Photo of the current Cancer Center on the campus of Georgia Regents University
Augusta, GA -
The plan is for it to spread across Georgia Regents University's campus. The "it" is a $62 million cancer institute. The state has issued $45 million in bonds, but says that's contingent on a $12 million local match.
"This is time sensitive. It's one of the reasons I pushed so hard with this package. We have to have those funds in place by the end of June in order to access that $45 million from the state,” says Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
Augusta Commissioners have agreed to borrow $8 million and pay it back with funds from the next SPLOST.
In February, Augusta National Golf Club announced it would pledge $4 million for the cancer center, but only if the city comes up with the $8 million now on the ballot with SPLOST.
“Conditions are set, not only from Augusta National, but from the Community Foundation. As they progress, they have to meet certain conditions in order to receive these dollars,” says Lee Smith, who is president of The Community Foundation.
"Is one of those conditions the $8 million?” we asked. “One of those conditions is the $8 million,” answered Smith.
Commissioner Bill Lockett is one Commissioner who doesn't support this SPLOST, but he isn't worried about the potential loss for the Cancer Center, if it doesn't pass.“It’s kind of ironic, we have $8 million for the Cancer Center. I'm all for the Cancer Center, but why should Augusta-Richmond County foot the bill?” said Lockett.
“You miss out on the economic impact, you miss out on the philanthropic gift, you miss out on the $45 million coming from the state, so we could not afford to wait,” said Mayor Copenhaver.
Smith says Augusta could not afford the impact on its image, if it fails to come up with the $8 million to offset the Masters Tournament gift. “It would reflect on the inability to raise $8 million for a $45 million match. It would be, 'where do we go from here, what kind of state support could we count on, could we expect in the future?' I would say none,” said Smith.
If SPLOST fails, the plan is to repay the $8 million loan approved March 4th.
The city would eat the interest fees, estimated to be in the $40,000 to $50,000 range. What happens to the $12 million commitment for the Cancer Center? Mayor Copenhaver says that's something the city will have to rethink.