The year has been filled with many accomplishments, but challenges are ahead, according to reports given by local officials Dec. 18 during the Greater North Augusta Chamber of Commerce A.M. Connection meeting.
Representatives from the city of North Augusta, Aiken County Council, Aiken County Public Schools and Fort Gordon participated in the event at the North Augusta Community Center.
AIKEN COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
This year, the district received an excellent performance rating on its report card and had a graduation rate of 80 percent. Its 2013 graduates received more than $45 million in scholarships, said Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Everitt as she offered an overview of some of the district’s accomplishments.
One of the challenges ahead for the district is promptly addressing facility needs.
There is a push for a change in legislation that would give the district the option to put a one-cent sales tax to a vote. The purpose of the tax would be to help maintain facilities, Everitt said.
While there are some schools that have recently been updated or added onto, there are others that are still in need, such as North Augusta High School, she said.
The Phase I addition onto North Augusta High School is expected to begin soon, but to complete all the phases, it would be “into the 2030s when it’s finished” because of limited funding, she said.
“We think that’s too long,” she said, adding that additional funding options would help complete projects quicker.
NORTH AUGUSTA PUBLIC SAFETY
North Augusta Public Safety Chief John Thomas highlighted the agency’s level of cooperation with other agencies and the amount of training the department’s officers participate in to stay prepared to keep the community safe.
A challenge facing the department is keeping up with a growing city. North Augusta has grown in square mileage, and the number of calls for service has significantly increased, said Thomas.
To help address the growing need, the City Council included the addition of two new officers in the 2014 budget. The plan is to add two new officers per year starting in 2014 for four years.
A third public safety station will be built on Belvedere-Clearwater Road. Construction is expected to start around March and be complete by the end of next year. The station will cover the Lakes & Streams neighborhood area, he said.
CITY OF NORTH AUGUSTA
For the 22nd year, the city passed a budget without a property tax increase, said Mayor Lark Jones.
He also spoke about a recent presentation made to city council by the Buxton Co. about matching the community with businesses, mentioning that it “would be a good partnership.”
It has also been a year since Project Jackson was announced, said Jones, referring to the December 2012 announcement of a proposed $144 million riverfront development that would include a baseball stadium that would be the new home of the Augusta GreenJackets.
Jones briefly spoke about what has taken place over the past year, stating that the project would benefit the city of North Augusta in addition to local schools and the county. He also mentioned the recent lawsuit filed against the city regarding the Tax Increment Financing ordinance and the recent resolution on legal action passed by city council.