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Russell to re-examine downtown Augusta parking deck deal

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Management of the city’s new downtown parking garage remains undecided, with Augusta Commission members on Monday sending City Administrator Fred Russell back to renegotiate a deal he previously said was the best he could do.

Emerging after nearly an hour behind closed doors with General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie and special counsel Jim Plunkett, who has handled most legal details associated with the new Trade, Exhibit and Event Center, the commission’s Finance Committee voted 4-0 to have Russell “come back with a new proposal.”

Russell’s first proposal, in which Augusta pays TEE Center operator Augusta Riverfront LLC an annual management fee of $25,000 to operate the nearby deck, while reserving its ground floor spaces during business hours for landowner 933 Broad Investment Co. LLC, raised questions with several commissioners that persisted Monday.

“It appears that we are giving away the taxpayers’ money,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said.

Lockett said after Monday’s vote he remained particularly troubled by the fact that he made a Aug. 9, 2010, motion to acquire land he thought was for the deck.

“General counsel did not properly explain what he was anticipating the commission voting on,” he said.

After a called legal meeting Aug. 9, 2010, the commission approved 9-0 a motion read by MacKenzie to buy the former WAGT-TV property for $205,000, purchase for $119,500 and swap property at the corner of 13th and Reynolds streets for a tract at Ninth and Reynolds streets and pay $32,000 to end a lease with the operator of Reggie’s Hot Dog Stand.

Typically when the commission authorizes a purchase of real estate, Augusta’s mayor signs off on a resolution describing and authorizing the purchase, but no resolution could be located Monday by City Clerk Lena Bonner or Plunkett, who said he’d search for one among reams of documents associated with the TEE development.

The day’s swap and purchases ultimately contributed only 0.07 acre to city-owned real estate beneath the now-completed deck. Most commissioners were surprised to learn when the management agreement was first presented in September that the city only owns the deck’s upper floors.

While they’d been told by Russell the land under the deck would be donated, the arrangement was developed as a way to ensure no more than 10 percent of the publicly financed construction project went to private use, according to Plunkett.

Russell said Monday he takes the blame for whatever misunderstandings or errors occurred, that he’d go back to work on the deal, and that the deck’s “top floors are going to be ours in perpetuity,” while its ground floor would remain the property of 933 Broad Investment Co.

Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront and 933 Broad Investment, who attended Monday committee meetings, said he was surprised by the decision to revisit the proposal. “We’ll just have to look and see what they come back with,” he said.

Commissioner Matt Aitken said the motion passed because a majority of the commission felt like the current proposal benefits only the TEE Center and “wasn’t inclusive” to downtown events such as the ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta and Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival.

Aitken said he hoped the new agreement more closely resembled the proposal by Ampco System Parking, the bidder selected when the city put management of the deck out for bid.

Commissioner Corey Johnson said the first proposal wasn’t in the city’s best interest. “Anything is negotiable,” he said. “I know we can get a better deal.”

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said he wasn’t sure. “I don’t know if it’s going to be any better the second time around,” he said.

IN OTHER ACTION

The Augusta Commission’s Finance Committee and the Planning Commission authorized four actions Monday intended to secure an unnamed chemical manufacturer to a privately held 179-acre tract located at Doug Barnard Parkway and Dixon Airline Road.

The Planning Commission OK’d special exceptions to the heavy industry designation to permit chemical manufacturing, while the Finance Committee authorized the city’s third Tax Allocation District at the site. The district will allow the city to reimburse the manufacturer for infrastructure improvements with increments of rising property taxes resulting from the development.

Walter Sprouse, the director of the Development Authority of Richmond County, has said Augusta is one of six Southeastern cities vying for the plant.

According to the TAD redevelopment plan approved by the committee, the development will spur $115 million in investment and create 80-100 jobs.

Comments (45) Add comment
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Little Lamb
46030
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Little Lamb 11/08/11 - 03:32 pm
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Here's the story from

Here's the story from September 23 where Overstreet rules against the city. He says you need to use a competitive bid process and choose the lowest bidder. Why should the parking deck management agreement be any different? Why are the commissioners merely telling Russell to go negotiate with Paul Simon to get better terms? Why can't another company have a shot at running this parking deck?

IsAnyoneAlwaysRight
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IsAnyoneAlwaysRight 11/08/11 - 03:32 pm
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Riverboatman, who told you

Riverboatman, who told you the city was promised the land? The commissioners who were not even in office then? They were promised the right to build in the space above the 150 parking places already under obligation to the ML building partnership. The city wasn't even charged for the air space/easement/ingress/egress.....geeze how much revenue the city want; unless they know the only tenants are going to be the existing ML customers.

Who knows if the Tee Center was good idea; but are you advocating stealing or condemning ones private property. Don't understand the ignorance of people not grasping this concept.

Furthermore, part of the reason the deal was structured as is, was because of the type of financing the city got and the restrictive covenants of the financing.

All this because some idiot on the 3-6 pm radio doesn't have a clue.

Riverman1
84110
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Riverman1 11/08/11 - 03:43 pm
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IsAnyone, I was involved in

IsAnyone, I was involved in opposing the TEE and remember much that was going on. It's a wonder someone didn't try to bribe me I was into the fight so much. I can't find it right now, but I have a pretty good memory and recall it was said back then the land had been donated in a Commission meeting. Possibly Russell said that answering a commissioner. It was a long time ago.

Riverman1
84110
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Riverman1 11/08/11 - 03:42 pm
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Matter of fact explain

Matter of fact explain Simon's comment: "We were just kidding."

IsAnyoneAlwaysRight
40
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IsAnyoneAlwaysRight 11/08/11 - 04:48 pm
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This is Augusta, Georgia;

This is Augusta, Georgia; aren't you guys used to all this by now....Hope and Change!

Riverman1
84110
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Riverman1 11/08/11 - 04:15 pm
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IsAnyone, was there a benefit

IsAnyone, was there a benefit to Mr. Morris of the TEE being built there? Wouldn't an offer of the land to build the parking garage be reasonable in light of the TEE construction that would benefit the Marriott?

So again about Simon's comment, was the offer for the land thrown out in jest even?

Little Lamb
46030
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Little Lamb 11/08/11 - 04:21 pm
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The debate has shifted about

The debate has shifted about the supposed gift of land to the city. The only thing in play now are the terms of the agreement to operate the deck and divide the revenue. The final agreement will have the city pay a private firm's expenses to operate the deck, then will let the private firm have the lion's share of the revenues. It's the City of Augusta deal; a deal for suckers.

Riverman1
84110
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Riverman1 11/08/11 - 04:35 pm
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LL, I think Joe Bowles is

LL, I think Joe Bowles is working on it to make sure the city comes out okay.

Little Lamb
46030
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Little Lamb 11/08/11 - 04:42 pm
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I hope you are right, RM.

I hope you are right, RM. But the article above says the committee directed Fred (What, me worry?) Russell to go do the negotiating. If Fred goes alone into a closed room with Morris's lawyers, the results won't be pretty.

I still don't understand why they don't just use the competitive bidding process like Overstreet told them to do?

IsAnyoneAlwaysRight
40
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IsAnyoneAlwaysRight 11/08/11 - 04:51 pm
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Why would a private firm have

Why would a private firm have a lion share of revenues, unless the private firm's parking tennants are the only ones that use the parking deck lol. Not private partnerships problem.

Little Lamb
46030
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Little Lamb 11/08/11 - 05:01 pm
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You know, the commission

You know, the commission might want to contract with David Fry to be special counsel on this parking deck re-negotiation. He might be a little bolder than Russell.

Brad Owens
4449
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Brad Owens 11/08/11 - 05:39 pm
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IsAmyoneAlwaysRight, NO one

IsAmyoneAlwaysRight,

NO one "told" us they were to donate the land, it is in the minutes of the commission meeting.

http://appweb.augustaga.gov/weblink8/DocView.aspx?id=19239&searchid=9a31...

Read for yourself. Plain as day.

That "private" property is OWED to us, the tax payer.

calculator25
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calculator25 11/08/11 - 05:51 pm
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Can anyone tell me how much

Can anyone tell me how much rent the Marriott is going to pay the city for the use of the TEE Center space. When it is rented who will receive the rental income...the city or the Marriott?
How do the taxpayers get a return on their investment?
Someone please explain.

Brad Owens
4449
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Brad Owens 11/08/11 - 06:11 pm
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cal25, We are paying them

cal25,

We are paying them $350,000.00 a year to run it for us.

Brad

Little Lamb
46030
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Little Lamb 11/09/11 - 07:25 am
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Calculator asked, “How do the

Calculator asked, “How do the taxpayers get a return on their investment?”

Cal, the parking deck is not an investment. For that matter, the TEE Center is not an investment. These are amenities. They are there to provide "quality of life" for those who use them, and their presence enhances the quality of life of everybody who comes to the city. These two amenities are like city parks, city golf courses, city-sponsored fireworks displays, and other amenities such as the Augusta History Museum and the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of African-American History. You do not get any return on them other than enjoyment.

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