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Augusta commissioners to study convention center's operating details

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 9:02 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 1:56 AM
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Augusta commissioners have a Wednesday work session planned to learn more about the legal documents governing Augusta Riverfront LLC’s operation of Augusta Convention Center, also known as the TEE Center.

The meeting, a 10 a.m. session in the commission chamber, is the body’s first opportunity to have questions answered about the documents they were handed last week by attorneys.

The legal documents the group is expected to review cover details such as the city’s annual operating deposit of $250,000 for center expenses, a $100,000 annual deposit for capital improvements and a $7,000 monthly fee for management, all to be paid Augusta Riverfront, which runs the nearby Marriott Conference Center and TEE parking deck and intends to run the new convention center.

Other details up for consideration Wednesday relate to a kitchen built to serve the conference center but will also, under a separate catering agreement, be used by Augusta Riverfront to prepare food for events at the convention center.

Augusta Riverfront shares management with Morris Communications Co., the owner of The Augusta Chronicle. The firm’s president, Paul Simon, will be on hand to answer questions, as will Jim Plunkett, an attorney retained by the city to draft and negotiate the contracts.

While all but four of the current panel were in office in 2009 when the commission approved construction of a convention center, several have questioned the final details found in the documents.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, who last week wondered why Marriott was signed up to cater the conventions, said Tuesday his questions involved “some details about cost sharing that I’d like to clear up, and that’s pretty much it.”

Commissioner Matt Aitken, who represents the downtown district and is facing a re-election battle, reiterated support for the project.

“I definitely want to see us on board unanimously to support it,” Aitken said. “The Marriott has done a lot of positive things. They were here when no one else was, years ago.”

Aitken said if issues arose, the city could always “revisit the contract” after getting it approved in time for the venue’s first convention, a January event for Georgia police chiefs.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he was still reading the documents and would likely have more questions Wednesday.

One of the deal’s biggest skeptics on the commission, Bill Lockett, said he had a doctor’s appointment scheduled months ago and couldn’t make the work session.

Lockett maintained his suspicions Tuesday, however, advocating the commission put management of the convention center out for bids to see if costs compare and “give us something to bargain with” in negotiations with Augusta Riverfront.

“When something is presented to us, it should have been researched already and be the best possible agreement, not the best offer,” Lockett said. “This is what we have been offered, and we have been given the opportunity to either accept the offer or not.”

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Riverman1
93346
Points
Riverman1 10/02/12 - 08:45 pm
4
1
I've been screaming for about

I've been screaming for about two years. Nothing is going to change, I'm convinced. Y'all have fun at the little dog and pony show.

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/02/12 - 08:56 pm
4
0
Unfair and Not Consistent

You remember how the Commission absolutely refused to make any capital improvements on the golf course or club house for The Patch, LLC? Well, why are they getting ready to pony up $100,000 a year to Augusta Riverfront LLC for capital improvements on a brand-new building?

And what is this about a $250,000 a year deposit to Augusta Riverfront LLC for expenses? Why not just have Augusta Riverfront submit receipts for review and then reimburse for reasonable and approved expenses after the fact? That's the way most contracts like this get done?

And third, Why was this management agreement not put out for bids for other companies to compete?

showboat
367
Points
showboat 10/02/12 - 08:58 pm
0
1
AFTER THE MEETING THEY STILL
Unpublished

AFTER THE MEETING THEY STILL WILL NOT UNDERSTAND, ALL THIS GROUP DOES IS GIVE IS GIVE AWAY OUR TAX DOLLARS.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/02/12 - 08:59 pm
5
0
My predictions

1) There will be lots of questions.

2) The commission will approve the contracts.

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/02/12 - 09:12 pm
5
0
Right

You got that right, Insider.

It's rubber stamp time at the OK Corral.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/02/12 - 10:08 pm
5
0
The Mariott wins....
Unpublished

They have everything to gain and nothing to lose. No money vested, free conference center and a new kitchen out of the deal and any convention they get to sell rooms too...what a sweetheart deal.

corgimom
38280
Points
corgimom 10/03/12 - 03:04 am
3
0
It's a little late to be

It's a little late to be reviewing these contracts, that should've been done 2 years ago.

soapy_725
44107
Points
soapy_725 10/03/12 - 05:24 am
1
1
Criminal acts due judgement?
Unpublished

Violation of public trust. Malfeasance in office. Conspiracy to defraud the taxpayers of ARC. Mail fraud. Thief by taking (salaries received by mayor, fred and commission). Negligence and loss ( criminal malpractice ).

If theses clowns worked for a corporation, they would have been shown the door, prosecuted or both.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/03/12 - 07:42 am
3
0
Something stinks and it ain't located on 56 loop

Everyone lets face it, is a good old boy deal of one group taking care of the other.

To the remark
We should have done this 2 years ago. AGREED

IF this is unlawful and not just a pork barrel deal. The statute of limitations runs not from the first overt act committed, but from the last act. So it is 5 years minimum after the projects last deal is closed out. Plus if memory serves me correctly although it comes under the five year statue of limitations rule even that time frame may yield to circumstances, that allow up to 10 years to prosecute.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/03/12 - 06:42 am
4
0
Riverman - I see the following, what have I missed?

There are only 3 ways to stop such wheeling and dealing.
1. Press the State House to adopt ethics rules that preclude the ability to do so.
2. Conduct a Forensics Financial Fraud audit.
3. Have a group of citizens petition the State Attorney General or GBI to investigate a suspected Government / Business fraud, waste and abuse deal.

I see #1 & #2 requiring enough a politicians to vote against the gravy train and the power base involved.

and I see #3 will need names and etc.. to show the State/Fed investigators there is reason to investigate.

BTW: I checked with some good IT Security friends and found Forensic Auditors don't run near 300+K in the current market economy for the initial type of review needed, but more like 160K to 180K. A Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) Examiner, doing a Criminal Go / No-Go investigation could have a initial findings report in less than 10 weeks. As I was told, if issues are found the general recommendation was to call in State or federal level auditors depending on the scope.

The biggest problem was getting all the carefully misplaced documentation together to do the review.

Riverman1
93346
Points
Riverman1 10/03/12 - 06:46 am
6
1
Open Curtain

If Global Spectrum were using the JB Arena for free to make themselves rich, I wouldn’t pay them anything. So why do we pay the Marriott to use the TEE for free and make themselves rich? We give them a million dollar kitchen and equipment. Parking deck. Pay them to market THEIR hotel.

You know how Steven Kendrick’s name is stamped all over county tax bills now? We should replace those bills and have them printed on Marriott stationary and have taxpayers send their money directly to the Marriott. Don’t even bother with county government.

Riverman1
93346
Points
Riverman1 10/03/12 - 06:51 am
4
1
If They Were Serious

If THEY were serious they would listen to Al Gray and hire the people he recommends to audit in depth. Unlike me, Al actually believes the TEE could be an asset, but disapproves of all the shenanigans.

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 06:56 am
1
0
Language

Susan McCord wrote:

Other details up for consideration Wednesday relate to a kitchen built to serve the conference center but will also, under a separate catering agreement, be used by Augusta Riverfront to prepare food for events at the convention center.

Please help me understand the meaning and purpose of this paragraph. The word that trips me up is the little conjunction "but." Stripping out the non-essentials we have this thought:

. . . a kitchen built to serve the conference center but will also. . . be used by Augusta Riverfront to prepare food for events at the convention center.

When you use the word "but" to join two clauses, the two clauses are supposed to be contradictory or different in some way. What is the difference Ms. McCord is trying to convey here between serving the TEE and preparing food for events as the TEE?

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/03/12 - 07:25 am
1
0
It means...
Unpublished

They got a free kitchen and they are gonna make money off of it. Not only that but as they make money off that kitchen and it starts breaking down ? That's right, we get the pleasure of either paying to fix it or replacing it. I have yet to find anything in this deal that's good for the taxpayer and bad for the Mariott...

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 07:42 am
1
0
Al Gray

Riverman posted above that the commissioners should listen to Al Gray and get the forensic audit going using people Gray recommends. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. In yesterday's paper we had this written by Susan McCord:

Two other agenda items, speakers concerned with Augusta Convention Center and a vote to reissue $90 million in water and sewerage bonds, were postponed, City Administrator Fred Russell said.

Riverman1
93346
Points
Riverman1 10/03/12 - 07:50 am
2
1
LL said, "Please help me

LL said, "Please help me understand the meaning and purpose of this paragraph. The word that trips me up is the little conjunction "but." Stripping out the non-essentials we have this thought:

. . . a kitchen built to serve the conference center but will also. . . be used by Augusta Riverfront to prepare food for events at the convention center."

LL, well, I bet it will come down to meaning the Marriott can do what they want to with that kitchen whether there's an event at the TEE or not.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/03/12 - 08:03 am
2
0
Why we need a Forensics Audit vs. a Financial Audit

Checkout the following URL for the Georgia Society of CPA's article on the subject. Then see page #5 of the article for a clear explanation between the 2 audits.

In short a Forensic Financial Audit would be the only type to uncover issues, the more common accounting / book-keeping audit.

http://www.gscpa.org/Content/Files/Pdfs/Current%20Accounts/SeptOct08CA.pdf

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 08:39 am
2
0
Kitchen

I was thinking similarly, RM. They can use the taxpayers' kitchen to cook for events in the Marriott Conference Center; they could use the taxpayers' kitchen to augment cooking for Augustino's Restaurant; they could use the taxpayers' kitchen to cook meals for executive lunches & dinners for various Morris enterprises. They could even cater things around town using that kitchen. The possibilities are endless. Free gas, free electricity, free lighting. All gifts from us taxpayers.

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 08:47 am
1
0
Candor

Though our city government is fond of back room deals and closed meetings, occasionally we get a rare moment of candor. Remember when Commissioner Hatney reminded the mayor in open meeting that the hotel tax to build houses for ANIC in Laney-Walker was a bribe to get a handful of black commissioners to vote for the TEE?

Well, another moment of candor was seen when Commissioner Jackson put the stake in the heart of the forensic audit by stating, "Why do an audit? We won't do anything even if they find something wrong." Sad, but true.

Riverman1
93346
Points
Riverman1 10/03/12 - 08:57 am
1
1
LL...Hahaha

Yep, those were two classics statements. Hilarious. Come to find out there was more than one bribe out there we found out.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 10/03/12 - 09:02 am
2
0
Matt Aitken the,"Rubber

Matt Aitken the,"Rubber stamper." Does he pay attention to anything that has been uncovered? Does he have a deep thought? Just give them what they want and let's move on......Please!!!!!!

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/03/12 - 12:00 pm
2
0
Employing the Fred Russell Strategy...

The Fred Russell Strategy - Each and every year without fail, Fred Russell declares the fiscal situation so bad that balancing will required raising taxes 1,000%. After much debate, he reworks the numbers and is praised for raising taxes only 500%.

Apply that to the TEE Center...

The contracts are so absurd that commissioners "demand" changes and then claim a victory (wink, wink) when they approve a really, really bad contract, instead of a really, really, really bad one.

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 12:11 pm
3
0
Mind Reader

I was thinking along the same lines, Insider. The figures on the contract are the initial offer from Simon. It's like the sticker price on a new car. The proposal they are looking at today is the initial offering from Simon. You know he built a huge cushion in there so the commissioners can look like heroes when they "talk Simon down" to something a little lower.

I still can't get an answer why this contract does not go out for bid.

Riverman1
93346
Points
Riverman1 10/03/12 - 05:17 pm
1
0
I saw Paul Simon on WJBF

I saw Paul Simon on WJBF tonight saying the TEE would incur annual operating losses that the city would have to make up. I guess we all knew that, but it certainly wasn't emphasized when all the embellished benefits were being brandished to get the building approved.

Riverman1
93346
Points
Riverman1 10/03/12 - 05:47 pm
0
0
Are those Marriott people who

Are those Marriott people who run the TEE Center now going to be paid by the city? That seems like a lot of people for the few events that are actually booked over the next few years. So these people work for the Marriott when they are not involved with the TEE, but their full salaries are actually paid by the city?

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 09:22 pm
0
0
Mess

It's a mess, RM. Even Joe Bowles can't figure out Simon's agreement. It looks like the city is committed to deposit $350,000 every year into a Riverfront LLC account for expenses and repairs and a whole bunch of extra money to Riverfront LLC into a catering fund. Only if the rent of the facility exceeds that, will the taxpayers see any monetary benefit. The TEE is a money pit for the city; but a cash cow for Simon and Riverfront LLC.

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 09:29 pm
0
0
Catering

And this catering contract is total lunacy. Simon has it set where they get exclusive rights to cater and they bill the city. That's ridiculous. The logical way to do it is to make the convention holders (the facility renters, in other words) pay for the caterers and leave the city out of it. The city is just renting a building. The convention holders ought to be able to arrange food however they want. Simon should not have exclusive rights.

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 09:38 pm
0
0
Expenses

Riverman posted:

I saw Paul Simon on WJBF tonight saying the TEE would incur annual operating losses that the city would have to make up.

Yeah, George Eskola said the electric bill alone was expected to be $300,000 a year. That's because the city commissioners agreed to a change order late in the game to upgrade the HVAC system to change air eight times an hour compared to the federal, state and local code requirements of 2.5 times an hour. Total waste of money.

And, since the city is on the hook to pay Simon for whatever expenses he charges, why would Simon have any incentive to conserve electricity? A frugal overseer would have the TEE dark and unheated/uncooled when there was no event going on. But Simon will have the air conditioner blasting and the lights blazing because it is only us little people paying the bills.

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