The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority rejected a consulting contract Tuesday with Atlanta promoter Jerry Dickerson, who wanted to put a new arena costing up to $250 million on next year's special-purpose sales tax vote.
After some wrangling over whether the vote should be pushed back on the special-called meeting's agenda because Mr. Dickerson hadn't arrived yet, authority member William Fennoy made a motion that he not be hired, seconded by Mildred McDaniel.
The motion carried 7-2, with Jack Usry and Booker Roberson opposed. Willie Law wasn't present.
"Now is not the time" to build a new arena, Mr. Fennoy said after the meeting. "We have too many kids that are not doing well at school. We've got too many homeless people. There are better ways to spend money in Richmond County."
Reached by phone, Mr. Dickerson said he was "obviously disappointed, but I wasn't shocked or anything." A first-class, modern arena could draw top acts, attract tourists and spur economic development in the area, and he said he takes responsibility for not better conveying his vision to the board.
Former Chairman Keith Brown said Mr. Dickerson's services would have been a duplication of efforts, because the authority hired management company Global Spectrum in June.
Other members, including Janice Jenkins and Johnny Hensley, balked at again having a new "deal memo" presented to them so soon before the meeting. When the issue was on the November meeting's agenda, some members had received a proposed contract the night before, others that morning. This time, a revised contract went out by e-mail over the weekend.
Mr. Dickerson's first draft called for him to be paid $150,000 before June 1, $350,000 if voters approved a new arena with the sales tax package and 2 percent of the cost of new buildings, which would likely have made him a millionaire.
The revised memo said he would be paid $185,000 before July 31, then 2 percent of construction costs. It also added, among other things, making recommendations about a new minor league baseball stadium.
Mr. Hensley said he didn't have to read the latest version to decide how to vote.
These are the wrong economic times to ask taxpayers to fund a new arena, he said.
Mr. Dickerson said that, on the contrary, a recession is the best time for planning, and he envisioned the new arena helping the city obtain economic stimulus funds proposed by President-elect Obama.
"Augusta has a lot of promise," he said, "and it's all about timing."
Asked why he supported the contract, Mr. Usry said Augusta's legislative delegation charged the authority with coming up with a long-term plan for the civic center complex, and hiring Mr. Dickerson would further that goal. He refused to answer any more questions.
Augusta Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who feared an arena could kill next year's local option sales tax package, praised the Coliseum Authority's decision.
"The fact that they voted this down is very encouraging," he said.
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