“There’s a lot to look at in the contract, and a lot to digest, with the release of the liens and what all that entails,” Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said. “I don’t think anybody’s had time to go through it.”
The documents include a construction, operating and reciprocal easement, or CORE, agreement and a management agreement with Augusta Riverfront LLC; a deed of air rights to the city; a deed of land beneath the deck to the Augusta Land Bank Authority; and a partial release by Wells Fargo of a lien attached to the deck real estate.
The Reynolds Street parking garage, intended for public use and to serve the new Augusta Convention Center, or “TEE” Center as tabbed by the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, opened last year, but its management agreement has yet to be finalized.
The first time the agreement came before the commission, several commissioners were surprised to learn that the city had built a parking garage on land it did not own and that was partial collateral for the landowner’s multimillion-dollar bank loan.
The questions prompted the commission in December to call for a forensic audit of deal-making connected to the parking garage, but auditors are awaiting a subcommittee’s decision on its scope.
In February, after several legal explanations of why the city was never donated land beneath the deck – it preserved the tax-exempt status of bonds issued for the project and allowed the landowner to retain use of ground-floor spaces – the commission authorized the management agreement, provided that landowner 933 Broad Investment Co. LLC relinquish the land free from liens to Augusta Land Bank.
Augusta Riverfront, which has managed the downtown Augusta Marriott for two decades, has ties to management of Morris Communications Co., owner of The Augusta Chronicle. 933 Broad Investment, which took out a $78.5 million bank loan in 2005 using the parking deck real estate as partial collateral, has similar ties to Morris management.
The agreements going before the commission include Wells Fargo’s release of the lien, but the bank retains an interest in management rights of the parking garage in the event the borrower defaults.
The questions Bowles had Wednesday related to the management agreement’s provisions for staffing and other costs. He said he hoped for tighter controls on how much Augusta Riverfront could pay parking garage staff, for which the city will be billed.
Under the agreement, the city pays Augusta Riverfront $25,000 annually to run the parking garage, minus expenses. In a related document also up for approval Thursday, Augusta Riverfront will pay the city $50,000 annually to control and operate an existing parking facility connected to the Marriott and convention center.
Several other items go before the commission Thursday, but Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Bill Lockett and Wayne Guilfoyle said they do not expect the parking documents to be approved.
Also on the 5 p.m. meeting agenda are:
• Concerns raised by residents about delays in dredging Lake Aumond and Hiers Pond
• Approval of HealthStat as an on-site health clinic provider for city employees. Use of an on-site clinic was recommended by a Wells Fargo Insurance Services consultant earlier this year as a first step toward the city becoming self-insured.