Augusta Commission members approved Tuesday a discounted two-year extension of sales tax manager Heery International’s contract to oversee a handful of city construction projects including $40 million renovations ongoing at Augusta Municipal Building.
The decade-old agreement, rarely questioned by commissioners during previous extensions, drew their concern after The Augusta Chronicle pointed out built-in annual billing increases that pushed the hourly rates of principals of Heery and subconsultants Gallop and Associates and Dukes, Edwards and Dukes over $200 an hour.
It was also revealed the group gave commissioners and city employees free Atlanta Falcons tickets, campaign contributions and other gifts. The city provides the group free office space and equipment and pays other expenses.
The extension approved 9-1 Tuesday, with Commissioner Marion Williams opposed, cut $188,435 off Heery’s estimate to monitor projects at the Municipal Building, Charles B. Webster Detention Center, Daniel Field Airport and a new transit maintenance facility. The new total, $1.46 million, includes about $200,000 for work at the Augusta Convention Center and Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center.
City Administrator Fred Russell, who met with the group last week about the reductions, said he was growing “uncomfortable” with Heery’s contract set to end July 31 with no replacement hired.
“We’re beginning to get to a point where if we don’t act, hopefully today, then I’ve got to start making plans, at least backup plans,” Russell said.
Commissioners added another requirement, that the group’s employee qualifications meet Government Services Administration guidelines, saying it would ensure the city wasn’t overpaying staff such as Heery subconsultant Butch Gallop, who draws more than $200 an hour to serve as “community liaison” between projects and the community.
“It means they can’t overcharge us for anything,” Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said.
Williams was dissatisfied with the adjustments, saying Russell shouldn’t have negotiated with Heery while he’d never received information he requested about Gallop’s work with local businesses.
That information was included in a 40-page packet Gallop said he had placed in commissioners’ mailboxes Thursday. But commissioners said they had not seen it until the start of Tuesday’s commission meeting.
“When I came in today, it was sitting here,” Guilfoyle said.
Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson asked Heery project executives Dennis LaGatta and Glenn Jardine to the podium to speak, including about what Johnson read about himself in the newspaper.
“We are not lobbyists …we are complying with all the rules and regulations like our attorneys have told us to do,” Jardine said.