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Marriott chief opposes sheriff's downtown crime district

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The general manager of one of the largest properties within Sheriff Richard Roundtree’s proposed Continually Patrolled District says his company already does enough, and pays enough.



Roundtree’s proposal, to tax landowners within the boundaries of the former Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative an extra six mills to keep six additional law enforcement officers on the street, has seen mixed reviews among property owners in the district since he unveiled plan details last month.

Darryl Leech, the general manager of Augusta’s 22-year-old riverfront hotel and conference center – and starting last year, the new Augusta Convention Center and Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center – said Marriott works hard to ensure guests feel safe, and the 84,000 room nights they book each year indicate they do.

“These people wouldn’t continue to come here if they didn’t feel safe,” Leech said in a Wednesday interview.

Hotel owner Augusta Riverfront LLC shares management with Morris Communications Co., the owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

Leech said he could count on one hand the number of serious crimes that have taken place near the convention center over the past 22 years, despite the community uproar over the brutal May beating and robbery of an Edgefield, S.C., couple out for a late-night stroll on Riverwalk Augusta.

“We have a lot of customers that like jogging up and down the riverwalk,” Leech said. “People feel safe. They also know when to go.”

Marriott has about 60 closed-circuit security cameras around the premises, including 37 in the new Reynolds Street parking deck, he said. The convention center and hotel employ a security director, Bill Tolbert, whose staff monitors security and attempts to ward off troublemakers. Plus, Marriott is required by law to hire additional uniformed law enforcement and fire officials for large events, Leech said.

The convention center’s private security efforts cost more than $116,000 over the past year, and that’s sure to increase with what are now 26 events scheduled during 2013 at Olmstead Exhibit Hall, the 38,000-square-foot meeting space at Augusta Convention Center, Leech said. The events will inject some $8.5 million into the local economy, he said.

Plus, the hotel and convention complex, the “economic engine” for downtown, contributes significantly to the city’s general fund, which pays most law enforcement salaries, and other tax coffers already, Leech said. The property owners paid about $2.1 million in property, sales, payroll and hotel-motel taxes in 2011, and $2.3 million in 2012, he said.

According to tax records, hotel owner Augusta Riverfront LLC owns six taxable properties in the CADI tax district, which runs between Greene Street and the Savannah River from 13th to approximately Seventh streets. The company paid nearly $500,000 in property taxes on the six parcels, including about $70,000 – about one-fifth – of the $354,000 annual tax bill for CADI services last year, before the Augusta Commission’s decision to terminate the tax district.

“We create the economic impact. We already do our part. We don’t think we need to do any more,” Leech said.

Asked to respond, Roundtree said the new district is now targeting owners outside the former CADI boundaries, a change from what he’d previously told The Chronicle and from literature he distributed to some landowners.

The new district will now stretch east to the 400 blocks of Broad, Reynolds and Greene streets. The change will lessen the tax burden on individual property owners and provides the sheriff with about 600 owners, Roundtree said, from which to garner the 51 percent he needs to implement the district as required by Georgia law.

“Many business owners advised us that they would have supported the old CADI program if it had more of a security component and if the majority of the legitimate business owners participated,” Roundtree said in an e-mail. “So we took the old plan and attempted to make it better and fair to everyone. Therefore, this is something being offered not forced on the business owners.”

Roundtree said property owners will be issued packets of information about the proposal.

“When they receive their packet, they – and only they – can then decide if they like the proposal and want to participate or they can decide that they do not like it. It is their money, and it is their choice,” he said.

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nocnoc
44929
Points
nocnoc 08/07/13 - 08:37 pm
5
3
A Good Press piece with some

A Good Press piece with some facts to back it up.

I was wonder when the Marriott was going chime in.

Booking guests is their business & they don't seem to be hurting.
Of course I am not many guests wonder around out the hotel grounds and if they do are shuttled to local establishments & food places.

BTW: if the RCSO needs more $$$$$ to do its basic job say so with out an "Enhanced Tax" cover.

Also consider not buying high tech toys if the $$$$ is tight.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 09:53 pm
1
4
Property

So, if the big property owners bail out, Roundtree (led on by Russell) thinks he can tip the balance his way by bringing in new small property owners to tip the balance. The small property owners might be more intimidated by an officer in uniform than the big boys are.

mosovich
826
Points
mosovich 08/07/13 - 11:19 pm
3
4
I got an idea..

how about handing out more speeding tickets and traffic violation tickets.. City would be rich if they'd just enforce the law.. Oh wait, that would be to simple..

Bodhisattva
6466
Points
Bodhisattva 08/08/13 - 04:56 am
4
2
THEY pay sales, hotel-motel,
Unpublished

THEY pay sales, hotel-motel, etc. taxes? Boy and howdy have I been being ripped off all these years. Everywhere I shop and every time I stay at a hotel they tack those things on to my bill and I pay them. I wish all of those online travel sites would put out a list of hotels that were as generous as the local Marriott that cover all of those taxes for me. I just got back from 2 weeks in DC and it would have saved me a bundle.

Riverman1
86912
Points
Riverman1 08/08/13 - 05:52 am
9
2
Riverwalk and Safety

From the article: “We have a lot of customers that like jogging up and down the riverwalk,” Leech said. “People feel safe. They also know when to go.”

Translated: There are times when the Riverwalk is not safe.

Riverman1
86912
Points
Riverman1 08/08/13 - 06:06 am
2
3
Security and Scheduled Events

From the article: "The convention center’s private security efforts cost more than $116,000 over the past year, and that’s sure to increase with what are now 26 events scheduled during 2013 at Olmstead Exhibit Hall, the 38,000-square-foot meeting space at Augusta Convention Center, Leech said."

Don’t all hotels pay for security staffs? I’ll bet a lot more than $116,000 a year. The two remaining events on the official published schedule for the rest of the year are not what was envisioned. The building is now doing weddings and family reunions, I've been told. Of the 26 events how many were actual conventions and conferences with out of town guests?

Remaining Events for the Year From The Website:
Wed, 08/14/2013 - 11:30am CSRA Society of Human Resources Management Meeting
Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, speaker; reservations required

Sun, 10/20/2013 - 2:00pm Alumni and Friends Chefs’ Showcase
Annual event held by Augusta Mini Theatre; tickets by phone or at office, 2548 Deans Bridge Road

Dixieman
15996
Points
Dixieman 08/08/13 - 06:18 am
8
2
Amazing!

Private enterprise does a better job than government! Who woulda thunk it?

Gimme points up to 5,000 and I'll throw a party on here.

Brad Owens
4727
Points
Brad Owens 08/08/13 - 06:59 am
6
3
Great piece of propaganda here...and hypocrisy

This from the folks that had a lower rate than all the others inside the old BID district to begin with.

Yes, well Mr. Leech would not want any competition for tax dollars downtown now would he? He, Mr. Simon and Mr. Morris feel that any taxes collected downtown should be spent exclusively on them, even if they don't pay them or the same rate.

And in return for all those "taxes" they get millions of dollars in direct taxpayer subsidies.

They so graciously allowed the 100 million dollars of taxpayer buildings to be added on to their hotel so they can sell "84,000" room nights a year AND they get subsidies to pay for it all AND they shifted "shared employees" on the Tee center (taxpayer again) and then they want grandstand about how much in taxes they pay?

These guys are robbing the taxpayer blind and he then has the audacity to say they do enough?

WOW, their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Brad Owens
4727
Points
Brad Owens 08/08/13 - 07:06 am
4
2
By the way...

I notice there is no mention of the MILLIONS in direct taxpayer subsidies they get each year. And the $2.2million they claim they pay includes ALL forms of taxes not just property taxes which means most of it doesn't go to the county. But even if it did, they are getting almost double that a year to run the TEE Center.

Riverman1
86912
Points
Riverman1 08/08/13 - 07:18 am
5
2
Brad said, "They so

Brad said, "They so graciously allowed the 100 million dollars of taxpayer buildings to be added on to their hotel so they can sell "84,000" room nights a year AND they get subsidies to pay for it all AND they shifted "shared employees" on the Tee center (taxpayer again) and then they want grandstand about how much in taxes they pay?"

Brad, don't forget the marketing fees and parking deck. A mutual friend of ours remarked she would have managed and marketed the thing for nothing. A taxpayer provided facility and they want to brag about how much they contribute.

Riverman1
86912
Points
Riverman1 08/08/13 - 07:21 am
4
2
Meals and Taxes

I would examine the kitchen operations and meals they sell for events. Do they claim the meals are handled by the city to eliminate the taxes on those huge profits?

fatherinevans
237
Points
fatherinevans 08/08/13 - 07:26 am
1
5
Good for them!

If the new Sheriff would of NOT given himself and his buddies a raise within hours of being appointed he might would have the money for the extra so called patrols. You shouldn't build something for the public if you don't have the resources to protect it.

seenitB4
90792
Points
seenitB4 08/08/13 - 07:37 am
3
3
Maybe some know

They KNOW when to jog...I doubt the out of towners know this.....just put up a sign that says "You may be assaulted after 12am."

my.voice
4923
Points
my.voice 08/08/13 - 08:02 am
2
3
I know I feel better when the

I know I feel better when the HOTEL guy is making law enforcement decisions.

...point to ponder
760
Points
...point to ponder 08/08/13 - 08:12 am
4
1
... Do the job...

Sheriff, do the job you're paid to do and leave the fundraising to the County Commissioners--- who regrettably don't have a clue about what our Central Business Dustrict means to the CSRA.

The commissioners need to do their job and allocate funds in a better fashion. The security needs of our downtown have been ignored for years except for First Friday's events.... *which is sometimes overkill as to police presence.

I'm continually amazed at the political maneuvering which occurs when direct questions are asked. So, first, what are the resources allocated to our CBD by both the Sheriff's Departnent for security and the. City for daily maintenance?

Then, how much revenue is earned via property tax,sales tax, licenses, etc...from the service orovidrs, retailers, etc....located in this area?

I've always contended that the revenue taken in far exceeds the current expenses directed for services in our downtown.

Somebody in our government really needs to take responsibility for downtown improvements, maintenance and issues which are always popping up.

It's a sad commentary how are supposed leadership just aimlessly throws a crumb out every now and then to attempt to fix something.

*** maybe they need to take another tour or two of downtown to get a good superficial grasp of what the heck is going on!

Riverman1
86912
Points
Riverman1 08/08/13 - 08:25 am
5
3
Don't forget South Augusta

Don't forget South Augusta takes in a large amount in taxes due to the industrial facilities located there. The residents of that area are also asked to tolerate the smoke belching, pigment spreading side effects. West Augusta also has more hotel rooms than downtown, yet their taxes end up in Laney Walker. They all deserve equal police protection if money is the justification.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 08/08/13 - 08:36 am
1
1
There's one voice that is

There's one voice that is oddly missing on here. Typically this is right up their alley. What gives?

belle
309
Points
belle 08/08/13 - 08:39 am
0
0
This whole situation is questionable.
Unpublished

The property owners are allowed to "opt out" of participating...does that mean they don't get RCSD protection? Reminds me of the old fashioned mob "protection" plan affluent in major cities with high crime areas. You pay up or you fend for yourself

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 08/08/13 - 09:00 am
2
2
Fred

You know it just had to chap Fred (What, me worry?) Russell's gizzard when the Commission abolished the CADI tax. Russell has never shied away from recommending tax increases year by year. So, when the tragic baseball bat attack on the couple visiting Riverwalk on their first date occurred and the public asked for a little more police presence; Russell fell back into his normal behavior of desiring more tax money.

Since Sheriff Roundtree is eager to be seen as working for the people, he took Russell's bait and accepted the role of tax increase cheerleader. That way, Russell is out of the press and Roundtree will take the heat and will ultimately be the fall guy.

The problem is those infernal petitions for the CPD. You have to get a majority of property parcel owners, or you have to get property owners with a majority of the value of the properties downtown. Using the property value method would be very tricky; and with the Morris empire going on record as being opposed, the property value method would fail.

So, the sheriff has got to send deputies to try to find a representative of ownership of every parcel in the proposed district to sign a petition. Some of these owners do not reside in the CSRA. Some are likely owned by Saudi Arabian princes or Chinese communists or Japanese moguls. How are they going to get a petition to vote? This whole idea of voluntary taxes by property parcel owners inside a district to pay for police protection is shady.

And then when Roundtree floated the trial balloon a couple of weeks ago that the tax rate he was proposing would rake in so much money that Roundtree could use the excess to pay some people to clean up the litter and blow the leaves around. Ludicrous.

seenitB4
90792
Points
seenitB4 08/08/13 - 09:23 am
4
2
Hey

Give Roundtree a break....he didn't create the mess downtown....they make bad decisions without his help.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 08/08/13 - 09:28 am
2
2
Special tax not needed.

An additional special tax is NOT needed! The County Commission has to grow some courage and cut some non-essential services in order to fund the RCSD like it should be!

nocnoc
44929
Points
nocnoc 08/08/13 - 09:47 am
3
2
I have admit it sounds like

Police protection to the highest bidder.
But instead of a special tax for the RCSO doing its job.
Why not allow businesses to hire private security to handle it
IF they really want it?

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 08/08/13 - 10:00 am
1
1
Shaft

From the story:

Roundtree said the new district is now targeting owners outside the former CADI boundaries, a change from what he’d previously told The Chronicle and from literature he distributed to some landowners.

Sheriff Roundtree changes the rules of this game every week. It's hard to trust someone like that.

Figure this out:

The change . . . provides the sheriff with about 600 owners, Roundtree said, from which to garner the 51 percent he needs to implement the district as required by Georgia law. . . . “(W)e took the old plan and attempted to make it better and fair to everyone. Therefore, this is something being offered not forced on the business owners.”

What part of TAX does Sheriff Roundtree not understand? Taxes are the very essence of government force. Sure, the business improvement district law allows for an election. If 51% vote it down, there is no tax. If 51% vote it up, there is a tax, and 100% of property owners in the district pay the tax, including the ones who voted no. Tell me I'm wrong, Susan.

Did Richard Roundtree misspeak, or is he intentionally trying to mislead? In any case, I wish our news media would explain this business improvement district tax a little more thoroughly.

Sweet son
10736
Points
Sweet son 08/08/13 - 10:42 am
1
1
Roundtree's Job!

Is to provide safety for all citizens and events in Richmond County. He needs to use the staff that he has to provide whatever is needed anywhere in the county. Reallocation of resources seems to be what is needed.

Take the Operation Thunder squad down to a reasonable size. Put the Blanchard Community relations thingy in the street. Take a few of the investigative types off of a desk and put them in the street.

Come on Blanchard, pedestrian task force? POOT!

Don't get me wrong, he needs to work on the gang activity and by doing that he will also work on the black on black shootings and the sale and distribution of drugs. They are all three tied closely together.

allhans
24009
Points
allhans 08/08/13 - 11:35 am
1
1
This entire situation is so

This entire situation is so embarrassing for Augusta.
Until we get to the root of the problem, which leaders want to ignore, this is not going away.

Brad Owens
4727
Points
Brad Owens 08/08/13 - 01:28 pm
2
0
LL said..

"Since Sheriff Roundtree is eager to be seen as working for the people, he took Russell's bait and accepted the role of tax increase cheerleader. That way, Russell is out of the press and Roundtree will take the heat and will ultimately be the fall guy."

You are correct that this was presented by Fred Russell to the Sheriff as the way to help provide additional resources to the downtown area without the general fund taking a hit.

The problem is that it is obvious that no one has looked into the actual laws surrounding the BID sand what they can and cannot be used for.

The BID cannot be used to replace existing services provided by the county that the taxpayers in the district already pay for; we already pay for law enforcement because the Sheriff's budget comes from the general fund.

SO, this cannot be used to pay for deputies as it is being offered.

Also, the Sheriff is changing the deal because he has to, because he was not given good information by Fred Russell on BIDs. In fact, I bet he told him that it would be simple to just go and get the same folks to sign off on this again (boy was he wrong).

However, BIDs can be a great source of additional and supplemental security and can work directly with LEOs. The BIDs are required to be administered by a board of directors elected from the property owners. They can hire armed private security to work in conjunction directly the Sheriff's Department and have the same arrest authority as a LEO inside the area they are paid to protect.

Downtown needs additional safety and security but this is the wrong way as it is being proposed.

Brad

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 08/08/13 - 01:45 pm
1
1
Info

Thanks for the clarifying information, Brad. One would think that the city attorney would counsel the sheriff about these mysterious "packages" that are being handed out to the property owners in the district.

Well, since Morris Communications is a property owner in the district, at least when they get their package from the sheriff, perhaps they'll give a copy to Susan McCord and allow her to tell the public what is in the packages.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 08/08/13 - 03:02 pm
0
0
Just a simple pov here. If

Just a simple pov here. If taxes are paid to sustain a police force whose task is to protect and serve the ARC, then why would the downtown proper not be included in that? Why would unique funding be needed? Fair to reason that if you have X amount of money and you can't allocate consistently enough to accomplish the job, you are either lacking resources or ability. Wouldn't the appropriate response be to allocate more tax revenue to law enforcement if it's a deficiency in funding? Doesn't it poison the entire process to pile on "unique" taxes to a select group to satisfy the underestimated allocation? Isn't the medicine to just take a little from here and there and fiddle with the mathematics? If you ask me, the default action by those in local government shouldn't be to raise taxes to catch up. They should be finding ways to make everything work with the resources available. That's a talent and a skill. So I look around and ask myself "Who has talent and skill in the local government?"

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 08/08/13 - 03:10 pm
0
0
Talent and Skill

Good points, David. Fred Russell does not even try; because he doesn’t care.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 08/08/13 - 03:41 pm
3
0
Grateful

There were very few thumbs down on this story before lunch. Now they're all over the place. Do you reckon Grateful Mother visited the story and handed out some thumbs down?

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