The Augusta Commission impasse surrounding management of two city-owned parking facilities might be over, if the deal offered by Augusta Riverfront LLC resembles what was generated by the open market when the job was put out for bid earlier this year.
The commission can “take a look at those (bids) and use them as a guideline for what we need to pay the operator of the TEE Center to run the parking deck,” Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said Friday.
Commissioners have raised multiple questions about the terms of two contracts presented by Jim Plunkett, the city’s special counsel, on many aspects of the $50 million development being paid for with sales, hotel and rental car taxes.
Bowles said he was satisfied with explanations he had found for why Augusta Riverfront LLC, which runs the existing adjacent Marriott convention center, is to operate the deck, and why the city owns only the deck and its air rights, not the dirt beneath with the exception of 0.07 acre.
“The Marriott has an image of quality and customer care, and they want that portrayed in the parking lot under their jurisdiction,” Bowles said.
He and other commissioners, including those who were not yet in office, have found in 2009 meeting minutes where the commission agreed that Augusta Riverfront LLC was to operate the deck, even though managing the deck was later put out for bids.
“We’re coming in on the tail end of this,” said Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who with Commissioner Grady Smith was elected nearly two years after most of the convention center and a related Laney-Walker redevelopment deal were struck.
Bowles, who met Friday with commissioners Matt Aitken and J.R. Hatney to discuss the deck, agreed with Guilfoyle that evaluating two compliant bids from parking management companies would provide a basis for comparing the proposed agreement with Augusta Riverfront LLC.
According to city bid documents, only two parking management companies responded with compliant bids to Augusta Procurement’s request for proposals.
The bids, from Ampco System, of Houston, and Standard Parking, of Atlanta, have remained under seal since they became due Feb. 18.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE convention center expansion will reduce the Marriott’s 712 parking spaces by nearly half, helping create the need for a new deck and a new management agreement with Augusta Riverfront for what will remain of its original parking supply.
Since Sept. 26, the commission has had two proposals before it, a lease and a management contract.
The 15-year lease has Augusta Riverfront LLC paying the city $50,000 for exclusive use of what’s left of city-owned Marriott parking after construction.
The lease is as good a deal as the city has with Republic Parking, which it pays $25,000 annually to operate the nearly twice as many spaces the city had before construction began, City Administrator Fred Russell said.
Under Republic’s management, the 712 spaces have typically generated about $80,000 in annual revenue for Augusta, Russell said.
At the new deck, the bottom floor of 150 spaces is reserved for landowner 933 Broad LLC, which will use them for long-term parking during regular business hours by businesses located at and adjoining 933 Broad St., Plunkett said.
The proposed agreement has Augusta paying Augusta Riverfront LLC $25,000 annually to manage the entire 650-space deck, but all parking revenue after expenses – from upper floor spaces and first floor spaces after regular business hours – becomes the city’s, Plunkett said.
Managed by the firm that operates the Marriott and the TEE Center, the public spaces will be available at hourly and daily rates to convention attendees and the public, Plunkett said.
An extension of the city’s current parking management agreement goes before the commission Tuesday, while discussion of the two contracts was referred to a later committee meeting.
Russell said Friday he was tired of commissioners questioning his dealmaking ability and doubted comparing the proposals to the bids would get them anywhere.
“I’ve negotiated the best deal I could,” he said.