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Augusta, GA

Augusta leaders look to check every corner with Parks and Rec audit

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Augusta leaders look to check every corner with Parks and Rec audit


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Augusta commissioners took another step toward auditing the Parks and Recreation Department, following the departure of former director Maurice McDowell.

On Tuesday, a committee approved the audit. Now, it’s up to the full commission to decide next week.

They’re trying to clean the slate, following a controversial departure.

“What we want to make sure we’re doing is adding in processes that will make our city more transparent,” said Commissioner Jordan Johnson.

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Right now, they’ve narrowed the field down to 16 candidates to fill the Parks and Rec head position. While they look to the future of that position, they’re also looking to make sure there are no lingering issues from the past.

Some areas they are interested in exploring in the audit include Riverwalk expenditures, park expenditures, hotel stays with locations by employees, an IT search if any documents were deleted, community center dollars and more.

The auditing firm they selected, UHY, would charge a little more than $70,000 to explore this and more, within 90 days of commissioners’ approval.

Commissioners also tossed around the idea of tacking on audits for other issues they came across, like a new furniture request for a little more than $150,000 for the new Henry Brigham Center.

Commissioner Catherine Smith-McKnight said: “Ya’ll ain’t gonna wanna hear this, but it is beginning to smell fishier than a fish market.”

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Commissioner Brandon Garrett responded: “I’m not even sure where to pick up on this one. Well, you know, apparently they stink.”

In every instance, commissioners brought up the need for more audits and oversight.

But a $300,000 to $400,000 full government operational audit failed to pass months ago.

“Again, more accountability has got to be put in place in this government that is just not there currently,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom.

Also at Commission…

  • SPLOST 9 work session scheduled is scheduled for June 20. Infrastructure and Facilities Work and FY25 Budget Retreat is scheduled for June 26.
  • Three Flock Cameras will be placed at the three entrances to Goshen Plantation for one year, with a total cost of $10,500.
  • Commissioners approved 17 Dodge police chargers and a Dodge Durango for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office for $840,749.26.



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Augusta, GA

Laura Warren says goodbye to News 12

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Laura Warren says goodbye to News 12


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – After 13 years working at News 12, we could not let Laura Warren go without saying a great job and taking a quick look back.

As a broadcast news major at the University of Georgia, there was no question about Laura’s career.

She’s a storyteller. The only question was where.

And once she decided to work as an intern here, she set her sights on Augusta and never looked back.

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Laura’s hard work, determination, and skills as an intern stood out, and she had a job here before she graduated.

Since she was still in college, she drove from Athens to Augusta every weekend.

After about a year, she joined in the evenings, anchoring the 5 o’clock newscast. Turning stories every day, then hustling back to the set.

Things happened fast in her personal life, too. We were already part of the family when she got married, and it wasn’t very long until Laura was sitting next to Richard at 6 and 11 and turning stories for our brand-new I-TEAM.

We were there as her family grew — first a son, then a daughter.

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Balancing all with a demanding career and making it all look easy.

Along with the daily newscasts, there were the parades, tree lightings, telethons for the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, and of course, the Masters.

Laura is one of those journalists who is always looking for solutions. If there’s something she can do to make things better, she will. That’s how The Great Augusta Duck Dash was born, raising money to ensure kids have a safe place to sleep.

It’s been quite a ride, from storm coverage to snow coverage.

She’s reported from the highest highs to the lowest lows.

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We’ve seen Laura lending her time and talents to all kinds of causes through the years, from the Special Olympics to the Heart Ball.

But she’s never been afraid to hop in a ditch if the story calls for it.

And through it all, Laura likes to remind us she’s a Bulldog. Traveling across the country to bring us the excitement of a national championship or two.

And the good news is we really don’t have to say goodbye. Laura and her husband Austin, have decided to raise their kids right here.

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Augusta, GA

‘I know she’s smiling’: Local coach’s influence lives on

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‘I know she’s smiling’: Local coach’s influence lives on


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – As the graduates from Cross Creek High School file in to take their seats, joy in the James Brown Arena is palpable.

Everywhere you look, there’s a loved one celebrating.

Quanda Ball should be one of them.

The 43-year-old’s body was found in a car at Pendleton King Park Tuesday. Investigators are calling her death “suspicious.”

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“She would have been clapping and yelling and screaming,” said Krystle Johnson. “She would have been really proud.”

Ball never had any children of her own, but it’s fair to say, she still had a lot of kids.

Krystle Johnson met Ball through a mutual friend when they were looking for a coach for the Lady Grinders, a local girls travel basketball team. She says Ball instantly became family to the girls on the team.

“She was that Auntie that they needed,” Johnson laughed.

Just ask Michaela Bogans.

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She started playing for “Coach Q” in the 6th grade.

“I know she’s smiling right now,” Bogans said.

Bogans will be playing at the next level next year; she signed to play Division I basketball at Morgan State and leaves for Baltimore in July.

Bogans helped lead Cross Creek to four region titles and the Lady Razorbacks’ first-ever state championship.

“Coach Q, she means a lot to me. She was amazing. She told me I could do anything that I put my mind to,” Bogans said. “She was an inspiration to me. I looked up to her.”

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Ball was quite the baller herself, playing D I ball for William and Mary.

Before that, she helped lead Curtis Baptist to the 1996 GISA state championship. The following year, she played for Richmond Academy and helped her team win the 1997 GHSA AAA High School State Championship. They were the first-ever team from Augusta to win a state championship in Class AAA.

“She was a really good person,” said Tiara Turner, a 2024 grad from Cross Creek. “A nice person. A good coach – a GREAT coach.”

Turner has been playing for Coach Q since middle school. Cross Creek teammate and fellow 2024 graduate Alaya Henry says she learned a lot about life from Coach Q.

“I had a game where I walked out of the gym, and she followed me out there and told me to tighten up – do it for the team,” said Henry. “Can’t just think about yourself no more.”

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On this day of celebration, the Cross Creek graduates are thinking about others; they’re reflecting on how they each got to this point. For the young ladies Coach Q mentored, that means celebrating Coach Q’s impact, too.

“There’s a song that we would sing in church called ‘May The Work That I’ve Done Speak For Me,” Johnson said. “And I hope the work that Quanda has done in our community – especially with our girls – continues to live on.”

As an AAU coach, she wasn’t just a mentor for girls at Cross Creek; she coached girls in schools all across Richmond County.

When she wasn’t on the court, Ball also worked as a nurse, dedicating her life to caring for others.

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Augusta, GA

Investments in 2 Georgia plants bring promises of more jobs

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Investments in 2 Georgia plants bring promises of more jobs


ATLANTA, Ga. – Some big economic news broke Thursday in the Peach State: The federal government will spend $75 million to help build a factory making glass parts for computer chips, while a company that makes disposable baby diapers and wipes says it will spend $418 million to expand its Macon plant.

In Covington

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced an investment Thursday in Absolics, part of South Korea’s SK Group.

The plant in Covington was announced in 2021. The company said Thursday that it will spend more than $300 million on a first phase, with plans to hire 300 workers. The company could spend more money and hire more workers later, spokesperson Kelsey Flora said.

Construction is underway, and test batch production has begun, Flora said. Production is supposed to begin increasing in 2025.

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The plant will make a glass substrate that is used to package semiconductors. Federal officials say the substrate will enable more densely packed connections between semiconductors, leading to faster computers that use less electricity.

The Department of Commerce said this is the first time the CHIPS and Science Act has been used to fund a factory making a new advanced material for semiconductors. The 2022 federal law authorized the spending of $280 billion to aid the research and manufacturing of semiconductors in the United States.

The technology was developed at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The SK Group hired a former researcher from the university to help commercialize the substrate.

“It is strategically essential that the United States have this domestic manufacturing capacity, and it’s a tremendous opportunity for the state of Georgia to lead the nation in manufacturing and innovation,” U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff told reporters on Thursday. The Georgia Democrat has supported the effort.

SK Group owns an adjoining plant that makes polyester films that can be used on solar panels, in packaging and for other uses. The Korean conglomerate also owns a $2.6 billion complex to make batteries for electric vehicles in Commerce, northeast of Atlanta.

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In Macon

A company that makes disposable baby diapers, training pants and baby wipes announced Thursday that it will spend $418 million to expand its Macon plant, hiring 600 new employees.

First Quality Enterprises, based in Great Neck, New York, had announced in March that it would expand its capacity to make baby diapers and training pants by 50%, including a new factory, new diaper and training pant manufacturing lines and a new automated warehouse.

This is the new Parker's Kitchen at Mike Padgett Highway and Tobacco Road in Augusta.

The company has said the expansion is expected to be completed by June 2025. The new buildings will be next to the company’s current facility in Macon, which has 580 employees. First Quality has owned that plant since buying it from Covidien Retail Products in 2008.

“This expansion is a testament to First Quality’s innovative products and continuing commitment to the baby diaper market,” Allen Bodford, president of First Quality’s Absorbent Hygiene Division, said in a statement.

First Quality makes diapers, training pants, wipes and absorbent underwear for adults that is generally sold by retailers under store brands. The company is owned by the Damaghi family, which founded it in 1989.

The state in the past has paid to train workers for First Quality.

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State and local officials did not immediately disclose what incentives they offered to First Quality. The company could qualify for $12 million in state income tax credits, at $4,000 per job over five years, as long as workers earn at least $33,000 a year.



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