Commissioner says he's pushing new deal on exhibit center

Thursday, May 7, 2009 5:20 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 10:50 PM
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The downtown trade, exhibit and event center isn’t dead; the funding structure proposed by City Administrator Fred Russell just needs some changes, one of the city commissioners who voted against it said today.

Since a vote on the TEE center plan blew up into a heated argument and a split along racial lines Tuesday, Commissioner Corey Johnson has been working to bring his colleagues back to the table. He said he’s talked to Mr. Russell, commissioners Jerry Brigham, Don Grantham, Calvin Holland and Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason.

“We just ran into a little bump in the road,” Mr. Johnson said. “Sometimes the puzzle has to come apart to be put back together.”

Mr. Russell’s plan involved a new 5-member Urban Redevelopment Authority issuing $26 million in bonds to build a $38 million exposition center and a $17 million parking deck. Voters approved $20 million for the TEE center in 2005.

The authority would issue another $9 million in bonds to jump-start revitalization of the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods. Inner city redevelopment projects will earn $37.5 million over 50 years from a $1 per night hotel fee, which was conceived as a compromise to get a sixth vote from Commissioner Betty Beard to fund the TEE center’s Reynolds Street site and operating agreement with Augusta Riverfront LLC in 2007.

Mr. Johnson said he wants the parking deck and the new development authority taken out of the plan.

“That was never discussed,” he said of the garage.

The city shouldn’t be issuing $17 million of debt for that while the economy is so rotten, he said. The Downtown Development Authority should build it, and maybe in a few years it could partner with one of the hotel operators, Mr. Johnson said.

The DDA should also issue the bonds, he said, rather than starting a new bureaucracy and bringing in a new set of disparate personalities to oversee millions of dollars.

“I think that with what we already have in place, we can get the same results,” Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Grantham said he and Mr. Johnson are trying to set up meetings between commissioners. Mr. Grantham said he’d be willing to take out the parking deck and the new authority if that’s what it takes, though Mr. Russell added those components on advice from bond counsel and financial advisers, who said it would save money in the long run and help the projects move forward faster.

Public talks on the plan will begin on Monday, when a proposal to kill the $1 hotel fee is on the Finance committee meeting agenda.

Commissioner J.R. Hatney contended Tuesday that the neighborhood projects can go forward – without the TEE center – because that money has been approved, but Commissioner Jerry Brigham says collecting the hotel fee might be illegal if it’s not going toward tourism.

“What we’re gonna’ have to do is talk,” Mr. Johnson said. “What happened with this plan, and what we can do to make it right.”

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Nero
0
Points
Nero 05/07/09 - 04:42 pm
0
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Johnny, I don't know what

Johnny, I don't know what they are paying you to keep up with these folks AND the Colliseum Authority, but it's not enough. Thank you, Sir for keeping everybody up to date.

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 05/07/09 - 05:59 pm
0
0
Nice to see the circus is

Nice to see the circus is back in town.

Frank
3
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Frank 05/07/09 - 06:19 pm
0
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I'm not the smartest guy in

I'm not the smartest guy in the world but Fred's math doesn't add up.. $38 mil (TEE Center) + $17 mil (parking deck) = $55 + $9m for the Laney-Walker/Bethlehem area= $66m total bill. $20m SPLOST money + $26m in bonds issued = $44m in funds, a $9m shortfall.. and it'll take 12 years to pay back the $9m Urban Redevelopment bonds, without interest.. it's like a word problem, but the city's in the hole at the end...

justus4
109
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justus4 05/07/09 - 06:38 pm
0
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How can Russell, not an
Unpublished

How can Russell, not an elected official, be considering a new 5-member panel without first putting that idea to the full commission? The DDA must be given the opportunity to execute this plan, while not having the obvious saboteurs get their way to take it out of DDA hands. Thats where the real issue is for non-monorities commissioners. They don't trust the local agency because of, U guessed it: Race. All the trappings of legal avenues and bond issues are red herrings, but this test will actually determine the direction of the local government.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 05/07/09 - 06:46 pm
0
0
The last thing Augusta needs

The last thing Augusta needs is another Authority.
I mean what is the DDA supposed to be?? Downtown Development Authority....anyone? Why do we need another authority? Just more bureaucracy.

Little Lamb
47853
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Little Lamb 05/07/09 - 08:13 pm
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0
Please kill Fred (What, me

Please kill Fred (What, me worry?) Russell's plan to create a new authority. Let an existing authority issue the bonds if it must be done. But I, a lonely voice, vote for scrapping the TEE Center.

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 05/07/09 - 09:09 pm
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Justus4, who are the

Justus4, who are the non-minority commissioners?? I would not consider that me!!!! The DDA counsel has acknowledged they can't issue the bonds in the Bethlehem Community, should they break the law in order to do so????????????????????????????????????

puddeecat
0
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puddeecat 05/07/09 - 09:29 pm
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keep the friggin' authority

keep the friggin' authority out of it! they screw everything up here in augusta!

pointstoponder
447
Points
pointstoponder 05/07/09 - 10:04 pm
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Justus, the administrator

Justus, the administrator proposed a plan for commission approval. Geez .

corgimom
36416
Points
corgimom 05/07/09 - 10:27 pm
0
0
Mr. Bowles, Justus is a

Mr. Bowles, Justus is a paranoid person who sees racism in everything. He/she sees racism in a wet dishrag. Ignore him/her. Justus has plenty to say about the "non-minority media" but doesn't mind coming on the "non-minority owned" Augusta Chronicle blog to spew nonsense every day.

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