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GRU Cancer Center a 'go' without SPLOST, official says

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 5:04 PM
Last updated Thursday, May 22, 2014 12:49 AM
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Even without the $8 million included in the sales tax package rejected by voters Tuesday, progress on a new cancer research building at Georgia Regents University will move forward, an official said Wednesday.


The money would have helped the university reach a $12.5 million local match needed to access $45 million in bond funding but now that difference will be made up through fundraising, said Tony Wagner, executive vice president for administration and finance and Chief Business Officer for the university and its health system. The governor’s Office of Planning and Budget requires that two-thirds of the local contribution be in the bank by June 30 for the state to release the bond funding and Wagner said “all systems are go for moving forward with it.”

Instead of the special purpose local option sales tax funding, the contributions will be through donations.

“When we committed to meeting that deadline, we obviously knew the SPLOST was not a done deal so we were absolutely certain that if the SPLOST didn’t pass we would be able to fulfill that commitment and we are ready to do that,” Wagner said. “It would be primarily fundraising and for fundraising where we actually haven’t received the cash to this point we would use institutional dollars that we can use. But the fundraising that we will do for this project will be adequate to meet the entire local match.”

The university also received $4 million for the project from the Masters Tournament through the Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area.

The Augusta Commission in February authorized taking out an $8 million tax anticipation note to bank the matching funds, with plans if SPLOST failed to repay the note when it matures in October plus approximately $46,000 in interest, according to Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer.

Commissioner Donnie Smith said the commission is awaiting feedback from GRU on whether the SPLOST vote impacted plans for the center. The next opportunity for the city to place a sales tax referendum on the ballot is November of 2015.

“I’m not going to commit to looking for another source (of funds) until I talk to GRU,” he said.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who pushed to place the referendum on the May ballot instead of the Nov. 4 ballot to help the University meet the state mandate for local matching funds, did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

The $62.5 million, 115,000-square foot research facility is still on track, with some design work still to be done, Wagner said. Once that is done, the university can move into the construction contracting phase, which he hoped will be completed late this year and with construction beginning in early 2015.

But ultimately the center will be part of a larger effort to create the second National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in the state of Georgia and the cancer fundraising therefore has a much loftier goal, Wagner said.

“The $12.5 million local match, that’s never been the finish line for us in terms of fundraising, whether it was from the city through the SPLOST or other sources,” he said. “We believe that over the next five years or so, over the next decade at the outside, we will raise upwards of $100 million for cancer.”

The university is grateful for the city’s efforts and believes more can be done in the future, Wagner said.

“We hope that moving forward that we can keep that spirit of cooperation alive,” he said. “There will be other opportunities to work together.”

Staff writer Susan McCord contributed to this report.

Comments (23) Add comment
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Butterman
3694
Points
Butterman 05/21/14 - 05:20 pm
3
1
Scare Tactic
Unpublished

We knew this all along, but Deke and others were using this as a scare tactic to get his SPLOST package approved. I clearly remember the articles in the Augusta Chronicle from a few months ago that said the state money for the GRU cancer center was available regardless if Augusta chipped in money or not. This needs to be investigated.

itsanotherday1
56977
Points
itsanotherday1 05/21/14 - 05:24 pm
12
1
Wait a minute!

Just a few days ago they broadcast an interview with some muckety muck that predicted grave consequences if the splost didn't pass. Said the cancer center would be put on hold to the great detriment of Augusta. I agree about the detriment part, Augusta as a designated cancer center will be a good boost, but I couldn't see how it all hinged on a few million from the splost.

Little Lamb
55737
Points
Little Lamb 05/21/14 - 05:24 pm
16
1
Okay

Since they won't get taxpayers’ $8 million, they will obtain it by fundraising. Great! That should have been the plan all along. Now it should be up to Paine College, Augusta Symphony, Imperial Theater, Augusta Mini-Theater, Augusta Arts Alliance, and many, many others to raise their own funds privately in order to further their special interest organizations.

Little Lamb
55737
Points
Little Lamb 05/21/14 - 05:28 pm
10
2
Some Muckety Muck

That muckety muck was our current mayor, IAD. Now we see how much we can trust him.

I continue to remain dumbfounded that Mayor Copenhaver could have convinced six commissioners to approve $8 million in Augusta tax money to go to the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents and the MCG Health Organization have the means to build their own facilities.

The money should not come from local sales taxes.

dichotomy
45765
Points
dichotomy 05/21/14 - 09:58 pm
12
1
I wonder what the SPLOST

I wonder what effect the SPLOST failure, combined with the defunct illegal vote by the URA, will have on the Marble Palace bond issue. Now that they KNOW it has failed, maybe the new members of the URA.....AND our commissioners......won't be so hot to trot to float bonds for which there is NO revenue stream to pay them back with. From now on I recommend not having a barbecue until the pig is in the poke. And that goes for ALL of these unnecessary, over priced, mismanaged projects.

Graymare
5543
Points
Graymare 05/21/14 - 07:07 pm
4
1
Imagine that! I'm not

Imagine that! I'm not against the cancer center nor am I against arc putting a bit of money in the pot. I am against an 8 million dollar pledge being rammed down our throats, especially without any public hearings. If the politicians want to give away that much money, let them get their checkbooks out and start writing.

kiwiinamerica
1104
Points
kiwiinamerica 05/21/14 - 10:54 pm
0
0
They don't need another Cancer Center.
Unpublished

The current Cancer Center is still not fully occupied nine years after it was completed.

This is pure politics.

rebellious
22833
Points
rebellious 05/21/14 - 11:25 pm
11
1
LITTLE LAMB

I am sick and tired, I say sick and tired of you stealing my ideas for posts! Stop it immediately, if not sooner. Your 5:24 post was exactly what I thought when I read the article.

My bigger concern is what the heck happens with the 30 million in bonds let for the bloated Municipal Building Kudzu style renovation/we need more room to grow our government project.

Remember the threat of a Property Tax increase if "we" didn't approve SPLOST VII. Well, unfortunately, they (Commissioners) have the power. This might be one issue I hope Marion Williams gets up on the table and stomps his foot on!

...point to ponder
826
Points
...point to ponder 05/21/14 - 11:47 pm
7
1
..not good for the credibility...

…of the sitting Mayor. He seems to have stretched wishful thinking into a must have OR dire consequences will happen. The Mayor kept saying it and kept saying it and he even had other people believing him! He kept saying things that weren't true! He went on and on about the critical nature of the funding! ALL not true!
**Why didn't GRU say something earlier (prior to voting day)that they had already instituted a backup plan for funds?
* Makes me believe that the Mayor-elect Davis knew this beforehand. He is a State Senator and GRU is obligated to truthfully communicate with him continuously. Soooo, where does the story end?
*This is very disconcerting.

****This is the kind of stuff that when it hits the fan, it makes a mess and the folks involved get very dirty and smelly!

speakout77
54
Points
speakout77 05/22/14 - 04:53 am
3
1
SPLOST won't stop new Cancer Center, so you say!

The revolving door that is taking place with highly specialized caring doctors WILL stop the Cancer Center if actions aren't taken immediately. Patients will begin to leave and go where they will have doctors they trust for more that a few years. Wake up GRU and find ways to keep those great doctors! Too many great doctors have left this past year and the patients are feeling insecure about their care.

speakout77
54
Points
speakout77 05/22/14 - 05:02 am
2
1
The one hing that can stop the Cancer Center is...

specialized caring doctors that leave after a short stay. The patients feel insecure and may decide to go elsewhere and find long term dependable doctors. The "revolving door" that has taken place this past year at the Cancer Center has caused much concern with patients and staff. Could it be the management style of Azziz?

Riverman1
118402
Points
Riverman1 05/22/14 - 06:11 am
9
1
Heh, Heh, Heh

Oh, I think WE ALL KNEW Deke was embellishing the narrative a little.

Bodhisattva
10664
Points
Bodhisattva 05/22/14 - 06:35 am
7
1
Why were the citizens of

Why were the citizens of Augusta expected to pay for expansion of a state university and hospital?

nocnoc
67228
Points
nocnoc 05/22/14 - 06:44 am
6
1
This was a STATE project to begin with

I never understood why ARC needed to help a STATE funded school?
Given the massive amount of things needing to be done in ARC

I was looking at everything from a standpoint of Local $$$ is Local use.

State $$$$ is State and Private/profit/non-profit $$$$ should not come from the Local or State funds.

There is only some much to go around.
Use it where the ARC TAXPAYERS need it.

Riverman1
118402
Points
Riverman1 05/22/14 - 08:10 am
6
1
Will Deke Now Pay Kwatinetz?

Maybe Deke will pay Matt Kwatinetz out of his own pocket now? I really wouldn't doubt it.

thetruth4718
14
Points
thetruth4718 05/22/14 - 08:24 am
3
1
The Truth

This is the truth! The GRU Cancer Center is poorly managed and deep in debt. The NCI certification has nothing to do with a new building, it relates to being certified in certain areas of research which it is not. It came to the city for money because it has no benefactors to speak of except the state. Think of it, we have a new dental school and commons and new health and sciences building, neither of them got money from the city, they had fundraising and million $ contributors, which the Cancer Center has neither. The tax payers dodge a bullet here...GRU clean up these inefficient cash cows before you think of building a building just because it's fashionable to do so.

...point to ponder
826
Points
...point to ponder 05/22/14 - 08:26 am
3
1
Now that the truth is out...

... What reasoning will our Mayor have for misleading the citizens of Augusta?
*the Mayor was not truthful. ( not sure anymore if truth correlates to him)

*I'd ask the mayor-elect if he was aware.... My first guess is he was.

nocnoc
67228
Points
nocnoc 05/22/14 - 08:27 am
3
1
Speaking of the Marble Money Pit

What did it cost to build it back in the 1957.

Maybe it would have been better to sell it and build a NEW one
more centralized to the County Residents as a whole

tckr1983
368
Points
tckr1983 05/22/14 - 11:28 am
1
1
This is one fishy smelling process...

For the longest time this thing was billed as a $100 million dollar and 393,000 square foot facility by all involved, not only from articles in the Chronicle but by local news media as well. The name change and time goes by... And now it's $60 million and 115,000 sq ft. Did I miss something?

Esctab
1922
Points
Esctab 05/22/14 - 12:00 pm
1
1
thetruth4718 said it!

thetruth4718 said it right!!!

NrthAugustaSam
507
Points
NrthAugustaSam 05/22/14 - 12:36 pm
1
1
Impressive

Deke was trying to impress Azziz with an expensive gift of taxpayers money.

triscuit
3642
Points
triscuit 05/22/14 - 12:56 pm
2
1
I knew GRU would find the

I knew GRU would find the money to do this without our SPLOST. They always find money for what they want to build. So if THEY can do without it, how about a lot of the other groups. Paper says today the Imperial and Symphony will carry on...they should!

thetruth4718
14
Points
thetruth4718 05/22/14 - 01:37 pm
1
1
Agree with Impressive

I agree with impressive....Deke was probably under orders from the Deal to make the deal. Even the commissioners didn't seem to know what exactly going on. So a word to the wise for the incoming mayor..."if it walks like a duck, and sounds like a duke...it is a duck" and the junkie SPLOST with that GRU and Paine crap was duck with no feet. The only people voted for it was because they didn't know the real deal.

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