Merchants Fight Slum Designation, But Committee Gives OK - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Merchants Fight Slum Designation, But Committee Gives OK

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Augusta, GA -

Bill Prince's family has operated a store in downtown Augusta for 78 years, and he says downtown's image is at stake with it being called a "slum".

"Losing some pride from downtown to be officially designated a slum area is kind of hurting to me," said Prince.

City leaders say, despite some issues with abandoned buildings and other problems, downtown isn't a slum. But, to create funding opportunities as an Urban Redevelopment Area, state law requires the "slum area" designation.

"Is there any stigma to this?" we asked City Administrator Fred Russell. "Only if you create that George if you run around and say oh my God," Russell answered.

But, many in downtown believe there is a real harm in being designated a slum area.

"The economy is starting to turn around and here comes a big old stomp in our face from our city fathers, that you're a slum and it's going to hurt," says business owner Mike Walraven.

But, city leaders say it's going to help, including to help pay $26 million for the renovations of the Augusta Municipal Building, and don't see why merchants are so troubled.

"Here in Richmond County, it seems we're dogged if we do and we're dogged if we don't. It's just a financing mechanism to do things, financially, so I'm for moving Augusta forward financially any way that we can," says Commissioner Alvin Mason.

"Labels hurt, and to label it, regardless of the reason, is ridiculous and the fact that they're doing it just to get money shows how irresponsible whoever wrote this thing is," said Walraven.

But, the Augusta Commission Finance Committee voted in favor of recommending creating the Urban Redevelopment Zone, and the designated slum area. It has now been forwarded on to the full Commission for a final vote next week.

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