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Augusta, GA Spends $1 Million on Relocations Despite Financial Problems

The following report is part 3 of Watchdog Wire’s investigation into Augusta, Georgia’s Hyde Park Regional Detention Pond project. View Part 1 and Part 2 for more information. 

Augusta, GA has experienced serious financial problems in recent years, but that’s not stopping them from kicking families off their land in the Hyde Park neighborhood to build a pond.

The relocation of families has cost over $1 million so far, according to a Sept. 2013 report from WDRW, the local CBS station. Residents of Hyde Park are being relocated as part of a $18 million project to build the Hyde Park Regional Detention Pond. As of Sept. 2012, the city had just $4 set aside for the project.

The city is moving forward with this expensive project despite financial woes. Watchdog Wire previously reported the city experienced budgetary problems last year and was forced to borrow from a reserve fund.

The city recently faced an $8 million dollar shortfall and borrowed at least $2.8 million from the reserve fund in recent years.

The Augusta Commission has also drawn from the reserve fund to pay legal fees. In April 2013, the city faced a legal defeat in the state Supreme Court which cost the city $120,000, money that was not in the budget.

Homeowners reportedly started moving out in Sept. 2013. Media reports in Augusta have quoted residents who are happy about moving, but Watchdog Wire has interviewed residents who don’t share their enthusiasm.

“I don’t know what they are doing over here, but they are really interrupting my life,” one female resident told Watchdog Wire.

“I went back in debt to have my home renovated because they initially said I was going to stay,” the woman added. “People let their homes run down waiting to be relocated.”

The city has reportedly been after the Hyde Park property for years. At one time, the city claimed the land was contaminated, but environmental tests later proved that to be largely untrue.

Watchdog Wire made an open records request in Dec. 2013 after city officials refused to answer questions.

As a result of our open records request, the city’s law department sent us 108 pages of documents at a cost of $126.80.

In a letter signed by city attorney Wayne Brown, the city claimed it could not provide an estimate for the cost.

“Due to the nature of this request, the direct administrative cost for compiling this information cannot be estimated at this time,” the letter read.

After receiving the invoice for $126.80, Mr. Brown was asked to provide a breakdown of the administrative costs, which he sent late last week. The updated letter shows some interesting numbers for how much city employees are paid. One person fulfilling the request makes over $50 an hour.

For more on Watchdog Wire’s open records request, read part 2 and part 1 of our investigation.

Josh Kaib

Josh Kaib is the Assistant Editor of Watchdog Wire. Twitter: @joshkaib

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