Got friends in Richmond County?
This would be a good time to remind them to vote. Your wallet may depend on it.
After a week of early voting, the polls open Tuesday in Augusta for registered voters to cast their ballots on Richmond County's bond referendum, with two separate bond issues totalling $160 million. Of that amount, $100 million would pay for the city's new judicial center and more law-enforcement facilities; the rest would go toward building an entertainment and sports arena at Regency Mall.
Why is this important to Columbia County taxpayers? Because if voters in Augusta say no, the arena project ball will be in our court.
For the past six months or so, a Columbia County committee has been studying a proposal to build an arena out here if the Augusta project fails. That committee, quite rightly, has delayed its final report until after Augusta's referendum.
If Augusta voters reject the arena funding, it's a pretty good bet that the committee will recommend pursuing the project in Columbia County. Even committee members who at the start were dead-set against the idea have become convinced that our community would greatly benefit from a modern sports and entertainment facility.
Bringing the arena to Columbia County would almost guarantee a better facility and less operational headaches; after all, even though Augusta's Coliseum Authority will have nothing to do with the new facility, just its shadow is enough to make taxpayers queasy. Such dysfunctional leadership wouldn't be a problem out here.
However, there's no denying that locating the facility in Columbia County could be very expensive - especially without help from Augusta's larger tax base and lower-cost land.
This community needs a new arena, but cross your fingers that Tuesday's referendum passes: Columbia County's taxpayers would be better off if Augusta's taxpayers agreed to build it.
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