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Augusta commissioners review convention center documents

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 9:47 PM
Last updated Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 2:17 AM
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Augusta commissioners inched closer Wednesday to approving a set of legal documents they first saw last week that will govern operations at the nearly completed Augusta Convention Center, also known as the TEE Center.

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Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle listens as Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront LLC., discusses operating agreements for the Augusta Convention Center, also known as the TEE Center.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle listens as Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront LLC., discusses operating agreements for the Augusta Convention Center, also known as the TEE Center.

While four current commissioners weren’t in office at the time, Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront LLC, reminded the group of eight in attendance at the work session that the body voted in 2007 and 2009 to approve many of the details, including authorizing City Administrator Fred Russell to begin the construction project.

Several of the agreements up for approval would be added to a 50-year contract between the city and Augusta Riverfront to run the existing Marriott conference center. The hotel, conference center and new convention center will make up the convention complex Augusta Riverfront hopes to run as a unit.

Augusta Riverfront has close ties to management of Morris Communications Co., owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

Simon said the benefit to the city came from bed taxes and sales taxes paid by guests, “not profits from the center itself.” The agreements require Augusta to pay the company fees for management and catering, but profits and losses are Augusta’s.

Simon added that the complex ought to be marketed as Augusta Convention Center, a city-owned convention venue, not by the TEE Center name, a brand developed and used by Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is paid to market the convention space.

“Marriott will not support the name ‘TEE Center,’ ” said Darryl Leech, the general manager of the Marriott and, soon, the entire complex.

The convention space will require eight full-time employees, Simon said, and the rest will be Marriott employees or temporary workers.

Some of the land beneath the new construction is owned by Augusta Riverfront. In exchange for allowing the city to build on the site, Augusta Riverfront gained use of a kitchen built to serve the entire complex.

Commission decisions to issue tax-exempt bonds for the project and put it on a fast-track, however, necessitated changing many details, said Jim Plunkett, the special city counsel hired for the complex project.

“When we fast-track, we have to deal with the things that come up,” he said. “It is a very unattractive process.”

Two commissioners who have questioned the project most, Bill Lockett and Alvin Mason, were absent Wednesday. Lockett said Tuesday he wanted the city to put management of the convention facility out for bids.

Simon repeated concerns Wednesday that the documents be approved soon so the facility can be staffed and ready for a January convention. If the city has to cancel its first convention, “we lose reputation,” he said.

Despite some hurdles, the complex still might lose money the first few years, and utilities alone will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Simon said.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said the Wednesday meeting “went better than it could have” but added that the real challenges lie ahead in bringing a steady stream of events to the complex.

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Conservative Man
5353
Points
Conservative Man 10/03/12 - 10:51 pm
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Hmm....

....one statement really stands out.

When Jim Plunkett said,"When we fast-track, we have to deal with things that come up.It is a very unattractive process".

Do tell, Mr Plunkett.

Unattractive, for the fact that you and Fred Russell were called out by "citizens groups" for trying to ram through a substandard deal for the city? Or unattractive for the fact that now more than a few commissioners AND the local media are calling you out for it as well?.....

Just wondering...

Little Lamb
44912
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Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 10:53 pm
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Unattractive

It is not only an unattractive process, it is also an unattractive result. A result that will bleed taxpayers for the next 60 years or so until this monstrosity is torn down for urban renewal.

Little Lamb
44912
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Little Lamb 10/03/12 - 10:55 pm
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Utilities

From the story:

. . . utilities alone will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Simon said.

They wouldn't cost that much if Simon and Riverfront LLC would turn the lights off and the HVAC off when the center is not being rented.

Tullie
2930
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Tullie 10/04/12 - 06:27 am
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50-Year Contract?

Several of the agreements up for approval would be added to a 50-year contract between the city and Augusta Riverfront to run the existing Marriott conference center.

Is that right or should it be 5-year contract? When did it become a 50-year contract? Who in the world would agree to 50 years?

Techfan
6461
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Techfan 10/04/12 - 07:24 am
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So if they get a 50 year

So if they get a 50 year contract, make sure they are responsible for all upkeep and repairs. That ought to even out the money they're ripping off from taxpayers.

OpenCurtain
10049
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OpenCurtain 10/04/12 - 08:51 am
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I was wondering what the tie in was.

A few weeks ago AC readers were indirectly spoon fed an article about the Jekyll Island Convention Center missing a opening deadline and losing out on business.

I was wondering how and why this would get used here in Augusta at the time?

Well I now I think I see the Hook, with the implied pressure to RUSH things through without detailed review by the commissioners and the public to avoid having Jekyll Islands problem.

To Everyone Concerned: Remember looking out for the ARC taxpayer interests is a major legal requirement of your job.

mike1sc
213
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mike1sc 10/04/12 - 09:20 am
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Hmmmmm.....

Now let me see if I can get this right. Commissioners are wanting to review what they have already approved , not once, but twice, and the two most outspoken critics were not present.

Seems everything is running normally!

dichotomy
31692
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dichotomy 10/04/12 - 09:21 am
3
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This deal is SO bad they

This deal is SO bad they should move the document review out to the RC landfill because it stinks so bad.

50 YEARS???????????? Are you kidding me????? Surely that has got to be a typo. The deal would be BAD at 5 years, HORRIBLE at 15 years, and absolutely INSANE at 50 years.

This deal has reached the point of RIDICULOUS. I am tired of getting the shaft on this deal. I wish the commissioners would find their backbone call a halt to the whole thing. I would rather let the damned thing stand empty than take the beating we are taking.

Anyone who agrees to this deal is a traitor. If the commissioners who originally agreed to this were military, they would be called back on active duty, court martialed for treason, and put before a firing squad.

WE have built a nice facility down there. There is no reason to virtually give it away, AND pay someone to operate it, AND be financially responsible for operating, maintaining, and promoting it. In other words, we PAY FOR EVERYTHING and Paul & associates and their, no OUR, hotel get ALL of the benefits. OUR hotel because we gave Paul $7 million to build IT too.

Folks, this is the kind of RAW DEAL you get when you approve these damned SPLOST proposals. When will you wise up and quit being stupid. Did they tell you ANY of these details when they were asking you to voluntarily give up your money to Paul and BIlly? And just wait until you see the bloated contracts, crooked contract awards, and underhanded deals the TSPLOST money gets us.

Riverman1
81439
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Riverman1 10/04/12 - 12:43 pm
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0
In 50 years, the odds of

In 50 years, the odds of Augusta even existing are about 50-50.

Riverman1
81439
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Riverman1 10/04/12 - 12:44 pm
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"“Marriott will not support

"“Marriott will not support the name ‘TEE Center,’ ” said Darryl Leech, the general manager of the Marriott and, soon, the entire complex."

Sorry Sir....Just call it whatever you want and if you need any more funds for changing the name, feel free to ask. Anything else you need?

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/04/12 - 08:07 pm
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Want to know if its a Bad Deal?

Generally speaking, just watch how many commissioners suddenly fail to show up "due to previous planned commitment".

Since I am a D8 resident, I follow my commissioners record closer than the others, to a point. Wayne G. seems to have strong record of showing up to major votes. Kinda gives me the impression he doesn't care about the established political power base repercussions, and is more worried about fixing what can be fixed, than whose toes he steps on. I understand he has even driven back from a vacation trip or something similar to vote on a Suddenly of on the Agenda important item.

Too bad a few other commissioners are not as committed.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/04/12 - 08:11 pm
0
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I sure wished

any Commissioner would take the time to summarized the TEE Center, Parking Deck, etc... deals and post a copy on a website for the general public to read.

It would put to rest a lot of misinformation.

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