Augusta’s Black Hole of Transportation Finance

OPINION by the Arrowflinger

Two months ago on the 13th of March, Augusta Engineering Director Dr. Hameed Malik appeared before the Engineering Committee of the Augusta Commission to provide an update on the downtown Transportation Investment Act projects. Please listen to these comments by Dr. Hameed referencing the need for Augusta to cut, downsize, delay, and even cancel the TIA projects in the middle of the program and especially the end of the Augustan TIA program. At the end he mentions discussions to do another REGIONAL TIA with other counties.

What? Augusta gave away $109 million to 12 other counties to make TIA work and its OWN projects face lack of funds? Only in Augusta!

Source – CSRA Region TIA Constrained Tool Master Spreadsheet
supporting the CSRA TIA Program at the time of passage in 2012

What? The projects at the end are short of money after the Augusta National Berckmans Road TIA projects were built to the hilt?

What? The first project completed, Riverwatch Parkway was to cost $30 million ($20 million TIA) but news reports said the TIA money was $30 million and the total cost $65 million. Doesn’t this scream that the 15% revenue shortfalls and enormous overruns mean that the out of control program needs a new regional one to cover it all up, and, as Dr Hameed said, to finish the present TIA projects?

Why are the politicians not telling the good people of Augusta and Columbia County, the other major donor county, that the Georgia Legislature passed Single County TIA/Tsplost in 2016, so Augusta could keep its $109 million after 2022? Even tiny Dade County can have its TIA without all of these complications.The 2016 bill prohibits getting out of a regional TIA mess until it is complete, so they are stuck.

Agraynation.com readers will recall several downtown projects got sent to the back of the TIA bus to allow the Augusta National finagling to build the Berckmans Road project to the max. Furthermore, during the TSPLOST debate and later this site provided enough facts to the public that Columbia County decisively, including the financial trickery in the numbers now apparent in the 16% shortage in funding.

Senators Hardie Davis, Jr. and Bill Jackson of the Augusta Delegation hatched this money transfer out of Augusta back in 2010. Now the damage is coming clear.

Why do establishment politicians continue to embrace a failed regional government while feeding it Hundreds of millions of dollars? Why do none talk about the double taxation that hit Augusta area to the tune of another $550 million with the new fuel taxes in 2015?

Only Representative Barry Fleming showed the bravery to promise corrective action.

Elect folks like Barry. Send the others down the road where they sent your money.
-AF

Are Herbert or Tucker any Match for THE ARMADA?

OPINION by The Arrowflinger

Rarely, if ever, has there been such a display of raw, naked, affluent power as this fundraiser handbill for a candidate for the Chair of the Columbia County Commission.

This invitation to a (fundraising) “Event” for Doug Duncan, now the District 1 Commissioner, might have dissuaded Mark Herbert and Pam Tucker from even qualifying. It didn’t.

It is breathtaking. This is a crew perfectly capable of raising $400,000 or even more, if they want to maintain their ironclad control of Columbia County.

They do.

Over here one finds fellow Commissioners Trey Allen, Gary Richardson, and Bill Morris. Not an overt sponsor on this invite, current Chairman Ron Cross has been cited in the Augusta Chronicle as donating heavily to Duncan’s campaign. On it we find stalwart backers of Cross from earlier campaigns like Jean Garniewicz and the Ivey Brothers.

Over there one sees the names of three voting members of a board of directors of a bank, that kinda, sorta got a timely backdoor bailout from Columbia County, Robert Pollard, Ron Thigpen and Larry Prather.

A bunch of the rest are developers, realtors, and builders.

Of course, no campaign endorsement list for a Columbia County incumbent politician worth his, or her, salt is complete without Sheriff Clay Whittle. He has been at this for decades now, hasn’t he?

The most amazing aspect of this list are the power brokers from old Augusta throwing their weight into this contest. State Department of Transportation Board member (former Chairman) and former Augusta Commissioner Don Grantham, former Georgia Representative Barbara Sims, and former State Department of Transportation Board member and former Augusta Commissioner Bill Kuhlke are on this list. Throw in names like McKnight and Hull – both of those last names emblazoned on the new Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training in Augusta – and you get a stunning array of power.

This election might have been over before it started.

But then again…

The political seafloor is littered with invincible armadas that suddenly developed holes in their Hulls.

-Arrowflinger