North Augusta’s mayor, city council and department directors gathered at the Municipal Building on Thursday for the annual North Augusta Forward retreat.
The day-long meeting featured presentations from each city department regarding their accomplishments, needs and brief discussions about the future plans.
Director John Potter discussed the status of sales tax projects, including the upcoming sales tax III projects.
Sales tax III projects include the completion of a third station for public safety, widening of Martintown Road at Knobcone Avenue intersection with a traffic signal, a new public safety headquarters, development of a new park, and the expansion of the Greeneway and its connectors. Sales tax III.
The city expects to receive the first check for sales tax III in July.
“We get our money on a consistent basis on a quarterly basis,” said Potter.
He also noted the need to consider ways of gaining additional revenue in 2014.
“There’s been no tax increase for 21 years,” he said. “At some point, you may have to consider that to continue to provide the same level of service and also compensate the employees,” he said.
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT
Interim director Scott Sterling discussed mass grading and showed pictures of various grading.
Currently, the city doesn’t have any policy that prohibits or require mass grading, he said.
Sterling suggested that the current regulations should be reviewed and determine what areas should be addressed such as tree preservation, natural terrain preservation and maintaining the North Augusta neighborhood character.
ENGINEERING AND PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT
Director Tom Zeaser stated that the department has received a number of requests from residents wanting sidewalks o their streets.
He recommended creating a formal means for people to express their desire to have sidewalks. One way would be to create a petition form and require a minimum percentage of affected property owners to sign it in order for the city to consider the street for the sidewalk program, he said.
Under the road reconstruction program, the department looked at older neighborhood streets with open ditches. Such streets require a lot of maintenance and can be dangerous for motorists and pedestrians, said Zeaser.
Through sales tax funds, the department has been able to reconstruct several residential streets under sales tax I and the program has been reintroduced under sales tax III.
PUBLIC SERVICES DEPARTMENT
The public services department is looking to increase the number of participants in its recycling program. An audit showed that about 42 percent of the city roll carts contained the city’s blue bags, which are designated for recyclables, said the department’s director James Sutton.
Of the blue bags collected, about 42 percent of its contents are unrecyclable items.
Promoting and educating is going to be important to increasing the number of people using blue bags and the amount of recyclables received, he said.
PARKS, RECREATION AND LEISURE SERVICES
Director Rick Meyer discussed the need to expand the Riverview Park gym and about the possibility of bringing a dog park to North Augusta.
The gym houses the annual Nike Peach Jam and also is home to the department’s recreation basketball program which has about 550 players. Expanding the gym will help ensure that space is available for the program’s participants, residents who use the gym recreationally and to attract and keep events such as the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, he said.
He also presented information about dog parks and possible areas one could be placed in North Augusta.
Suggested locations were next to the Hammond’s Ferry soccer complex and the Waterworks Park site.
Ideally, the park would have space for small dogs and a separate space for large dogs, he said.
PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT
Director John Thomas spoke about the need to have a new headquarters due to the department’s current building conditions.
One solution would be to build around the existing building, similar to what has been done in Apex, N.C. for its police department, said Thomas.
The department’s captains also discussed the needs for an increase in manpower and a training facility.
Since 1981, the number of patrol officers has grown only one person per patrol shift however the number of calls received has nearly quadrupled in the same time period.
A training facility with a training building, pistol range, rifle range, driving course and fire burn building would keep officers from traveling to other such facilities for training, they stated.