City leaders discuss Gold Cross, Ban-the-Box, and sewer problems

Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017

Augusta Commission - Augusta seal with skyline

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- City leaders discussed Gold Cross, Ban The Box, and utilities and sewer problems at Tuesday's committee meeting.

The city settled with Commissioner Marion Williams for being the ex-officio of the planning board. The position will be paid from now on. Williams will get paid $450 for the past meetings and the position will be paid $150 per meeting from now on.

The city agreed to lease out part of the UNISYS building to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office substation. It will cost $133 thousand to build out the spot.

An objection on a personal care home was brought up Tuesday afternoon. The home has been in the Pepperidge subdivision. The planning director said the business is in good standing. After a lot of debate, the personal care home passed 3-1.

Commissioner Marion Williams put a discussion of the contract with Gold Cross on the city's Public Safety committee agenda. He said he will keep addressing this issue until it is resolved. Williams wants to the city to negotiate a fair contract with the ambulance provider. Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias said Gold Cross can't extort money from the city because of the poverty rate. Marion Williams said there needs to be negotiations and they will keep talking about it until the issue gets resolved.

Commissioner Guilfoyle said without a contract they can't regulate response times. Guilfoyle said they have been looking at places to cut money but not places to save for the city.

Commissioner Marion Williams also raised a discussion on fire hydrant maintenance after two homes burned down where a fire hydrant was faulty.

The fire chief said twice a year each station goes out to the hydrants to test and clean them.

City leaders also discussed the Ban The Box initiative Tuesday afternoon. Commissioner Sean Frantom wanted to know how many people don't get hired in Augusta because of background checks. There were questions on how Ban The Box will really impact the city and Human Resources said very few people have been rejected and a fair number of people have been hired with criminal backgrounds.

Mayor Hardie Davis said he's concerned about the housing and development procedures and said they need to really look at how they're spending federal block grants and talking about taking down blighted properties.

Mayor Davis said they need to do something with city dollars to change Augusta's poverty problem.

Commissioner Marion Williams said they need to really focus and impact areas that haven't been addressed before. The Housing and Community Development director said not getting this approved will slow down progress they're trying to make with projects.

Commissioner Fennoy raised concerns about some places is that districts want grocery stores and how it might be hard to get developers to come in those areas because of the condition they're in.

The topic has been moved to the next committee meeting in three weeks.

Commissioner Sias talked about engineering and utilities making a joint plan to tackle the city's sewage overflow problem. Director Ladson said the problems are a combination of sanitary sewer and stormwater.

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