Augusta leaders never believed downtown Augusta was a slum, but the term "slum area" is just to be a phrase in an official document creating an Urban Redevelopment Area. But, Augusta Commissioners are not prepared to tar downtown with the term.
"We're not going to use the term 'slum'. No matter how we draft this, we're not going to do that," says Commissioner Donnie Smith.
"Designating something as a slum, it has a negative connotation to it. The businesses and the people have spoke loud and clear, it's not something they want to see happen," says Commissioner Alvin Mason.
City leaders were proposing designated downtown Augusta as a "slum area" to issue more than $26 million in bonds for renovating the Augusta Municipal Building, but Commisisoners say if it's the Municipal Building that's in line for the work, then nearly 600 acres downtown does not need to be included as an Urban Redevelopment Area.
"This is dealing with issuing bonds for the Municipal Building. That's what I want us to focus on, not all of downtown," says Commissioner Mary Davis.
But, some Commisisoners want to focus on the renovations of the government complex. The current plans call for $7 million for a new IT building, but some Commissioners are concerned about the added costs of adding the new building.
"Let's look at buildings that we currently own and see if we can't put them there until we can get this funding situation taken out," says Smith.
The Augusta Commission Finance Committee passed on making any recommendations Monday, sending this issue to the full Commission to modify the Urban Redevelopment Plan. One modification would be to remove the term "slum area" from official documents, and city lawyers say that can be done.
The other modification will be to reduce the size of the Urban Redevelopment Area so it includes the Augusta Municipal Building area as well as another parcel downtown on the riverfront for another possible project.
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