Georgia Regents University has awarded a contract to build a $75,500 addition to the president’s garage without seeking the required approval for construction from the Board of Regents, officials said.
The school sought bids in February for the project, a three-car carport to be added to the side of the two-car garage at the Augusta home of GRU President Ricardo Azziz, according to documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle. The contract was awarded to the low bid – $75,500 – submitted by Veracity Construction of Thomson, GRU spokeswoman Christen Carter said. In addition to the estimated construction costs – which have since increased by as much as $50,000, GRU has agreed to pay Cheatham, Fletcher, Scott Architects more than $23,000 for design work.
All this occurred before anyone sought necessary approval of the project from the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.
According to university system policy governing university presidents’ homes, any project other than routine maintenance “shall be submitted for review and approval by the Chancellor and the Board of Regents. Any subsequent changes in the scope of the project or budget shall be similarly submitted for review and approval.”
John Millsaps, the spokesman for the chancellor and the board, said state officials were unaware of any such projects and no work had been approved to modify the GRU president’s home at 920 Milledge Road. Millsaps said such a project would have to be submitted to the board to move forward.
This comes while the board is preparing to conduct an inquiry into the use of college resources by Azziz for a recent family wedding.
As of Friday, GRU had been told by university system officials that the policy governing the president’s home applied to the carport project.
Carter said the project has yet to break ground, so there is still time to seek the board’s approval.
“Of course we will need to receive a proposal before any work can be done,” Millsaps said Thursday.
The 100-year-old home known as Twin Gables is located in the Summerville Historic District. Revisions to the architectural designs requested by the Augusta-Richmond County Historic Preservation Commission could push the carport project over budget, which could result in delays, Carter said.
“If the changes exceed $50,000, (University) Facilities will need to delay start of the project and revisit the scope and budget next fiscal year,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Carter said the purpose of the carport addition is to provide space for setup and support for events.
“The residence is used for functions all throughout the year,” she said. “It is our hope that we can become more efficient and have a better set up for future events.”
As for state approval, Carter said GRU officials thought that such approvals were unnecessary for projects budgeted less than $1 million.
Another Board of Regents policy allows the state university system’s chief of facilities to delegate authority to approve up to $1 million for projects that “are in accordance with the accepted campus master plan.”
She said GRU officials were operating under that policy when the contract was awarded. She said as far as they knew, Phil Howard, the vice president of GRU’s Facilities Service, had the authority to sign off on the Twin Gables project, without state approval.