Augusta Ga consolidation bill Featured Latest News Richmond County

For better or for worse – the marriage of Richmond County and Augusta.


Editor's Observe: Augusta and Richmond County have been formally merged on July 1, 1996. Here is an introduction to how the merger befell and the translations the city acquired.

was originally broadcast in 2006.

When the city of Augusta merged with Richmond County virtually ten years in the past, it was a necessity alliance.
The town of Augusta was threatened by economic instability which pressured more than 85 staff to shoot because of an enormous deficit. At one level, municipal accountants stated the city only had $ 100,000 in cash to cover more than $ 1 million in payments.
Many of the city's black leaders have been afraid of dropping political energy, however stabilization was race-neutral. "
For residents dwelling south of the Gordon Highway, the lack of paved streets, water pipes, and sewers in Richmond County hampered progress. Provincial taxpayers have been nervous about rising administrative costs, but supporters of the unification pledged to cut pink tape. In addition, residents have access to the metropolis's infrastructure.
That is how a marriage of convenience was born. Marriage, which has survived for 10 years however, in response to some critics, has a hard time.

Nothing to offer.

In the summer time of 1995, the Augusta City Council faced a price range deficit of $ 7 million. Consequently, a total of 87 staff had to be laid off by the Metropolis Council to cowl their deficits. Morale fell to an all-time low.
Aurelia Epperson, Mayor of Augusta, resigned earlier that yr, revealing that Augusta Mayor Charles DeVaney had been aware of the city's monetary issues for almost a yr.
DeVaney, a well-liked, longtime mayor, instantly discovered a "no-confidence" vote in Metropolis Council.
The town of Augusta desperately needed stability to avoid chapter.
"At the time of consolidation, everyone knew the city was writing bad checks," stated former state Senate Don Cheeks. "It wasn't a secret. You had to be somewhere in Alaska or Hawaii, you didn't know. Checks were everywhere."

County & # 39 Chilly Legs

For almost 25 years, the Richmond County Legislative Delegation had thought-about proposals to strengthen these two governments. , however I was not one of them in favor of the merge, "Cheeks said." Back once we began this dialog, I was in the home and primarily in southern Augusta, and they undoubtedly didn't need any part of it. "
Richmond County voters didn't want to risk a possible tax increase, and many were unsure of mayors point Cheeks said.
"Only once I was capable of get the city's bank account numbers did I discover out there have been 100 and bizarre remaining checks and there was no cash in the financial institution to pay that I knew one thing needed to be completed," Cheeks said. "And then I came upon that the water division income was deposited day by day to cowl inspections of the common fund finances." The

sinking ship

city utility department was a business fund and the money in the account was for future water system upgrades, not balancing the fund.
"The mayor kept saying, 'The city is not going to fall apart. It's in good shape, ”Cheeks said. "However I met the metropolis with the info I had, and they couldn't deny it."
When the truth came out, it was only up to the insurer voters that governments had to work to save the city, Cheeks.
As part of his case to support the merger, Cheeks told Richmond County voters that the merger would give the county a chance to commit to a city-owned 24-inch plumbing.
"By tapping it on the 24-inch line, we might ship water south to Richmond County," Cheeks said. "So he returned to my area and bought to strengthen infrastructure and civic satisfaction.
" I told them, "Do you live in south or west Richmond, downtown, Augusta is where you come from. It's a flagship and we will't let it sink in. And it sinks. "

Black and White Bill

Although the city's future appeared bleak without consolidation, many Augusta's black leaders opposed unification because they believed it might dilute their political power. it was very heavy at the time 1988, and I even made a trip to Washington DC for the Group and Baptist Ministerial Conference to oppose stabilization, ”stated former Augusta Commissioner Moses Todd. "We reassembled the team in Washington DC, made up of students from Howard and Georgetown Universities, and we succeeded in getting the Department of Justice to ban the Augusta-Richmond County merger." Nevertheless, when the 1995 consolidation proposal began, the attitudes of some of the strongest black leaders had modified.
Then the state Senate, Charles Walker, insisted that the consolidation proposal was race-impartial and advised voters it will promote financial improvement all through the county.
Walker and the late State Consultant Henry Howard labored onerous to protect the black group's voice in the new incumbent authorities, Cheeks stated.
“Henry (Howard) had been with the Provincial Commission for years and it was difficult. he compromised on certain aspects of the bill, ”Cheeks stated. “And Charles (Walker) just didn't comply with something because he needed more black influence. And that's the fact. Charles doesn't chew his tongue about it.
"He used to say, 'I will never do it until we share prosperity. ""

Affordable Fears

. However Walker and Howard have been right to be involved about minorities being treated in the new authorities, Cheeks stated.
"You have to now understand that Augusta was not the most distant or ahead-wanting metropolis in the state," Cheeks said. "That they had an excellent purpose to be cautious and be sure the bill was written so they might stand behind it."
A meeting befell in 1994 at Augusta State University, led by group leaders reminiscent of the late George Cunningham, an area businessman, Julian Osbon. and then-Provincial Fee President Larry Sconyers convinces Todd to vote on the merger.
  Larry-Sconyers "We talked about unification and its positive aspects," Moses stated. "They assured me that minority representatives would be there when the government was reorganized.
" So when Senator Walker purchased it and the relaxation of the delegation stayed behind the consolidation, it convinced ministers and the group to help it. "

Mapping the New Future

So as for both governments to consolidate their actions, state regulation required voters to take away the metropolis's constitution.
This proposal didn’t match properly with some local leaders.
Willie Mays, the interim mayor of Augusta, served as county commissioner in 1995, however was already thought-about a veteran politician. He has served initially in the Metropolis Council and then the Provincial Government since 1979.
“Being a scholar of the Previous City Authorities and understanding that we had a charter that had been basically right after the founding of Augusta in the 19th century, it was an excellent charter. "Mays said. “That was our history, and what we were facing was its complete death when the new government was formed. It was not easy. "
  Willie-mays Former State Consultant Bettianne Hart, now an lawyer for the Fulton County Deputy District, stated she knew that abolishing the charter would make many Augustans uncomfortable.
"I think it was tougher for mayors than for county leaders, because every time you remove one layer of bureaucracy, the fear is, 'My influence is on,' Hart said." We changed the position of mayor, modified the structure of the authorities and the actual governing body.
"And I think more city officials knew they had to move through home consolidation than the county authorities, but we tried to do it in a way that wouldn't scare people."

Wedding ceremony Day

When 67% of voters accredited the merger On June 20, 1995, local citizens blessed Augusta and Richmond County for becoming a member of.
By the finish of the yr, the family of the new government was in place. Larry Sconyers, owner of Sconyers Bar-B-Que, was the new mayor. The one metropolis councilor elected to the new Augusta committee was the late Lee Beard.
From day one, Sconyers stated he was concerned about how the new authorities can be shaped.
"Things that were more important to voters we promised them, government, kind of pushed into the rear burner and it shouldn't have been, ”the swarmers said. “Stabilization turned out not to affect citizens, but politicians. It was a bill that just got back and forth until certain people were happy, and it became a new bill for Augusta. "
Former Augusta Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who is presently looking for re-election for District 7. , stated the merge formulation was straightforward. It was the details of the government that have been difficult.
"The city had water and the county had land," Brigham stated. “So we needed to work financially for the profit of the entire group. Doing it was a troublesome half. It was like sitting on a spa spaghetti plate and making an attempt to put orders. "
To get the new government up and running, the Augusta Commission voted to hire Bill Carrosshen, a retired mayor of Greensboro, NC to help manage the merger. He was paid $ 87,000 a year for a temporary assignment.
"I feel one of the largest errors we've made is bringing Carrosshen right here to place the authorities together," Sconyers said. “We could have done the same thing ourselves. The fire and sheriff's departments merged and they had no problems.
"But we convey this point here to do all the different mergers and all we did was create paperwork."

Tied palms

Shavers also stated he shortly discovered that the wording of the consolidation proposal typically tied the palms of the Commission. For example, the bill did not permit former city or county staff to be fired. The discount of personnel in the board needed to be completed by means of degeneration.
“Stabilization sought to streamline the government. But instead everything has gone up. Nothing has diminished, "Sconyers said, noting that the city's proposed general fund budget for 2006 is $ 114 million compared to the former county's 1995 budget of $ 50.5 million."
"There are still a lot of layoffs today," Balconies said . “There are people in the payroll who are not profitable. Such things should have been removed long ago. "
Former Augusta Commissioner Bill Kuhlke, now a member of the government of Georgia's Ministry of Transport, agreed that many citizens are disappointed that they have not seen any savings as a result of consolidation.
"When I started my operations in 1996, I remember the budget of the first consolidated general fund to be about $ 80 million," Kuhlke said. “And in that first year, the sheriff's budget was $ 24 million. This year, the sheriff's budget is $ 44 million. "
The government staff, however, has not changed, Kuhlke said.
" When I went to the office, I think we had 2,700 employees. When I left the office two years ago, we had 2,700 employees, ”Kuhlke stated. “Is it progress?”

Two Everyone

Donna Williams, deputy director of accounting at the finance department, stated it was virtually inconceivable to make a legitimate argument that criticized the value of consolidation.
“There are some students at Augusta State University who have been assigned a group project to find out if consolidation works or not,” Williams stated, laughing. "I told them to just click the reply and support. Because if you look only at budget numbers, it's not apples to apples. "
Augusta-Richmond County is totally totally different from either the former metropolis or county government, Williams stated."
"Proper subsequent yr after the reunion, we added an entire new prison to Phinizy Street that was not there before," Williams said. "It required hundreds of thousands of dollars value of personnel and gear.
" We added new fire stations and new recreational projects, such as Diamond Lakes. Insurance alone has risen rapidly. The cost of group insurance is likely to have risen from about $ 4 million in 1995 to about $ 17 million in 2006. And that had nothing to do with consolidation. "
Former Augusta Mayor Randy Oliver, now Mayor of Peoria. , Unwell., Stated it was troublesome to realize parity between the two former governments.
"We had two of everything," Oliver stated. “We had two medical insurance plans, and I keep in mind that one had only a $ 1 grant for prescribed drugs. There were two pc techniques and it seemed as if they spoke English and the other spoke Russian.
“To me, it was like an abnormal merger between Basic Motors and Ford. They each make automobiles, but do it in a totally totally different method. "
With former Augusta Commissioner Ulmer Bridges, the unification of the government went fairly smoothly until he thought Oliver was a politician.
" When Randy Oliver was expelled in apply, it was a huge blow to this group, "Bridges said. "Randy was a C.P.A., an engineer, knowledgeable administrator, and no department talked to him."
"When he left, I feel it took lots of steam towards the head of the metropolis. It was a turning level. "

Violation of Permits

For the past 10 years, the Augusta Fee has had a task in shouting matches, calling names and mistrusting members.
In recent times, public opinion in the municipal government has been so dangerous that members of the local legislative delegation have tabled a collection of payments calling for a reorganization of the consolidated authorities.
In September, State Senate JB Powell, additionally a former Augusta Commissioner during the merger, proposed a invoice that might give the Mayor a veto, permit members of the fee to abstain, and permit a easy majority of the authorities to behave as quorum.
"These are the changes that I've heard people say to help this government," Powell stated. “But the query is, how far do residents need to go together with Constitution modifications? In my bill, the Commission principally prepares the eight districts, provides the mayor some energy and deals with the abstention rule.
“However I say this, we can’t legally resolve character conflicts. And I feel you’ve gotten some Commissioners down there who simply don't like each other. "
Powell said it is very difficult to follow public opinion about the Augustan government's decline, while the rest of the state continues to develop steadily.
Freddie Handy, interim Commissioner for Augusta, who also served on the First Committee of the Consolidated Government, said she was uncertain, however, whether a change to the Consolidation Act was the answer.
"I don't assume you must change the bill simply to vary it," Handy said. "If you want to change the authorities since you feel we don't have enough management at the prime, that's one factor. For those who assume we need to change the authorities as a result of it makes issues smoother, it's one other matter. But you need to take a look at who benefits from the authorities. It’s a must to show to the public that changing the invoice will remedy the drawback. " ] "The very fact is, if Columbia County consolidates and progress continues over the final 10 years, Columbia County will develop into the dominant province in the area," Kuhlke said. "It's the fact. And all your federal cash goes to the District of Columbia. "
However, Kuhlke said he did not expect the county of Augusta's neighboring county to unite soon.
" Stabilization shouldn’t be straightforward for Columbia County either. "Kuhlke said." They don't have the race-related state of affairs we’ve here, however they have peat wars. You take a look at Harlem and Grovetown. They're rather a lot like Hephzibah and Blythe in Richmond County. Those cities are proud and need to protect their id. "

Competition Shame

Ever since Sconyers resigned as mayor in 1998, he stated he was shocked at the approach the Commissioners handled one another in public.
"It's a shame," the swarmers stated. “I consider the Augusta Fee has a worse race at the moment than we did 10 years in the past. And there's no excuse for that. But I feel the method the government was shaped with five white and 5 black commissioners really created a division. "
Rob Zetterberg, a former Augusta commissioner who now spends six months at home in Michigan, said. that he is proud of the work he has done during the consolidation, even though it was challenging to deal with racial disparities between Commissioners.
"I consider that via consolidation, we virtually put the dying penalty on the previous boy system," Zetterberg said. "And I'm very proud of. But we have been by no means capable of share the logjam between representatives of southern Augusta, like Mr Powell, who would goal minority commissioners and forestall many vital modifications.
“I discovered it very troublesome to maneuver forward as a result of I nonetheless really feel that there is distrust between competitions. It was with me that the white group was very happy to share power, but I consider the minority group has made use of it. "

A decade without divorce

as a member of the Commission who was all the time ready to discuss proposals Every of his colleagues, Todd, stated he was additionally horrified by what he calls" race bait "in the Fee.
"During stabilization, politics was not as personal as it is now," Todd stated. "We didn't challenge who had the idea, and we had much better relationships between the majority and minority communities."
However before voters purchase the "doom and gloom" state of affairs from Augusta, interim mayor Mays believes that residents should truly look into each constructive and destructive government points.
"Every time you form a new government, there are pits on the road," Mays stated. “You have to make sure that you have not created a government that is based on any personality or is designed to win support from anywhere in the city. But we are not a city in crisis.
“Instead, I believe that strengthening is what you do about it. As an interim mayor of this task, I may have lost the vote, but I did not lose my voice, I did not lose my vision and my thoughts. So I, personally, have to do what I have to do with the other 10 Commissioners. You cannot blame identity failures on the reunion. ”

Stacey Eidson