Augusta Commission Compromises To Complete SPLOST Package - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Augusta Commission Compromises To Complete SPLOST Package

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Augusta, GA -

In this case, talk wasn't cheap. But, after a lot of back and forth, a majority of Augusta Commissioners backed a final sales tax project list for the next phase of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, that's millions more than what Mayor Deke Copenhaver recommended.

"Yeah, I know that. I guess you give a little to get a little...try and get this thing passed," said Commissioner Grady Smith.

Commissioners were facing a time crunch to make the May ballot. The list had to be approved this week, to allow Hephzibah and Blythe to ratify the list, and sign agreements.

What Commissioners approved was a $194 million package, which is $7 million more than Mayor Copenhaver's proposal.

"You need a starting point. This not the final list. I expect there to be dialogue today, but what  are you going to work from, if somebody didn't draft a list?" said Mayor Copenhaver.

The first major change to the Mayor's list was in the engineering category, where city leaders felt $40 million was too low.

"Well, my list is showing $50 million, so there's a difference," said Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle. "You want a lot more for Engineering?" we asked. "Absolutely," said Guilfoyle.

Only six Commissioners were present, which was barely a quorum, and Commissioner Bill Fennoy wasn't prepared to vote on the package without holding public hearings first. "The people of Richmond County need to have some input into the projects going on," he said.

Without Fennoy's support, there weren't enough votes to pass the package, so the Commisison sweetened the pie, approving $6 million for the Cultural and Community Center at Paine College to win his support, which is $5 million more than Mayor Copenhaver's recommendation.

"I don't think it's selling out, I think it's looking out for the best interests of the citizens of Richmond County," said Fennoy.

"Initially, they requested $8 million. We reduced that down, we turned around and added some of that money back. It's a match program, they have to come up with a match," said Commissioner Donnie Smith.

Commissioners have their SPLOST package and with this vote - no "pain", no gain.

The SPLOST package includes $5 million for the Mills project even without a commitment for Georgia Regents University to be a tenant. It also includes $13 million for a new public safety radio system, which is money that wasn't included in Mayor Copenhaver's recommendations.

And, $2 million was approved to tear down blighted buildings in Augusta.

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