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Augusta Commission member questions convention center catering

Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 8:38 PM
Last updated Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012 3:19 AM
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Though he won’t actually read the contracts governing operations at the Augusta Convention Center until after he completes the Ironman triathlon Sunday, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said Friday he already has questions about the documents.

Among them, Bowles questioned why one is a separate contract for the Augusta Riverfront LLC staff to cater events at the convention center.

“It completely changes the arrangement,” Bowles said, arguing that the convention center could bid out concessions the way the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority does for James Brown Arena.

The city’s new 38,000-square-foot convention center is nearing completion and has 13 events scheduled for 2013.

Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront LLC, said the Augusta Commission agreed to most of the details of the convention center in 2007 and 2009, while a few points, including a shorter, 15-year term, were modified at the advice of the city’s Atlanta bond counsel.

The company was named throughout the commission discussions as the intended operator of the complex.

Augusta Riverfront shares management with Morris Communications Co., the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

“They agreed to this a long time ago,” Simon said. “All we get out of it is the fee.”

The city pays the company to run the convention center, he said.

Simon added that the management fee was less than half what the coliseum authority pays Global Spectrum to run James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium.

The company gave up some of its land and interrupted operations at the Marriott Conference Center for the city to build an adjoining convention center, Simon said, and in return it got a new kitchen to be shared between the conference and convention centers and the right to manage the entire complex, he said.

Speaking to the commission Monday, Simon said he’d like to see the documents approved by mid-October so the firm can begin hiring and training staffers before the convention center’s first event, a January police chiefs convention.

If the details come as a surprise to the commission now, they shouldn’t, he said.

“It’s not my job” to explain them, Simon said. “It’s staff’s.” But, he added, “I’m willing to do it.”

Rather than discuss the documents with Simon and Jim Plunkett, the special city counsel for the deals, when commissioners were provided them Monday, the group voted to schedule a later work session. That is tentatively set for Wednesday, according to Commissioner Jerry Brigham.

Brigham said Friday he hadn’t finished reading the documents either but didn’t think Augusta Riverfront needed three months to prepare for the first convention.

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Riverman1
78960
Points
Riverman1 09/28/12 - 09:49 pm
8
0
This whole matter of the city

This whole matter of the city paying for the TEE, parking deck, kitchen and paying so many marketing and management fees, it's getting to be incomprehensible and deserves comment. Most of us have given up on the whole matter and have written it off as the dysfunctional city government, officials and brokers. I encourage everyone to look favorably to those who are NOT involved in these deals. We have Broad St. investors who are constantly excluded from sweetheart TEE like deals. Pay attention to their concerns.

Little Lamb
43801
Points
Little Lamb 09/28/12 - 11:59 pm
6
0
One at a time

Each organization seeking to rent the TEE Center should be free to contract whomever they wish to cater their event. Sure, Riverfront LLC might be the most convenient, but if the Tattoo Convention wants to use Luigi's to cater the thing, why shouldn't they be allowed to?

How about a health food convention? Shouldn't they be allowed to choose a healthy caterer?

How about a vegan convention? Why should they be stuck with Riverfront LLC for their caterer?

Little Lamb
43801
Points
Little Lamb 09/29/12 - 12:05 am
5
0
Fine Print

From the story:

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said he . . . didn’t think Augusta Riverfront needed three months to prepare for the first convention.

I don't either, Jerry. Take your time and calmly discuss Simon's proposal. It needs to be negotiated, not rammed down our throats.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 09/29/12 - 01:08 am
5
0
SO my question is...
Unpublished

Do any of you morons read anything that passes through the commission doors? Are you kidding me? This has gone from madness to lunacy. Oh and I loved this comment:

The company gave up some of its land and interrupted operations at the Marriott Conference Center for the city to build an adjoining convention center'

Like the poor Marriott gets the shaft? You got to be kidding me...

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 09/29/12 - 06:01 am
3
0
As an long ago Vendor/Client

at a number of Large Trade Shows in Atlanta, DC, Vegas, San Fran, Orlando & NYC.

I found Catering requirements & rules varied from location to location and ranged from silly to dictatorial in nature.

Since I see Downtown trying to mimic Atlanta in too many smaller ways. Our Local Politicos could learn a lot, if they spoke with the Georgia World Congress Center Food Services Director of Operations: Weezy Motzel, or Senior Catering Manager Diann Jackson. (POC's last time I checked)

BTW: Some one smart, would get the concession for Booth Bunnies.

Ruckus
467
Points
Ruckus 09/29/12 - 06:37 am
4
0
My My

I smell a rat and some where along the lines there is a profit to be made at our expense. "Simon added that the management fee was less than half what the coliseum authority pays Global Spectrum to run James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium" Writng a seperate contract that no one read and rushing is going to lead to failure. $$$$$

seenitB4
80854
Points
seenitB4 09/29/12 - 06:58 am
6
0
Eyes

Take your time guys & read this theeeeng.

We don't want to pass it to see what is in it.

soapy_725
43551
Points
soapy_725 09/29/12 - 07:17 am
0
0
Allowing government to entertain.
Unpublished

You get what you pay for in ARC. Government has not business being involved in the entertainment business. If their is a market for entertainment, it will be provided by a for profit business. Any attempt to provide entertainment at taxpayer's expense is a "losing battle" from the the first shot. Hey, they are going to "open the doors" today and show us how they "work". Pass the barf bags. Or they could be door prizes.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 09/29/12 - 07:33 am
2
0
Who agreed to this?

“They agreed to this a long time ago,” Simon said. “All we get out of it is the fee.”

Who agreed to this? Where is this agreement? Why is being brought up now when Simon wants to rush it through? He has had plenty of time to bring this up.

This is all so tiresome. I love the "we have given up so much" and this is how we are treated game he is playing..haha.

Justin4466
43
Points
Justin4466 09/29/12 - 07:44 am
4
0
47%

I think Tech is correct. This group of moochers may fall in Romey's 47% on the government handouts.

soapy_725
43551
Points
soapy_725 09/29/12 - 07:58 am
0
0
If not for political
Unpublished

greed, corruption, mindless management of public trust and criminal negligence, there would be no need for the AC daily printing. Just think of all the tree that would be saved by a "weekly paper". Legal notices, obit, the funny paper, and new car adds would work just fine. And for those who don't have time to read, the local TV stations already reads the news to it's viewers. "Live from the studio with the latest from the AC".

dichotomy
30334
Points
dichotomy 09/29/12 - 09:10 am
4
0
This thing is like a soap

This thing is like a soap opera. I can almost hear the organ music punctuating every headline. WHO, supposedly representing US, agreed to all of these one sided terms? If the public had been told the truth about the how the TEE would be managed and operated and the back room deals that had already been agreed to, the SPLOST ballot issue to build the TEE would NEVER have passed.

The "contract" to operate the TEE and the parking deck should be for no longer than 5 years and should be done by competitive bid. NOBODY should have exclusive rights to cater events or provide any other vending service in this TAXPAYER built facility.

This whole TEE fiasco has been one TERRIBLE deal after another for the taxpayers......and one SWEET $30+ million dollar and still growing deal for Paul Simon & associates. And why would your commissioners, past and present, agree to hoist this financial elephant and the one sided long term operating contracts on to the taxpayers? For me, only two words come to mind.....stupid and/or crooked. Either way, they should be tarred and feathered and rode out of town on a rail.

RC taxpayers.....the wealthiest people in the county thank you for building these buildings for them and giving them a 15 year exclusive contract to operate them. Just like the folks in the surrounding counties thank you for passing TSPLOST and agreeing to send YOUR tax money to fix THEIR roads.

They know you are not too bright folks. They know they can sell you anything. They sold you Consolidation, they sold you on giving $7 million to Paul & associates to build their hotel, then they sold you the TEE SPLOST, and now they have sold you the TSPLOST. You are the mark and the con men laugh all the way to the bank.

seenitB4
80854
Points
seenitB4 09/29/12 - 09:21 am
3
1
Keep this in mind folks

Gwinnett county plans around the ballpark has fallen short of the original plans....they now want to put in many apartments ..THAT was not what the taxpayers agreed on...thank goodness our commish voted down the new apartments....we are over loaded with them now...
Soooo ...what they say & what they end up doing is 2 different things.....watch-read & VERIFY..

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 09/29/12 - 09:46 am
1
0
Seenit
Unpublished

That's all fine and good except our commission regularly meets behind closed doors in violation of the sunshine laws and nothing is done about it. It's even published in the newspaper and still nothing...

Riverman1
78960
Points
Riverman1 09/29/12 - 10:19 am
5
0
The haughty Simon has the audacity...

The haughty Simon has the audacity to say their fee is less than half that of Global Spectrum....but their PROFITS that go into their bank accounts are more than 1000 times greater. Global Spectrum doesn't get to use the building rent free to make themselves rich. Simon and company are using the taxpayer owned building and million plus dollar kitchen to operate their food and liquor business without paying any rent. They are even paid to attract groups to THEIR hotel.

How much rental income is the city making from their building being used as the headquarters for Ironman....the answer is nothing. Who benefits....obviously the owner of the attached hotel.

It's a great sales incentive....stay at the Marriott and get the meeting space free. While they try to tell the city they are responsible for bringing Ironman (they are not) to Augusta what they are really doing is filling up their expensive sleeping rooms with a captive market. Most visitors want the convenience of staying at the hotel closest to where they register and where the "mobile shopping mall is assembled" - see the other article.

This has been the biggest (choose your own word, mine would be censored) of taxpayer money in the history of Augusta. Remember after the Commission approved the TEE the glee of some who profited? Now EVERYONE sees why.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 09/29/12 - 10:49 am
1
0
Thank you Joe for taking your

Thank you Joe for taking your time with this.the power brokers make us waitfor the supposed tangential benefits to the billy banquet barn...Hyatt hotel where it at? No tell!

rebellious
20127
Points
rebellious 09/29/12 - 10:51 am
5
0
Bundling

WE ALL BUNDLE.......

Like a ball of fishing line which is unrecoverable from it's tangle, this whole deal is a huge bundle and bungle. Occasionally the light gets focused on one aspect, it gets digested while, like a magician's redirection, Paull Simon et al are rigging another portion of the "Bundle".

Each portion should be broken out and dealt with as a separate contract/agreement for one specific line of service. And I agree with Jerry, move slowly. It is in Augusta's best interest to move forward slowly and methodically.

Can you imagine buying a car from these guys? The whole time you are trying to figure out where they have hidden the weenie they are gonna slip you!

Conservative Man
5295
Points
Conservative Man 09/29/12 - 11:28 am
1
0
For once...

...I agree with Simon when he said, "It's not my job", to explain it to them..."It's the staff's"....I take that to mean it's Plunkett and Fred's job..a job they've clearly failed at since this whole debacle started...

Not to say the Commissioners should be let off the hook. Far too often it seems as if they are ill-prepared and under-informed when making decisions....

I applaud Bowles for taking the time to look at this mess a bit closer. But the reality is that Fred AND Plunkett should be fired. They are both either incompetent in not looking out for the city first or complicit in the one sided initial deal and for EITHER of these reasons any one else would have been sacked months ago....

I make a motion we ....FIRE FRED!!!...do I hear a second?..

Georgialina
7441
Points
Georgialina 09/29/12 - 11:40 am
1
0
RE: Little Lamb's post @ 12:05 am

It needs to be negotiated, not rammed down our throats.

Little Lamb, I really don't think where Paul Simon is trying to ram it is down our throats. I think I know where he is "sticking" it to us taxpayers.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 09/29/12 - 11:51 am
2
0
Seenitb4 - Seem to remember

a few commissioners went to jail or resigned to avoid jail over some of their land dealings including the NEW minor league Gwinnett County ballpark.

That was the NEW baseball park that the commissioners swore was badly needed to bring business in the the area. That would only cost $29M BUT end up costing $49M and still had serious issues and too many FREE Political seats.

When I saw the same thing happening here, I even pointed everyone to look at the Gwinnett Money Pit fiasco.

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