Judith Exline has lived in South Augusta for more than 40 years and she knows, when it comes to going shopping or to a nice restaurant, it means getting in the car. "We have to go across town to get to things because we don't have it on this side of town. I would love a Target, I would love an S&S Cafeteria out in this area. We don't have anything like that," she said.
That's why some feel what Augusta needs is a person whose job would be to solely focus on recruiting commercial retail businesses like restaurants to town.
"It's not something anybody is specifically focused on, at this pointm so I think something that would really benefit the city as a whole," says Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
When presenting his budget last fall, City Administrator Fred Russell included money for a retail recruiter, but with the city facing a $3 million shortfall, a majority of Commissioners voted to take it out of the budget in January, not wanting to hire a new person and create a new program.
"Retail is driven by need, I think. When companies want to locate to your location, they have the information whether it's going to be profitable for them or not. I don't think a sales pitch we make will sway them one way or another," says Commissioner Donnie Smith.
But, Commissioners again are debating creating the recruiter position. It's on the agenda for Tuesday's Commission meeting.
"There's houses here, we have a Post Office here, we have schools around here...why not have shopping and other opportunities?" says Alexis Smith, who lives in south Augusta.
"I think we need to knock on doors and request that these things be done," says Exline.
"Beating on the doors," says Smith.
The proposed salary for the retail recruiter is in the $80,000 a year range.
What Commissioners are voting on Tuesday is tasking the administrator to come up with a proposal to hire a person or a consulting company to do retail recruiting and bring it back for final approval.
Meanwhile, Augusta Commissioners are also taking up whether the CADI program should make a comeback.
The CADI cleanup crews have been missing downtown after Commissioners did not approve renewing the program last December.
Supporters say, without CADI, downtown is not as clean, and they would like to see the Commission restart it.
"Of course we would, DDA is absolutely about a clean and safe downtown. It's going to be so important. Without future recruitment efforts, the opening of the TEE Center, the announcement last week by Deke of students, and ARC's downtown. We have to have a clean and safe downtown for all of these components to work," says Downtown Development Authority Director Margaret Woodard.
Downtown property owners paid a tax rate to fund CADI, so having more property and higher values added up to a bigger bill. Downtown property manager John Bowen says that ended up having large property owners subsidizing the smaller ones for the same services.
Commissioners we are talking to are not supportive, at this time, of renewing the CADI program.
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