Augusta commissioners allowed a problematic nightclub to remain open, and tabled a $12 million request by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to upgrade public safety radios Tuesday.
They also spent a half- hour behind closed doors without City Administrator Fred Russell.
“I think (Russell) was invited to leave because there were some things the commission wanted to discuss with the general counsel,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said, declining to comment further.
Lockett and several other commissioners have recently raised questions about Russell’s handling of large projects, such as the designation of downtown Augusta as a “slum” in order to borrow $26 million at reduced rates to renovate the government headquarters.
Most of the 10-member body said they were shocked to learn about the funding mechanism only when it appeared on a meeting agenda for their approval.
Emerging from the closed-door session, however, the commission took no public action regarding the city government’s permanent chief executive since 2005.
On the nightclub item, Lockett was critical of city officials’ handling of Pure Platinum Sports Bar, which transferred its restaurant license last year from the former Cloud Nine Neighborhood Bar and Grill on Wrightsboro Road after garnering numerous citations there.
Since owner Tyrone Davis relocated to 2064 Gordon Highway, the club has experienced “one death, a shootout in an adjacent parking lot, about 14 incidents of (unlawful) consumption of alcohol,” Lockett said, citing sheriff’s office reports of incidents on or around the venue.
“Why, again, are we negotiating with representatives of the club?” Lockett asked.
Licensing and Inspections Director Rob Sherman said he questioned Davis’ documentation of food sales, but Chris Cosper, attorney for Davis, pushed for Platinum to keep its restaurant license on the condition juveniles aren’t allowed in.
“I’m not sure of a correlation between selling food and bad activity,” Cosper said.
Lockett’s motion, to suspend Platinum’s license for three months, received no second.
Commissioner Marion Williams offered a substitute motion to convert Platinum’s license to a bar, with permission to serve food, and place it on probation for six months. It was seconded by Commissioner Joe Jackson and passed 8-1 with Lockett opposed and Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle absent.
Commissioner Alvin Mason advised Davis to make the most of the “second chance” he was getting.
On the radio item – a $12 million proposal made last week by the city’s existing provider, Motorola – the commission agreed to receive the proposal as information but for the city’s procurement office and administrator to determine whether to seek competitive bids.
Commissioner Donnie Smith, who invited Motorola to make the presentation with support from the sheriff’s office and fire department, said the city staffers would determine the best way to proceed.
The digital upgrades would vastly increase coverage in Richmond County and permit other agencies, such as Georgia Regents University police, to rent bandwidth, but come at a price, including about $750,000 in annual maintenance charges.
The $12 million proposal has been the only means presented for installing security cameras downtown proposed by Sheriff Richard Roundtree following the brutal May beating of two people on Riverwalk Augusta, and has no known funding source besides an upcoming sales-tax referendum.
Columbia County similarly upgraded its system last year, guaranteeing coverage across 98 percent of the county, according to prior reports. The suburban county hasn’t extended its radio network to Richmond, however.
“They own it, and they can dictate who gets on it and whether they have the capability,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to build three towers in Richmond.”