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Augusta Commission rejects $836,288 change order for TEE Center

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 11:14 PM
Last updated 11:27 PM
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Augusta commissioners on Tuesday rejected an $836,288 change order connected to fire safety at the new Trade, Exhibit and Event Center, a move that could potentially slow the center’s completion and opening.

Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz addressed the commission.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz addressed the commission.

Commissioners Grady Smith and Wayne Guilfoyle joined commissioners Alvin Mason and Bill Lockett in voting against the change, which failed 4-5-1. Commissioner J.R. Hatney abstained from voting.

The bulk of the order is a $399,083 request to upgrade mechanical and electrical equipment “to increase the smoke exhaust system from approximately 2.5 air changes per hour to approximately eight air changes per hour, per Marriott Corporate request,” according to an Oct. 17 request from Jacques Ware of Heery International/Dukes Edwards & Dukes, two firms employed by Augusta to oversee construction projects.

The order itself was prepared by contractor R.W. Allen, which is building the project. Other changes in the order include additional storage rooms, upgraded ceiling power, $260,403 in changes based on comments from a “building review department and fire marshal,” kitchen plumbing changes and various other adjustments down to $16,050 for different toilet accessories, according to the request.

“This was signed off October of 2011, and now we’re into February of 2012, what took you so long?” Lockett asked City Administrator Fred Russell.

Russell said that since October, he and others had been “negotiating” with Marriott International. “After a fairly frustrating attempt to do that, we brought it forward to you,” he said.

The air change system designed by architect tvsdesign and mechanical engineers meets Georgia requirements. It does not meet Marriott’s higher standards, and the hotel chain won’t bend, tvsdesign architect Emory Leonard told commissioners.

The main issue raised by commissioners is why they didn’t learn of the changes, which bring the project’s total price to $30.1 million, any sooner.

“We are getting facts after the fact,” Hatney said.

After the meeting, Smith said he was “tired of getting information at the ninth hour.”

“Why is it that we hear at the ninth hour that Marriott wants four times what the state calls for at an exorbitant expense?” he said.

He said he will bring the order up for discussion at an upcoming committee meeting and doesn’t expect the delay to slow work on the building.

Smith said he would like to sit down with Marriott, TEE Center operator Augusta Riverfront LLC, builders and architects about the changes and hopes a better-priced compromise solution can be reached.

“I don’t want to just rubber-stamp everything,” Smith said. “We bend over too easily with the taxpayers’ dollars.”

Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront LLC, questioned the commission’s judgment, particularly with regard to a fire safety issue.

“I think it’s a shame what they did,” he said.

The firm, already under contract with the city to run the TEE Center and under a franchise agreement with Marriott, has ties to the management of Morris Communications, which owns The Augusta Chronicle.

A point no one raised Tuesday that Simon emphasized after the meeting was that the commission voted to “fast-track” the project when approving it several years ago.

On a regular construction schedule, all details are plans are worked out in advance. On a fast track, some details are expected to be worked out along the way, and “you sometimes create situations that occur later that you have to adjust for, like this one,” Simon said.

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Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/21/12 - 11:46 pm
2
0
Can someone explain why

Can someone explain why Marriott has any say in the TEE Center at all?

Has Marriott ponied up a single dollar? Even a penny?

If Marriott wants to make this the Marriott TEE Center, we should gladly sell it to them.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 02/22/12 - 12:47 am
0
0
i agree, insider. lockett,
Unpublished

i agree, insider. lockett, hatney, and smith all sound reasonable here. the other no voter, guilfoyle, seems to be reasonable when i hear him speak also. maybe the request is not totally unreasonable or maybe it is, but the way it's demanded and threatened by the owners, or rather i mean simon and the mayor and administrator (we're the lucky owners, right?) is unreasonable. rubber stamping is not any commissioner's job.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 02/22/12 - 12:49 am
0
0
oh, sorry. i see hatney was
Unpublished

oh, sorry. i see hatney was an abstainer and mason the other no voter.
good article.

sand gnat
685
Points
sand gnat 02/22/12 - 12:50 am
0
0
When the dust settles, if

When the dust settles, if they ever get clear title to the property, the project will end up costing the taxpayers 40 million. Yet there was no money to keep the golf garden open downtown.
That new baseball stadium downtown that Cal Ripken was behind would have been a better project and produced a lot more revenue than a 40 million dollar parking garage that the city may not own.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 02/22/12 - 01:08 am
1
0
sand gnat, the parking deck
Unpublished

sand gnat, the parking deck may yet have a part to play in cal ripken's enhanced corporate hospitality bonus stadium. as for costing less or making us more money, i don't foresee any of the dream team's plans making us any money any more than port royal, fort discovery, or golf and gardens did. the stadium operating costs are high. aberdeen's ripken stadium for instance is an example of consistent drain in spite of great turnout.

GeezeLouise
0
Points
GeezeLouise 02/22/12 - 01:16 am
0
0
Now I can see why Barry White
Unpublished

Now I can see why Barry White is trying to cut and run from this mess. It seems like every day we get another surprise about this TEE Center circus. Oh and by the way, does anyone know when the Fry trial is supposed to start? I thought it was supposed to start 2 weeks ago.

GeezeLouise
0
Points
GeezeLouise 02/22/12 - 01:25 am
0
0
I am pleasantly surprised by
Unpublished

I am pleasantly surprised by Grady Smith. He pretty much nailed it. He's been in business for a long time, so if he has a problem with how this change order was handled then you know something must be wrong with it. Good to know Smith is not a rubber stamp like some of the other commissioners

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 02/22/12 - 03:19 am
0
0
My construction

My construction worker-relative's assertion that the TEE site is "a big mess" looks more and more accurate.

seenitB4
98472
Points
seenitB4 02/22/12 - 06:19 am
0
0
This makes me think that some

This makes me think that some have been reading "sumthin"..

OOOHWEEE...the power of the internet....RM is right.

Lori Davis
1006
Points
Lori Davis 02/22/12 - 07:54 am
1
0
As always, no money for

As always, no money for enhanced public safety. Must cut the Sheriff's budget.

Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 02/22/12 - 08:01 am
1
0
This is the most important

This is the most important statement in the whole story:

The air change system designed by architect tvsdesign and mechanical engineers meets Georgia requirements. It does not meet Marriott’s higher standards, and the hotel chain won’t bend, tvsdesign architect Emory Leonard told commissioners.

The "hotel chain" needs to learn the following: Though the convention center is connected to the hotel, the convention center belongs to the citizens of Augusta, not to the hotel chain. They are two separate buildings, though connected. They do not have to have the same air conditioning specifications. In fact, because the two buildings are so dissimilar in size, shape, and function; it is silly to think they should have the same air handling specifications.

Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 02/22/12 - 08:06 am
0
0
Most hotels still allow

Most hotels still allow smoking in some of the rooms. Does anyone reading these comments know whether one can still rent a smoking room at the Marriott?

Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 02/22/12 - 08:20 am
1
0
Let's parse some of Paul

Let's parse some of Paul Simon's rant:

A point no one raised Tuesday that Simon emphasized after the meeting was that the commission voted to “fast-track” the project when approving it several years ago. On a regular construction schedule, all details and plans are worked out in advance. On a fast track, some details are expected to be worked out along the way, and “you sometimes create situations that occur later that you have to adjust for, like this one,” Simon said.

If the commission voted to "fast track" the construction process, it was likely because Mr. Simon was whispering "fast track, fast track, fast track" in their ears.

In construction projects, the "change order" is unavoidable at times — those times are when you find out that something in the design is absolutely not going to work, for example. But in this case, we see that the design meets federal, state, and local standards and codes. This increase in air handling capacity does not have to be done, as Simon hints in the quote above.

The increase in air handling capacity does not even make sense. The convention building has much of its space set up for exhibiting large items. It is largely empty space, much of it high-ceiling. Air exchange requirements for big boxes are much lower than for high population-density facilities such as hotels, prisons, schools, hospitals, etc. Riverfront LLC, Paul Simon, and Jerry Brigham are being unreasonable — and trying to hurt taxpayers to boot.

Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 02/22/12 - 08:26 am
1
0
What kind of toilet is good

What kind of toilet is good enough? From the article:

Other changes in the order include . . . $16,050 for different toilet accessories, according to the request.

When you go to a convention, do you really need solid gold lavatory fixtures or heated toilet seats? I think Paul Simon is really micromanaging the city's convention center when he is worried about the toilet fixtures. I mean, really, is Paul Simon going to actually use the toilet in the convention center?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/22/12 - 08:54 am
0
0
This just sounds like

This just sounds like conjecture in the face of Marriot calling every and all shots. Eat the extra million, as it really is kinda minor compared to the overall cost. Nobody is going to believe that joe-taxpayer is fine with Marriot squeezing the city like this. But the reality is, Marriot is now intertwined with downtown AUG and it's success is a good thing regardless of their likability. A fight at this stage of the game isn't doing anything but driving a wedge in there deeper.

Going forward, look at the failures and try to avoid making them again.

Riverman1
94235
Points
Riverman1 02/22/12 - 08:59 am
1
1
Understand the Marriott name

Understand the Marriott name is the premier label in the hotel industry. It was a plus when the owner of the hotel was able to get the Marriott designation.

Fred Russell was quoted although I don't see it now, that having the Marriott on the Riverwalk was a great asset to Augusta and something we should work to maintain. In other words, give them what they want.

Does everyone understand this is all about helping the owner of the hotel to keep his relationship with Marriott using county money? My questions are: Why doesn't the hotel owner upgrade with his own money? Why doesn't the management fee pay for the marketing of the TEE also? We are helping the owner of the hotel on the Riverwalk far too much.

Riverman1
94235
Points
Riverman1 02/22/12 - 09:11 am
1
0
Know what's funny? The

Know what's funny? The Marriott is now openly saying the TEE belongs to them, yet they want us to pay for everything they don't like.

JRC2024
10520
Points
JRC2024 02/22/12 - 09:13 am
1
0
Mr. Simon has millions. Maybe

Mr. Simon has millions. Maybe he could help out alot with his money.

Riverman1
94235
Points
Riverman1 02/22/12 - 09:18 am
1
0
The existing hotel was given

The existing hotel was given the Marriott name because the company was assured they would get the TEE. Enormous pressure was put on the Commission to approve the TEE for that reason. The value of the hotel has gone up tremendously. It could now be sold for many millions in profit. Sweet.

Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 02/22/12 - 09:32 am
1
0
Trying to put two and two

Trying to put two and two together from the article above, we learn that the city hired two companies to oversee construction projects, those two firms being Heery International and Dukes Edwards & Dukes. Then we learn that this one man, Jacques Ware, is either an employee or a representative of both companies. Isn't that a little strange? Are these two companies really one and the same? Could there be some sort of shell game going on here?

In any event, this Jacques Ware requested the large overages in cost back in October. Then we learn that the general construction contractor, R.W. Allen Construction, actually put pen to paper and prepared the change order. The reporter does not say when exactly this change order was written.

But I sympathize with Commissioner Bill Lockett when he quizzed city administrator Fred (What, me worry?) Russell about the lapse in time. In other words, the request to make changes to the tune of almost $1 million came to Russell in October, and Lockett found out about it in February. Lockett thinks that is a long time. That delay definitely gives credence that time is not of the essence in this matter.

Russell tries to deflect the criticism (What, me worry?) by telling Commissioner Lockett that he and others had been negotiating with Marriott International. I'm confused here. I thought Riverfront LLC owns the hotel (land, building, and air space). Marriott International is simply a brand name, a franchise. Shouldn't Russell (and the unnamed others) have been negotiating with Riverfront LLC?

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 02/22/12 - 09:35 am
0
0
hmm...
Unpublished

hmm...

Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 02/22/12 - 09:40 am
0
0
Does anyone know whether the

Does anyone know whether the city owns the real estate under the new convention center building? Does the city even own the air rights in the building? Does the city even own the building?

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/22/12 - 10:30 am
0
0
As a taxpayer, I have paid

As a taxpayer, I have paid more money toward the TEE Center than Marriott or any other mega corporation.

What say do I get in the TEE toilets?

Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 02/22/12 - 10:41 am
0
0
Well, we could say that you

Well, we could say that you get the flush, Insider.

:-)

twolane
191
Points
twolane 02/22/12 - 10:54 am
1
0
its a fact that every single
Unpublished

its a fact that every single stadium in any town LOSES MONEY EVERY YEAR.......i dont see why people keep pushing this issue like augusta will be different just because its augusta theres a reason why the OWNERS always want tax money to build the stadiums ITS A MONEY LOSER and without tax dollars it would be bankrupt in about a year

twolane
191
Points
twolane 02/22/12 - 10:57 am
0
0
but you richmond county folks
Unpublished

but you richmond county folks do whatever you want you can barely keep cops on the streets and you want more more more so the already rich can make more more more .....its always the same players that do the construction and run everything and you folks think its gonna trickle down to you well ITS NOT..... WAKE UP...besides i live in columbia county we have enough greed there already

twolane
191
Points
twolane 02/22/12 - 10:59 am
0
0
and folks just the fact that
Unpublished

and folks just the fact that marriot is stepping in and making decisions should scare you just a tad bit about who owns WHAT...you folks already own a building but you dont own the dirt its built own

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/22/12 - 11:00 am
0
0
I'm drafting up a change

I'm drafting up a change order to submit to the commission.

I'm hoping it gets "fast tracked" so no one will catch on to what it says.

If the Marriott can do it, why not me?

twolane
191
Points
twolane 02/22/12 - 11:03 am
0
0
by the way does anyone we
Unpublished

by the way does anyone we know own the marriot downtown

Lori Davis
1006
Points
Lori Davis 02/22/12 - 12:09 pm
2
0
twolane, are you being

twolane, are you being cynical in your last question? Certainly everyone knows who owns the Marriott. It is the same guy who owns the Augusta Chronicle. If I call his name, my post will be deleted.

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