The Augusta City Council got to go on a shopping spree Monday night thanks to a project coming in about $43,000 below the amount allocated in the budget.
But no matter how much money they had, no one on the governing body expressed a desire to spend about $15,000 to $30,000 on a new Christmas tress for the downtown area.
Three projects were approved.
About $20,000 for new audio-visual equipment for the Council Chambers was set aside in the 2014 budget.
Due to the windfall when the new phone system cost only about $7,000 instead of $50,000, that project will be funded and completed now.
The current system to broadcast and record meetings of the governing body is outdated and malfunctioning. There is only one functioning camera and no zoom capabilities.
The new system will correct the speaker configuration and add multiple camera angles that can be controlled from remote locations.
The walls inside the council chambers will also be painted. The council already purchased new chairs for themselves and the audience and new window treaments for the council chambers. Painting the walls will complete a minor renovation before a new city manager is hired.
Adding wireless internet service inside City Hall was the final project that was funded. Depending on how many wires must be run and how many wireless boosters are added, this project is expected to cost up to $7,500. That will leave about $13,500 un spent that the council has the authority to spend.
But that probably won’t be on a Christmas tree for downtown Augusta. The current tree is about 20 years old. It was damaged in the 1998 flood and takes about 60-80 man hours to install each year.
“I like the idea of the Christmas tree but I have a hard time spending $30,000 on a new one,” Councilor Ron Reavis said.
“Especially in the current location,” Mayor Kristey Williams agreed.
Councilor Jason Lowery said he didn’t want to dismiss the idea of putting up the tree because private funds purchased it and many people have an expectation to see it up every year.
The council will reconsider the project at a future meeting.
Interim City Manager Josh Shaw said the council would face a similar decision next year since $50,000 more was budgeted to complete the phone system in 2014.