News - June 17, 2016

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James Brown Plaza upgrades to resume


Work resumes Monday on an estimated $147,500 upgrade at James Brown Plaza, although the Augusta Commission has yet to name a source for the remaining project funds.

City Engineering Director Abie Ladson said the removal of several large trees surrounding the statue of Brown will begin Monday. The trees shaded the plaza but were damaged when city workers cut through their root system while digging trenches for new irrigation lines.

Ladson said the tree removal will take about a week and will be followed by the installation of street lighting, then the setting of irrigation heads and construction of the project “hardscape.”

Earlier sketches show the hardscape to include brickwork, paving and new backless benches incorporating biographical details about Brown, such as his No. 1 hits and music awards.
The final phase of work, set for the week of July 8, includes planting new shrubs and trees and installing “stage lights” around the statue, according to Ladson’s schedule.

So far, however, commissioners have authorized only about $45,000 from last year’s general fund capital budget for the project, not enough to cover what Ladson estimated was a $147,500 project. “If we can get that funding, we can get the work wrapped up in mid-August,” he said.

The project was designed by architect Cooper Carry, hired to complete a $1.2 million downtown master plan for Broad and several side streets funded in Band 3 of the Transportation Investment Act, with help from subcontractors the firm brought aboard.

Phase 3 collections of the 1 percent transportation sales tax aren’t in yet, however, so additional funding would have to come from some other source such as TIA discretionary funds, Ladson said. Commissioners agreed during a committee meeting Tuesday that another meeting of the economic development subcommittee overseeing the project was in order to determine an additional funding source and possibly make other changes to the project. Commissioner Ben Hasan said the project was a “very small investment, less than $150,000,” but worth the effort.

“I think we need to be aggressive in doing this,” said Commissioner Marion Williams, who has championed the effort to capitalize on the singer’s legacy to increase tourism.