Committee OK's Historic Neighborhood Redevelopment Loan, But Say - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Committee OK's Historic Neighborhood Redevelopment Loan, But Says Look For Additional Money

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Augusta, GA -

It's a project that is transforming Augusta's old inner city neighborhoods with new homes.

"In order to keep this rolling we got to keep it going but one thing I made sure of we guarantee we get our money back," says Augusta Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.'

An Augusta Commission committee agreed Monday to use property tax money and loan up to $2.5 million to the Augusta Housing and Development Department to continue the redevelopment, in the Laney Walker and Bethlehem areas.

City finance officials told Ccommissioners, when new bonds are issued in two years, the city's money will be replaced.

"I can't say there is no risk. There's always risk involved in financial markets. Based on the current information today, we should have no problems issuing the debt," said Assistant Finance Director Tim Schroer.

Some Commissioners, however, have a problem with the amount of money being spent on consultants and marketing for the project - more than $2.5 million in three years.

City leaders wanted the Augusta Housing and Development Department director Chester Wheeler to find out if there's a cheaper way to go. "What they asked me to do is to do an analysis of as to what it would cost to bring it in-house, as well as the cost reasonableness of what we are paying right now," said Wheeler.

To pay the way in the neighborhoods, the city is relying on dollar a night hotel tax, which brings in about $750,000 a year. But, that obviously hasn't been enough money to fund the entire project.

So, Wheeler was also directed to come up with another funding source to back up the hotel dollars.

"If the hotel bed tax is not enough, what's the funding source?" we asked Wheeler. "I think...the question was, come back in six months with a plan. That's my response to you, in six months we'll have a plan " said Wheeler.

"He was designated to find other monies, not the low hanging fruit. Nothing will come out of [the] General Fund, I know that," says Guilfoyle.

In three years, more than $8.5 million has been spent in the historic neighborhoods with the city only collecting $750,000 in revenue, about one third of what's been spent on consultants and marketing.

The full Commission will make the final vote next week.

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