Civic center operator will get $90,000 bonus

The new Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority faced its first contentious issue Tuesday in deciding how much of a bonus to pay Global Spectrum for its first year managing James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium.

Settling the matter took two tie votes, each broken by Chairman Cedric Johnson. There were no abstentions, no absences, no votes along racial lines and no harsh words other than a brief spat between Global Spectrum's Tom Paquette and authority accountant J.T. Cosnahan.

The final decision to pay the company $90,000 -- the minimum it would agree to -- was reached in an effort to avoid the cost of potential litigation.

"I'm proud of them," Mr. Johnson said afterward of the board.

At issue was the company's "benchmark calculation," an incentive for increasing revenues that was part of Global Spectrum's contract with the old coliseum authority. In its first year, the company has been credited with improving the operation's bottom line by nearly $300,000 despite losing the Augusta Lynx hockey team and the Augusta Colts arena football team.

During that year, the old 12-member authority was ousted by the state Legislature and replaced with the current seven-member board, a change initiated after years of complaints that infighting had made the board dysfunctional and ineffective.

Under the contract, Global Spectrum's bonus amount was to be figured using net concessions revenues, or the commission from concessions that went to the authority, comparing the take from fiscal year 2008-09 to the average revenues of the two prior fiscal years.

The complicated formula was further muddled by lackluster bookkeeping under past management and by the authority having two different concessions companies during the past three years, each with different calculations for turning over revenue. Concessions were handled by Centerplate until its contract expired in early 2008, and they're now under Ovations Food Services, a sister company to Global Spectrum.

The authority's accountant calculated that Global Spectrum's bonus should be $26,427. The company said the figure should be $110,000 -- the amount it earned in management fees during the 11 months it managed the civic center complex last fiscal year -- but that it would settle for $90,000.

Mr. Cosnahan said Global Spectrum was trying to mix gross and net revenues together in the calculation, and he asked Mr. Paquette under what accounting practices that could be done. An argument ensued, and Mr. Cosnahan asked why Global Spectrum's finance representatives didn't attend the meeting.

"We've made our position clear. I don't know what else to say," said Mr. Paquette, who is general manager of the Colonial Center in Columbia and has been at several meetings lately to support Augusta civic center manager Monty Jones.

Authority member and Finance Committee Chairman David Hogg proposed meeting the company halfway and paying a bonus of $68,000. The motion failed 4-3, with Louis "Hap" Harris, Bonita Jenkins and Brad Usry opposed, and Mr. Johnson breaking the tie.

"Thank y'all very much," Mr. Johnson said after the tie vote, eliciting laughter. He said he'd rather pay the company its $90,000 minimum, that he wants to foster a good relationship, and that if the dispute went into litigation, it would cost the authority far more than the $22,000 difference between that figure and $68,000.

Authority member Brad Usry later made a motion to pay $90,000, contingent on a concrete formula being agreed on for determining the bonus in future years. The motion passed 4-3, with Joe Collier, Shirley Darby and Mr. Hogg opposed.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com

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