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GA: Augusta Commissioners order city to find more funds for broke Hyde Park project

The Augusta Commission addressed the financial problems with the Hyde Park project Tuesday night.

The controversial stormwater facility project, which currently requires the city to relocate all residents of the Hyde Park neighborhood, is out of money. Watchdog Wire has previously reported on the project’s budget issues.

Due to the funding shortage, the city has postponed relocations and isn’t tearing down houses that have already been vacated. So far 30 residents have been relocated, but their houses have not been demolished. Sixty families remain.

This situation has drawn the ire of the commission.

“We have law against the cruelty of animals and we should at least treat our citizens as well. Let’s move them out. Put them in the rental property. Continue the process and then when the money is available go ahead and put them in a home that was comparable than the one they left in Hyde Park,” Commissioner Bill Locket said.

Commissioner Marion Williams told WJBF’s George Eskola that he’s “really disappointed in the community for not speaking up” about the people of Hyde Park. Residents are unsure of their futures. Where will they live in the next year: Hyde Park, elsewhere in Augusta, or outside of the county?

They don’t know where they’re going, and we don’t know where people have gone so far. Attempts to obtain relocation records from Augusta were met with resistance, and Watchdog Wire’s open records request was denied. Budget watchdogs are concerned that Hyde Park residents are being relocated out of the area, meaning that tax dollars could be going to other cities and counties.

The Hyde Park project is supposed to reduce flooding in the region through the use of a detention pond. The area hasn’t flooded in at least two decades.

Environmental concerns about the project remain. According to government documents obtained by Watchdog Wire, the area’s soil is contaminated by cadmium, lead, and mercury. Park of the demolition process may require soil remediation to decontaminate the area.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Commission ordered officials with the finance, housing, and engineering departments to find funds for the project. The city was originally counting on funding from SPLOST 7 (Special-purpose local-option sales tax), but voters rejected the tax in May.

The city needs $5.3 million to finish relocations. More will be needed to actually build the detention pond, if that’s what the city still plans to do with the land after relocations are finished.

Click here for all our stories on Hyde Park

Featured image: Shutterstock.com 

Josh Kaib

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

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Government Transparency, Infrastructure, Must Read, News, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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