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Lien released, land transferred for Augusta Convention Center parking deck

Lien on property released by bank

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“Proof” demanded by an Augusta Commission member as recently as last week that Wells Fargo doesn’t have a claim to Augusta’s new parking deck has been recorded in Superior Court.

Two deeds – one transferring land under the deck to Augusta Land Bank Authority and the other releasing the city from liability if for­-
mer owner 933 Broad LLC defaulted on a loan tied to the deck land – were presented to land bank officials Wednesday, said Jim Plunkett, the special city legal counsel for Augusta’s parking deck and convention center construction projects.

Despite the action, some commissioners still have concerns.

“The only thing that would satisfy me relative to the parking deck would be the completion of a forensic audit,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said. “I understand that the land bank did accept (the deck land), and I still have questions about that, too.”

Plunkett said, however, that there is nothing in the land bank’s establishing documents or in state law that prohibits it from becoming owner of the parking deck land.

Lockett and Commissioner Alvin Mason have questioned why a governing authority established primarily to bank unproductive properties would also serve as owner of real estate beneath a developed downtown parking deck.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham suggested the transfer in February as a way to quell his colleagues’ suspicions that 933 Broad, which has ties to management of the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle, had ulterior motives.

“I think for everybody that didn’t understand air rights, we now own the land under it, above it and everything else,” Brigham said. “I think that we’re now fully in control of the situation.”

Word that 933 Broad was donating air rights instead of land and in fact had borrowed money using the real estate as collateral caught commissioners by surprise when they learned of it nearly a year ago. The details hadn’t been presented by City Administrator Fred Russell until after the deck opened to the public.

The seven-month lag in transferring the property, which now removes it from tax rolls, was necessary because Wells Fargo wouldn’t release the lien until the commission approved operating documents for the deck, Plunkett said.

“It was a simultaneous exchange” of all parties’ interests Wednesday, he said.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who joined some of the other commissioners in questioning the complex arrangement and in examining the deal’s benefits to the city, said Thursday he was satisfied.

“People in Augusta were concerned about the land being donated,” he said. “(Mayor Pro Tem) Joe (Bowles) was able to attack the monetary part of it, and we came to an agreement on that.”

With the deck details now complete, the commission on Monday will start reviewing operating contracts and deeds associated with the convention center itself, which is nearing completion.

The documents, likely to again raise similar questions, grant operator Augusta Riverfront LLC, which shares management with Morris Communications Co., only fees and not profits to run the convention center, Plunkett said.

“It’s just a fee,” he said. “If it’s profitable, you get a profit. It’s its not profitable, that’s your expense.”

Known to the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau as the Trade, Event and Exhibit (or TEE) Center, the facility has about a dozen events booked for 2013.

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dichotomy
32713
Points
dichotomy 09/20/12 - 11:20 pm
1
0
“If it’s profitable, you get

“If it’s profitable, you get a profit. If it's not profitable, that’s your expense.”

Let me guess how this is going to turn out.

Ruckus
467
Points
Ruckus 09/21/12 - 05:04 am
0
1
Behind close doors

This will another project involed wasted tax payers money like the Ga Golf hall of fame. Yeah...the Masters with generate tourism to downtown. “I think for everybody that didn’t understand air rights, we now own the land under it, above it and everything else,” Brigham said.

Riverman1
83469
Points
Riverman1 09/21/12 - 06:54 am
3
2
Like Jerry Brigham had any

Like Jerry Brigham had any idea what air rights meant when constructing a building using taxpayer money until this whole fiasco was exposed by the activist group.

OpenCurtain
10049
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OpenCurtain 09/21/12 - 08:20 am
2
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LAND HOOOO!

Captain, the Politicians have found land at last.
We are saved.

Little Lamb
45813
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Little Lamb 09/21/12 - 09:18 am
1
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Unproductive

From the story:

Commissioners Bill Lockett and Alvin Mason have questioned why a governing authority established primarily to bank unproductive properties would also serve as owner of real estate beneath a developed downtown parking deck.

I don't see a conflict here, Bill and Al. The parking deck will be unproductive most of the time.

Little Lamb
45813
Points
Little Lamb 09/21/12 - 09:21 am
2
0
Control

From the story:

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said. “I think that we’re now fully in control of the situation.”

I think not, Jerry.

Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 09/21/12 - 04:00 pm
1
0
Credit where it is due....

...and it's NOT due most of the Commissoners,(excepting Bowles and Lockett) the Mayor nor Mr.Plunkett...They were an impediment at every step of the process to getting a good deal for the city, even though Mr. Plunkett was being paid by the city to do just that... And the sheer gall of Brigham on TV a few weeks ago to actually attempt to take credit for getting a better deal for the taxpayers!...Sheesh. What a hypocrite...

The credit should (but won't )go to a small band of determined outraged citizens that had the chutzpah to question this shady deal from the very beginning....Lets hope this let's the "goobers in charge" down at the Marble Palace and the Marriott know that they won't be able to try this garbage again, but knowing them I don't think that will happen.....Remember this whole mess would not have happened had not Matt "deer in the headlights"Aitken voted (his VERY FIRST vote as Commissioner) to allow this whole debacle to proceed, without having the slightest clue what he was voting for..... Fine. Chances are he'll be gone come November 6th anyhow...

Again....kudos to those that wouldn't ( and won't) let this rest until its done correctly..we need more like them in this town to keep the crony capitalists honest...

Riverman1
83469
Points
Riverman1 09/21/12 - 05:02 pm
1
1
Do you think, just possibly,

Do you think, just possibly, this whole TEE Center was a bad idea or is the Tattoo festival at the TEE one night where we have the indoor carnival with people's bodies with the most tattoos on then an example of what's wrong with the TEE? I'm thinking of going and having some temporary, washable tattoos put on the inside of my elbows that look like hinges. Let's support our TEE....hundred million dollars and all.

Tullie
2930
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Tullie 09/22/12 - 05:12 am
0
0
But..

have you seen the parking deck? It it is a nice one :P

I would like to also thank the band of determined citizens that looked out for Augusta.

Hey, I read in the paper just recently..they have 13 bookings for the TEE center..13, wow. I don't know how they are going to handle all that comings and goings down there..phew.

Bulldog
1321
Points
Bulldog 09/22/12 - 08:21 am
0
1
Finally

Thanks to all those who wouldn't give up on this. The light of day put the roaches on the run. The sad truth is that most commissioners consider their job as a 5 hour a week show and tell session. Augusta Richmond County is a huge business and until the commission seats become full time paid jobs with at least a minimum staff, the taxpayers are going continue to be screwed... We deserve better than what we are getting!

Little Lamb
45813
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Little Lamb 09/22/12 - 01:21 pm
0
0
Danger

If the commissioners become full-time employees (remember, they are the top of the heap — they have no bosses), I fear we citizens would have our liberties taken away faster than ever, and our taxes would increase faster than ever. They would have too much time on their hands to think up boondoggle projects.

They could begin working for the citizens by simply telling Fred (What, me worry?) Russell, “No!

countyman
20008
Points
countyman 09/22/12 - 02:02 pm
1
0
The Tee Center is only $38

The Tee Center is only $38 million, and not $100 million... The overwhelmingly majority of voters in RC approved splost, and the TEE Center was included... I haven't seen any events announced for the exhibition hall in Grovetown... The quote below is from the developer of the $1.2 million renovation at 901 Broad(nine apts: 4,300 sq. ft.of retail).

''The building’s location at the corner of Broad Street and James Brown Boulevard was a significant asset, Robertson said, especially in light of the expected completion of the Trade, Exhibit and Event Center later this summer.''

slowpitch
119
Points
slowpitch 09/22/12 - 07:25 pm
0
0
"The Tee Center is only $38 million, and not $100 million"

@countyman
As I understand it, the TEE center is $38m, certain commissioners demanded an equal $38m be spent on Laney Walker (which was included in authorizing TEE) and the parking deck was $19m.

That's $95 million that would not have been spent if we had let private developers make or not make the investment.

For reference, the annual budget for Richmond County (police, fire, city roads, utilities, housing, etc. --not schools--) is $129 million. It's extremely difficult to see how this convention center is a wise, farsighted investment by stewards of taxpayer funds.

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