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Augusta parking deck deal could pass at commission meeting

Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012 4:57 PM
Last updated 8:23 PM
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It didn’t pass during last week’s Finance Committee meeting, but a management agreement with Augusta Riverfront LLC to operate a new downtown parking deck stands a better chance Tuesday when the agreement goes before the full Augusta Commission.

The deck management agreement — a contract governing operations of both the new Trade, Exhibit and Event Center parking deck and an existing parking facility for the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center — has been on hold for nearly five months.

At issue when it was first presented by City Administrator Fred Russell in October was whether Augusta was getting as much revenue as it could from the deck, so the commission sent Russell back to renegotiate the deal.

By the time Russell returned with a revised agreement last month, however, questions not related to deck revenue prompted the commission to seek a forensic audit of the dealmaking by Russell and special counsel Jim Plunkett with Augusta Riverfront that led to the deck’s construction.

Among the questions were a land swap city attorneys made with a state senator for a corner parcel on which the deck was built; a lien on adjoining parcels on which the deck now stands; and, to the surprise of most commissioners, that the city doesn’t own most of the real estate beneath the deck. Rather, it owns only air rights.

Russell and Plunkett have said the deal is a highly complex transaction, but their explanations were insufficient to persuade two commissioners — Alvin Mason and Bill Lockett — who cited their concerns in voting against the parking management agreement in committee last week.

The new agreement shortens the term of the TEE Center parking garage lease to five years, allowing the city to renegotiate once the new convention center opens and “profitability” can be determined, according to city documents. It also awards Augusta half the profits from the new deck.

When the documents go for approval Tuesday, their passage is more likely with four commissioners — Jerry Brigham, Matt Aitken, Joe Bowles and Joe Jackson, who opposed seeking the forensic audit — present to bolster its chances. The agreement needs six votes to pass.

Aitken said Friday he likes the new agreement’s shorter term.

“When we get tourism dollars coming into our events, it’s going to be major,” Aitken said of the TEE Center’s scheduled opening later this year.

Another commissioner, Wayne Guilfoyle, who voted for the audit and has raised several questions about the complicated dealmaking, was undecided Friday.

“I still don’t feel at ease with it,” said Guilfoyle, who said his biggest issue with the deal was that the commission wasn’t privy to the details until recently.

“What else has not been told to us?” he asked.

Former mayoral candidate Lori Davis and Lincoln County resident Al Gray are on Tuesday’s agenda with plans to voice concerns about the deal.

Sandwiched between them on the agenda is Convention and Visitors Bureau President Barry White, who is slated to unveil a “pre-opening marketing plan” for the TEE Center, which presently has only four events booked during the 2013 season.

Comments (16) Add comment
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Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 02/05/12 - 06:06 pm
0
0
I predict 7-3 against....

I predict 7-3 against....

eb97
835
Points
eb97 02/05/12 - 06:11 pm
0
0
I predict the very same

I predict the very same Conservative Man. I will be there to see this meeting for sure, hope you and your friends will as well. I hope as many citizens possible will come for this historic meeting/vote.

Riverman1
83802
Points
Riverman1 02/05/12 - 06:34 pm
0
0
This meeting is going to be

This meeting is going to be like the Magnolia Trace one was in Columbia County. Jammed packed with angry folks.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/05/12 - 07:03 pm
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0
I predict it will pass with

I predict it will pass with no discussion... All "business" is conducted behind closed doors in Augusta.

I just have a few questions, though...

1) Why do we need someone to manage a parking deck? How complicated can it be?

2) If the city is paying the salaries of the parking deck, what does the management company actually do and what does the city get out of it?

3) What makes this land deal "highly complex" as Russell and Plunket contend? What is "highly complex" about land that was supposed to be be donated?

Sweet son
10396
Points
Sweet son 02/05/12 - 07:10 pm
0
0
@Insider you hit the nail on

@Insider you hit the nail on the head with your question: ? How complicated can it be? Anything that is simple can be made complicated by our dysfunctional Commission. Ad in the amigos and it is even worse!

tckr1983
360
Points
tckr1983 02/05/12 - 07:57 pm
0
0
How do these folks still have

How do these folks still have jobs? How many times do they have to fumble the ball before they're held accountable? This isn't how it works anywhere else in the real world...

We thought that Augusta had gotten over the good ole' boy system that had plagued this area for so long... boy were we wrong.

What Augusta deserves... isn't what it currently has and so much for the momentum of all these new projects that were constructed here in the last few years. You think a company wants to come to Augusta and build downtown to deal with these knuckleheads? In effect, they're now driving business away and hurting the city, plain and simple. Some cities have the circus come to town one, maybe two weeks out of the year... here it's a 24/7 and 365 thing.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/05/12 - 09:45 pm
0
0
Why is this item even on the

Why is this item even on the agenda with a forensic audit taking place?

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/05/12 - 10:05 pm
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0
Willow, if they push it

Willow, if they push it through now, they will make the forensic audit moot.

The result?

1) The powers that be can demonize those pushing for the audit, calling it a waste of money.

2) If the audit uncovers something, the city attorneys will claim we must honor the contract approved by the commission regardless of the audit's findings.

Either way, the taxpayer loses.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 02/05/12 - 10:34 pm
0
0
II, thank you for the

II, thank you for the information. And they wonder why citizens are negative and doubtful of their motivations with no honesty, no integrity, no transparency and no consideration for all of the taxpayers. Completely disgusting behavior.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 02/06/12 - 03:35 am
0
0
Riverman1, Hope that you are

Riverman1,

Hope that you are right.

Please e-mail me at craigspinks@aol.com. Have something you may find interesting.

Riverman1
83802
Points
Riverman1 02/06/12 - 06:17 am
0
0
Just why do we need a TEE

Just why do we need a TEE parking garage when few events are coming?

Little Lamb
45908
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Little Lamb 02/06/12 - 08:43 am
0
0
To use countyman's favorite

To use countyman's favorite phrase, the parking garage will be a "mixed-use" facility. It will serve the TEE, the Marriott Hotel, the Morris Museum of Arts, the bank, the Merrill-Lynch office, and most importantly, the soon-to-be-built mixed-use baseball park.

I just wish they could have spared the hot dog stand.

Conservative Man
5564
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Conservative Man 02/06/12 - 10:57 am
0
0
Insider, I disagree, I think

Insider, I disagree, I think the forensic audit covers the deals that got the deck and TEE Center built in the first place. I don't think it has anything to do with the actual operations of these entities. However I could be wrong...Just my take on it..

eb97
835
Points
eb97 02/06/12 - 12:28 pm
0
0
I don't see this thing

I don't see this thing passing the smell test this Tuesday @ 5:00pm. I believe there will be a few commissioners shamed along with our little mayor and fred. The citizens want this thing audited because they feel the findings will prove that a few commissioners, mayor and uncle Fred have not been truthful with the commission and the taxpayers. I see people resigning their positions before the taxpayers have a chance to get rid of them. They do not want to be anymore publicly humiliated.

...point to ponder
755
Points
...point to ponder 02/07/12 - 02:03 am
0
0
For this to be 'a highly

For this to be 'a highly complex real estate transaction' more commissioners should have been made aware of the details "prior to" the completion and ribbon cutting of the parking deck. (*the small matter of this real estate being tied up as collateral on other assets...and now seemingly being used as 'blackmail' for an agreement to be inked before any release can be negotiated...)

(*It's a good thing this was SPLOST funds...some are thinking...or the deck could have never been built using bond indebtedness....a lawyer would have checked title prior to the start of construction, etc...and all this "stuff" would have never happened. The SPLOST funding opened the window for this transaction to happen.)

All those that use the phrase --'a highly complex real estate transaction' --- seem to be saying something that foretells a forensic audit is absolutely necessary.

Those that say that funds spent on a forensic audit will be waste...well, enough said. Do the audit NOW! (*I'd rather err on the side of caution than not do anything.)

From what has been in the press (*or not in the press) ----from what has been stated...and/or not stated by all parties on a timely basis in this matter...all points to suspicion that we as citizens can not afford.

I'm kinda sick of the the back room deals that come out of the back room smelling like "we the citizens just got the shaft again!"

The Commissioners and any other elected official who vote for this deal without having a stipulation in favor of performing a forensic audit need to step down and get away from public service...*

Give me a break....'a highly complex real estate transaction'.......right.
Those involved skipped a few steps in the process...did they really think all would go unnoticed? Or did they think like they are now that all is well...no one will get hurt...it's only money...Just what were they thinking keeping this critical element quiet?

We the citizens must stay very upset with anyone (elected or not) that says that we (*the City) have air rights and all is well! Yes, this is 'a highly complex real estate transaction' because no one in their right mind would spend over $50 MILLION dollars on improving land in another's name!

...point to ponder
755
Points
...point to ponder 02/07/12 - 02:09 am
0
0
bad deal...must have

bad deal...must have audit...best money ever spent...anyone who says it is waste of money to fund the audit is covering up the less that open back room transaction and false promises made by the owner of the land.
Absolute "must do"====forensic audit. (*or a grand jury will be convened).

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