Public feedback is sought

It takes a lot of people to make city government run smoothly.  The city council makes the big decisions and sets policy direction, and other decisions are made each day by city staff.   
The job of a city council member isn’t easy.
Augusta’s growth is inevitable, and City Council makes the hard decisions when it comes to development while still working with the community to move forward.
It was clear at this week’s city council meeting that most of the councilors want citizen participation in the decision-making process, especially when it comes to the issue of North Ohio St.  
 Does the stretch of North Ohio from Belmont to the city limits need to be widened to 3 lanes or does the City simply maintain the existing 2 lane corridor?
It’s hard to know what citizens want if the council doesn’t hear from them.  Whether it is through advisory boards and committees, telephone calls, social media, letters and emails, the City Council wants input from citizens.
“I struggle with what knowing what the community values.  We’ve tried social media... But we haven’t polled the Street Tax Committee.  We need their input and my task for them would be to get that community input,” Councilman Cale Magruder stated.
He added that he would like to see a public hearing conducted and obtain a consensus on  whether the street sales tax be spent on their neighborhood streets or totally on a North Ohio Street Project for several years.
“We need to put our finger on the pulse of the community,” Magruder said.
Mayor Mike Rawlings advised if a meeting was to take place, that it would need to be held soon.
Councilman Jamie Crum asked about constructing a large sign on Ohio St. north of White Eagle Credit Union asking for input from the citizens.
City Manager Josh Shaw advised if the goal is to actually get the pulse of the community, a public hearing would not be the best way to obtain input.
“Public hearings are the lowest form of engagement. The Street Sales Tax Committee has had hearings for years and no one attends,” Shaw continued, “Your goal makes sense but the mode leaves a lot to be desired...We’ve always struggled with the public meeting format.  I don’t have an answer, but the hearings just don’t do it.”
Magruder again pointed out that the Sales Tax Committee has a wealth of knowledge and input from citizens.
Councilman Tom Leffler wasn’t sure how helpful more public input would be and Councilor Crum agreed.
Mayor Rawlings stated that it would be “good to hear” if the community wants to fix N. Ohio Street, construct a new 3 lane corridor, devote all the street sales tax to other streets and figure out another way to fund Ohio Street.
Councilman Reavis weighed in. “I agree with Cale in that some how people need to realize that Ohio Street is a major expense and we don’t have enough money to do it all.”
“You’re having the right conversation, I just think there’s better ways than the public hearings for feedback if that’s the goal,” Shaw added, “If engagement is the goal, find other ways to get the feedback.  You just have to come to some conclusions to make the decisions.”
Councilor Kip Richardson reminded the Council that different parts of town want different things.
“And everyone knows when we meet. Meetings are televised and we’re all about letting people know what’s going on,” said Crum.
It was suggested to post an appeal for input on the City’s Facebook page and website.
Monday night no decision was formally made concerning obtaining feedback from citizens on the North Ohio Street issue.
It’s easy to contact City Council. Visit the City of Augusta’s website at: http://www.augustagov.org/.  Contact information for the council members are listed.  You can reach out through Facebook, too.
Augusta City Council meetings are scheduled at 7 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of the month  in the Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 113 E. Sixth.   These meetings are open to the public.  Residents are encouraged to attend or watch the live meetings on Channel 7.
The City Council would like to hear from you.