Augusta, GA -
It will be three more weeks before a section of Wrightsboro Road currently being worked on will be open. It is costing Augusta $800,000 to replace a collapsed storm line, and it's a big example of the city's crumbling storm water system.
“We have issues all over town, when it comes to infrastructure, and to be quite honest we've seen it time and time again,” said Augusta Engineering Department Director Abie Ladson.
To address the drainage issues, the Engineering Department is proposing a Storm Water Utility Fee to bring in money for repairs and upkeep.
“I think most people want infrastructure improvements. I think most people want their ditches cleaned, the storm water...their flooding issues addressed,” said Ladson.
City leaders have been moving forward with the fee, but that was before last week's vote to increase property taxes.
“I think it's dead, I think the storm water fee is dead,” said Commissioner Alvin Mason.
“I can only speak for me and, at this point, I just don't want to jeopardize SPLOST in 2015,” said Commissioner Donnie Smith, who believes the property tax increase for this year could sour voter support for extending the one cent sales tax.
“You're not going to support a Storm Water Fee?” we asked Smith. “I am not,” he answered.
“Do you think the public would support a storm water fee for infrastructure with this tax increase?" we asked Commissioner Marion Williams. “I don't think they will. I would hope so, but I don't think they will,” Williams answered.
“I believe the storm water fee should take place, but the question is...do I believe it's going to pass? I don't, I believe it's dead in the water,” said Mason.
“The longer you wait, the worse your problem,” said Ladson. “So, basically we'll see more Wrightsboro Road collapses?” we asked Ladson. “Oh definitely, no doubt in my mind,” he added.
Ladson said the property tax increase only balances the budget, it does not include any funding for the storm water system, so he plans to move forward on getting final approval next month. He said he's proposing a $6 to $6.50 monthly fee.