"Slum Area" Not The Only Objection To Augusta Redevelopment Plan - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

"Slum Area" Not The Only Objection To Augusta Redevelopment Plan

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Augusta, GA -

The idea is to transform the Augusta Municipal Building, not to run down a certain part of town.

The city's Urban Redevelopment Plan does designate the Central Business District as a "slum area", but this is to allow the city to set up a five-member agency to issue tax-free bonds, to pay for renovating the Municipal Building.

"The purpose is for us to use a financing mechanism, or financing vehicle, that allowed us to save $1 million to $2 million for the taxpayers of this community," says Commissioner Donnie Smith.

Many in downtown Augusta are slamming the "slum area" designation, but not Commissioner Marion Williams. "It's not what you're called, it's what you answer to," says Williams.  

But, what Williams objects to is creating a new agency with the authority to issue tens of millions of dollars in bonds. "I see it as another backdoor way of coming in, putting another group in charge that's out of the hands of the Commission. You look at this thing, for real. I was born at night, but it wasn't last night," said Williams.

But, if the bonds get issued for the Municipal Building, the city will need to pay them off. The plan is to use sales tax money, but that money will only be available -if- voters approve extending the tax again next year.

"It really does bother me because I just don't believe in spending money we don't have...never have. I don't live my life like that and I can guarantee most taxpayers don't either," says Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.

What upsets Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who represents the downtown area, is thast the plan calls for all of downtown Augusta to be designated a "slum area", but it's designed to only pay for renovating the Municipal Building.

Fennoy says merchants thought the designation would have open avenues for funding for their businesses.

"Then I think that is unfair and I will not support it under any circumstances," says Fennoy.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote Tuesday, the measure did pass committee three to one but will need to six votes to move forward.

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