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AUSTELL, Ga. - The Mayor of Austell says the spending of 2.5 million in taxpayer dollars hasn't had the desired effect on downtown.

It's been four years since the city finished the bulk of the work on aesthetic improvements to downtown Austell such as streetlights, sidewalks, landscaping, brick curbs, brick crosswalks, and decorative brick in the middle of some intersections.

While most everyone agrees the downtown area looks better, some taxpayers say the money would have been better spent somewhere else.

"So many people are out of work and homeless, I think it could have been better spent on something of that nature," said taxpayer Wilma Babino. "I think it was a waste of money."

The improvements were made in two phases using a $2 million federal grant and $500,000 in local taxes.

Mayor Joe Jerkins says the project was not only to beautify downtown, but to attract new businesses. He says while some new shops have opened, others have moved out. A downtown bank that has been around since the 1940s is set to close in August.

"I guess it's a good investment," said Jerkins. "If it had been all city money we wouldn't have done it. Not all of it was a waste of money, but it hasn't accomplished what it should have accomplished."

Laura Lynn-Lee has expanded her downtown antique shop several times in recent years. She believes the money spent to spruce up the area has brought improvements.

"Austell used to have a reputation. People were a little leery of it," said Lynn-Lee. "The way it looks now has helped a lot. It's made it more appealing for people to come and shop."

Mayor Jerkins says his goal now is to focus on the owners of boarded up buildings to have the eyesores remodeled or torn down.

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