Sunday, March 3, 2013
Editor's note: Round two of the Aiken County's Capital Projects Sales Tax program is drawing to a close, and local government administrators are transitioning into round three, which was approved by voters in 2010. Round two was approved by voters in 2004. This story takes a look at the projects in the City of North Augusta that were slated for sales tax funding.
The municipal building, known as the seat of North Augusta's government and also a magnet for a variety of special events, has drawn $5.5 million - the local lion's share of funding in the Capital Projects Sales Tax's second round.
The building opened its doors in 2009. The entire amount has been spent, and the building plays host to organizations and events ranging the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce to the North Augusta High School prom.
Another major draw on the tax, the community's recreation facilities, hauled in a little less of the $19.35 million that North Augusta received. Additions to Riverview Park were priced at $2.57 million, and renovations for the park were set at $2.24 million.
The overall package has generally drawn thumbs-up reviews from the people who have helped set the priorities.
"The second round has gone well," said North Augusta City Councilman Arthur Shealy. "We're very pleased with the work. The Capital Projects Sales Tax option has become a valuable source of funding for improvements that the citizens welcome."
Councilman Pat Carpenter described the process as "going as scheduled" and noted that she and her cohorts are now awaiting the third round.
"There's some people wanting sidewalks," she said, citing the example of a man who sees her in Gary's Hamburgers every day and always brings up the topic.
The results of work in Riverview Park have been beautiful, she added.
Rick Meyer, the director of Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services, described himself and his cohorts as "absolutely thrilled" with the end result and pointed toward March 23 as the date for the park's "grand re-opening" to coincide with the opening day for recreation-league softball and baseball.
Among the North Augusta Department of Public Safety's stated goals in recent years has been the construction of a second sub-station, to help spread out manpower and other resources, with a goal of reaching trouble spots more quickly.
Referring to the agency's headquarters, Carpenter said, "In my book ... they could still have some help down there."
On the small end of the listings is the sum of $480,000 in sidewalk construction, for an estimated two miles of new surfaces. Money on sidewalks has been spent from 2010-2012, but the majority of the tax income - $356,498 - remains to be spent this year.
Mayor Lark Jones described the capital project sales tax as "a major reason why we have not raised property taxes in 21 years."
He added, "It is a method non-residents, by spending money in North Augusta, help pay for the parks, Greeneway and other facilities they use."
About 14 percent of the capital projects sales tax's North Augusta income remains to be spent, and the biggest portion - $1,149,303 - is for intersection improvements. The work has "barely begun," in the words of John Potter, the municipal government's finance director.
Target locations are Five Notch and Pisgah roads, as well as the points where U.S. 25 meets Pisgah Road, Celeste Avenue, Georgia Avenue and Walnut Lane.
Referring to North Augusta's overall portion of the capital project sales tax in its second round, Potter said, "We have received $11 [million] of our $19 million. I mean, it's running pretty much on schedule. There's no time limit as to when the money has to be spent, but, obviously, you want to spend it in a pretty timely fashion."
Where does the money go?
North Augusta Municipal Center
The North Augusta Municipal Center, budgeted for $5.5 million, took shape in 2008 (receiving $1,096,959) and 2009 ($4.403,041). Most of the municipal office space is in the building, on Georgia Avenue, near the state line, and the North Augusta Department of Public Safety has expanded into the former city hall, on Buena Vista Avenue.
Additions to Riverview Park
Additions to Riverview Park are also complete, having had $2.57 million spread between 2009 and 2012. One popular summertime item, a "spraypool," was actually placed a couple of miles away, in Summerfield Park. A scoring tower was added in Riverview Park. Restrooms, meeting rooms, dressing rooms and a main concession stand were also added.
Riverview Park renovations
Riverview Park also received major renovations, all in 2012, to the tune of $2.24 million. The baseball and softball fields - including those that serve as the home fields for North Augusta High School - got a facelift, from the playing surfaces to the dugouts. Two scoring towers were renovated as well, and a traffic circle was added.
Park, open-space development
Some park spending is still under way. Under the category of "parks, Greeneways and open-space development," the total amount planned in 2005 was $1.64 million. Spending so far has included $395,000 in 2009 and $741,802 in 2012, leaving $254,536 to be used this year. One of North Augusta's most popular attractions is the Greeneway (named in honor of former mayor Tom Greene), a paved path that draws pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists, dog-walkers and other users from around the CSRA.
North Augusta Department of Public Safety
The North Augusta Department of Public Safety was allotted $1.875 million for equipment and other purchases related to its second sub-station, to be located on Belvedere-Clearwater Road. Expenditures so far have included $1,008,364 in 2008 and $28,794 in 2012. Remaining for this year is the sum of $637,842.