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Augusta Commission committee fails to support upgrades to TEE Center smoke exhaust system

TEE Center order not endorsed

Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 9:07 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 12:18 AM
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An $836,288 change order that would increase fire safety at the new Trade, Exhibit and Event Center to Marriott International standards failed to win support from an Augusta Commission committee Monday, despite information provided by officials involved in the construction project.

The change order, which failed to pass at last week’s regular commission meeting, now moves forward without recommendation to a later meeting, where, Commissioner Corey Johnson estimated, it probably will pass.

“We can’t stop the ball now,” Johnson said. “Where we are now is 70 percent complete on the building. ... Hopefully, in the future if anything does come up, they’ll let us know on the front end.”

The changes being requested include $399,083 for upgrades to the smoke exhaust system, increasing the number of air changes at the convention center from the Georgia minimum standard of about 2.5 per hour to eight per hour, as requested by Marriott.

Other changes in the order drafted in October are $260,403 for acoustic upgrades requested by Marriott, and other recommendations made by the city fire marshal and city’s building review committee, and $116,339 for revisions to the Harrison Building, additional storage rooms and power supply upgrades.

One issue that commissioners raised about the new convention center has been why none of them was informed of the requested changes until recently. On Monday, project manager Forrest White, of Heery International, said his firm has been aware of the changes for months but expected the city to negotiate out of having to implement them.

Paul Simon, the president of the firm that operates the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center under a franchise with Marriott International, implored all 10 commissioners “to vote in favor of this safety system.”

Simon’s firm, Augusta Riverfront LLC, has ties to the management of Morris Communications, the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

Simon said he had learned from conversations with Marriott officials that Marriott might be willing to negotiate heating and air conditioning standards, but not fire safety.

“If it’s an issue of safety, they won’t budge,” he said.

Simon added that the largest hotel chain in the world already brings more than $2 million to the Augusta economy annually when guests stay at the Marriott, and those numbers will likely increase when the adjacent convention center opens.

“We know we’ll be bringing a lot of people to town,” he said.

Architect Emory Leonard, of tvsdesign, said the change order “will improve the safety of the facility,” which is an assembly building, but offered no data supporting the changes, which Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles requested.

After the meeting, Bowles said he would likely support the change “if they can provide some information showing why the change is necessary.”

In other business, the commission’s Public Service Committee did not approve a lease amendment with The Patch in Augusta LLC that would allow the firm to use a $300,000 sales tax allocation approved by voters for the Augusta Municipal Golf Course.

Recreation, Parks and Facilities Director Tom Beck said the firm’s chairman, Brian Hendry, told him Monday that the firm would match the sales tax money “dollar for dollar” in making improvements at the course.

Hendry, of Aberdeen, Scotland, said earlier Monday that his firm hadn’t budgeted the sales tax line item into its plans for the course but that “if something comes in for the Patch, it’s a bonus.”

Beck said the sales tax allocation was mentioned in city bid documents that all had access to, but Commissioner J.R. Hatney took issue with the allocation approved by referendum going to a private firm.

“When folks voted for it, people didn’t have any idea you were going to give the golf course away,” Hatney said.

Also Monday, the Administrative Services Committee withdrew an agenda item involving the teen club Cloud Nine at the request of Licensing Director Rob Sherman. He said that the club was changing management and that its new license would come up for approval later.

The committee also took no action on a contract with Automatic Data Processing and instead scheduled a work session to discuss outsourcing city human resources functions to the firm.

Comments (30) Add comment
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Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/27/12 - 11:39 pm
2
0
One word: Pathetic. How

One word: Pathetic.

How quickly the commissioners bow down to the power brokers.

At least Corey and Joe were honest.
- Corey: We can't stop now. We're going to keep dumping money into this until we're done. Don't question. Just spend, spend, spend.
- Joe: As long as they make up "some" reason, we're going to do what they tell us.

my.voice
4654
Points
my.voice 02/28/12 - 08:59 am
2
0
"as requested by Marriott"

"as requested by Marriott" should = "as PAID FOR by the Marriott"

Little Lamb
44015
Points
Little Lamb 02/28/12 - 09:08 am
2
0
From the article: Simon said

From the article:

Simon said he had learned from conversations with Marriott officials that Marriott might be willing to negotiate heating and air conditioning standards, but not fire safety.

Here is what bugs me. Our commission is getting to be like the U.S. Congress with these "all or nothing" motions, and these "comprehensive" reforms. Okay, R.W. Allen wrote an omnibus change order to cover six or seven different things, only one of which involves actual safety. The Cadillac HVAC is not the safety item, as we see in Paul Simon's quote. Okay, then, break the change order up and approve the safety item, but nix the unnecessary glitz items. How can that be so hard?

Little Lamb
44015
Points
Little Lamb 02/28/12 - 09:12 am
1
0
From the article: Other

From the article:

Other changes in the order drafted in October . . . [include] $116,339 for revisions to the Harrison Building. . . .

Can anybody tell me what in the world is the Harrison Building, and who owns it?

Little Lamb
44015
Points
Little Lamb 02/28/12 - 09:14 am
1
0
Talking about the Patch,

Talking about the Patch, “Commissioner J.R. Hatney took issue with the allocation approved by referendum going to a private firm.”

I hope he votes against the air conditioning upgrade in the TEE Center.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/28/12 - 09:14 am
3
0
What would happen if the

What would happen if the Commission said no?

Would Marriott leave?
Probably not. Simon admits Marriott is getting many more customers because of this mess.

Would there be a fire hazard? Probably not.
The TEE Center meets state standards and no one claims that the state's standards are sub-par.

Would the world come to an end? Probably not.
Life would continue on, but a commissioner or two might find less money in their re-election coffers. These same commissioners, though, would gain the respect (i.e. votes) of the community.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/28/12 - 10:09 am
0
0
An $836,288 change order, to

An $836,288 change order, to include $399,083 for upgrades, $260,403 for acoustic upgrades, $116,339 for revisions to the Harrison Building. By my expert calculations that = $775825. So are we just getting piece-mealed to the tune of 60,463.00 for "additional items"?

Everybody involved knows how important things with the TEE are. I think accuracy and transparency would go along way. True, in the end, we are going to pony-up the cash per Commissioner Johnson. This is not an excuse to back down on things though. Vote
“in favor of this safety system”, but fight tooth and nail against the lavish acoustics and so forth. Itemize things and put them in one column or the other. If the item is in the safety column, it gets approval, if it's not, it's money saved.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/28/12 - 10:28 am
1
0
What is the absolute worst

What is the absolute worst case scenario if the commission says no?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/28/12 - 10:28 am
0
0
I find it quite ironical that

I find it quite ironical that the Patch, which is primarily being run by a Scottish gent will match dollar for dollar toward improving the course (300K). It wasn't a big drawn out debate. But yet, Marriot, THE largest publically traded hotel chain, sits like a pouting child until it gets it's full 30 million dollars. Shows either the Scot has uber-class or the Marriot not so much.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/28/12 - 10:36 am
0
0
I see a pattern of blackmail

I see a pattern of blackmail and threats...

Cal threatens to pick up his baseball team and leave if we don't give him a new baseball stadium.

Hyatt Place Hotel threatens to walk if we don't build the TEE Center.

Marriott threatens to "not bend" (interpret that as you like) if we don't give a million bucks.

If only we had commissioners with courage to do the right thing and stand up to threats and intimidation.

Riverman1
79735
Points
Riverman1 02/28/12 - 03:44 pm
1
0
I know it's beneficial for

I know it's beneficial for the hotel owner to have the Marriott name, but how is that beneficial for the city?

Conservative Man
5305
Points
Conservative Man 02/28/12 - 03:49 pm
2
0
I'll support the upgrades. If

I'll support the upgrades. If Marroit wants to pay for 'em.Otherwise take your ball and go home...

bdouglas
4530
Points
bdouglas 02/28/12 - 04:57 pm
0
0
RM: It's beneficial for the

RM: It's beneficial for the city the same way it is for the hotel owner. Hotel/Motel taxes per night are at least 10 bucks most places. Even if there are just 50 rooms rented a night in the whole place that's another $15K a month in revenue. And there will be a lot more nights with much higher occupancy than that.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/28/12 - 05:07 pm
1
0
bdouglas, it would be

bdouglas, it would be beneficial to the city to pay me a big salary.

The bigger the salary, the more taxes the city would get from my spending money.

The question is return on investment, whether government should gamble tax dollars on a private business and what the heck the Marriott is doing in all of this.

Riverman1
79735
Points
Riverman1 02/28/12 - 07:11 pm
1
0
On WJBF tonight, it was

On WJBF tonight, it was reported the Marriott will back out of managing the TEE unless the upgrades are approved. Was a contract signed they would manage it or not? With all the fighting they did to get the contract, they never once mentioned they would want upgrades and not do their own marketing for the TEE.

Riverman1
79735
Points
Riverman1 02/28/12 - 07:15 pm
0
0
Bdouglas, how many hotel

Bdouglas, how many hotel guests do you think the TEE is going to generate in the first year?

dichotomy
30777
Points
dichotomy 02/28/12 - 08:48 pm
0
0
Apparently I offended some of

Apparently I offended some of you readers with my previous post on this subject with, as Sean put it, my "sexual double entendre". So let me just say it straight out. The commissioners dance to the tune of a few influential people and their motives for doing so are suspicious. At any rate, Corey Johnson has told you that after this little dog and pony show for the benefit of the voters is over they will give Paul Simon what he wants.......our money. I can't help it if what I said earlier hit so close to home it "offended" them. And you were correct that it was "entendre".

Truth Matters
6311
Points
Truth Matters 02/28/12 - 10:04 pm
1
0
There is something that has

There is something that has nagged me about the Tee Center from day one. I can’t forget the image of local news reporters following some Augusta Commissioners to Hawaii (our 50th state) to a conference to ensure that they were behaving as conferees and not on the beach (spending money in that state’s local economy, I suppose). Those elected officials were excoriated in the media, with this paper leading the way. The message that situation sent to me was that there was strong opposition to public officials attending conferences anywhere else. There have been some elected officials who have been adamant about their opposition to participation in these events, even though they are beneficial to the participants.

So the question becomes, if all other communities feel the same as this community does when it comes to people attending conferences in other places, who is going to use our Tee Center? I know that there are groups other than political leaders who attend conferences, but it just strikes me as arrogant that a community would want to capitalize on the financial benefits of a convention and trade center but not be supportive, at least in principle, when its elected officials attend meetings in other places.

I’m just saying…..

Little Lamb
44015
Points
Little Lamb 02/29/12 - 09:16 am
0
0
Riverman posted: On WJBF

Riverman posted:

On WJBF tonight, it was reported the Marriott will back out of managing the TEE unless the upgrades are approved.

What's so bad about that? There have got to be other qualified management agencies around here.

bdouglas
4530
Points
bdouglas 02/29/12 - 03:30 pm
1
0
LL: I think RM's point was

LL: I think RM's point was that it's been said a few times that Marriott already signed a contract to manage the place. Now they're allegedly saying they'll back out of things don't go their way....which wouldn't be possible if they did actually sign a contract. UNLESS the contract stipulated that all systems had to be to their specifications or the contract would be null and void.

Little Lamb
44015
Points
Little Lamb 02/29/12 - 03:39 pm
1
0
Letting a $50,000 annual

Letting a $50,000 annual management contract be the deciding factor on a $50 million dollar building is the tail wagging the dog. If Marriott backs out of the management contract, the city can easily find another manager.

Riverman1
79735
Points
Riverman1 02/29/12 - 04:23 pm
1
0
Bdouglas, LL, exactly, plus I

Bdouglas, LL, exactly, plus I would sue the owner of the Marriott for breach of contract. This putting pressue on the city to give the owner of the Marriott whatever he wants can be turned around on him. A contract is a contract and the provisions are what's in the writing, not meant, discussed or what have you.

Little Lamb
44015
Points
Little Lamb 02/29/12 - 04:38 pm
1
0
Commissioner Grady Smith is a

Commissioner Grady Smith is a disappointment. He initially voted NO on changing the specification, but on the WJBF news last night he said he would vote for the change, but “we are going to do much better on the next couple of projects.” It's hard to see how they could get much worse than the Ruff House, TEE Center, and Marriott parking deck.

Riverman1
79735
Points
Riverman1 02/29/12 - 04:54 pm
1
0
I have a question for whoever

I have a question for whoever might know. Who exactly owns the Marriott. Is it Paul Simon or Billy Morris? I understand the close connections.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 02/29/12 - 05:27 pm
2
0
It's interesting how the city

It's interesting how the city process works. No, never quite means no. It means meet and meet on the scene, behind the scene, until the no's are traded out, won over or worn out. Let the hotel wail; they can't close the thing and pleasing the "Marriott" headquarters, is the owners problem, not the city's.

Little Lamb
44015
Points
Little Lamb 02/29/12 - 05:30 pm
0
0
Thank you, Willow. That is a

Thank you, Willow. That is a good analysis.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 02/29/12 - 05:42 pm
0
0
Hey, LL, just heard some

Hey, LL, just heard some fabulous news for the City of Augusta. Lori Davis will be running for District One's commission seat. We will want to think about what we can do to support her. I can't think of anyone better to bring some much needed sense, honesty and integrity to local government. Congratulations Lori, or should I say taxpayers!

Little Lamb
44015
Points
Little Lamb 02/29/12 - 05:53 pm
1
0
That is good news. I voted

That is good news. I voted for her for mayor. I'll support her campaign for commissioner.

bdouglas
4530
Points
bdouglas 03/01/12 - 09:54 am
0
0
RM: According to property

RM: According to property records, the current hotel land seems to belong to a mixture of the City of Augusta, Augusta Dowtown Development Authority and "Augusta Riverfront Limited". Someone must've bought 'air rights' for the building from all those owners...

Little Lamb
44015
Points
Little Lamb 03/05/12 - 04:33 pm
0
0
Willow Bailey wrote: It's

Willow Bailey wrote:

It's interesting how the city process works. No, never quite means no. It means meet and meet on the scene, behind the scene, until the no's are traded out, won over or worn out.

Well, it's been four and a half days of no activity on this thread. Remember that tomorrow the commission meets again and this item is on the agenda again. It's time to put a stake in this vampire change order.

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