Members of the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce heard updates ranging from the new public safety headquarters under construction to infrastructure projects on September 14.
City Administrator, Jim Clifford was the guest speaker for the monthly “Good Morning, North Augusta” breakfast in the Palmetto Ballroom at the municipal building.
Clifford began by running down a list of projects he believes make North Augusta attractive for residents and businesses. He pointed to the historic downtown and the “Live, Play Work” community that’s grown in Riverside Village.
“We’re a very strong, growing community, but there’s a lot of things that our elected officials have put into place to make this feel like the small town that is at its core, and whether that’s downtown events, the Third Thursday, things down at the river, baseball games at SRP Park,” he said. “Any of those things kind of bring to me a small-town Americana. And so ultimately, that’s what I see is kind of our brand.”
Clifford said the city government has a number of funding sources to pay for new projects, improvements to existing facilities and make necessary infrastructure repairs and expansions.
Those sources include the city’s five capital project sales tax (CPST) funds and grants received from state agencies such as the Rural Infrastructure Authority. The city also received money from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Clifford hopes the South Carolina legislature will approve a bill that will make North Augusta eligible for a new funding stream.
“Senator (Tom) Young and Representative, Bill Hixon and our legislative delegation introduced legislation which we hope to pass the next term, which will designate our area, Aiken and Edgefield counties, and North Augusta in particular, as my interest, as the military community. Fifty percent of the Fort Gordon workforce lives over here on this side of the river,” he explained. “If we get formally designated as a military community in South Carolina, that makes us eligible for state funding for military improvements.”
He said those funds can be used for projects, including on the Greeneway, that will directly benefit the military families.
As for the existing funds, Clifford expects to close out CPST 1 and 2 by October 1. Some of the last money from those funds have been used to replace a Greeneway bridge damaged by a falling tree and to install SmartCOP 9-11 software for the public safety department.
Money collected through CPST 3 was used to construct a new Fire Station 1 on W. Martintown Road at Observatory Avenue. Approximately, $30,000 remains in that fund. Clifford anticipates using the money for planned improvements to the Sharon Jones Amphitheater with the fund closing in July 2024.
CPST 4 monies have been used for the Bluff Avenue Connector project, which has a budget of $2.5 million. That construction should be complete by Thanksgiving 2023.
CPST 5 is one of the largest remaining. It is paying for the construction of the new public safety headquarters and city court offices on Georgia Avenue at Observatory Avenue. That $25 million project is 38,000 square feet and has a target completion no later than Christmas 2025.
Other projects underway in 2023 are the installation of sidewalks between North Augusta High School and Paul Knox Middle School, and finishing repairs to the Material Recovery Facility that has been extensively damaged in a November 2021 fire.
Looking ahead, Clifford showed maps with the development projects underway, or announced, that are spread across North Augusta.
“Keystone is up here on Gregory Landing, phase three that’s going like crazy. River Falls apartment you can see how those are going up that’s over by Wacky Wayne’s,” he said. “Then this project here is going to have a commercial component on Martintown Road. I think the apartments and single-family homes are going to happen this coming year with commercial follow.”
The largest project North Augusta has ever had is still on the horizon. Highland Springs is a more than 1,300-acre tract bounded by Blanchard Road, Ascauga Lake Road, and Palmetto Parkway. It will have residential and commercial developments.
“So, my understanding is a developer has already been to the county to get road names. That’s a good sign,” said Clifford.
Highland Springs will have residential and commercial developments. One of the gateways to the development is already complete. The Aiken Public School District built the new Highland Springs Middle School on Belvedere-Clearwater Road. It opened for the 2023-2024 school year. It will soon be joined by an elementary school.