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Augusta Commission says it was tricked with parking deck deal

Two years ago when Augusta commissioners approved building a $12 million parking deck across from the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center on Reynolds Street, they thought they were getting a treat after being told the land would be donated.

 

It was only after an item to approve a 15-year contract with Augusta Riverfront LLC to manage the deck came up that they found out the land hadn’t been donated at all, only the air above it. Now they say the treat was really a trick and demand to know how that happened, and how Augusta Riverfront ended up with 100 ground-floor parking spaces.

City lawyers say the deal was changed so tax-free bonds could be used for construction. But nobody bothered to tell commissioners. City Administrator Fred Russell said he couldn’t specifically remember whether he did tell them and couldn’t specifically remember whether he didn’t.

The bottom line, commissioners say, is that the deck is going to have to sit on city property and that it might come to using the government’s powers of eminent domain to get it.

WHO’S GOING TO LEAD? Russell presented his 2012 city budget proposal with a $7.39 million shortfall in detail last week, then abruptly stopped and said, “The issue becomes, what do you want to do?”

Nobody said anything, but somebody’s going to have to come up with some answers soon, and the options are limited: raise property taxes, cut services or raid reserve funds. I’m betting on the third option. How about you?

WE THANK YOU, DEPUTY PAUGH: Who could have imagined or anticipated the senseless killing of Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy James D. Paugh or understand why the life of such a fine officer should so abruptly end? Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss that diminishes us all, but we promise to honor your memory and never forget your sacrifice.

OR JUST A BRILLIANT DISGUISE: Augusta’s Boy King Deke Copenhaver will ditch his crown and scepter and don his Super Iron Man costume, a wetsuit and running shoes for Monday night’s Halloween party at the Marble Palace.

Before the festivities begin, Super Iron Man will issue a proclamation proclaiming Oct. 31, 2011, as Halloween. He will then say a prayer asking God to forgive everybody there for making such a big to-do over a pagan holiday.

Dozens of city and state officials, school board members, past and present, are expected to attend. Those who show up in street clothes will be turned away.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham wanted to come as The Incredible Shrinking Man, but he isn’t. So he’ll go as a Sumo wrestler and let Russell have his shrinking man costume, which is appropriate since Russell might soon disappear.

Commissioner Grady Smith will come as Mr. Rotorooter.

Commissioner Alvin Mason, recently bitten by the werewolf of ambition, will begin to change form and howl about everything – not when the moon rises, but when the TV camera lights come on.

Commissioner J.R. Hatney will come as Her­man Cain. Commissioner Matt Aitken will come as Batman and Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle as Robin. Commissioner Bill Lockett is Mr. Teriffic, a self-made multi-millionaire who has 14 Ph.Ds and an intellect that makes him the third smartest person in Augusta. The first two are unemployed rocket scientists.

Meanwhile, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles will be a dapper James Bond; Commissioner Joe Jackson, a tough GI Joe. Commissioner Corey Johnson will come as James Brown but will be asked to leave after awhile because he won’t be able to stop singing I Feel Good.

Deputy City Administrator Tameka Allen will be the 50-Foot-Tall Woman, but 25 feet will be stilettos.

Director of Engineering Abie Ladson who took over right-of-way and ditch maintenance in the recent reorganization will come as Sling Blade, his assistant as Lawnmower Man.

Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell will be dressed as a stop sign, but nobody will pay him any attention.

Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson will arrive on a street sweeper, and Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Margaret Woodard will give him a ticket for over-parking.

Jerry Murphy, the records clerk for three city cemeteries, will come as – what else? Cemetery Man.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength will come as a jailer, carrying a set of skeleton keys.

Several former mayors also will attend the party. Bob Young, who became the Invisible Man for several years but is now over operations at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, will come as Swamp Man. Accompanying him will be the First Lady of the Swamp, Gwen, dragging a parachute. Young promised not to bring the Creature from the Black Lagoon to twist arms for donations.

Willie Mays, the owner of Mays Mortuary, will come as the Grim Reaper, and Larry Sconyers will show up as a country ham or smoked Boston butt.

Some of the ladies from animal control and public works will be selling kisses, but nobody will be buying.

Some folks will be bobbing for apples while those with political ambitions will be polishing apples. There also will be fishponds hidden by sheets hung in the corner where the ladies who couldn’t sell any kisses can fish for compliments as a consolation.

A highlight will be Super Iron Man and his wife, Malisa, disguised as Lois Lane, doing the Monster Mash.

Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier will do an Elvis impersonation and get the crowd going with Jailhouse Rock. Nobody else from utilities will be there, but quite a few will send mug shots.

Assistant Fire Chief Jack Hanley, suspended last week for having porn on his work computer, will also sing that Elvis classic Now and Then There’s a Fool Such As I.

Expected to attend together, dressed as the Pointer Sisters, are trustees Barbara Pulliam, Patsy Scott and Eloise Curtis. They’re sure to wow the crowd with their rendition of I’m So Excited. Venus Cain will appear with them briefly, but will drop out to go her own way just like the fourth Pointer sister did in real life.

State Reps. Barbara Sims and Gloria Frazier had planned to come as the Witches of Eastwick, but couldn’t find a third witch. There’s always me.

State Rep. Quincy Murphy will come disguised as an insurance salesman, but it won’t really be a disguise, and nobody will be fooled.

Marion Williams planned to come as Russell’s computer hard drive but since he never could get his hands on it, he had to choose an alternative costume – The Brain.

Calvin Holland will be there disguised as a hatbox and thinking outside of it.

The topics of conversation at this Halloween party will be state Sen. Bill Jackson’s recent economic stimulus, the cost of air over the parking deck and the Curse of David Fry.

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