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Augusta transit company denies wrongdoing

Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 9:18 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 12:18 AM
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An official with the company that is managing Augusta’s public transit system disputed allegations Monday that the firm isn't properly paying employees and a local vendor.

The allegations, raised by Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett during an Administrative Services Committee meeting, were that Mobility Transit isn't paying overtime to employees required to work more than 40 hours a week and that the firm was late making payments to a local vendor.

“That's a no-no,” Lockett said. “You're supposed to be financially solvent.”

The Knoxville, Tenn.-based private firm took over management of Augusta Public Transit on Aug. 1 after the Augusta Commission voted to outsource the service.

Since then, more than 300,000 have taken a ride on one of the service's nine routes, according to a report presented Monday by Sharon Dottery, the city’s transit contract manager.

The rides brought total 2011 bus ridership to 693,462, up from 593,658 in 2010, according to the report.

Mike Rosson, Mobility’s general manager, said after the meeting that the overtime complaint relayed to Lockett likely came from “a disgruntled employee who didn't wish (transit) to be outsourced,” and denied the firm was breaking labor laws.

When the city outsourced transit, many bus drivers were laid off, but most were subsequently hired back by Mobility.

“We're doing the right thing over there by paying employees,” Rosson said.

Mobility officials traced the vendor complaint to the local source of uniforms for bus mechanics, he said.

Rosson said Mobility had negotiated payment terms with the vendor, but that “the mechanics are wearing uniforms” and “the vendors are getting paid.”

Dottery's presentation was the first commissioners have had publicly since the firm took over. She agreed to meet individually with each commissioner to address any concerns.

Her report also showed an uptick in ridership of the service's Gordon Highway Kmart, Augusta Mall, Barton Chapel Road and Lumpkin Road routes, with the Kmart and Augusta Mall routes the most popular.

In other business:

- The Public Service Committee approved an increase of $836,228 to the overall project budget of the new Trade, Exhibit and Event Center, bringing the total to $30.1 million. Marriott, which will operate the TEE Center, requested most of the changes, including a $399,083 upgrade to the center's smoke handling system.

The improved air handling system will keep air circulating through the venue eight times per hour, which is higher than the Georgia requirement of less than three times per hour, City Administrator Fred Russell said.

Comments (12) Add comment
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Westside Liberal
12
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Westside Liberal 02/13/12 - 11:15 pm
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Does the chronicle mean

Does the chronicle mean "smoke handling system" or general air handling. If it's smoke that is their concern it'll never be needed - can't burn tobacco on or in city owned property. They'll have to do that on the bottom floor of the parking garage.

Riverman1
84125
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Riverman1 02/14/12 - 07:59 am
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Why not just call it another

Why not just call it another million? When do we finally stop giving money to the Marriott-TEE? We just put out $350,000 to the CVB to market the Marriott-TEE? I thought the Marriott was going to market the thing for what we pay them? Can someone please push the alarm. We're being robbed.

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 02/14/12 - 08:05 am
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Wasn't the amount that the

Wasn't the amount that the voters approved on the referendum $21 million? Talk about "smoke handling."

Riverman1
84125
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Riverman1 02/14/12 - 08:25 am
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About the Marriott-TEE, one

About the Marriott-TEE, one day everyone is going to wake up when it's realized the only one making money on the thing is the Marriott having rinky dink events that used to be held in other local venues and giving free ballroom rentals in order to rent the rooms out and sell the meals. I bet the value of the Marriott has tripled since the TEE was approved. Watch them sell the thing for millions profit and say none of it's their fault. They are probably already looking for buyers and are sprucing it up with the smoke filtering system to be more attractive.

Riverman1
84125
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Riverman1 02/14/12 - 09:49 am
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I entertain my out of town

I entertain my out of town women friends at the Motel 6 out in the county. I wonder if Barry White, head of the CVB, could provide a little room with a coffee pot or something? It wouldn't cost near the $850,000 latest gift or even near the $350,000 marketing gift to the Marriott-TEE. Could he also talk the place up in ads or something so my women don't think I put them up in such cheap places?

Little Lamb
46053
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Little Lamb 02/14/12 - 09:51 am
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Westside Liberal is correct.

Westside Liberal is correct. It might be appropriate for a hotel to have an air handling system that changes air 8 times an hour because they have rooms for smokers and they cook a lot of food.

But a big box convention center that is totally non-smoking does not need such a big system. If the government requirement is 2.5 times an hour, it would be irresponsible for taxpayers to pony up an air handling system that does eight times an hour — especially since the building will sit empty most of the time. The power bills will be higher and for no benefit.

seenitB4
87389
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seenitB4 02/14/12 - 10:02 am
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(Out of town women

(Out of town women friends--heheheh)

Also put in some NICE towels....a better tv....bigger tv...I think $350,00 will cover MOST of needs....(funny guy this am)

Riverman1
84125
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Riverman1 02/14/12 - 10:13 am
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When are Russell and Plunkett

When are Russell and Plunkett going to explain to the Commission and public how they fixed this lien thing with the land bank? It's done..right?

Little Lamb
46053
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Little Lamb 02/14/12 - 12:34 pm
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I think it's too soon to

I think it's too soon to expect that the lien thing on the Marriott parking deck is fixed. The commission just approved Joe Bowles' motion last week. There is paperwork involved.

I will be interested in seeing how it plays out. Do you remember the apparent stalemate? Joe Bowles said that the replacement management agreement would be signed once Riverfront LLC got the liens released; and Paul Simon said that the liens would be released once the management agreement is signed. Which one will blink first?

raul
4893
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raul 02/14/12 - 12:44 pm
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@Riverman1. Does Tom Bodett,

@Riverman1. Does Tom Bodett, "leave the light on for ya" at Motel 6, River?

raul
4893
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raul 02/14/12 - 01:38 pm
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@LittleLamb. And neither the

@LittleLamb. And neither the Land Bank nor Wells Fargo was contacted before the commission passed Joe Bowles' proposal. At least that's the way I understood it.

Little Lamb
46053
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Little Lamb 02/14/12 - 02:00 pm
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I have no way of knowing,

I have no way of knowing, Raul. But the way this commission works, and with Russell's lack of attention to detail, you could very well be correct.

All it would take would be for five commissioners to revolt and refuse to pass the motion to cave into the Marriott owner's demands for a fancy dancy air handling system for the convention center. The architect that the city hired specified the legally required turnover rate. Taxpayers should not have to pay for a Cadillac air handler just because the Marriott says they want it.

Can we find those five courageous commissioners before next Tuesday. Alvin Mason is the only one on record saying he will vote no.

Riverman1
84125
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Riverman1 02/14/12 - 04:57 pm
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ANYTHING the Marriott wants

ANYTHING the Marriott wants will be GIVEN to them. It all goes under the facade of making the Marriott-TEE successful. Barry White is going to make sure of that. He is able to divert funds to them with little oversight. This is approximately $1 million in the past week for the Marriott-TEE. Has White helped the hotels up at Stevens Creek in any way? What was his background before getting this position?

Little Lamb
46053
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Little Lamb 02/15/12 - 03:45 pm
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One of the things that ticks

One of the things that ticks me off about this is the way Fred (What, me worry?) Russell just shrugs off this request by the Marriott Hotel management for change orders to the TEE Center to the tune of over $800,000. He just forwards the request over to the committee with a "please approve this" recommendation. No pushback, no discussion, no negotiation, no nothing. Just cave in. To Fred, it's other people's money; and he doesn't want to worry about it.

Riverman1
84125
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Riverman1 02/15/12 - 08:20 pm
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I've got it figured out why

I've got it figured out why the Marriott wants the $850,000 air conditioning upgrade for the TEE. They are going to leave the door between the two buildings open.

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