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The  Radium  Springs Casino Preservation Group
2815 Meredyth Drive
Albany, Georgia 31707-2290
Phone 229-439-9734
April 26, 2003
Honorable Saxby Chambliss
U. S. Senate       
Washington, D.C.  20510
 
Honorable Zell Miller             
U. S. Senate       
Washington, D.C.  20510
 
Honorable Sanford Bishop
U. S. House of Representatives     
Washington, D.C.  20510

Dear Senator(s) Chambliss and Miller, and Congressman Bishop:

 We extend our sincere thanks to you and your staff for the help and support provided in obtaining the December 31, 2003, extension of the previous deadline for the demolition of the Radium Springs Casino.  No doubt, the Casino would have been demolished by now, had you not intervened.  Our thanks, also, to your staff, who have supported our efforts.

The extension was a great relief, however the problem is not yet resolved.  We are not skilled at the legislative process, therefore we cannot predict what actions you will take or what information you will need.  As you can imagine, the issue is extremely complex. 

We have enclosed the publication, “SKYWATER”, a comprehensive history of Radium Springs.  Once reviewed, you will have a greater appreciation of the beauty and majesty of Radium Springs.  Also enclosed are documents supporting our concerns and the content of this letter. These documents are critical to your understanding the significance of our request. We have taken the privilege of highlighting certain important sections meriting your close attention. But since we believe that the last transfer of the deed to Dougherty County by FEMA in conjunction with GEMA was flawed and therefore not legitimate, we are providing the following information, in case that is the approach you want to take.

  • FEMA has made it clear that it would not be amenable to any change without a Congressional act. To that end, our question is this:  Will each of you be willing, in concert or individually, to sponsor a bill that will save Radium?  If so, please recognize that another extension may be necessary.  We are told the  demolition will start in August, which may not be enough time for a bill to be passed.  Since time is of the essence, we respectfully request that you consider and answer us as soon as possible.
  • We believe the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) made errors in authorizing the purchase and demolition of the Radium Springs Casino property without the performance of appropriate Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) prior to the authorization as required under 44CFR 10.8. 

  • We feel without the proper study, FEMA may have misinterpreted the law in authorizing the purchase and demolition of the Casino (see the enclosed supporting documents). We believe a more comprehensive study, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, would have clearly pointed to the negative impact the removal of this building would have on both the natural environment and the recreational, social, cultural and historic value of the area.

  • We therefore request you have your legal counsels conduct a full review of the methods and reasoning used by FEMA, taking into special consideration the fact that FEMA initially issued a categorical exclusion from the performance of an EIS for a project involving only the purchase and demolition of a series of residences in the area and then, apparently as an after thought, added the Casino to the project some sixteen (16) months later.  The location, nature and purpose of the Casino clearly places it outside the criteria used to issue the categorical exclusion from performing an EIS under 44CFR 10.8 for the residential property.  A separate EIS for the Casino should have been carried out to fully evaluate the environmental impact demolishing the Casino would have on the Floridan Aquifer and caverns, upon which the Casino sits.  FEMA’s analysis was not comprehensive as provided by federal law. A comprehensive analysis would have resulted in a negative finding for removal of the Casino and an appropriate authorization would have been given to elevate the Casino at the nominal cost of $350,000, as opposed to the final cost of $1,877,250 approved by FEMA.

The following questions are clearly at issue:

1)    Where is the documentation used to determine the requirement for a full environmental review was not necessary for the Radium Casino property demolition?

2)    Why was the Radium Springs Casino, a commercial property located at 2501 Radium Springs Road, bundled into a Housing Acquisition Program and approved as an add-on to FEMA Grant #1033-1095, 16 months and 8 days after the original residential property grant was approved and additionally granted the same environmental categorical exclusion?

3)     Why was FEMA willing to approve payment and related acquisition cost, of which FEMA’s share was $1,877,250, for a property that could have been elevated out of the 100 Year Flood Plain for less than $350,000 and still accomplish the intent of Congress?

If answers to these questions are sought, we predict there may be certain other questions FEMA will need to answer.

The Springs and Skywater Creek are owned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and will be properly preserved by DNR. However, the Casino Building and surrounding grounds, now owned by Dougherty County, are under deed restrictions requiring the removal or demolition of the Casino.  The former owner, under mandate from FEMA, placed these restrictions on the County at the time the Casino property was conveyed to the County. This was a condition of the payment for the property with Federal Funds.  As previously noted, there was absolutely no consideration given for the needed 4’ elevation of the building to place it out of the flood plain.

 We believe a workable solution can be found, not only to preserve the building, but also to improve it for future generations to enjoy.  However, the deed restriction demands FEMA release the County from the demolition requirement.  If FEMA is unable or unwilling to relent, we request you have prepared and introduced in Congress, special legislation that would exempt the Casino from the FEMA mandate of demolition, allowing instead the necessary 4’ foot elevation out of the flood plain. This will meet the FEMA requirements and allow the building to remain where it is.

Moreover, we believe a mistake was made by FEMA when they purchased the Radium Springs Casino property with the restriction it be demolished without a proper EIS in lieu of elevating it out of the flood plain; and for Albany, as well as the State of Georgia, a travesty will occur if FEMA’s mandate to demolish the Casino is allowed to stand.

 We believe two wrongs cannot make a right. Therefore, we ask that you meet at the earliest possible time to determine the best and swiftest resolution to this complicated problem.  We stand ready to meet with you and/or any member of your staff and legal counsel to discuss, in detail, the additional reasons we have concluded that FEMA is in violation of 44CFR10.8.

Should this be accomplished, we are investigating the possibility of a venture with Albany Tomorrow, Inc. (ATI), which is presently in the process of developing River Walk (the outside hubs being Chehaw Park and Radium Springs), or the creation of a state authority. 

With warmest personal regards and highest esteem, we remain

Sincerely,

Morgan G. Murphy
Chairman
The Radium Springs Casino Preservation Group
Lamar Clifton  
Joe Ed Rossman  
Lynne G. Johnson 
Bonnie Dorough
Paul Murray
Bill Mills
Marion Hay     
Buster Wasden
Richard Harper
Beverly Smith Zacharias
Sharon Smith Spies    

     

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS FOR LETTER TO SENATORS AND CONGRESSMAN

(CLICK TO ENLARGE)

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