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Augusta parking deck management deal stalls

Panel withholds OK, but measure to go ahead

Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 10:17 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 1:38 AM
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A new management agreement for city-owned downtown parking facilities hit a snag Monday when a committee declined to approve it.

Despite the setback, City Administrator Fred Russell said the negotiated contract with Augusta Riverfront LLC will return to the Augusta Commission for a vote at its next regular meeting Feb. 7.

Most of the discussion Monday didn’t center on the terms of the agreement, which governs management of two city-owned parking facilities associated with the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center and the adjoining Trade, Exhibit and Event Center, which is under construction.

“They’re too busy trying to muddy the water than talk about things we need to talk about,” said Commissioner Jerry Brigham, the chairman of the Finance Committee, who at one point told fellow commissioners he had “had enough.”

Rather than discuss the contract, commissioners instead questioned Jim Plunkett, the city’s special counsel for the TEE Center, its parking deck and other related deals, about whether he had known there was a lien on the land under the TEE Center parking deck, to which the city owns only air rights.

Plunkett offered Commissioner Alvin Mason the analogy of someone purchasing a house while leaving details related to its title history to a closing attorney.

“You bought your house. Did you know whether or not there was a debt on the property when you bought it? That’s what the lawyer resolves for you,” Plunkett said. “You don’t know that the underlying subdivision debt has been paid off, has the mortgage on the house been paid off? That’s the lawyer’s responsibility.”

Plunkett said the land under the deck was part of the collateral for a bank loan taken out by 933 Broad St. LLC, which owns the land. The bank delayed releasing the city from liability because it wanted the deck built first, but will grant the release of air rights very soon.

“Certain things have to be done for that release, and they’re in the process of being done,” Plunkett said. “The legal team has that under control.”

The answer didn’t appear to satisfy Mason, who accused Plunkett of working both for the city and the landowner. The owner, 933 Broad, shares management with the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

“Maybe it’s the lawyer I’m uncomfortable with,” Mason said.

Responding to additional questions from Commissioners Bill Lockett and Wayne Guilfoyle, Plunkett said that even if the bank foreclosed on the land beneath the deck, the city retains all air and easement rights.

Asked by Commissioner J.R. Hatney how long he had been aware of the lien, Plunkett said that he had known since he began title work on the land and that there “was a mechanism in place” to address it.

“That’s the lawyer’s job,” he said.

In the agreement presented Monday by Russell, Marriott and TEE Center operator Augusta Riverfront LLC pays the city $25,000 annually to use the Marriott parking deck, which the city owns, while the city pays Augusta Riverfront LLC $50,000 to run the new TEE parking deck, with net profits from the TEE deck, if any, to be divided between the city and Augusta Riverfront.

Lockett’s motion to delay action on the agreement until the results of a forensic audit come back failed, 2-2, with him and Mason voting in favor.

Brigham’s motion to send the item forward without a recommendation also failed, 2-2, but he and Russell said the vote won’t stop the item from appearing before the full commission.

The city and Augusta Riverfront have been operating under a month-to-month agreement concerning the parking decks for the past several months.

If the commission rejects the proposal, the month-to-month arrangement would continue.

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nnaugusta
533
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nnaugusta 01/31/12 - 02:25 am
0
0
I'm confused......!

I'm confused......!

Riverman1
81490
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Riverman1 01/31/12 - 05:44 am
0
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The debt holders of Morris

The debt holders of Morris Communications may decide to make this thing harder than Mr. Plunkett realizes. The company owes mega millions and the debt holders have a say over how things are run and the deals they make.

Is the TEE, TEE parking deck the biggest boondoggle in Augusta government history? Name me anything worse.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 01/31/12 - 07:05 am
0
0
We could have had the Billy

We could have had the Billy Barn.

seenitB4
84424
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seenitB4 01/31/12 - 07:25 am
0
0
Billy Barn does have a ring

Billy Barn does have a ring to it....

RoadkiII
6445
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RoadkiII 01/31/12 - 07:53 am
0
0
All in favor say "Aye"

All in favor say "Aye" (silence) All opposed say "Nay" (many voices) "The measure passes."

Little Lamb
44967
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Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 08:41 am
0
0
Who's on first? From the

Who's on first? From the article:

In the agreement presented Monday by Russell, Marriott and TEE Center operator Augusta Riverfront LLC pays the city $25,000 annually to use the Marriott parking deck, which the city owns, while the city pays Augusta Riverfront LLC $50,000 to run the new TEE parking deck, with net profits from the TEE deck, if any, to be divided between the city and Augusta Riverfront.

When you look at the structure you see a single thing — a parking deck. But to the lawyers it is two entirely different parking decks. Russell said to the TV reporter that the proposal is a "good deal." For whom, I wonder?

gmt
79
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gmt 01/31/12 - 09:11 am
0
0
Little Lamb, there are two

Little Lamb, there are two parking decks. The one attached to the hotels and the one across Reynolds street that they just built.

Little Lamb
44967
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Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 09:14 am
0
0
Thanks, gmt. I did not

Thanks, gmt. I did not realize that. That makes a lot of parking available for the ball park!

Little Lamb
44967
Points
Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 09:19 am
0
0
Wouldn't one figure that most

Wouldn't one figure that most of the convention goers would stay in the Marriott Hotel for convenience to the TEE? And wouldn't you figure that the Marriott desk clerk would steer Marriott guests to the Marriott parking deck instead of the TEE parking deck? Those "net profits" on the TEE deck are going to be very slim.

Little Lamb
44967
Points
Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 10:20 am
0
0
Alvin Mason said, “Maybe it’s

Alvin Mason said, “Maybe it’s the lawyer I’m uncomfortable with.”

Well, Alvin Mason and Bill Lockett (along with Corey Johnson, I think) said a few months ago that they could not trust Fred (What, me worry?) Russell. Then they said they could not trust city attorney MacKenzie. Now they cannot trust contracted city attorney Plunkett. Who can you trust?

Little Lamb
44967
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Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 10:25 am
0
0
From the article: Mason . . .

From the article:

Mason . . . accused Plunkett of working both for the city and the landowner.

That's the way they do things in Columbia County, also.

Conservative Man
5353
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Conservative Man 01/31/12 - 10:26 am
0
0
Looks to me like this whole

Looks to me like this whole fiasco was attempted before all the loose ends were tied up. A case of "Just make it happen and we'll figure out the details later" type of thing.
Having lived in Augusta my whole life this is no surprise.Either the people who put this together are incompetent, (which is scary enough) or they care more about getting something pushed through,for the benefit of a few rather than doing it correctly.
If it's the former, the city really should look closely at who they hire to do their business, and how they do business with them.
If it's the latter and things were done improperly to benefit a few select people and not the city as a whole, somebody should be in jail..

Little Lamb
44967
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Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 10:36 am
0
0
They can't even muster up the

They can't even muster up the courage to fire him, CM, let alone send him to jail.

Riverman1
81490
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Riverman1 01/31/12 - 10:41 am
0
0
Lori, you know thinking about

Lori, you know thinking about it, that was a BS comment by Plunkett. He acts like law is some black box that only he understand. His comments were condescending. He should have had all that carefully worked out and explained previously. He didn't.

"...was a mechanism in place to address it."

“That’s the lawyer’s job,”

"“Certain things have to be done for that release, and they’re in the process of being done,” Plunkett said. “The legal team has that under control.”

These are all weasel statements.

Little Lamb
44967
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Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 10:43 am
0
0
Mason and Plunkett engaged in

Mason and Plunkett engaged in a battle of wits; but Mason came unarmed.

natep
5
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natep 01/31/12 - 10:58 am
0
0
@Little Lamb Tuesday, Jan. 31

@Little Lamb Tuesday, Jan. 31 8:19 AM
When I worked at the hotel (which was about 10 years ago) the parking in the deck for the hotel guests was paid for by the hotel and was free to the guests.

Riverman1
81490
Points
Riverman1 01/31/12 - 11:08 am
0
0
Plunkett may have wits, but

Plunkett may have wits, but he didn't have an answer. He looked like Gene Kelly tap dancing on roller skates.

Little Lamb
44967
Points
Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 11:11 am
0
0
On the left hand side of the

On the left hand side of the article, sandwiched in between the video and the advertisement, is a link to a PDF file giving the text of the agreement. It is long, about 60 pages, but it is worth scanning. One thing I noticed on page 27 is that the parking deck employees are hired by the manager and work for the manager, but are actually paid by the city. Those salaries are in addition to the $50,000 management fee. Did I read that correctly?

Little Lamb
44967
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Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 11:15 am
0
0
Plunkett may have been tap

Plunkett may have been tap dancing, but he roller skated away in victory. Why do I assert that? Because, "Russell said the vote won’t stop the item from appearing before the full commission." That came from the third to last paragraph. I maintain that the six votes to pass that 60-page management agreement are already in the bag. This little side detour through the finance commission was a waste of time.

Riverman1
81490
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Riverman1 01/31/12 - 11:32 am
0
0
Here's how I look at it. If

Here's how I look at it. If there were such a thing as an "us" in all this, I'd remind Plunket who he worked for. If a lawyer treated me in such a condescending way, saying don't worry about it, I'm the lawyer, I'd find a new one. Of course the problem is we don't who he is trying to please or even who "we" are when you speak of Augusta government.

lsmith
105
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lsmith 01/31/12 - 11:38 am
0
0
This is obsurd! I don't
Unpublished

This is obsurd! I don't believe any other construction project would have gotten beyond initial financing much less out of the ground and built with such a lein attachment in place. In my opinion the lawyer who closed this deal should be held accountable for failing to disclose the lein before initial paperwork was completed and construction started.
As for the managment agreements with the Tee Center and Marriot folks, they were poor deals negotiated for taxpayers all the way around. I don't understand why it is the commission cannot seem to hold it's ground in dealing with these folks. They have been out smarted every time.

lsmith
105
Points
lsmith 01/31/12 - 11:47 am
0
0
This is obsurd! I cannot
Unpublished

This is obsurd! I cannot believe that any other construction project would have gotten out of the ground much less completed with kind of lein hanging onto the property. In my opinion the county should sue the closing attorneys for failing to discover this lein and fully disclose the flaw so it could be cured before closing paperwork could be completed, financing obtained and construction begun. Despite the doublespeak by Punkett this is a HUGE failure and someone should be held accountable.
As for the dispute for parkind deck managment, the taxpayers got stuck on the Marriott years ago and are getting in hung in them again. I don't understand why the commissioners are unable to stand up agains these people. They come away lookg like a bunch of buffoons....

Little Lamb
44967
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Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 12:11 pm
0
0
At 10:38, lsmith posted: In

At 10:38, lsmith posted:

In my opinion the lawyer who closed this deal should be held accountable for failing to disclose the lein before initial paperwork was completed and construction started.

I was going to post a reply asking him what he meant by “held accountable,” but then he made a second post at 10:47, saying

In my opinion the county should sue the closing attorneys for failing to discover this lein and fully disclose the flaw so it could be cured before closing paperwork could be completed, financing obtained and construction begun. Despite the doublespeak by Punkett this is a HUGE failure and someone should be held accountable.

That sounds good, but we might find that there was no actual closing! Remember, the land belongs to Broad Street LLC and apparently has for some time. Who knows how long the bank lein has been on the property? Since the land did not change hands, there would have been no closing.

Of course, there was one real estate sale and that was from Bill Jackson to the city, but that was just the hot dog stand property. It had no lein on it.

Lori Davis
885
Points
Lori Davis 01/31/12 - 01:32 pm
0
0
I noticed Riverman that my

I noticed Riverman that my comments have been removed, but yours remain....Interesting. Seems like we both said about the same thing.

Paintbrush365
12
Points
Paintbrush365 01/31/12 - 01:35 pm
0
0
Air rights allow a property

Air rights allow a property owner to extend their building over land owned by another. They do not let you build on the land. For example, if you have a restaurant on Broad Street and buy air rights from the City, you can extend your building over the land owned by the City. Air rights do not give you the right to attach buildings to the land. To do that, you need a land lease or ownership of the land. It seems to me that the LLC owns the land and all real property (buildings or parking garages) attached to it. Essentially, the city built an expensive building on land owned by the LLC and the LLC now owns the parking garage.

Paintbrush365
12
Points
Paintbrush365 01/31/12 - 01:40 pm
0
0
Who is releasing the air

Who is releasing the air rights? Doesn't the city own them? This reads like the bank will release the air rights soon...

"Plunkett said the land under the deck was part of the collateral for a bank loan taken out by 933 Broad St. LLC, which owns the land. The bank delayed releasing the city from liability because it wanted the deck built first, but will grant the release of air rights very soon."

Little Lamb
44967
Points
Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 01:41 pm
0
0
There was absolutely nothing

There was absolutely nothing improper in your earlier comments, Lori. You stated your opinion, and there was no hint of personal attack or harassment.

Paintbrush365
12
Points
Paintbrush365 01/31/12 - 01:42 pm
0
0
Air Rights only allow

Air Rights only allow buildings to extend over land, not on it. The city built a structure on land owned by the LLC. The land and all improvements (the parking garage) are owned by the LLC.

Sweet son
9988
Points
Sweet son 01/31/12 - 01:54 pm
0
0
I am with whoever said that

I am with whoever said that they were confused but I really got stuck on the "air" rights thing in a humours way. I imagined how much "air" probably "hot air" was expelled in this meeting. The only it could have been livelier was if the kid from the Mall with the fart machine had been there!

Little Lamb
44967
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Little Lamb 01/31/12 - 02:13 pm
0
0
Dekebot Brett

Dekebot Brett posted:

Obviously, the rushed Bill Jackson sale of of his parcel of land was used to fix or inflate the price of the land surrounding the TEEgate fiasco. The land under the TEE Center is owned by Augusta Riverfront LLC but the land under the TEE Center Parking Deck was mortgaged by 933 Broadway Investment Co LLC to Wachovia Banks.

If a driver loses control of his vehicle coming down the ramp of the new Marriott parking deck and crashes into the ticket booth, does he owe damages to the city or to 933 Broad LLC?

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