camera interviews. Obviously, there are times that we cannot facilitate requests as quickly and thoroughly as you would like, but there is always a reason – possibly the time and labor required to fulfill a request or, as recently, due to potential litigation that prevents us from revealing certain pieces of information in our possession. We have tried to be responsive, in an effort to help you inform your audience. In recent months, we feel as if your reports on our activities have not been as fair as we would like. Recent reports on handicap access, Dyess Park, Fleming Park, and inspections of our facilities have been unnecessarily damaging," said Beasley.