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Augusta, GA

I-TEAM: Augusta homeowner questions stormwater fees spending

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I-TEAM: Augusta homeowner questions stormwater fees spending


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Augusta-Richmond County collected more than $15 million in stormwater fees last year.  

The fee was supposed to go toward updating the city’s aging infrastructure which has caused drainage problems, sinkholes and flooding. 

But some homeowners are wondering if the stormwater fee they pay is lost in a sinkhole itself. 

I-TEAM dug into the problem. 

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Commissioners will be talking about how to spend your tax dollars next year, which will include SPLOST money.  

MORE FROM THE I-TEAM:

The interim administrator wants to prioritize infrastructure, but at the same time, the director of engineering says he is short-staffed and needs resources to get the job done. 

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle, is a little slice of paradise off Richmond Hill Road. 

Liz: “And you got a steal for it?” 

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Chelsea Thurmond: “Yeah, it’s like under two point five acres.” 

At least, for a Carolina country girl.  

“I love the city. I do miss home and this is a taste of home,” she said. 

Chelsea Thurmond bought the home two years ago knowing she would have to continue the previous owner’s fight with the city.  

“I said I don’t care, I will deal with the city not knowing the city would be this stressful and frustrating to deal with,” said Thurmond. 

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Frustrating because her country paradise is transforming into a sinking island. 

“That’s where my partner was cutting grass and literally on the riding lawn mower and next thing you know he is halfway down in the hole,” she said. 

A giant sinkhole is swallowing up Thurmond’s yard. And after every heavy rainfall, it gets longer and wider. 

The I-TEAM pulled documents from the superior court that show the sinkhole sits in a county easement and drainage pipe.   

SEE THE WORK ORDERS:

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Thurmond: “It stems from the drain from the main road. That’s where it stems from.” 

Liz: “How long have you been here now?” 

Thurmond: “Two years.” 

Liz: “How long have you been working with the city trying to get something done?” 

Thurmond: “Since I bought the place, and the previous homeowners were working with the city as well.” 

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The previous homeowner emailed the city in 2022 writing: “Have a sinkhole in my front yard. For approximately 14 months, the cause has been a stormwater culvert that spans from Richmond Road across the entire width of the property. The culvert is metal and has rusted out of the bottom. I feel this is a dangerous situation.” 

A city worker responded three weeks later writing in the work order: “Unable to locate the box that has the pipe traveling the direction of the sinkhole. The crawler will not go through the pipe due to holes throughout the metal pipe.” 

The city writes in another work order five months later: “There is a box located at 158 feet with a cross pipe going towards Richmond Hill Road after 46 feet it turns into metal again and the pipe is ok condition.”  

The city patched the pipe with cement the next day.  

ANOTHER I-TEAM INVESTIGATION:

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“It’s literally one long thing that starts at the road and goes under the driveway and goes over there,” said Thurmond. 

Thurmond sent pictures to engineering in June 2023.  

“We have another serious issue. The drain was backed up and completely washed out our driveway,” she said.  

But the city closed out the work order two days later, writing “Don’t see nothing with the driveway.” 

“As you can see it’s getting closer to my shop, and every heavy rain creates a longer part of the trench or spreads outward, and it’s dangerously close to the shop,” she said. 

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The most recent work order is dated January of this year. 

Liz: “Have they closed out work orders? Do you know?” 

Thurmond: “Nobody talks to me.” 

We checked. The work order is still open six months later.  

“It’s terrible. We pay to live here. Why isn’t appropriate action being taken?” asked Thurmond. 

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Not only does she pay her property taxes, but also stormwater fees that go to capitol projects like replacing and repairing storm pipes.  

A work order from December 2020 shows the city used capital funds to replace the pipe, but they only filled in the sinkhole they did not replace the pipe.  

The same year, the city spent more than $800,000 on capital projects collected from stormwater fees. 

“It’s past frustration. I’m like how you can neglect taxpayers like this because this is clearly not our problem,” said Thurmond. 

Our I-TEAM reached out to the director of engineering but have not heard back. 

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Augusta, GA

What 911 calls and radio traffic tell us about downtown Augusta shooting

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What 911 calls and radio traffic tell us about downtown Augusta shooting


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – New 911 calls and public safety radio traffic paint a chaotic scene of Saturday’s shootout in downtown Augusta that sent people running for their lives.

In the calls, you can hear the urgency in the voices calling for help after gunfire rang out in the heart of downtown.

At around 1:13 a.m., a deputy calls into dispatch shouting “gunfire” multiple times. Dispatch repeatedly calls to all units, then shouts “one down.”

DOWNTOWN SHOOTING: TEAM COVERAGE

Roughly around the same time, 911 calls started to come in.

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A caller stated they were reporting gun shots around Greene Street, but wasn’t sure exactly where or how many.

As all of this is going on, crowds of people flood to the streets.

“I need everybody on 11th Street to block off. I need 10th Street blocked off. I need the intersections blocked off. The extra units, I need everybody to actually clear everybody on foot. All foot traffic has to go,” said one deputy on the scene.

From left: Amazing Brigham and Seven Whitfield(Contributed)

Deputies and dispatch start discussing how many victims they had.

One deputy asked: “How many victims do we have?”

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Another deputy said: “Right now, it looks like we got one. Right here in front of the Broad Axe Throwing Club.”

Deputies continued rushing to clear the area.

LISTEN TO THE 911 CALLS:

“Everybody that is on scene, I need all the foot traffic between 11th and 10th gone,” said one deputy. “Start pushing everybody out.”

Saturday’s shooting has sparked conversations on whether downtown is safe. The Augusta mayor, Richmond County sheriff and some commissioners say yes.

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It’s also raised the question about police presence in downtown Augusta. Sheriff Richard Roundtree says there is a presence, but some business owners disagree.

Mayor Garnett Johnson says he’s called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp for help from Georgia State Patrol.



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Augusta, GA

Tax commissioner candidate indicted in Millen double-murder case

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Tax commissioner candidate indicted in Millen double-murder case


MILLEN, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – We’re learning a candidate for Jenkins County tax commissioner has been indicted for murder and other charges.

In addition to murder, Shenice Thompson is accused of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm, making a false statement, hindering the apprehension or punishment of a criminal and tampering with evidence.

Tyrell Brown and Maxine Jones were shot to death in March, and authorities believe Thompson made a false statement in a homicide investigation and said she was at her mother’s house when the shooting happened.

News 12 spoke with Jones’ daughter, Deeari Grier, about her feelings and thoughts on her mother’s case.

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“That day I was so numb to everything. I was shocked, and it just felt so unreal,” said Grier.

Grier was only a five-minute drive away from where her mother was killed.

Yet hours before that, it was a normal day.

“She came by my job and she was just talking to me and telling me that she was bored and didn’t have nothing to do,” said Grier.

But little did Grier know this was one of the last conversations she would have with her mom.

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“I called her but she wasn’t answering,” said Grier.

It’s a night Grier says she’ll never forget.

“At first I didn’t believe she was gone but once everything happened, I just knew she was gone,” said Grier.

Now, four months later, the alleged suspect in the shooting is running for Jenkins County tax commissioner position.

“Trying to run for something that’s just crazy,” said Grier.

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They also believe Thompson knew Raheem Whitfield committed aggravated assault and harbored him and concealed the gun.

She was indicted Monday.

Sheriff Robert Oglesby said Wednesday afternoon she was not yet in custody.

Whitfield, of Waynesboro, has already been arrested in connection with the March murder.

Brown, 28, of Garfield, and Jones, 48, of Millen, were shot dead just before 1:45 a.m. March 24 at the Annie P. Chance Veterans Center on Acorn Avenue, according to authorities.

After being notified of the shooting, law enforcement arrived and found Jones dead with a gunshot wound. Although Jones had no immediate signs of trauma, she was pronounced dead at the scene, as well, according to GBI.

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A later investigation revealed a gunshot wound to her chest, according to Jenkins County Coroner Henry Young.

“They took a mother of eight kids, and her kids won’t be able to see her no more and it just feel so unreal,” said Grier.



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Augusta, GA

Downtown visitors still on edge after weekend shooting

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Downtown visitors still on edge after weekend shooting


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFXG) –
Saturday’s shooting in Downtown Augusta remains at the top of many minds who live in the area.

It’s been several days since the Downtown Augusta shooting and two people are currently in custody. 

People in the area are still being cautious. Some of them are wondering what the city is planning to do next.

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Sharon Jones works downtown, and she told FOX54 that she is constantly think about what could happen while at work. 

“The first day back on Monday there was a lot of investigators walking around…” Jones explained.

She says that she’s worried that something like that can happen in broad daylight. “I don’t even come downtown anymore.”

As of right now, nothing has been presented publicly. City leaders are discussing options like a potential curfew for certain ages and a no-loitering policy. 

Business owners like Brandi Jones of Tiffinie Bleu Bridal says there need to be a great police presence at night.

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“Cars are definitely not a deterrence for people doing things they are not supposed to.” Said Jones.

Locals and business owners are looking towards the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office for answers. 

Some Commissioners applaud their efforts. ” He’s doing the best with what he has.” Said, Tony Lewis, District 6 Commissioner.

While others like District 10 Commissioner, Wayne Guilfoyle believe that more needs to be done.

“Hopefully Roundtree can get his house in order and focus on protecting the citizens.” Said, Guilfoyle

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