Now that Augusta residents have for the second time turned down plans for funding a new civic arena, and a Columbia County citizens committee has recommended moving forward on the project out here, this is a good time to set some people straight " including naysayers and cheerleaders.
First, the naysayers. Augustans clearly dont want to pay for a new arena. But whatever their views, the bloated size of this past Novembers referendum doomed it to failure. And the fate of the June vote was sealed by badly timed property tax reassessments that jacked up some Richmond County property values just before the referendum.
Some sideline critics also complain about the participation of private investors in the project, but why would anyone in their right mind turn up their nose at private investment in a public project? Even if its only a dollar, thats one buck that doesnt come out of taxpayers pockets, and ought to be welcomed.
Now, for the cheerleaders. Just days after Augustas second rejection of the arena idea, Columbia Countys Arena/Entertainment Facility Committee voted unanimously to recommend that county commissioners continue to study the possibility of building an arena here.
Were all for it " studying the idea, that is. Thats the only thing that will settle all the questions about the desirability, and feasibility, of Columbia County taking on what would be its biggest single civic project ever.
Obviously, money is the greatest hurdle. The committees plan to finance the project with bonds paid back through sales-tax dollars means a lot of other projects would go on the back burner " or never even make it onto the stove.
And while no one would expect an arena here to hemorrhage money like Augustas old, undersized and poorly run civic center, its also unrealistic to expect a new, larger civic arena to be a money-maker: Historically, such facilities break even, at best.
Theres a lot more discussion needed on all these plans, and the best place to start is with the committees proposal " not by dwelling on Augustas failed votes. Its unfair to let our neighbors fouled-up experience taint Columbia Countys study.
In the end, voters will still get the final say on any plan. If commissioners and the committee can make a good enough sales pitch, the project will pass. If they cant, it wont.
Let the discussion begin.
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