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!
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, including the financial trickery in the numbers now apparent in the 16% shortage in funding, that Columbia County decisively said “NO!”
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 becoming 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 the 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.