SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A major project for East Savannah has halted due to a major shortfall in funding. The Waters Avenue Beautification Project, approved by voters in a SPLOST vote, is only a third of the way done.
With the $16 million budget cut last year and with a lower-than-expected tax digest, the city may not have the extra half million dollars needed for a while.
When work started last year, anticipation was high for new business and development. Today, overgrown sidewalks and empty buildings still line Waters Avenue. The first part of the project made the road look a lot better.
Construction began in 2015 with Phase 1 completed last year. It included new sidewalks, crosswalks and roadside plants from 37th Street to Anderson. Phase 2 is the same thing from Anderson to Wheaton. Phase 3 will be from 37th to Victory Drive.
"It'd be a real big deal to have the red bricks and the streetscape. It could bring a more, better presence to our neighborhood, more positives to our neighborhood," said Timothy Burgess.
That was until the news came last week that it wasn't happening.
"It was a very big surprise, and it was a very big disappointment," said Burgess.
Voters approved $2 million from SPLOST to pay for Phase 2 of the project. The project cost a lot more than that.
"The money leftover from the Wheaton Street project was combined with the money that was budgeted for Phase 2. But we're still about a half a million dollars short," said District 2 Alderman Bill Durrence.
Many residents feel like a priority is being placed on other roads like Broughton and Bay. Durrence doesn't completely agree. He doesn't disagree either.
"That's where a great deal of revenue in this community is generated through the visitors and tourism. So you want to make sure that you've got that attractive and polished up," said Durrence.
He said bond money will pay for the downtown projects. To justify spending money from the general fund in the future, he wants to see some proof that Phase 1 worked.
"My higher concern is that we start seeing some redevelopment in this area. It will be a lot easier to justify spending that level of money if we know we're going to get some kind of benefit from it," said Durrence.
So far that hasn't happened. A former council proposed and passed the idea in 2015 to help give the neighborhoods a facelift. When that facelift will come won't be anytime soon.
When it happens, Burgess, who WTOC spoke to Monday night about blight in the area, will be the first one excited about it.
The city currently has about 600 other projects going on. It's unclear if any other SPLOST projects like this are facing similar problems. Another big project, Project Derenne, is getting federal money. That requires more tests and surveys. It is still on-time.